Skip to main content

Practice Empathy: Hitting Home and Leaving Isolation

Empathy. It’s been on my mind a lot recently, and I’m trying to understand why. Then, it hit me – too often we lack it, and this leaves others (most everyone) feeling isolated.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines empathy as:
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
I’ve decided to dedicate today’s post to this singular word because it’s highly important for not just everyday citizens of our communities, but also as entrepreneurs. If you can’t be empathetic to your customers’ problems, you’ll likely fail to build a product/ service that resonates and is sustainable.

First, sympathy and empathy are not the same. It’s important to know the difference because they’re oftentimes interchanged improperly. Sympathy is defined as feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune, or understanding between people; common feeling. Empathy goes deeper than sympathy in being able to share/ experience emotions of another.

In a recent enlightenment of empathy and the lack thereof, I took on a recent challenge – calling it “30 broccoli, 30 days”. I loathe vegetables. I haven’t touched broccoli in many, many years prior to this challenge (started September 1st). The challenge is to consume at least one broccoli a day. Since, I’ve decided to ramp up the number of broccoli florets each week.

The funny thing here is you may be reading this and asking, “so what? It’s just a single floret.” Therein lies the problem. Where your mind takes you next is where empathy either surfaces, or not. I’ve indeed received many people asking the same question including the occasional ridicule. Though I’m not so bothered about this because I understand why, I’m also coming to the realization how often others fail to understand my why. It’s shocking how often people jump to conclusions based on how they feel and what they think. There is no compassion or interest in learning my perspective.

This lack of empathy reared its ugly head during 100 Strangers, 100 Days. Too often, people judge from the outside, and set all subsequent interactions based on this judgement. There is a lack of interest in getting to know others – the good and the bad.

Truth is, consuming broccoli is akin to my own mini-Fear Factor. Perhaps I’m sharing this to practice vulnerability knowing full well there are those who will ridicule. That’s okay. I’m confronting my fear because I do know vegetables are “good” for me, though, I loathe them. So, I challenge myself.

How often do others confront their fears? How often do others look for ways to challenge themselves? That’s okay, too. Truth here, too, is that I do my thing because I know my why and I know what I want to achieve. Do others feel the same way about themselves? I’m not sure, and it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t in this case. But I’m happy to learn.

Take a moment today, tomorrow, this week. Practice a little empathy. If you feel the knee-jerk reaction to judge and ridicule, fine. But then, follow up those thoughts with questions of why.

Empathy might be that one big thing we’re missing in our communities that’s driving wild accusations and creating misunderstood resentment. Practice empathy.


Popular posts from this blog

My Life-Defining Moment Happened When I Failed to Make Varsity in High School

Ever stop to think about who you are? What makes you tick and tock? How about what you truly enjoy and what you’re good at vs. not good at? Or what/ who has shaped you into the person you are today?
I’m at this stage of figuring out whether to continue independent consulting while iterating on ideas for the next startup or take on some full-time employment (consulting, product management, or otherwise). My recent post about my daily/ weekly schedule was an interesting exercise in stepping back and recognizing what I’m actually doing in a day, and made me really think at the macro level.
In one of my recent reflections, I thought about defining moments in my life. One of those watershed events that truly transformed me was my failure to make the Varsity soccer team in high school. I won’t rehash the whole story here – shared the story almost a year ago in my post titled “Getting Through Dark Moments and the Most Vulnerable Story I've Ever Told Publicly”. It’s this moment that I w…

Vertical SaaS? Horizontal SaaS? It’s All News to Me

Not sure why, but I have only recently heard of a term called “Vertical SaaS”. Okay, there’s also “Horizontal SaaS”, too. Based on some light research, looks like vertical SaaS is also a growing trend and the number of companies fewer than horizontal SaaS providers.
Vertical SaaS borrows its moniker from the concept of vertical integration whereby there is more control over a supply chain from raw materials to point-of-sale. Here, vertical SaaS companies focus on a niche market (industry) offering a solution that enables more process control.
Horizontal SaaS providers get really good at a particular offering, and widen their market to reach scale. Their focus is on breadth of market, and thus, its sales and marketing strategies can require more resources.
Many vertical SaaS companies (such as Veeva Systems, Guidewire, Fleetmatics) are doing well usurping legacy systems of traditionally slow-tech-adoption industries. Here, vertical companies develop a best-of-breed product, and focu…

Role of A Startup Advisor

Over the last year or so, I have become an Advisor for a couple startups. It’s been a great experience for me to teach and continue learning as an entrepreneur. I do meet with several startups and entrepreneurs weekly, but not officially as an Advisor save for a couple.
During (and especially after) Body Boss, I realized the importance of having Advisors. Advisors help startups and the executive team navigate the go-to-market waters bringing specific experience to the table – industry, technology, etc. With that comes connections, too.
The role of a startup Advisor includes: Guiding the startup on its directionProvide valuable insight into the industry, competition, market, etc.Share connections to move the company forward – prospects, new hire candidates, otherEstablish cadence around metrics for progress In exchange for devoting time and attention (and reaching success, hopefully), startups typically provide stock or cash to Advisors. This ensures both parties are aligned on objecti…