Uprise Talks Podcast | Episode Four | Dr Carlos Saba @ Happy Startup School

In this episode we talk with cofounder of The Happy Startup School, Dr Carlos Saba about: Purpose, Fear, Entrepreneurship, Launching ideas, and Judgement. Scroll down to watch the recording of the podcast.

Uprise Talks Podcast | Episode Four | Dr Carlos Saba @ Happy Startup School

Note: the following quotes are taken from episode four of the Uprise Talks podcast.

Dr Carlos Saba Founder @ The Happy Startup School

About Carlos Saba

Since starting his first company with a school friend 15 years ago, he's been passionate about optimising his business for happiness, not just profits ever since. Now as co-founder of the happy startup school, he is on a mission to help people embark on a journey of learning how to make money, do good, and be happy with online training, coaching and a global community.

On his definition of success
I would say my current definition of success is probably waking up in the morning and feeling like you're in the right place. Going through the day and every moment that you're spending doing whatever you're doing, feeling that's the right thing to be doing. For me is, I think the word I'd use here is flow.

That feeling of flow and feeling that the work is just something that is effortless rather than something that I'm spending a lot of energy, both physical and emotional trying to make it happen.

On why so many people feel trapped in directionless careers

I think the core of it for me is essentially not knowing what you want, and then essentially taking on someone else's definition of what success looks like. And then not aligning [your work and life] with what you want for yourself. 

So there's a bit of a double problem here. Firstly it's trying to achieve something that you don't want, and then the deeper question is then what do you actually want? 

We go through education and we go through our initial experiences with work where the focus is very much on achievement. Whether it's getting a grade or hitting a sales target or being productive, there is a very specific goal around productivity. 

And then [also your] “value” and that value being dictated by a market and dictated by what a business sells. The measurement that you basically use to dictate whether you're doing well becomes about how much money is the business making and how much you’re making? Because those are easy measures of value. 

We [are] essentially reduced to the value of what we do and the value of the things we buy based on how much they cost.

And so I think when you extrapolate that in terms of the work that we do, we then pursue this idea of value based on those measurements. 

And of course the other measurement is status. How much influence do I have? How powerful am I? And that really becomes basically a, let's say game, that might not necessarily be the game that you're best suited to.

I believe for most people, they don't even know what their purpose is. 

Something I've been through myself is what I was kind of almost having to admit to yourself and having the courage to admit to yourself that you're in the wrong place and what you're doing isn't actually fulfilling you.

On the steps to finding your purpose

I think the most important thing and the most fundamental thing when you find yourself in that position, firstly, just be nice to yourself.

Don't beat yourself up about, Oh no, I've wasted this much time, or, no, I don't know what I'm doing. Oh, no, someone's doing something better than me. Yeah, stop that. And just be nice to yourself. Say, okay, this is where I'm at. I'm accepting that you got there for whatever reason, and then then making some intentional decisions to spend time.

Pondering, thinking about what is it you really want? Again, without trying to force, it isn't a race to find out what your life's purpose is, but I think to be aware that something isn't right. So it's worth thinking about and then thinking about what, what could you try? 

You're not necessarily going to find your life's purpose in a weekend or by working hard at it. But I think if you open your mind to possibility and serendipity. Putting yourself in places that you might have put yourself in before and then see what happens.

If it was that easy, then everyone would be doing it. It's a human challenge. And it's because of that that It's very complex. We are complex beings and complex solutions more often than not come from collaborating with others and developing ideas with others. 

For me, purpose is doing something that is beyond yourself. So if you're trying to think about your purpose, you can't just be thinking about it on your own. Because it's supposed to be something that you're doing beyond just you, and that's why it's important to engage with the world and important to catch with other people.

On the benefits of breaking routines and meeting new people

Getting away from your day to day where your habits have control over you. Putting yourself in a place where you have no set routine. There's essentially, you're in a place that you haven't. Plan to be, or you don't know how to behave in a sense, there's no “get up at this time”, “do this at this time” that you mindlessly go through [in your usual day-to-day routines].

