There I was, standing in front of 8 powerful women, a little soggy and not wearing any pants.
The embers in our campfire were burning down. The light kissed each of their faces, none of which I could see in totality, but all of which I could feel in my heart.
It was our second Origin Mastermind Retreat of 2021.
For the past 4 years, I’ve run an intimate women’s mastermind group for experienced entrepreneurs and it grows and feeds me.
I invited the 2021 cohort to join me in exploring a brand new curriculum using regenerative agriculture as a model for running businesses that replenish the system on all possible levels: our bodies, our customers, our vendors, our teams, the planet, and more.
As always seems to be the case when embarking on a journey where the destination isn’t exactly known, the work invited me to unlearn some things along the way, right along with the Mastermind members.
I realized that the model I’ve most often witnessed and been part of is the “expert model,” where one person knows the answers and everyone else gathers around them to find out what they are.
I’d purposely said something like the following on all of the Discovery Calls as I was enrolling the Mastermind last year:
“We’re exploring a curriculum where I don’t know all the answers. This is not a journey of ‘Hey! I’ve already been there and I’m going to tell you exactly how you can too!’ This is a journey of ‘We’re going to explore these questions together and see what we discover!”
And yet, I could feel myself resisting the strong pull of the default expert model. I could feel the pressure I was putting on myself to have all the answers. I was aware of the thought that I was supposed to have the most helpful feedback during the hot seats. I could feel the old, familiar pull to appear as though I had it all together.
Ooooh, hierarchy is so seductive, isn’t it?
Whether we’re embracing the illusion that we’re at the top or at the bottom, we’re trapped.
When I invited each woman to get up in front of the group and receive words of praise about what each of the other members loved about her, I had no intention of including myself.
Creating the container for the participants to give and receive was nourishing enough as it was.
But then one member who I’ve known since I was just barely out of college said, “Remember, Kate. This is a circle, not a pyramid. It’s your turn.”
And that’s how I ended up in front of the group, post sunset swim, in just a button down shirt and no pants.
The moment required an expansion of my capacity to be vulnerable to receiving love from a group that I was so dedicated to loving on during the program.
It required smushing the invisible hierarchical pyramid I’d been tethered to on some level even as I consciously attempted to untether myself.
And it required sitting with the far more powerful, yet uncomfortable for its newness, reality that in fact, there’s no such thing as someone being higher than another.
When we put people on pedestals, it allows us to hand over some portion of our power. And on some level that feels easier than keeping it because it doesn’t require as much consciousness on our part.
If someone else knows all the answers we don’t have to think as much, we don’t have to dance with nuance, and we don’t have to do the devotional work of digging into what’s true for us.
If we’ve decided that we know all the answers, we also don’t have to think as much, either. We can step into tropes of leadership that don’t include vulnerability, fallibility, accountability, and repair.
Whether we see ourselves as higher or lower on the ladder, we miss the chance to connect eye to eye.
Sometimes I’m meant to be the giver. Sometimes I’m meant to be the receiver. Staying exclusively on one side of that equation tips the scales and prevents meaningful connection and co-creation.
Giving someone else your power (whether they asked for it or not) by seeing them as higher than you doesn’t help them and it doesn’t help you.
Finding power through experiencing ourselves as above others gives you access to a tea-light’s worth of power instead of a bonfire.
But when we collapse the pyramid? We access a deeper power that comes when we stand in a circle and heap our gifts in the center as we simultaneously take what we need from the pile.
Walls come down. Access is granted. Insights, healing, and resources come through that aren’t available when we’re all too busy jockeying for positions.
I will never forget my pantsless, defenseless moment of softening into letting myself experience the love these women had for me. It changed me, and it also changed the trajectory of our journey together.
We don’t need more external authorities in the world. We need more trust in our internal authority and more collective power that only comes from circles, not pyramids.
Where do you see hierarchy in your life or business where it doesn’t belong? Where do you see it in the external world of social media or your industry and how do you think we could start to engage more in circles rather than pyramids? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
P.S. Are you an established female entrepreneur who has a business with a high 6 or 7 figure revenue and want to level up your business with a Do Less approach? Applications are now open for The 2022 Origin Mastermind. Find out more here.Kate Northrup is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, mother, and founder and CEO of The Origin Company, which reaches hundreds of thousands globally. Kate is committed to supporting ambitious women to light up the world without burning themselves out. She’s the author of Do Less, the Do Less Planner System creator, and runs The Origin Membership, which helps business owners grow their business while doing less.