One day, a coaching client asked me if she was crazy to be going out on her own, pushing herself towards the goal of earning a living through her art form and foregoing atypical employment. I told her that I had an answer and that she wasn’t going to like it. She thought that I would go with the standard, “suck it up, cupcake”, (her words, not mine) but I told her that what I had to say was much different and probably much, MUCH scarier. Her question was really about letting go of the safety net that is a “real job” and the answer that I gave her was… that safety net is a myth.
Everyone I work with is always terrified that whatever they launch is going to fail. They’re worried that if they fail, that will be the reputation that they will have for the rest of their lives. People will see them as that guy with the terrible startup or that woman who made that thing that sucked. It’s debilitating for many people and it’s the real reason that many people don’t get going in the first place. Here’s the thing. There are a lot of people that sucked for a really long time before they did anything worthwhile. And there are some people that knocked it out of the park immediately and then had a real rough go from there. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of immediate success. Let’s talk about time travel.
How much should things cost? In most areas of business, it’s a pretty easy to work out. You can compare prices with competitors’ products. If you want to sell shoes, you can look at what other people charge for shoes, you can look at how much it costs you to make a shoe and then you can put a price tag on your shoes. But I don’t sell shoes. I sell websites. I sell words. I sell support. How in the hell do you figure out how much that’s worth? And is it always worth what it’s worth?
I’ve lived a pretty cool life when it comes to work. I’m not saying that I loved every job that I’ve ever had. But, I do think that I learned a lot from each one and when it comes down to it, I think that each one was an important step. Even those jobs that were, when it comes down to it, AWFUL (I’m looking at you, “picking strawberries for a summer”) had some value. Each job I held was a temporary stop where I learned things (like that it’s awful to pick strawberries for a summer) and then moved on to something else on the path to where I am now, a self-employed freelancer, the most fun and occasionally terrifying job I’ve ever had. It is this concept that makes me so sad when I see good people laboring in bad jobs.
One of the things that I’ve prided myself on over my career as a consultant is turnaround time. I’ve always been very aggressive with timelines because as I was attempting to enter the industry, expedient service was the only ace up my sleeve. Sure, I had experience working with people and I felt like the services I was offering were solid but I hung my hat on my ability to deliver in a very short period of time. But over the last half decade, I’ve learned something incredibly important. The due date you provide to your clients is ENTIRELY pointless if you don’t hit it.
Sometimes it’s helpful to walk away from something so that you can let it breathe. Sometimes you’re too involved with a piece of writing or a work of art or a website, or whatever to value it properly. And so, when you walk away from it, you’ll gain some perspective. But there’s something I’ve noticed, something that has troubled me about walking away from projects and then coming back to them later. It turns out that if you let something, anything, breathe for long enough you WILL learn to hate it. There are, I think, three things that make this happen.
I work with some pretty cool people. I’ve worked with astrologers, HR professionals, marketers, illustrators, photographers and social change makers. They’re all pretty awesome and the thing I love most about them is that none of them is a template. What do I mean by that? Well, while it would be easy sometimes to apply a “here’s what I do for astrologists” filter over top of interactions, I really love that each of them is a new and intricate individual that I get to explore and understand before we start working together. So, if these people are so different, then why do we try to apply the same systems and platforms in such a regimented way. Let’s talk about blogs.
A few days ago, one of my favorite motivators and creative, Violeta Nedkova posted a quote on Twitter. It was a quote I had never heard before and one that instantly hit me.
“Be a voice, not an echo.” – Albert Einstein
So, obviously I retweeted the quote with the caveat that I understood the irony of that act, but over the last couple of days I’ve thought more and more about what that quote means to me. While I don’t want to be an echo, I do want to share what it means to me to be the voice.
One of the things that has always driven me nuts about self-help gurus and the movement as a whole is their inability to acknowledge that people are different. Their unwillingness to either accept or act upon the idea that not every plan is going to work for every person goes so boldly against everything that we know about motivation and the human brain. I work with a wide assortment of individuals from different walks of life and work with them to develop rather individualized training plans and here’s the one thing that works for EVERYONE when it comes to motivation: know thyself.