The Truth About Positive Thinking

Positivity

I like to share positive and uplifting articles. It can also be fun to indulge in sarcasm and cynicism from time to time, truly it can, but it’s not productive.

At the same time, I’m not a fan of “anyone can do anything if you just believe it” mentality. Anyone with a bit of experience, whose lived in the world for longer than a minute, can see right through that.

I recently read an article that listed a large number of reasons (25? 32?) why dreaming big dreams leads to success. Dreaming! Leads to success! I didn’t share that article. Because it’s bullshit.

Everyone has big dreams. Everyone. It’s part of being human. Even though the scale of “big” may be relative.

A big dream in America might be to have great wealth, live in a large house, and own several cars. A big dream in Syria may be to live freely, without fear, and have enough food to feed your family.

In either case, dreaming big takes you exactly 0 steps forwarding in achieving those things.

But too many people confuse dreams and wishes with positivity.

Positive thinking isn’t simply believing in what can be; it’s persevering in the face of what is.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. ~ Thomas A. Edison

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The Value of Being Authentic In Business

Authenticity When The Focus Is On YouStarting your own business, or becoming a solopreneur or freelancer, isn’t unique. Thousands of people embark on this journey every day. Some succeed, and some fail. It’s this possibility of failure that holds so many people back from pursuing their dreams. And it’s the mystery of success that holds back others.

Dreams and Ideas

People like guarantees. But when you have your own business, certainty is a luxury. Competition is tough, and always will be. Even if you come up with an idea that no else has, a first of its kind, whether an idea for a new product or a new service, it’s ephemeral. If you do nothing with your idea, you’ll wake up one day, weeks or months later, to read about it being launched by someone else on the other side of the world. If you move forward and action it, and start your own business around this one killer idea, you’ll wake up weeks or months later to discover a dozen competitors have sprouted up around you, seemingly out of thin air.

Anyone can have a great idea. Many people have great ideas every week. Successful business are never about the idea, and always about the execution. Before Facebook, there was MySpace. Before Google, there was Yahoo.

Execution and Outcomes

The thing about execution, is that it resonates on so many levels. Product, marketing, sales, engagement, delivery, strategic, tactical. There’s no single magic combination of elements that consistently produces a sucessful outcome. What works for one business or industry doesn’t work for another. That’s the risk that every entrepreneur and solopreneur takes on a daily basis.

Yet there exists a whisper of commonality that gives rise to a certain flavor of ‘survivalism’ among our ilk. And it has nothing to do with stockpiling food and living “off the grid”.

A Single Thread

Whether you’re an entrepreneur running a funded start-up company or a solopreneur paying your bills with income created from your own business, you are the beating heart of your company. You determine the paths taken, the values adhered to, and the boundaries respected. You decide how far you’re willing to go for success. For profit. You decide how far is too far, or not far enough.

In a global marketplace of tough competition, it’s all too easy to crack beneath the overbearing pressure. To imitate your competition, rather than admire them. To follow the trends, rather than define them.

Don’t be a poor imitation of someone else’s value proposition.

Being authentic is not determinant of success for a business. Indeed, in some circumstances, it may mean choosing failure rather than compromising too much, too far, too deep. Choosing to be authentic means refusing to be something you’re not.

So, yes, authentic businesses fail.

But authentic founders are strong. They’ve had their strength tested, and persevered.

They move forward, knowing there’s never a need to look back.

They look straight ahead, knowing they have no reason to look down.

They are the survivalists in a world of change and uncertainty.

 

Making The Switch From Employee to Solopreneur, Part 4

You have to get along to go along. A familiar expression, often quoted, the meaning of which is clear. Best not to cause waves.  Smooth water, smooth sailing, right?

After you’ve made the switch from being an employee to self-employment, this concept will dominate your thoughts more frequently than you could ever imagine.

What Are the Rules When You’re Self-Employed?

Knowing when to compromise, and when not to, is a delicate balance when you’re trying to establish yourself and your new business. The goal is to build a loyal customer base, and grow relationships. The last thing you want to do as a self-employed individual is burn every bridge you walk over.

And make no mistake. The pressure to make money – to generate your own income – is enormous now that you’ve left the world of pay-checks behind. If you can’t find a way to make money, you can’t pay your bills. The math never changes.