So whether that's at summer camp in a field in Sussex, or whether that's climbing up the mountains in the Alps, if you're not used to that, that's a whole new place to be, which means it lights up different parts of your brain that have been asleep for a long while because they'd be an autopilot. 

Ultimately it's about breaking habitual patterns of thinking and behaving and connecting with people that you might not [otherwise] connect with. Finding people who maybe are asking similar questions to you, but who are too afraid to ask them in the presence of friends and family, or they weren't questions that friends and family were interested in asking.

I would say those are the three elements for me. 

  1. Nature and how it creates a different routine or a different context for your brain.
  2. Connection to other people. Particularly those who are asking similar questions to you. Fundamentally, connecting with yourself...
  3. ...which then helps you ask questions of yourself about what you're doing.

On the benefits of community

I see people starting businesses without any support or starting something new without any support. And that can be very scary for most people. 

And you're not able to explore and play with failure and doing things for the first time and not understanding what's going on. But when you can do it in a community with people who care about your success, who are struggling with the same things that you're struggling with, who can have conversations with you not only to help you, but you can help them.

That's a great safety net, but also an amazing source of strength and inspiration for you to get up again when you fall or for you to get out of your head when you have self doubt. Because if you spend too much time on your own and too much time in your head, that could be one of the most unsafe places to be because of our horrible inner critics and all the voices that have grown over our lives that tell us that we can't do something or we're not good enough. 

On why purpose is important for business success

I think in the businesses that survive in the cultures that will thrive in an ever more complex world are the ones that are compassionate, connected, aligned, forgiving, and  are able to collaborate in ways that remove the ego and it allows everyone to be able to bring an idea to the group.

I think Google did some research. I think it was called project Aristotle around what makes high performing teams. One of the biggest outputs from that research, as I understand it, is the idea of psychological safety to be able to feel safe, to share your thoughts and ideas. And, and being able to have a group of people do, that means that you'll, you're more likely to get a great solution, a great idea. 

So if we extrapolate the idea, okay, employees interacting well together creates a positive culture, then who's employee number one and what culture are they bringing when they start this business?

Well, that's going to be the founder, and so if the founder doesn't understand the culture they're bringing to this business because they don't understand what drives and motivates them, they haven't really come to terms with the maybe destructive or unproductive behavior that they have.

Then that's going to influence who they hire next, and that's going to influence how they interact, and then you get to five, then you get to 10 and suddenly you have a bunch of. Pardon my French, got a bunch of assholes working together trying to work out, or why is this such an asshole company?

On why purpose is important for individuals

So what are you chasing? What are you trying to get? And that's ultimately part of this question. 

It's hard work. It takes energy. It takes time. It isn't something that just can't expect things to just happen. But then I think one way to look at this is like, even if you are working late nights or your. Essentially having to do some tasks that you don't particularly enjoy, like Facebook ads or something particularly technical for some people that they don't like selling and things like that.

If you know that you're doing that for a reason, that's, you know, there's a, there's a vision behind the work that you're doing that you believe in the people that you're trying to help. Then it takes so much less effort and energy and less resistance to the work because it's something that's meaningful to you and there's a purpose to it.

But when there isn't a purpose and when you feel like the, you're not going anywhere, and none of that work seems to be of any value. Then that's definitely going to, that's going to feel shit. 

On the importance of adopting a “F*ck it” mindset.

Exactly. Fuck it. You know, they're going to take the piss. I might as well run with it. Seriously it's more about trying not to take yourself too seriously. 

I would say there's, there's also an element of just trying things. When you've gone from not knowing something to learning something new, and that period is a real period of failure and doing things wrong. But. Allowing yourself to do things wrong, allowing yourself to be a bit clearer, not taking yourself too seriously and really playing with this new thing that you're learning.

So many things open up to you because you're not restricted by: “Oh, I can't do that, so I won't try it”. Over time we get so conditioned by, Oh, you shouldn't do that, cause you look stupid or you'll get it wrong. If we could take more of that. The  joy of, wow, I didn't know this, or I couldn't do this before and now I can.

