To be quite honest, I had never really thought about empathy, as a business tool.

I knew what it was and I was told ever since kindergarten that it was important to be empathic and understanding of the people around you.

But so what? Business is a mean, gritty world and playing Mr. Nice Guy is gonna set me well behind.

We have all seen the Wolf of Wall Street and the recent films about Steve Jobs. If he was successful, it must pay to be an asshole.

The entrepreneurial landscape that exists today teaches us hustle, grind, and fail fast with something they call a “lean startup” approach. These are all very important, but by incorporating empathy into our approach we can learn to grind and hustle smart.

Let’s be real. All of us have reached a point where we have been working on a project and realized it didn’t solve a real need. 

It’s not that we did anything wrong. In fact, we followed the lean startup methodologies. We hustled, we grinded, but in many cases, we “forgot” to consult our friends, family, and even the cashier at the local grocer down the street on the idea we were working on. 

Vulnerability is Not Weakness

To be our most successful selves, we must break down the belief that vulnerability is a weakness.

The idea that you appear inexperienced or lack an understanding if you stand up to ask a simple question. A question that will allow you to gather a new level of understanding and enter the life of that group or person.

We must believe that through empathy we can develop a keen sense of familiarity.

IDEO, one of the world’s leading design thinking firms based in Silicon Valley has redefined how we think about problems by focusing on a human-centered approach.

Patrice Martin, Creative Director and Co-Lead, IDEO.org often talks about the idea of embracing ambiguity, “We may not know what that answer is, but we know that we have to give ourselves permission to explore.”

Develop Your Self Awareness

As you enter the realm of vulnerability, it is important to set goals and metrics around what you are looking to accomplish. 

Prepare yourself to be in a position where you can ask the right questions by playing the long term game. This approach will shift your focus to the main facets of your business that require a deeper understanding for growth. And will become a powerful tool in developing your own self-awareness. 

No matter what age or position you are in, always allow yourself to fail.

Reach out to someone you have never met before, share your ideas and experiences, write a blog, and if you see a problem find a solution.

Be prepared to redefine perfection in your life and convert failure into the rocket fuel that can propel yourself to new heights!

Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Sam Sawchuk
Sam Sawchuk is a passionate social entrepreneur who believes empathy can be our strongest tool in unlocking innovation in business and in life. Sam works with people, companies, and brands to develop strategic initiatives that empower disenfranchised segments of the population and inspire social change. He does this through speaking and coaching, as well as leading his own organizations, Sandwich for a Story and Brandschools. Sam’s work has been featured at TEDx, the Clinton Global Initiative University, the United Nations, as well as numerous other media outlets. He has held various roles in startup communities across North America including Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and San Francisco with a focus on getting students involved in entrepreneurship. A passionate believer in the power of technology to connect and inspire, Sam has worked at a variety of innovative companies in the technology industry including Uber, Hired and Ayogo Health.