Category Archives: Starting a business while working full time

My ‘Perfect Storm’

storms-brew-thunder-lightning

 

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

Norman Vincent Peale

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared my journey to this point in my life. Much has changed and evolved since the last time I shared this story so I thought it was time for an update.

But first, a question for you: Do you believe in yourself?

Life is a crazy journey of unlikely twists and turns and one of the most important things I’ve learned is that I need to believe in myself before others will.

My beginning (literally)

Maybe it’s my natural tendency to be curious, but I like to understand where people are coming from and what makes them who they are. Everyone has a story and our story is what helps us connect to each other. Here’s mine.

My story starts in rural Eastern Oregon. That’s where I grew up. Back then, my idea of fun was seeing how many ‘city kids’ I could convince (dare) to touch the electric fence. It always brought me a twisted sense of pleasure to see the surprise on someone’s face after receiving an unexpected jolt of energy enter their body. And don’t worry. Karma got me back plenty of times. This is just the crazy shit young boys do.

My parents both worked full time and we lived on a horse ranch. Which sounds fun to most people until I describe the sheer volume of horse crap that I moved (manually) from one place to another.

I had a pretty standard small town upbringing, complete with grandpa’s fighting over who would take me fishing and getting reprimanded for making weird bodily noises in church.

By the time I was 18, I had spent my entire life in one single small town and I couldn’t wait to charge off to college and begin my own life. This was before parents thought it was normal to pay for their kids’ college tuition so I worked my way through college in pursuit of a better life. I was done with small towns and shoveling horse manure!

The brainwashing begins

I graduated from college and made my way to the big city and started working my way up the ladder in the fast paced world of technology. I worked hard, got married, bought a house in the suburbs, leased new cars, passed up vacations in order to work even harder, and thought that I was on a path to “success.” I had all the trappings of a good life and I was working hard but looking forward to the day that I would quit my job and be happy.

I was living what I thought was the life I wanted. I mean, everyone was telling me what a great career I had and what a great job I was doing so I must be doing it all right!

Umm…no! I was only following the lead of everyone else around me. I was allowing my friends, the culture and my work environment brainwash me. I was so busy being busy that I couldn’t see another way.

The storm hits

Back in the early 2000‘s, technology was the place to be and I was right smack in the middle of it working for a software startup in Portland. Everything was purring along nicely and then – BAM – the stock market crashed and within months, technology companies began firing people. The inconceivable was happening. And I got laid off. And then I did what seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. I started investing all of my money into real estate. And then the real estate market crashed. And then I lost everything I had worked so hard for.

A low point

I found myself newly divorced, out of work, nearly broke and looking for answers. If it had not been for what I now call my ‘Perfect Storm’, I might still be comfortably numb, spiritually bankrupt and feeling financially indestructible.

And as if things weren’t bad enough, my dog suddenly died and I lost my investment properties to foreclosure because I couldn’t sell them or pay for them. To say that all hell broke loose would be a massive understatement.

My ‘Perfect Storm’ shook me out of my complacency and plunged me into uncertainty, in which everything I held as important and true fell apart. Old beliefs began to to dissolve but nothing rushed in to take their place. I felt like I was just floating, ungrounded, desperate and hopelessly lost.

I had followed a path that was out of alignment for so many years and I was silently suffering. I remembered when I was a kid in school, how much I loved to draw, and paint, and create, and move, and play. What had happened? How did I get so off course? I still loved these things but I gave them up for what? For money? For security? For doing what others expected of me?

I found my way back into a technology job, leveraging my contacts and experience to do what I knew best. I drastically simplified my life, selling almost everything that I didn’t absolutely need or love. I started saving large chunks of my salary and I had zero debt for the first time in a long while. I started going to yoga and living a more healthy life. I felt as if I had wiped the slate clean and I was being re-born.