So yes, there will be customers and projects that demand more than you’d prefer to give. And yet you do. There will be customers and projects that you regret ever taking on. And yet you have.

But there are boundaries.

There must be boundaries, for without them, what remains?  You’re a solopreneur. A business of one, but still a business.  Self-employment does not equal servitude.  You’re not a servant-for-hire. You have boundaries.

And the customer is not always right. In fact, sometimes the customer is so wrong, so very, very wrong, that you may have a professional obligation to protect them from themselves. If you’re a service provider, like I am, then customers purchase not just your services, but your expertise.

They’re engaging you because you offer a skill set that they don’t have, experience that they haven’t acquired, training that they need to leverage. It’s your duty to provide them with the best of those abilities. That’s your value proposition.

Invariably, you may find yourself in a situation where your customer insists on taking a course of action that you know will result in a poor outcome for them. What do you do? Shut your mouth, do what they want, take the money and run? Or use your expertise to guide them in another direction? What if they insist? What if the choice is do as I say, or don’t get paid?

Never forget who and what you are. You embarked on this journey for a reason. Did you give up being an employee who answered to a manager just to be a servant who answers to yet another master?

People will mistakenly assume that now that you’re in business for yourself, you’ll take on any job because you ‘need the money’. Even if you don’t need the money, they’ll assume you do. And if you do need the money, the worst thing you can do is reinforce the belief that you’ll do anything for it.

While your building up a customer list and growing your professional network, you’re also establishing your reputation. Saying yes to work you should say no to, or allowing a customer to suffer poor outcomes that you could have prevented, do nothing but provide short-term solutions when what you want is a long-term strategy.

Don’t allow yourself to be nothing more than a commodity.

 

 

Want to work for yourself? Cash is King

Cash is King

I recently wrote an article about how you can start your own business while still juggling a day job.  Not only is it possible, it’s also possibly the best way to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur without losing your life savings in the process! 

Budget Planning

Starting small and putting in the effort while you still have a steady income makes a lot of sense.  It’s hard to juggle two jobs – and yes, if you’re actively working on your new business, it is very much your second job – but if you want something bad enough you can make it happen.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

One of the items I mention in the article is the importance of staying on top of your budget.  Eventually you’ll get to the point where you want to focus solely on your own business.  Of course you will, because YOUR business is YOUR passion and YOUR dream, and wouldn’t you rather spend every available hour working on your dream rather than working on someone else’s?  The only way to do this is to work for yourself.

In order to work on your dream full-time, you’ll need to quit your job.  And in order to quit your job, you’ll need money in the bank.  Again, the best way to make this transition is to have some customers already buying what you’re selling before you quit your day job to really amp things up.  But how many customers is enough to walk away from your job and still pay your bills?  This is where budgeting comes in.  If you can master your expenses, grow your revenue, and get insight into your financial transition points, you can plan toward making this transition a reality without any unforeseen financial disaster.

Know Your Numbers

What is a financial transition point?  This is what I call a turning point in your financial forecast.  Many people think that the right time to quit their job is when their side business earns them as much money as they would earn as an employee.  Maybe.  This is certainly one potential transition point. But there are others as well, depending on how much risk you want to take, and how much risk you need to avoid.

But you can’t make an informed decision about any of that until you have all of the information.  And there’s no better way to assess your financial position than by taking the time to write down what you spend and how you spend it.  More importantly, what you plan to spend (and earn) in the future will help you realize your business dreams and stay 100% focused on your goals.

Keep it Simple

You don’t need complicated or expensive software to do some basic budgeting and financial forecasting.  Create an inventory and make sure you include all of the money you earn (income, sales) and all of the money you spend (business and personal).  Understanding how your money flows is the first step in turning your dream into an action plan.

If you need a little help, or just want to save yourself some time, sign-up and download my basic budget planning spreadsheet for free.  It’s simple to use and has everything you need to get started today.

The lack of money is the root of all evil.  ~Mark Twain

5 Secrets to Juggling a Job While Building a Business

Juggling a Job and a Business

You don’t have to quit your job to build a business.  It’s a common misconception, especially among those looking for excuses, that they have to dive into the deep end when in reality they just need to walk slowly and steadily forward, inch by inch.  You can keep your job, and start your business.  Low risk, high reward, and a hell of a lot of work.  But when is anything worthwhile ever easy?

