entrepreneur

On Pendulum Swings and Finding Ease in My Work

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately and it doesn’t show signs of changing anytime soon.

I almost feel like I need to lower my voice to a conspiratorial whisper as I confess this to a whole bunch of fellow dogged, hard-working entrepreneurs. Are you ready for this?

Here it is… I don’t really feel like working lately. 

After more than nine years of perpetually running uphill with our multiple businesses, birthing three more babies (in addition to the two we already had), backpacking around the world for 12 months, buying a fixer-upper in a new community upon our return, then backpacking around Europe for three months the year after (while pregnant) and then literally moving across the country this past summer, I hit my wall. 

And a big whopper of a wall it was. 

(Sorry, American friends… is it too soon for a wall metaphor? Ugh… but I digress.) 

Here’s the thing: I’ve been running hard and working long and sleeping little for most of my life. I’m not necessarily proud of all of those things, but when I look back and assess honestly, I can see that it’s true. 

It started in my teen years as I began holding down regular jobs at the tender age of 13, and by 17 I was taking university-credit classes my senior year of school, applying for scholarships, playing in city orchestra, volunteering at church and working two part-time jobs. 

It’s never really changed since then. I mean, sure, life has ebbed and flowed. 

University. Living overseas as newlyweds. Having babies while trying to pay off a lot of debt. Dealing with a serious illness. Starting one business, then another (and then another).

It doesn’t seem to matter what the season of life is. I figure out how to push hard and get er’ done. Failing isn’t an option. Neither is stopping. 

plan-on-windowsill

Until this year. And suddenly, all I want to do is stop. 

Stop pushing myself beyond unreasonable physical limitations. 

Stop expecting unrealistic things of myself. 

Stop living right at the edge of what I can actually get done in any given day or week or month. 

Stop enviously watching others do nifty things like rest and have fun and relax, while I bow subserviently to my never-ending to-do list that demands I do the responsible thing and just. keep. going. 

But you can’t keep going like this forever. At some point, a rest-less, hectic, too hard-working life inevitably turns into an exhausted, broken-down, weary and empty-souled life. 

I didn’t really see it coming, not quite like this. I knew I was burnt out and that I’d been bemoaning it for too many years. I knew this past year and a half had pushed me to the end of myself. I knew that a sea change was coming and boy, did I need it. 

I just didn’t expect that when I finally stopped long enough to catch my breath, all I’d want to do was lie down on the floor and keep belly-breathing, trying to somehow make up for years of lost oxygen and this deficit of leisure time and idle moments and days where I didn’t actually do much (horror of horrors!).

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-7-08-53-pm

This fall, our Q4 goal at Ultimate Bundles (the business Ryan and I currently run together) has been to increase operational efficiency by 20% by the end of 2016. 

To that end, we’ve been mercilessly examining our repetitive tasks, processes, methods of communication, and any needless or ineffective practices we find ourselves doing. There’s a lot of eliminating, a little delegating, and definitely plenty of “efficienating” going on (yes, we made that term up – who says “efficient” can’t become a verb?). 

It’s working, too. Between these smart work changes we’re realizing are long overdue, and the help of a personal assistant my darling husband convinced me to hire a few half-days each week, my work and home load really is getting lighter. 

For the first time in oh-so-very long, I’m feeling my heart rate slow to something resembling normal and in that place of greater ease, I’m able to take the kind of deep breaths that felt too luxurious to even pause for previously. 

flowers-and-laptop

There’s a wonderful woman at my new church who I’ve been talking to lately. She and her husband have four school aged kids, and they’re in the process of starting a new business. His hours are crazy long and she’s running ragged caring for the family mostly by herself, and when they do see each other they’re like ships passing in the night. 

As she related it to me, I had so much empathy because I vividly remember those early days for us and how much we wanted all of this (the big family, the freedom and flexibilty, the business success, the travel and adventure), but at what a cost it came. 

It was worth it; don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret what we’ve done.

But now that we’re not in that tenuous place anymore, I’m finding my relentless 100-mile-per-hour drive has petered out and all I’ve got left in me is a leisurely Sunday afternoon jaunt. 

I’m ready for big change. Ready to stop and actually taste and savor my beautiful life. Let myself be more human and needy, rather than tough and robotic. Let being present in the moment win out over being responsible. 

A wise friend once told me that when people change, they tend to do a full pendulum swing.

All the way from the far side of one way of living, right over to almost the opposite of whatever it is they’ve been doing. 

It’s like a visceral, gut reaction. Once we realize something is no longer working for us, we can’t seem to get far enough away from it. 

Eventually, at some point, we stop swinging violently to an extreme and usually find our way to a more comfortable middle. 

I think I’ll get there at some point. But I’m not there yet. 

mug-of-tea

I don’t want to take a quiet, free evening and use it to work ahead on an important project. I want to paint my toenails with my girls and read a novel by the fire with a mug of tea. I don’t want to discipline myself to get up early, hit the ground running, and use my golden morning hours to squeeze in more time for the book I’m writing. I want to sleep longer and wake when I feel ready to greet the day and then saunter through breakfast and my morning coffee. 