And then I began to dream again

I started getting glimpses of a new calling, but these glimpses would only come in flashes that were often undefined and fuzzy. But I knew something was coming. I felt an urge to be more creative but in a way that allowed me to work with people and earn some extra income on the side. I purposely mention income here because so many creative people tend discount it. Wake up! If you’re not making a good income, then you’re not serving your most important client – YOU!

Pondering how I could keep the parts of being in a technology career while ditching what sucked out my soul led me to realize that I wanted to help people learn to live unapologetically, in alignment with the truth of who they really are.

I never could have anticipated what happened next in my life. The more aligned I became with my inner desires, the more life seemed to return to me! I was getting raises and bonuses at work, I met and married the most amazing woman in the world, I started a little blog which led to a few coaching clients which led to getting paid for work that I love.

Who’da thunk I could have all this? Well that’s exactly the point! I started to believe that I deserved to have good things happen to me. My ‘Perfect Storm’ allowed me to see that unless I was brave enough to trust and believe in myself, that life would be a series of endless storms, slamming me around.

This didn’t happen overnight, but I decided to start trusting my inner desires and slowly pursue the people, activities and places that interested me the most. And by doing so, I began to listen to my own inner wisdom instead of what everyone else was saying.

In hindsight, I realize that I couldn’t have written a story better than this. And everything continues to emerge, like an onion, as I peel back the layers and become increasingly clear on what I’m here on earth to do.

One more #*% surprise

The Universe, having the sense of humor that it does, had one more big surprise in store for me. I was notified earlier this year that the software division at my company would be dissolved and that I was going to be losing my six-figure corporate job in August. Now the good news is that I had already started building something on the side to bring in a little extra income but this did nothing to dampen the shock of my day job disappearing.

So now I’m on this journey full time. I’m coaching people, I’m starting a new web show (to be released next week), I’m in the early stages of co-developing a new course with one of my mentors and I’m giving everything I’ve got to this new adventure.

While this process hasn’t been easy, it has been the most rewarding magical, enlightening journey I’ve ever experienced. In retrospect, I can honestly say that my ‘Perfect Storm’, as gut-wrenching as it was – was the best thing that ever happened to me. And if you’re in the midst of a Perfect Storm, embrace the change (even though it feels like hell) and use it as an opportunity to discover your purpose for being alive.

Best,

Michael

P.S. How have your ‘Perfect Storms’ shaped your life? Please share if you feel compelled to do so. You never know how your story may liberate someone else.

 

Jumping off the Hamster Wheel and Finding Your Sweet Spot

Pet Hamster Holding A Blank  SignWhy do we do the things we do? Is it because our parents did it that way? Is it because we are trying to impress our friends? Is it because everyone else does it? Or is it because we are just trying to pay the bills?

Since I was told that August 16th would be my last day at my corporate job, I have been asking myself many questions about why I do the things I do.

 

 

I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.

Lucille Ball

One of the biggest questions I have asked myself is why did I have a corporate job in the first place? Well, it was serving a purpose. My company paid me well to do work that they needed someone to do. As simple as that! And I am grateful for that opportunity as it allowed me save some money and begin to see clearly that I wanted to do more meaningful work.

I did not want to spend the rest of my working life answering to people that cared little for me. I was giving up my precious life energy and spending hours away from home so that I could receive a paycheck to buy groceries, pay the mortgage and take short vacations. This sounds simple enough…go to work, get paid, buy stuff and then do it over and over again. But I was starting to feel like a hamster on a wheel because my work was not a true reflection of me.

No offense to all those lovely hamsters out there but looking back, I was really just doing the same uncreative things over and over and over again.

Over time, I began to feel numb in my corporate job. I was going through the motions because I needed/wanted the paycheck. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our entire Western culture is bent on the idea that we go and find a great job so that our parents can be proud of us and we can go buy nice things to enjoy life. It’s the American dream, right?

The only problem is that it’s pretty easy to get comfortable with this idea because almost everyone is doing it. It’s the reality that we know.