Having two jobs at once, especially when each seemingly requires all of your focus, is a lot like walking through quicksand.  Ignore the melodrama, and it’s possible to slog your way through.  Relax, plan ahead, don’t panic, take your time, and make steady and measured progress.

So here they are, tried and true, 5 secrets to juggling a job while building a business:

1. Quantify your time

Be clinical about it. Don’t just assume you can do it all.  If you work a 40 hour-a-week job but for a boss that typically demands 55 hours of effort from you every week, then count those hours. Optimism has a time and place, but not when it comes to time management.

Yes, you’ll build a business more slowly if you only have 5-10h a week to offer, instead of 20 or 30 or 40 hours, but the important thing is that you’ll still be doing it.  And that alone puts you ahead of the millions of wannabees and could-have-beens who spend hours dreaming but never doing.  Even just five to ten hours a week is action.  Moving forward, inch by inch.

And I don’t care how busy you are, everyone can carve out at least five hours a week for something that has the potential to change their lives.  Get up 30 minutes earlier in the morning.  Cut out 30 minutes of television a night.

2. Be real with yourself

If you constantly have a to do list for Saturday that never gets done, leaving you scrambling on Sunday to complete your list of chores, then don’t assume that you’ll be motivated enough to pile on building a business to the weekend task list.

On the other hand, if you consistently find a quiet hour or two every Sunday morning, then take advantage of it.  Inch by inch.

3. Don’t force yourself, motivate yourself

There will be days and weeks and months where it all seems too much and impossible and so why even bother.  Instead of quitting, and instead of trying to grimace and bear it and forge ahead, remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place.

Have coffee with a mentor, or friend, or colleague. Someone whose positive and inspiring and believes in you.  Read a favourite inspirational blog post.  Get back in the head space of where you were when you started your journey.

Don’t throw in the towel because of one bad day or week.  Just pick yourself up, and go again.  Forward. Inch by inch.

4.  Manage your own expectations

You can’t do it all.  Something will have to give, and you’ll need to decide what that is.  But when you do, just go ahead and drop that ball. Let it slide.  Deliberately fail. And don’t feel guilty about it.  Just choose wisely.

Think about the least important things that consume your time, and let them go. Call in reinforcements. Maybe you can’t keep on top of cleaning the house or mowing the lawn or fixing the car while you’re working long hours at a day job and putting in hours on building a business while simultaneously having a personal life.

But so what?  Call a cleaning service, hire someone to mow your lawn, and pay someone to fix your car or ditch it and lease a new one.  And yes these things all cost money, which brings us to the last point.

5. Cash is king

Stay on top of your budget. Live within your means.  Cut out some of the luxuries that you love, but don’t need.  If building a business is important to you, these are easy decisions to make.

If not, then you’re not ready to start and you don’t deserve the reward that you’re dreaming about because you’re not willing to do the work. Harsh but true.

Going after what you want, and actively trying to free yourself from your current situation, will require sacrifices of both time and money.  The good news?  It’s worth it.

“One of the rewards of success is freedom, the ability to do whatever you like” ~ Sting

 

Hesitation Guarantees Failure

Hesitation Guarantees Failure

Hesitate and Wait

What is the value of the hesitate and wait approach?  Hesitation gives you more time to do less.

More time to wait, less time to act.

More time for insecurities to creep in, less time for positive reinforcement.

More time for stagnation, less time for seizing opportunities.

More time to atrophy, less time to leap ahead.

Be Brave

Naysayers insist on waiting. They insist on having all of the answers for every possible question before beginning an action.  The ultimate paradox, since you typically gain the most knowledge through practical experience.

Wannabees are the wishers and dreamers who smugly refuse to try.  They refuse to change, to move forward, to act because different is bad.  Or because not all of the conditions are perfect yet.  They assume anyone who is doing what they only ever dream of doing is “lucky”.  But fortune favours the brave. Wannabees are never brave.

Not Reckless

Forging ahead without hesitating doesn’t mean throwing yourself off a cliff without a second thought.  It means taking steps and continuing to march forward. It means putting yourself out there.  It means risking failure, risking reputation, risking pride.  It means having the audacity to declare yourself, your idea, your dreams and face head-on the criticism of the naysayers and the judgment of the wannabees.