And I think that’s ok. I think it’s part of the process of slowing down and learning to just be. I’m working on assessing myself and my worth simply on who I am, and less on what I do or accomplish. 

I don’t know who needs to hear this message today. Maybe you’re stuck where I’ve been these last few years and you’re tired and reading this makes you want to ugly cry or maybe throw your laptop across the room in frustration. I’ve been where you’re at and I feel you. 

I don’t want to tell you to give up or stop pressing forward or stop being responsible or not to reach for your dreams.

We have seasons in our lives that are tiring, and they’re hard, and they require us to reach deeply inside of ourselves and find what we’re made of. Maybe you’re in one of those seasons. I believe in you and that you have what it takes to make it through to the other side. 

But here’s what I’ve learned: you also have to recognize when that season is over and then let it go

Do what you need to do, yes.

And then stop making excuses for why you’re still there, still yanking on those damn boot straps when they’re already on your feet. 

There’s a moment when you pause and say “Wow, I did that. I got through that difficult season. I accomplished that thing that really mattered to me. I invested what was necessary and now I can reap the benefits of my hard work.” 

And then do it. 

(And I’ll be right there with you, sipping on my tea while my pretty painted toes warm up by the fire.) 

Are you exhausted from working so hard? Or have you ever realized that you were still pushing hard when it was actually time to stop?

Images from unsplash.com or my Instagram feed.

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Podcast #19: Why More Money Won’t Motivate You (with Seth & Katie of WellnessMama.com)

The best businesses are about more than just business. That couldn’t be truer than for Katie and Seth of WellnessMama.com, who joined us for today’s podcast.

When you meet another EntreFamily that’s really rocking their business, you have no choice but to get nosy, ask questions and find out what they’re doing right.

And what they’re doing may surprise you… it’s not so much about the money or the numbers or the specific strategies they’re employing (although yes, there’s all of that) but it’s what’s behind the business strategy that makes the most difference.

I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll let you join us and listen in as Katie and Seth share their story of how they got going, and how they plan to keep moving forward based on their values and vision.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • What led Katie into studying nutrition and how that experience became the catalyst to create WellnessMama.com
  • About Katie and Seth’s entrepreneurial “aha moment,” when making a living from the blog became a tangible reality
  • How an entrepreneur’s motivation shapes the success or failure of the business
  • Why Katie continues to write: “It’s never been about making money.” ~Katie
  • Strategies for creating, maintaining, and enhancing connections with your customer community.
  • The simple, driving philosophy behind Seth and Katie’s business ventures
  • How to let go, reevaluate, streamline, and stop obsessing over every detail.
  • Their favorite tools to stay organized and keep up with an ever-growing blog.
It was only fitting to include a photo of Katie in a Cincinnati Reds hat. :)

It was only fitting to include a photo of Katie in a Cincinnati Reds hat. 🙂

Resources from this podcast:

WordPress
Google Docs
1Password
Genesis Framework
WordPress SEO plugin
Gravity Forms
Dropbox
Skype
Evernote
Asana
Slack
Signal

That quote: “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” -Lori Greiner

Their website has recently gotten a beautiful update, but here's a little glimpse of the whole Wellness family, minus the newest addition.

Their website has recently gotten a beautiful update, but here’s a little glimpse of the whole Wellness family, minus the newest addition.

Quotable:

“Entrepreneurship and creating businesses and creating value is the way that things become better in the world.” -Seth

Find Katie and Seth:

WellnessMama.com

WellnessMama on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest

 

Go ahead and listen by clicking on the play button right here at the top of the post.

Or, listen directly through iTunes or Stitcher!

Thanks for joining us for today’s podcast!

10 Tips for Working With Your Spouse (and Not Driving Each Other Insane): We're constantly asked "How on earth do you work with your spouse?", and the simple fact of the matter is that we do and most of the time, we love it.

Podcast # 18: 10 Tips for Working With Your Spouse (and Not Driving Each Other Insane)

Turns out we’re older than we think. When we got married 12 and a half years ago, it was right before digital photos became the norm.

As a result, part of my Christmas gift for Ryan this year involved spending hours digging through four albums worth of 4×6 prints of our wedding photos so I could scan them (300 photos… one at a time) and turn them into JPG files to create a proper album.

An awful lot has changed since this fresh-faced, innocent couple walked into their garden reception as newlyweds, but a lot of things have stayed the same, including the fact that we love to be together and work as a team.

Although we frequently get comments to the effect of “How on earth do you work with your spouse? I’d go crazy!!!“, the simple fact of the matter is that we do and not only is it possible, but most of the time, we love it.

In today’s podcast, we share 10 keys for working with your spouse that we’ve learned over the past 6+ years of collaborating on multiple businesses. We know that working together isn’t for every married couple, but it’s also been an incredibly rewarding journey for us and one that we would gladly recommend to others.