Well, I am questioning that idea. I know that everyone has a different situation and I would be the first to say that if you don’t have the money to take your loved one out to a nice dinner, then by all means go out and get a job and create some financial stability in your life.

The key is to not get too comfortable in the job trap (unless you truly love your job). But I do believe that it’s entirely possible to be an entrepreneur while working for someone else. The most successful employees at most companies are the ones that love their job and willingly take on new assignments and tasks to create more value.

Here’s the bottom line. If you are in a job that you don’t love or feel a deep purpose for, why would you keep doing it? For the status? For the money? To keep your spouse happy? Let me just say that these things never end well.

My advice: start a business on the side doing something you care deeply about and that others will pay you for. That way, if you get laid off like I did, you will have a foundation already in place to grow a business and an income.

And even if you don’t want to start a side business, please, please, please consider finding work that is meaningful to you. Life is just too damn short to get comfortable in a job that you don’t love.

So how would I go about starting a side business that’s meaningful?

Here’s what I did.

I started by finding the intersection of three different criteria:

1.      What you’re deeply passionate about

2.      What you’re the absolute best at

3.      What the market wants

It’s an easy enough concept.  But finding that intersection (what I call the sweet spot)… now, that’s the trick.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

sweet spot

To illustrate the sweet spot concept (the intersection where your passion + your skills + what the market wants = your ideal role), I will use an example of my own business model.

What am I Deeply Passionate About?

I am deeply passionate about: Liberating the true genius within.
My purpose is to inspire authenticity – freeing talent, ideas, voice, opinions, consciousness. I inspire people to be the best version of themselves and create a life of freedom through a business with Soul. I find that when I diverge from this path, the cost is dear. When I stay the course of my truth, and support others in doing the same, I prosper in every possible way.

What Can I Be The Best At?

I can be best in the world at: Helping others align with their brilliance and get paid to be themselves.

I resisted aligning with my own brilliance for so long that I experienced tremendous pain because of it. I now understand what it means to follow my heart and use my head.

note: the most important word in this sentence is *can*. It’s not what *are* you the best in the world at (maybe it’s not on purpose) or what do you *want* to be the best in the world at (could be unrealistic). Maybe you can only be the best in the world at making gluten free crackers for mom’s in Scandinavia, or offering yoga adventure bootcamps for thrill seeking adrenalin junkies, or wedding planning in the tri-state area for under $20,000. Or maybe it’s just one thing you sell, such as…

What Does The Market Want/What Can I Make Money Doing?

My market wants: To do work that matters. To turn their existing skills and interests into a predictable income doing work that they love.

I make money by packaging my experience and wisdom in as many forms as possible (ie. personal coaching/consulting, and soon to be online training programs and mentorship programs).

I do not say yes or make new stuff unless it’s in sync with my sweet spot. It’s pure, it’s powerful and it works.

How do you know which big ideas get the green light or the kibosh?

Only your intuition knows, and she has your best interests at heart. She will love you to the edge of your greatness, and snap her whip when you waffle. She wants you to stay on purpose, on target, and on fire. She wants you to say no to soul-draining work and time wasters. She wants you to keep it pointed to where you want to go.

Remember, your intuition actually works for you. When a new idea or opportunity comes into view, intuition leans over, surveying your potential choices, and whispers two words to you: Sweet Spot. And snap! You know just what to do. Every time. You know whether to take it or leave it!

Knowing whether something falls in your sweet spot is one mighty power tool for clarity and purpose-driving. It is deceptively simple. If it’s not in your sweet spot, you lose.

– Michael

P.S. Do me a favor and leave me a comment on what you believe is your sweet spot.

9 Reasons To Start Your Own Business On The Side (Part 1)

fundamentals-of-success

WARNING: This is one of my more opinionated posts. Dare I say there is even a rant or two. You can’t say I didn’t warn you!

Today I will challenge ideas about some of the most established institutions in our Western culture. Specifically, the institutions of finance, higher education, employment and government.