I’ve done this, more than once, and sometimes I’ve been successful and sometimes I’ve failed.  My failures have been public, and I’ve survived.

To the smug smirks and all-knowing nods, I happily reply, “but I had the courage to try”.

What dreams do you have the courage to chase?

If Time Were Diamonds

Time DiamondsI recently re-discovered an article that I wrote where I contemplated how projects would be managed differently if time were treated as diamonds.  And really, why shouldn’t time be treated like diamonds?  Both are non-renewable resources, limited in supply, and high in demand.

The sparkle and shine of a diamond conveys its immediate value. But what about time?

We spend it, waste it, use it, and lose it so often without as much as a second thought. How often do you stop and think, am I really making the most of this day?  Hour?  Minute?

Seasons for a Reason

I was reflecting not too long ago on how much I enjoy the change of the seasons. Every winter I lament not being fortunate enough to live somewhere that’s perpetually sunny and warm all year long.  California dreaming?

But those moments pass, usually when the winds change and winter melts into spring.  There are four seasons, but I’m only in love with one of them.  Summer.  Of course.  I love summer.  Summer is the perfect season.  But I don’t know that I would appreciate it as much if I could take it for granted.  The changing of seasons reminds me of the finite nature of time.  It somehow gives me that sense of urgency that I sometimes need to keep moving forward.

Calculate Your Time Diamonds

Here’s something to contemplate this weekend.  How old are you now?  How long will you live?  Take a wild guess, or just use the typical life expectancy age for where you live.  So now you have the likely maximum number of years you have left in this world.  And for the sake of this discussion, let’s leave aside whether or not you believe in worlds other than this one, and whatever grand plans you may have for that.

Now, every year has four seasons.  Even if it’s sunny all year where you live, the earth continues to rotate along, changing its relative position to the sun, and therefore, changing seasons. So now pick a season.  Pick your favorite season.

There’s one last item to factor in.  And it’s an important one.  Because do you really want to count all of the years that you have left to live, or just the good ones?  Ok, the good ones and the mediocre ones.  But let’s lob off any years that are spent in pain, fear, confusion, anguish, or any other terrible outcomes from any generally debilitating illness.  Aging isn’t for the weak.

With my family history and general luck profile, I project that I have a better than average chance of developing Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Diabetes, Arthritis, Heart Disease, or some stellar combination of all five.  Do I really want to count however many months or years of deterioration in my overall runway of time left?  No.

So here’s the formula:

[Guesstimated Age at Death]

minus

[Current Age]

minus

[Years You’d Have Been Better Off Dead]

equals

Number of [Favorite Season] seasons left

How does that number look to you?  Looks really low to me.  How many summers do you have left?  20?  30?  40?

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a 50 or 60.  Still.  Pretty small number.

To make things even worse, we can’t really depend upon that Guesstimated Age at Death number, can we?  The universe likes to pull the rug out from under us when we least expect it.  But that gets too depressing, so let’s stick with our chosen numbers.

Those are your diamonds. One diamond per instance of favorite season that you have left in your bank.

How will you choose to spend your time diamonds?

 

Must Have Checklist for Starting a Business

Starting a Business ChecklistTurning dreams into reality requires action.  Imagining, day-dreaming, wondering, and googling only take you so far.  Which is to say, they take you nowhere at all.  Most people rationalize inaction as “waiting for the right moment”.  Really, they’re waiting because they’re either afraid/unsure, or they simply don’t know where to start.

So in that spirit, I pulled together some of the key “to do” items that must be checked off the list before embarking on any new business.

