Most of us self-employed types are on a continuous learning path, gathering knowledge and skills and using them to create a better business. It’s a great way to live, but lately, I’ve been seeing that the path isn’t a line, but a loop: My business doesn’t just earn income and/or help people: It helps me to do a better job of living in this strange world.
There’s a great bit of Buddhist advice I see often in my circles: “Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.”
In my case, “whatever-you-already-are” is a person whose vocation is to help small businesses, while trying to keep my sanity and kindness in a world that seems to be getting darker by the day.
I’ve realized that, inadvertently, I’ve been using the art, science, and practice of having a business to become a better human. With each passing day, it’s teaching me to be:
Very few of us can snap their fingers and make things happen in terms of building a business. It takes time, strategy, experimentation…and patience. Over and over again. For example, one of the best ways to get ideal-for-you clients that stick around is through word-of-mouth, one kindred spirit to another…and growing relationships that way doesn’t happen overnight.
Working for ourselves is the embodiment of getting back up when we fall down. When a product doesn’t sell, a promotion doesn’t interest people, a client doesn’t turn out to be the best one for us, we can find ourselves in the dumps, drinking warm gin straight out of the cat dish (thank you Anne Lamott). But we have to keep going. We “fail” at something, we regroup/rest, we try again. It’s the nature of self-employment.
If you had told me ten years ago that I’d be in such close contact with so many strangers every week, or that I’d be writing in public spaces completely exposed to criticism, I would’ve hidden under the bed. For, like, a year. But one tiny daring step at a time, it ceased to be so paralyzing. I’m still an introvert, but I’m capable of reaching out in ways I never thought I could.
Every day, I sit down at my desk. And every day, there is a mix of good and bad. I’m exposed to the same horrific news, questionable personalities, intractable world problems as everyone else. But as a self-bosser, I had to train myself to see good news, good people, good possibilities in order to stay in a strong and possible state of mind for my clients. And anyway, who wants to work with a pessimist?
“Kindness will prevail,” a friend likes to say. Being in the business of helping people be/do/have something better & brighter for themselves requires the ability to be compassionate, curious, and a darn good listener.
If we’re paying attention, some pretty hilarious things happen in the process of trying to survive this self-employment thing. I was once approached to do some work for a celebrity impersonator who, in the process of proving to me what a great artist he was, went through at least a dozen impressions from Kirk Douglas to Michael Jackson. From my corner, I’m never averse to using my sense of humor as a business tool…nothing de-stresses a situation like lightening up.
I don’t set out to help my clients master Small Business 101, although there was a time early in my career when my ambition was to help people become better businesspeople. That’s changed, sinking down a few layers. I now help people become better at whatever-they-already-are.
If they’re coaches, I help them be better, wiser, saner coaches by helping them find the right-for-them mix of compassion, visibility, and a joyful kind of productivity.
If they’re authors, I help them be more successful and self-confident by helping them find readers for their work, find the right support systems, and structure their day/time to have breathing room to write.
If they’re therapists, I help them find ways to use their ample intuition and empathy to promote their business in authentic, efficient ways, so they can repurpose that brain space to help more people be healthy.
Let’s Try This:
Take a quiet moment (stop laughing, you can find one). Grab a piece of paper–electronic or paper–and let’s think about your business or practice as it exists right now.
How is it helping you be a better whatever-you-already-are, or a better what-you-would-like-to-be?
Conversely, does it feel like there are ways it’s standing in the way of that? What can you do to smooth those things out? The key to loving your work and being peacefully productive is to not be at odds with yourself, with the “you you” and the “working you” being in a perpetual cage match.
What needs to happen to connect the learning loop of your work with the learning loop of your life?
Here when you need me
I help people who choose self-employment to become more peaceful, purposeful, and profitable through my writing, teaching, tools, and individual mentoring, so they can completely love the work and life they’ve chosen. There’s something for everyone, no matter their budget, so if you could use a little boost from someone who cares, have a peek at what I offer.