One thing is for certain and that is change. Change happens whether we like it or not. And it’s how well we adapt to change that often determines our level of success and happiness. Today, I am going to discuss changes that are happening and why it makes sense to simplify and start a side business that may eventually replace your job as your primary source of income and stability.

While society tells us that we’re supposed to borrow money to go to school and buy a house, student loan and mortgage debt can bind you to a biweekly paycheck to remain afloat financially. When you’re paying $2,500 per month combined on your mortgage and student loans, it often makes it hard to take some time off to explore a passion or build a business. You have to keep running on the hamster wheel.

Which begs the question, is college even a good option anymore? As Michael Ellsberg points out in his book, ‘The Education of Millionaires’, why not take the money and time you would have spent on school and build a business? This comes from an Ivy League graduate and author that interviewed some of the most successful entrepreneurs around.

Ditto for buying a house, which anchors you to a specific geographic location, limiting your employment opportunities to that area. You probably won’t hear this from anyone else, but the primary factor in how much you spend every month is the house and neighborhood you live in. That’s because your neighborhood creates the financial culture that presents the spending choices you make.

I know people that live in $400,000 homes in beautiful neighborhoods, drive new BMW’s and Audi’s, buy giant flat screen TV’s and $6,000 sofas, and are essentially broke. They don’t fully realize how much money they are spending because everyone around them is doing the same thing.

If your dream is to really live rich (i.e. decrease your workload and have more time to pursue your passions) why not consider moving to a less expensive house in a less expensive neighborhood and drastically reduce expenses?

Then you wouldn’t have as much financial pressure to keep that demanding corporate job that sucks all your time and energy away from the things you really want to be doing.

At the same time you could also be starting a business on the side and increasing your income. By significantly cutting your biggest expense by 30% to 50% and at the same time, taking immediate steps to increase your income 20% – 50%, you can escape financial slavery and have more room to pursue all the things that really matter to you.

These burdens of lifestyle expenses prevent most people from reaching one of the most rewarding positions in life: working for yourself, where your earning power can be a direct result of your ideas, drive, and effort, rather than your boss’ estimation of how much your time is worth.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be free from the shackles of a 9-5 prison and someone else determining my worth. And I want to be in more control of my own destiny. I’m tired of being fed lies about what I’m supposed to do and how I’m supposed to live. The government and the media have mastered the craft of telling us how we should be living and what we should be buying in order to ‘fit in’ and be successful.

Enough!

Nine Reasons To Start Your Own Business On The Side

1) The average cubicle dweller is becoming impoverished. Let’s start by taking a look at a simple graphic: your income is going down. Simple as that! Median U.S. household income is near its lowest point over the last 13 years.

This is a disturbing trend (read change) that likely won’t change anytime soon. So what are you going to do about it?

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Source: Sentier Research analysis of Labor Department data.

2) The middle class is being squeezed. Population is going up, but high-quality jobs are being outsourced, globalized and mobilized.

I work for a company that has constantly been downsizing their workforce since I’ve been here. What they do every quarter is replace some of the full time workers with temporary staff so that they don’t have to pay benefits to full time employees. It started with IT, then Software Development, then Marketing. What’s next?

And that’s why temp staffing is an industry that’s going through the roof. The big companies don’t want employees. Why not? They don’t want to deal with rising health insurance costs and Obamacare. They don’t want to pay the high salaries that aging baby boomers demand. With temp staffers, they don’t have to deal with all of the issues.

The workers that are left (that’s me) are asked to do more for the same amount of pay. And we’re told that we are the lucky ones because we still have a ‘good job’.

And taxes keep going up. I don’t mind paying my fair share to support our clean water, infrastructure and other things that make life easier. But I’m not too keen on paying higher taxes to a degenerate government that has to borrow more money simply to pay interest on the money they’ve already borrowed.

And just in case you hadn’t connected the dots, having your own business means that you can deduct legitimate business expenses pre-tax.

