Lessons From One Year of Self Employment

A few weeks ago marked the one year anniversary of my being self-employed. Since then, a lot of interesting things have happened: I released The Zero Hour Workweek, launched Paid to Exist, c0-created The Dojo, and started the Limit Breaker Sessions. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a ton of amazing people, and have woken up with excitement almost every day since the last day at my day job.

Looking back, it’s pretty awesome to see what I’ve accomplished in the last year. I think the saying is true that you overestimate what you can do in a day but underestimate what you can do in a year.

Here are some things that I learned from one year of self employment:

Things can be the way you want – you just have to decide that.

This may seem like an overly-simplistic lesson, but it’s probably the most important one that I’ve learned. Doing what you want and having your business and life be exactly the way you want it is possible. It just takes continual and deliberate direction.

When you stop deciding that things be a certain way, they tend to drift toward not being the way you want them to be, or it’s a roll of the dice.

The cool thing about deliberately choosing the way you want your business to be is that you get better at it over time. The way you feel guides you toward doing more of what you want and less of what you don’t want. The best way to move in the direction of what you want is to allow the way you feel to guide you.

Taking care of your people is more important than the numbers.

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting more traffic, subscribers, comments, and all of the stuff that makes you feel high and mighty. But what matters most in running a business is not the quantity of your interactions, but the quality of them.

The more you serve your people, and make it a point to take care of them, the more they will become life-long clients and fans of your work.

Schedules ? Value.

This one is really hard to get away from when you’re so used to working in an office for a set number of hours per day, with a set schedule each week. To a certain extent, some scheduling can be useful and even mandatory when you’re self employed, especially if you’re doing coaching or consulting work.

But perhaps the hardest thing to realize is that face time does not equal value. And time doesn’t necessarily mean money. Effectiveness is the name of the game when you’re self employed.

Some weeks I work 1o-20 hours a week, and others I work 50-60. And sometimes the weeks of less work end up getting more results. So, I’m always trying to think of ways to do things more effectively and not necessarily be married to the idea that time = value. Sometimes putting in the time is just what it takes, but it’s all still relative.

I also have to remind myself that a lot of the work that I do isn’t when I’m sitting down at my desk. I can be working on an idea, mind-map, or project outline while I’m hiking, taking a walk, or laying in bed. Mental workspace is just as important (and often undervalued) as physical workspace.

We’re all running our own race.

As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult not to compare your success to the the success of others. You can have a great product launch for you, and feel great about it, then get swept away in self-pity and envy when someone in the same space as you has a monster success. You can wonder why someone else is getting 100 comments when you’re only getting 20, or why they got a connection with so-and-so and you didn’t.

All of this comparison leads nowhere. It causes you to go into self-defense mode and you start questioning your own value. Not to mention, it makes you feel like shit.

As my friend Danielle says:

“Comparison is a slippery slop to envy and for the most part, envy wastes energy that could be put towards getting what you want or optimizing what you have. It’s a trap.”

So, stop it. We’re all running our own race.

Be playful.

Almost anything can be made playful, and therefore enjoyable. I’m not saying that you should try to transform the things you hate doing and do them anyway with mind-blowing excitement and euphoria. You can happily stop doing those things any time (you have my permission).

But the trouble is, we have these expectations and judgments of ourselves that often turns the stuff we love into not-so-fun stuff.

Whenever that happens, it’s a good time to ask “How do I want this to be? How can I return to a place of playfulness?”

I try to do this as much as possible, and spend a good amount of time thinking about it when I do. Then I remember… Oh yeah, that’s the way I want those things to be. The way they’re supposed to be — playful. Life is too short to have it be any way else.

Lastly, one of the most important things I’ve learned is to ask for help. I’m really grateful to have people like my wife, Charlie, Danielle, Tina, Mike, Adam, Naomi, Marissa and so many others on my team and in my corner. There’s too many to list here so I apologize in advance if you don’t see your name here — it’s not because I don’t care. I’m grateful to have you on my team.

Of course, I feel the most support and love from you. Thank you for reading and following me on this path to personal freedom.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through living deliberately?

photo courtesy of Graham Binns

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