And hopefully these tips will add a little more joy and a lot less crazy to your working relationship. So grab your spouse and give it a listen.

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You’re capable of more than you know

She gave me a C.

It was one of the best things a teacher has ever done for me.

You see, school came easily to me. I was always a straight-A student with little effort.

So you can imagine my shock and dismay when my 10th grade English teacher handed back my writing assignment with a big red “C”I was so devastated and confused (the arrogance, right?), I went back to my teacher and asked how on earth I had managed to get such a low grade on my assignment.

Here’s what she told me: “This isn’t your best work.

And you know? She was right. Oh, it was fine. It was probably a decent assignment overall, but based on what she knew of me (and what I think she actually saw in me and was trying to draw out…), she thought I could have done better.

A bit annoyed and determined to prove I deserved a better grade, I went back to the library that week and spent hours poring over the assignment. Re-thinking the premise, tweaking it, editing until it was just so. By the time I was finished, I knew deep down that it was a vast improvement. And whether my teacher agreed or not, I was proud of my hard work and the final outcome.

I handed it in, and was surprised when she approached me at the end of class the next week, edited assignment in hand. At the top was an A+.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Now this. This is what you’re capable of. Don’t forget it.

I never have.

How a high school writing assignment relates to my work today…

These past six months, I’ve felt in over my head more than a couple times.

In one of our businesses, I’ve been learning new skills, taking on different roles and responsibilities, and trying my hand at things that felt (and often still feel) foreign to me.

They’ve included creating compelling sales pages, doing extensive amounts of copywriting, writing a video script and then directing that video. Even more recently, I’ve launched into yet another unique venture that has me expanding my horizons even further (secrets, secrets… I’ll announce closer to the new year :).

The point is, as entrepreneurs, we’re required to wear a lot of hats, and try our hand at things that might not come easily.

As a blogger, for example, it’s not enough to be good at writing. You also have to learn to use an email service and create drip campaigns, set up affiliate management software, do bookkeeping and accounting, create graphics, edit HTML and CSS, hire people and manage a team, do interviews on podcasts, lead live webinars, build and maintain social media platforms, reach out to corporate sponsors, create and implement strategic marketing campaigns.

That’s just an example of some of the skills I’ve had to acquire over 8 years as a blogger. The specific skills aren’t actually the point. It’s different for everyone, depending on what your business model is.

The point is, we can’t rest on our laurels.

To keep growing as entrepreneurs, to keep improving our business and brand, to keep adapting to a changing marketplace, acquiring skills outside of our toolbox (not to mention, our comfort zone) is a necessity.

Many times these past six months, I’ve wanted to cry “uncle!”. Just give up out of exhaustion and overwhelm. Slam my laptop shut. Cry in frustration. Concede defeat. And then go eat a lot of chocolate (well, okay, I did that part anyways).

And I could have. Just like that high school writing assignment, walking away was an option.

I could have become a victim, blaming my poor grade on my teacher (or in this instance, dismissing the work as too hard, too different, not my skill set or any other number of excuses). Or I could given up and chosen to accept mediocrity and “good enough” as a reasonable modus operandi. 

But oh, I am so glad I didn’t do either.

Was it really, stinking hard, to do things that challenged me so deeply? You bet. Did I still cry a lot of tears and have days when I let the negative thoughts engulf me? I’ll confess, I did.

I’m thankful for a husband who didn’t let me stop there. Who listened to me and loved me and bought me another coffee or told me to go for a walk and take a break. Who encouraged me and told me he believed in me, and was still willing to be honest when my first (or second or third) draft sucked and I needed to go back to the drawing board, again.

I’m thankful I didn’t let the struggle define me or stop me. I pushed through, with a mixture of success, some things I would do differently next time, and a ton of lessons learned.

Best of all, I came out with a fresh belief in my own abilities. You see, I’m more capable than I knew.

And I don’t want to forget it.

you're capable

How personality tests can help you as an entrepreneur

A very long time ago, in a far away, distant galaxy, I studied psychology in university, took Myers-Briggs tests and learned all about personality theory (am I the only one who feels like those days are lightyears away from my life now?).

Several years later, once my psychology degree began to appear fairly useless for the path my life was on, I concluded I’d never use any of this silly old personality theory again.

And then I joined a couple mastermind groups. (Crunch, chew… swallow. That’s me eating my words.)

Lo and behold, I had unwittingly returned to the land of extrovert or introvert, thinker or feeler, sensor or intuitor. It turns out personality typing is no longer just for bored undergrad university students or human resource directors at government agencies.

They’re trendy now.

It’s become hip to know if you’re an ENTJ or an ISFP, an Enneagram type 2 or 8, and what your top 5 strengths are.

I’ve been surprised over the past year at just how much knowing your personality type has come into vogue, and even how mainstream it’s becoming.

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