3) You’ve sold out. Unless you are completely satisfied with your job and it gives you every aspect of happiness and success, you are selling your Soul in exchange for some temporary level of comfort.

Your unwillingness to do something that really matters is nothing more than simple bribery. It’s an illusion of comfort and security. The steady paycheck, the cool BMW 3-series, the rocking 2-bedroom loft in the cool part of town…these things are holding you hostage.

If material accoutrements are all you need to give up on your dreams, you don’t have a chance at your best life because your dreams are not your biggest priority – your immediate comfort and security are.

In other words, you’ve sold out!                                     

And I get it. I’m still working in a corporate job. But I’m leveraging it to build a business on the side that will allow me to step away and not have to put my Soul through the corporate meat grinder five days a week.

4) Your retirement plan is a joke. First off, everybody under the age of 50 should just say goodbye to eventual Social Security. Don’t count on it. Never mind that you have been paying into it your entire adult working life.

And for those age 65 and above, a promise has been made to them all of their lives. Well, unfortunately the promise is a lie. Social Security gets adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which excludes food and energy. Guess what: food and energy are going up faster than the CPI… which is why current retirees have about ten years left before their basic needs can no longer be met by the money promised them all of their lives.

Nobody can retire anymore on their retirement plan. It’s sad but true: humans are just living longer. 401ks, IRAs, and the other little plans your corporate masters and bank liars have put together for you are built on lies and ways for them to earn fees on their mutual funds. They use fancy phrases like “laddering” and “the stock market has never had a sustained down period.” All of these things are lies.

Here’s the truth: you will never become wealthy and free investing a small portion of your income in your 401k and mutual funds. It’s just not going to happen. All of the people that I know who make significant income through investments have created their initial wealth by starting and growing their own businesses.

There are multitudes of research that indicate the the most common way to generate a combination of personal satisfaction and wealth is to start a business and create real value for people. Don’t believe the lie you’ve been told about becoming wealthy by scrimping and saving for 40 years and maxing out your 401k plan. Ask many of the baby boomers how that worked out in 2000, 2007, 2008 and 2010 when many people had their 401k’s demolished by market crashes.

The path of pursuing meaningful work is not easy. It’s going to take a lot of courage, diligence, sacrifice and patience. You will have to be around positive people who love you. You will have to be grateful for the abundance in your life and look for creative ways to have more of it. This is not economics. This is the real world and how to survive in it. Not the fantasy land of cubicles and fluorescent lights.

Remember, nothing great happens all at once. Permanent change occurs through process – hundreds of decisions made over time that engineer a lifestyle.

I will begin interviewing remarkable entrepreneurs next month on how to engineer success on your terms while keeping your sanity (mostly) intact. :-)

And I will return next week with the other five reasons to start your own business on the side.

Until then, start thinking about the kind of life that you really want to have and start taking steps to make it a reality.

Best,

Michael

P.S. Do me a favor and let me know what you think in the comments.

 

 

 

How Loving What You Do Is the Quickest Path to Doing What You Love

 

9222_1000-1000-0Some might argue that learning to love what you do is a surefire way to get stuck a comfortable place and never pursue your greatest work. I disagree. By learning to love what you do, you will create enormous momentum that will carry you forward much faster than if you are constantly focusing on how much your job sucks.

Before we can do what we love, we must first start by loving what we do.

Even if you have a clear vision of what’s next, what about right now? How can I enjoy what I’m being paid to do in the here and now?

You may be in a job or career that you don’t feel you can change right now. Perhaps because you have a huge mortgage, kids, debt or any one of the other million possibilities that don’t allow you to totally push reset. That’s fine (for now). But that also doesn’t mean you condemn yourself to a life of career complacency and sleepwalking.

How are you experiencing your work?

In some of my previous jobs, I found that the more I resisted the job, the harder it was for me to do it. Rather than pushing against it, I needed to be grateful that someone had trusted me with the opportunity to do work and be paid for it.