Top 10 To Do’s When Starting A Business

  • Make sure your business is something you have passion for. There’s no separation of “work life” and “personal life” when you’re responsible for generating your own income. For entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, freelancers, and other small business owners, work and life are highly integrated. If you don’t love it, you’ll leave it. Sooner than you think.
  • Make sure your business is something people need. It doesn’t matter that you would buy your service or product. It only matters that other people will.
  • Spend some time doing market research on your business idea. Get a sense of who the competition is, and who your potential customers are.
  • Figure out what value your service or product provides. If you had everything in place to begin your business tomorrow, how much effort would it take every day? How much would you charge people for your service or product? How much would people be willing to pay?
  • Figure out how much income you can actually generate. Make a list of potential customers who would buy your service next week, next month, next year. Determine what percentage of potential customers will become actual customers.
  • Find your bottom line. How long will it take to break even, and then how much longer after that will it take to start making a profit?
  • Invest in a consultation with a lawyer, to at least know what you need to have in place, from a legal perspective, before you start. Some things can be deferred until income starts flowing in. But some things you’ll need sooner that later.
  • Get the word out. Generate buzz. Create a web site. Keep it simple at first. Use digital and social marketing. Tell your friends and colleagues. And their friends and colleagues.
  • Know exactly how to collect and track money from customers. Manage your billing flawlessly. Invoice mistakes do not instill confidence, regardless of your business niche.
  • Hustle, deliver, improve, refine, repeat!

 

Redefining Work: Solopreneurs, Freelancers, and Independent Workers, Oh My

It’s not your father’s workforce.  That can be said without hesitation, if you lift your head above the cubicle walls every now and then and take in what’s happening to this world we call “work”.  I have a few upcoming posts that speak more on this topic, but this week, I thought I’d share some quick facts and figures about those who are increasingly making the decision to “work for ourselves”.  Who are we?  What are we up to?  Here’s a brief glimpse.

Solopreneurs, freelancers, independent workers

 

 

3 Signs You Should Start A Business Today

Startup, Self-Employed, Business Owners

Lots of people are quite content to work for someone else.  To show up every day, put in their hours, collect their paycheque.  But many of us fall into one of two other buckets.  We either want to climb our way up that staggeringly tall corporate ladder of success, regardless of who owns the corporation, or we want to scratch and claw our way through those corporate walls to that mythical space beyond, where legend has it that it’s possible to be free, report to no one but yourself, and yet still make a sustainable living.

That last group?  Those are my people.  Those are the ones who are just aching to make a break for it.  If you’re not immediately sure whether you fall into that group, pay attention to the subtle cues around you.  More importantly, pay attention to the subtle cues within you.  Here’s my take on at least 3 character flaws that can help you be a successful business owner.

3 Signs You’re Ready to Start a Business

1. You challenge authority. Business owners challenge the status quo.

Look around you.  Listen.

Count how many times in the run of a day your colleagues say yes to things they should say no to.

Or simply remain silent rather than take the terrifying risk of walking out on that limb of being the only one to dissent.

To have a different opinion.

A unique opinion.

But it’s not enough just to *think* outside of the box, you also have to live there.  Do you constantly raise questions in an attempt to find real meaning in your work?  Are you always inventing a way to work around the rules, because you know you can get it done faster, better, or simpler?  Rules have a purpose, I know this.  But many organizations follow an unfortunate inversely proportionate application of invoking rules that make sense versus rules that ensure dominance and control.  Most organizational rules serve the organization.  Some of us want better answers than that.

Thinking of every angle, examining every perspective, seeing patterns and connections that others don’t helps you to persevere through the ups and downs of running a business.

2. When you want it done right, you do it yourself.  Business owners can rely on themselves.

If this is you, it’s both a blessing and a curse.  It’s impossible to survive long-term in any organization trying to take on all of its problems by yourself.  You need to trust your team, and you need to delegate.  But this type of passion stems from deeper within than any simple control issues.

It’s not that you believe other people can’t get the job done, it’s just that you know that you can get it doe and you can get it done NOW.  Why wait?  Why hesitate?

Patience is a work-in-progress to you.

You know that you can accomplish your goals, and you dive in and get it done.  The constant need to achieve and move forward, and the confidence to know that you can, gives you the drive and commitment you need to keep on going when the going gets tough.  This is an essential ingredient for anyone who thinks that may be ready to start a business.

3.  You get bored (really bored) really easily.  Business owners embrace change.

You change plans as frequently as you make plans.

You constantly have ideas and see opportunities everywhere, and it’s not enough to just dream about it, you actually wnat to go out and try it.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working for yourself is that every day is unique.

New challenges, new opportunities, new customers, new readers, changes in direction, zigging, zagging, and everything in between.

You never know what can happen.  And you like it that way.

And who decides how to act, react, hustle, slow down, and respond to all of these events?  You.  Just you.

If any of this resonates, then I just have one last question…what are you waiting for?