Do Business Owners Have All the Fun?

I recently made a big career change and am now self-employed.  My decision to embark on this career move was made with a desire to be completely in charge of my earning potential, schedule, and ability to manage my own goals and expectations.  If you are not self-employed, you may look at these objectives with a twinge of jealousy, and be asking yourself “gee, I wish I could make my own schedule, goals and salary.”  If I had that genie in a bottle mentality, and could merely wish my success into existence, the self-employed lifestyle looks pretty sweet!

Here’s the reality of working for yourself:

1. Your time is your biggest commodity – Every activity has a purpose.  Every meeting (whether it be a coffee, lunch or whatever) needs to be focused around producing results.  The small amounts of creative brainstorming that I used to work into my week exists mostly outside of the work day, or is earmarked through quick conversations to be delved into later.  I use my early mornings or quiet time before bed to get my thoughts together for the work day.

2. You (and only you) are in charge of your income – I am fortunate in my new career to be a part of a small team.  But at the end of the day, my contribution to that team solidifies my place on the bench.  Results need to be quantifiable, and accountable.  I don’t get the luxury of waiting until the progress report at the end of a quarter to determine if I need to make adjustments in my strategy.

3. There is no safety net, unless you create it yourself – Being self-employed is a high-risk, high-reward industry.  There isn’t a pile of money sitting in my bank account just waiting for me to indulge in a spa day (although that sounds like a pretty good goal to set).  Planning is key, and creating a full pipeline of activity builds that safety net a bit faster.

4. I don’t work 40 hour work weeks – Here’s a reality check: self employed individuals work way more than 40 hours per week.  A flexible schedule comes with the perks of being able to attend your child’s school program in the middle of the day, but results in cranking up the computer at night to make up for that time away from work.  Being in charge of your outcome has a direct correlation to the time you invest to get there.

Being self-employed is exhilarating, rewarding, challenging, engaging, and motivating.  It is by far the hardest I have ever worked in my life, and I am loving every minute of it.  It also comes with its share of stress, doubt, and competition.  I didn’t make the decision to become self-employed quickly, and it took a lot of planning and soul searching to jump in with both feet.

Finding Your Cadence

I have signed up for my first half marathon.  This is a big stretch for me, since the longest distance I’ve ever run is a 10K (or 6.2 miles).  In approximately two months time, I have committed to run 13.1 miles, and my training has begun.

If you enjoy running, then you will appreciate the reference of finding your cadence.  If you are not a runner, then I would guess the idea of rhythm and zone apply in some other area of your life.  When starting any new challenge, the first part is the hardest.  When I began running more about a year ago, it was all I could do to complete a one mile run without walking.  It wiped me out!  Now, the first mile of my run allows me to warm up, get the aches and pains out of my knees and legs, and find my rhythm.  The first mile sets the pace and mindset for the rest of my run.  I use my smartphone with a running log app to give me updates on my time and distance.

I have found that using a self check system (with the assistance of my running app) forces me to pay close attention to  my breathing and speed.  If I’m going too fast, my body will feel it later. Too slow, and my cadence is off.  It takes getting into mile 2 and 3 before I know if I’ve found my cadence.  How do I know?  The running feels effortless.  I’m not struggling to breathe, my legs feel good, and each step is an automatic extension of my momentum.

Here’s one thing I forgot to include: I have asthma. I was diagnosed as a teenager, and had to quit the soccer team and switch to tennis because I couldn’t breathe while exercising.  I carry an inhaler with me when I run, but the best way for me to keep my breathing in check is focusing on my mind overcoming my body’s objections.  The cadence that I force myself into is a disciplined act of deep breathing, and putting one foot in front of the other.

As you define your cadence, identify a project that forces you to step up your game.  Getting started is not going to be easy, and quitting seems like the more comfortable approach.  If you utilize tools to keep you in check, and set small stretch goals, anything is possible.  Maybe even a half marathon.

Did I Do That?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “actions speak louder than words.”  As a parent to two active kids, I am slapped in the face with this concept more often than I’d like to admit.  As my children get older, they are more perceptive of my actions than of the words, instructions, and demands coming out of my mouth.  I bet it’s hard for a child to feel justified heading to her room to clean it when her mother is sitting on the couch engrossed in a book (albeit the child didn’t see the two hours her mother just spent cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, etc., so she could try to have 10 minutes to relax with a book).  No one said that child rearing is easy, and that their little minds are truly like sponges, and sop up everything the encounter – good or bad.

Let’s take this concept into your everyday life.  What actions do you perform, even out of habit, that may be perceived in a negative way?  I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule in my job.  Working in a sales and development field, I spend 50% or more of my week outside of the office.  I would imagine that my colleagues sometimes wonder where I am.  I try to communicate with them on a regular basis if I will be coming in late, or leaving early and always encourage them to contact me at any time. What they don’t see is the early morning, late evening and weekend meetings that take place on a regular basis that put my average work week well above the required 40 hours.  But sometimes a person’s perception becomes their reality.

The messages we send to others, even in a non-verbal way, are very powerful.  Take a look at your personal space, whether it be at home or at work.  Are you organized, sloppy, a pack rat, or a minimalist?  Do you smile when someone interrupts you, or do you scowl?  What tone of voice do you use when you answer the phone?  All of these actions give someone an impression of you.  If it is the impression you desire, then please continue.  If not, what can you do to change it?