I remember the day where I realized that I needed to stop resisting my job and work with the opportunity that I was given. I had a business coach challenge me to either make the most of the opportunity that I had or to get out! I can say with 100% certainty that this change in perspective enabled me to move forward by leaps and bounds.

How I turned my greatest challenge into my greatest ally

The first step — like most things — started with changing my point of view. Instead of seeing my job as a necessary evil, I started viewing it in a more positive light. I began being grateful for all of the things my job was allowing me to have and do.

The second step was becoming completely accountable for my situation. I began accepting complete responsibility for what I was creating in my career and in my life. I no longer made excuses for things that were (or were not) happening.

Please do not underestimate the power of the two steps above. These steps helped me gain clarity about the kind of work that I wanted to be doing. And ultimately led to my current job which allows me to work from home, have some flexibility in my schedule, and pays me well enough to save 20% of my income.

As I learned how to value my job, my job began supporting me in many new ways, including building my own business on the side. My job has allowed me to hone valuable skills that I am currently using to start my web show and consulting business.

My job has also helped me to be humble. I have accepted that while it’s not my ultimate dream to be in software sales, it isn’t that bad and it is allowing me to accomplish many things while I am building my new business on the side.

My day job has also taught me how to be patient. While working towards creating my own version of freedom, I am building a sustainable business that will allow me to leave my day job as my side business income grows. Building a new business is similar to farming. You till your fields, you plant your crops, and you cultivate them for weeks or months before you ever reap the rewards.

How to make your job enjoyable

1.      Leverage your career strengths.

Leverage your current skills to do work that is familiar and will pay you well. This is also known as career leverage and it will make your life easier. If you already have a job where you are using your skills and being paid well, then consider yourself one step ahead of the game.

I took this step over three years ago when I leveraged my network to get back into software sales. Rather than seeing this as a step back, I knew that I could land a job that would allow me to do work that I was familiar with and where I could get paid really well for my efforts. And I also knew that there would not be much of a learning curve since I had done this type of work before.

As a result of leveraging my career experience, I was able to find a job where I am paid for my results, I get to work from home, and I am challenged and not bored.

2.      Understand where you’re at your best.

Then spend your time doing it. And find a way to stop doing the things you hate and suck at. If you enjoy marketing but hate making sales calls, then get creative and find a way to do more marketing and fewer sales calls. Your situation might not be that clear but I guarantee there’s room to work. There always is.

Using my natural strengths has been the biggest single contributor to fulfillment in my work. Everything is so much better when you fill your time doing things you’re awesome (or at least good) at. As you begin experimenting with your own business ideas, it will become very important for you to focus on what you’re good at and delegate (i.e. pay someone else) to do the rest.

3.      Find a bigger reason why.

When you’re stuck in spreadsheet hell, it’s all too easy to lose sight of life. Find a way to connect your seemingly mundane task (assuming someone else can’t do it) to the overall purpose of the company or the people your product or service is designed to serve.

Or better yet, know that the work you are doing now is supporting your efforts to do work that matters later. Some days, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that what I am doing today is supporting something bigger and greater.

Part of the path to doing work that matters is making sure that you have a sustainable path to fulfilling your desire. And unless you already have a large pile of cash, or are expecting a windfall, your current job is supporting you and your efforts to do more meaningful work later.

4.      Negotiate working from home.

Sometimes being in the office and dealing with a commute is the worst part of your job. You might love the work but get lost in the B.S. of a bureaucratic office. You’ve got to convince your boss you can do better work at home. Start with asking for half a day on a Friday and then maybe a full day.

Be sure to be massively productive and send her everything you did on your day off. Explain how much more productive you are in a quiet and focused environment. Then show her the results. If a half or full day is too hard to negotiate then take a day off and tell her you have to stay home with your kids or wait for the plumber. Pick something realistic (and ideally true). And then use this time to prove how productive you were. Then follow up with a note that you had more time at home than you thought and here’s all the stuff you were able to accomplish in an uninterrupted environment.