And just being a bit silly on not doing things right is just part of that process, which in Carol Dweck’s wording is, is the idea of the growth mindset. 

But I think, you know, having that thing of like, it's okay to look a bit silly. To have fun with yourself, to be a bit self deprecating, to essentially melt some of the ego of this feeling of like, I need to look perfect.

There's a lot, so much freedom, I think in that, and you don't have to worry so much about what other people are saying and you and you get much more. Yeah. It's a much more loose feeling to the world where you are and what you can do. 

On overcoming a sense of judgement 

The idea of being judged by other people. That's a tough one. It's particularly if the people that are judging you are people that are close to your heart, close family members, probably parents. And so coming back to this idea of being nice to yourself, it's also being nice to them, I would say, thinking about they're coming from their own worldview and perspective.

So if you believe all they want you to do is be happy and safe and then you can appreciate where they're coming from, is happy and safe is doing either this stable job or just knuckling down, grinning and bearing it, understanding that's their context and that's what helped them survive. And that's what helps them.

And so trying to rail against that or tell them they're wrong, thinking that potentially that's also threatening them and all their choices that they've made. So there's a level of compassion with them that also will help with compassion with yourself. 

So you're in this situation now. What can you do? 

You just need to do something about it. You have people who are saying: “Oh, you should just get another job” or “don't, don't make a change”. In being compassionate about where they're coming from and being able to clearly articulate what it is you you need in terms of why is this job not working for you?

And then in terms of letting people down, again, it's like, what? How are you letting them down? How are you letting people close to you down by wanting to be happy, wanting to do something that you feel is more inspirational for you or gets you more excited and maybe thinking, isn't it letting them down by basically leading a life that isn't something that you want and somewhere that you aren't actually thriving or actually contributing in any positive way. 

And so if someone's invested in you and made you and, and, and spent time in you saying, okay, I've got you to this point, I expect you to carry on.  It's like, well, I'm not going to do my best work if it isn't something I believe in anymore. 

So I think being honest with yourself and then honest with whoever it is that you feel you're getting the judgment from and being very clear and intentional with the decisions you're gonna make.

Then I think that will help a bit and they're still going to feel shit anyway, but at least it's gonna feel true. 

On why businesses fail

I think one of the most fundamental reasons an early entrepreneur fails is they build something no one wants or no one understands. So before you start making anything, make sure that it's something that people actually understand and want.

And that's framing what you're doing, that isn't about what you're going to bring, isn't about the lovely widget that the service, the tool, the features. It's nothing about that. It's about the outcome you're bringing to the person you want to serve. 

And so the most important thing is: what are these outcomes that people want? What does success look like for the people you want to serve, and who is it that you want to serve most? 

Who's going to value what you, or the vision that you have for them, and what are the values that connect you to those people? 

The early days [of starting a business] is having these very simple conversations. They allow you to get a sense of this idea that you have, whether it's actually something that's needed or wanted in the world. 

Talking about that outcome and talking about their lives and how, what's important to them, what's important to them around this outcome, what other things are going on for them in the area of their lives. And that will be so much more beneficial than just spending six months locked in the room trying to make something and then trying to flog it.

I think it's so important to kind of understand the bigger picture and actually the real problem that you're trying to solve. Rather than just say, Hey, I've got an idea for a really cool app that's going to do this, this, and this. Thinking about that bigger picture and okay, this is how someone's going to use it.

This is the deeper problem that they're going to, that they have an issue with and this is the problem that I can solve. So it was almost kind of flipping it on its head and thinking about the. The problem before the solution and understanding that before you come up with innovative ideas. It's like that.

On gaining a competitive advantage

Your unfair advantage [is] if you can manage the fear. If you can step out of a victim mentality. That the world is happening to you. And step into a more powerful mindset of: how can I serve the world.

Then you're going to have an advantage over a lot of people. 


Latin America, 2018


Latin America, 2018