Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and required to constantly be at peak performance. This often makes it hard to find a balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one.”
“Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder.”
EP. 65 - With Narkis Alon, Co-founder of DoubleYou and Author of “Playing with Fire” and “Alive Woman”
The eureka moment
In 2014, Narkis co-founded a company in the field of tech education. Narkis and her co-founder got a request from Google to create a program for advancing women in tech, and so they did. The program they created was special in that it was completely in nature, for 3 days, and participants couldn't have any connection to the outside world (yes- we mean no phone use).
It was on the first evening of the program that she had a revelation– to her surprise, the casual conversations between the women all seemed to steer in the same direction: they all started talking about body and sexuality. At the time, Narkis herself didn't even speak about these issues with her best friends.
The conversation came down to a few specific subjects: sexual harassment in the workplace, feeling of disconnect from their body during intimacy and having a very high sense of pleasure when being intimate with their partners. These women shared with one another that to heighten their pleasure, they guided their partners on how they wanted to be touched. Narkis never even thought to guide her partner; she thought to herself that even if she would, she wouldn't know what to say.
She was always focused only on what her partner wanted, never being attentive to her own needs and desires. It was from this program that she decided to embark on a journey to get in touch with her body, and the more she started to communicate her desires in the bedroom- the more she was confident to express her real opinions in the boardroom.
That’s when she had the eureka moment: “It allowed me to reflect that we cannot separate our experiences from our personal relationship with that from the workplace. This isn't just something that I experienced, rather, the women that partook in our entrepreneurship program also expressed it. When describing the fears that they had about opening a business, many of them said that a major issue getting in their way was their sexuality– feeling disconnected from their bodies. We were taught as women that our main role is to please and accommodate others by using our body; whether that is reflected in the way we look, how we are expected to behave in the bedroom, or our composure during childbirth. Many of us project this pattern into all the other dimensions of our lives, for in pleasing we are looking for validation. After meeting thousands of women leaders throughout the years, I learned there is a strong connection between our relationship with our body and our ability to lead in the world.”
From that point, Narkis gained a new life purpose: exploring and helping others understand this connection. She co-founded Doubleyou with Sarah Fenna Reifschneider, and together they offer workshops that address entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and tools for connecting to their bodies.
With the #MeToo movement, we learned that when we shove our experiences into the shadows, they eventually come out, sometimes even in explosive manners. Narkis explained to us that most programs addressing sexual harassment in the workplace feel as though they were written by lawyers and not emotional experts. As part of the Humanitarian Social Nexus Round Table put on by the UN, Narkis talked about how she wanted to create a new program that would put a spotlight on the uncomfortable but necessary parts of sexual harassment experiences that have crawled into the shadows of our psyche. When she thought of her own shadow she realized, “Ever since I can remember, I was always guided to ignore my body. I was taught to alienate myself from my body. However, when you own that connection with your body - it becomes your compass.”
Opening the conversation
We teach sexual misconduct, but what about teaching sexual conduct? Different tools can be adapted to the workplace, emphasizing more freedom to realize what we agree to as a collective and what we feel good about. The conversation doesn't just have to be around what we can’t do and don't do.
An example of something learned from sexuality workshops that can be broached into conversations in the workplace is how to identify and communicate boundaries. “If we learn positive conduct, the fact that we have a physical body can become an advantage, and not something we need to run away from.”
Where should we begin?
Narkis says it all begins by having leaders who are committed to this topic - one-time workshops can't change reality alone. What can make a change is bringing professionals to the workplace on a regular basis. Peter Druker said: “Culture is eating strategy for breakfast”; If you care about your company being a safe place and having your employees, be allies with their bodies, it helps them be more productive and satisfied at work. When you achieve that, the sky’s the limit.
The price we all pay
In part of the toxic ideas we learned about gender roles from a young age, men are paying a price as well. Narkis shared that when she first opened her group “Playing with Fire”, only women were allowed to share and men were allowed to ask questions and comment; then when the women felt it was a safe space, the men were allowed to share as well, and in the beginning, they received a lot of judgment within the group. Gradually, they all learned and continue to learn how to listen to each other. Men are often not allowed to express their feminine side. That is exactly why having a shared circle for men and women is so incredibly important and even life changing.
“A person that doesn't know how to say no, doesn’t ever get a yes”
We need to learn when to say no. We need to learn that we have the power to choose. Until we become aware of our own spectrum of when we should say yes, or when we should say no, we will only feel resentment.
Human relationships are complicated, and always will be. But when we're interacting from a place of confidence and a strong sense of self, we are truly connected to the other and ourselves, and in the end, that’s what relationships are all about.