I realize that not all jobs have this option. A nurse can’t do her job from home. But many jobs do offer this as an option. A big part of happiness for many people is owning their own schedule. This starts with training your boss to focus on output, not time in office. With that comes freedom.

Making the best of today does not mean sacrificing your dream tomorrow.

Let’s be clear. The above is not an excuse to stay in a job when you know that you have more meaningful work to do. It’s simply a short-term solution to a problem that millions of people face.

You are still responsible for finding your most meaningful work. It’s out there. But remember, there’ll never be a perfect time to take the jump. Wait as little as possible. But be smart about the transition so that you don’t put yourself or your family in a bind.

Start saving some money to cushion the transition and start experimenting with how you can make your mark on the world. The more clearly you understand the importance of doing what matters, the more likely you are to do something about it.

Work your plan. Make your current job part of the plan and suddenly your meaningless commute will have a little purpose to it. That’s a start.

Now it’s up to you.

If you’ve found meaning in the message above, then you have changed your perspective on your job and you understand the value in it as an important part of the journey to doing more meaningful work. I mean, if you’re going to stay in your job (for now) you might as well get some enjoyment from it.

But don’t sit idle. Start now by clearing some time in your week for exploring ideas that excite you. And remember that it’s likely going to take work to get something new and exciting off the ground. Welcome it. If you aren’t happy with your current situation then take some steps and do something about it. Remember…delaying happiness today does not equal more happiness tomorrow.

It’s up to you now.

No excuses.

No more sleep walking through life.

You can either sit idle while your story gets written or you can wake up and start writing it yourself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever felt trapped by your day job? What did you do to change how you felt about it?

Why Designing Your Business Around Your Lifestyle Matters

Once you decide to embrace the idea of doing work you love, it’s important to think about your overall goal for doing this work.

Like many people, when I first contemplated the idea of working for myself, I thought that choosing this path was the key to personal freedom.

As it turns out, I began to recognize that how you go about it can mean the difference between creating your freedom and creating something even more demanding than working at a job.

If you are thinking about test driving new business ideas that may lead to leaving your job, there are some very important considerations to make.

laptop-at-the-beach

Lifestyle Business or Startup Company?

Many people make the leap to working for themselves without a clear picture of what they want their business to do for them. Some people will begin with a traditional startup where they will add employees, secure funding, and grow their business. This is a proven model for success but may not offer you the lifestyle that you originally envisioned when you got excited about working for yourself.

There is another option. Advances in technology, communications and social media have made it possible to start and run certain types of businesses in a much different way. Instead of hiring employees, a company can now rely almost solely on contractors and service providers. Instead of renting physical office space, people can communicate over Skype, through email, or via social networks.

A newish term for this kind of company is “microbusiness” and the people who start them are classified as “solopreneurs.” These types of companies are leaner, smaller, and more able to adapt, easier to run and grow, and most of all, more supportive of the owner’s lifestyle goals.

A microbusiness is loosely defined as a company with five or fewer employees. A better definition would be around the intent of the company. The intent of a microbusiness would be a company that is designed to run and grow with five or fewer employees.

After doing a lot of research and having had personal experience with traditional startups, I’m going the microbusiness route and I’m already seeing the benefits. As I began testing my idea to launch a web based interview show and educational site, I wanted to make sure that I could run my business from anywhere with a decent internet connection. This way I’m not attached to anyone else’s timeline or expectations and I can hire other small business experts to assist me with video editing, site design and edits, scheduling my show interviews, etc.

I can also easily start my business on a part-time basis while keeping my day job until the time feels right to move into my “lifestyle business” full time.

This may change slightly as I move forward with my business, but I’m very intent on keeping my business lifestyle friendly.

This will be very important as I move towards my goal of living in different locations during the wet winter months that we experience here in Portland. Part of my criteria is to engineer my business so that I can operate from pretty much any location worldwide. This gives my wife and I the flexibility to travel and conduct business from where ever we like.

As an example, I am writing and posting this blog (joyfully) from Hawaii. And most of the blogs that I have completed, I have written while on an airplane traveling for work. My web show will also have the ability to operate from virtually anywhere. All I will need is my laptop, a high speed internet connection, my portable HD web cam, and my video editing software.

Can Any Business Be Lifestyle-Friendly?

Let’s take a look at how a traditional business can be designed to operate as a lifestyle business. While not every business can be designed to support your ideal lifestyle, I do think that many can be creatively designed (or re-designed) to support the way you want to work and live.

Example: Yoga Business

Let’s say that your dream is to start a yoga business. Most people might tell you that you need to invest in the physical space to open a studio and hire employees to help manage and run the business.

But wait! Let’s first consider your lifestyle goals.

If you love yoga and your goal is to launch a yoga business, lets also take your lifestyle goals into consideration and design a business around them. Let’s say that your lifestyle goals are to travel more, not have employees, and not have to deal with the overhead of renting or buying a yoga studio space.

Based on your lifestyle goals, you may have some options that you might not have considered. For example, you could create income and travel by learning how to plan and lead successful yoga retreats. You could also launch your own yoga training program by finding and leasing a temporary studio space or creating a program to be delivered online. You could embrace your travel bug by offering to lead yoga workshops in other cities or yoga retreat centers around the world.

There is no limit to the number of ways that we can be creative with our businesses. And I believe that the first step should be factoring in our lifestyle goals so that our business can support them.

If you currently have a business, or are planning to start one, ask yourself “how can I make this business more lifestyle-friendly for myself and everyone involved?” You’ll be much happier for it!

Michael

What Is It That You Can’t Not Do?

change the world

I think that almost everyone would admit that we are here to do things that really matter. Deep down, most of us know that we have some inner force that calls us to be the best version of ourselves.

We want to do something that matters – to us and to the world. We want to do work that we are proud of. We want to do work that feeds our Soul.

Some of us are just getting started, others are well on their way and the rest are just starting to believe it’s even possible.

As I talk with people about doing work that matters, I find that there is one statement that tends to hold us back more than any other.

 “But I Can’t Just Quit and Start Over”

Very few people have the flexibility to “just quit” what they are currently doing and begin something new.

There may be exceptions but many of us have mortgages, families, student loans or a million other reasons that keep us in our jobs…at least for now.

Many of the people that I talk to about pursuing a more meaningful life are between 40 and 60 years old. And most of them have a couple of children and a mortgage – none of which are going anywhere.

But that is NOT an excuse to give up on our dreams.

That is not an excuse to condemn yourself to a continued life of quiet desperation for the next few decades.

You must control what you can control – and fortunately we are in control of a lot more than we might realize.

Not being able to ‘just quit’ does not mean you can’t begin the process of building a career around something meaningful while you still have a job.

Regardless of your situation or current obligations, it’s still possible.

The best time to create a new career is while you’re at your old one.

If you just quit tomorrow, the odds are that you would instantly start to panic about some made-up story of you and your family starving on the streets. This would likely cause you to immediately go into panic and desperation mode, which would eventually lead to you getting another job.

But it does not have to be this way.

And if we want to create meaningful change and find a path that genuinely makes us happy, then we must go about it differently.

In my previous blog series about ‘Getting Paid to Make a Difference’, I reviewed the following framework:

  1. Simplify and Prioritize Your Life
  2. Create Room for Expansion (so that you can create something brilliant)
  3. Begin Experimenting and Pursue Your Meaningful Idea
  4. Surround Yourself With People That Support You (I just added this one and you’ll hear more about it later on!)

This framework was not designed for the unique individual who can afford to quit their job tomorrow.

It was designed around my own real world experience. It was designed for any of us.

It was designed for the people who need to bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to go.

It will be up to you to do the work on yourself and make the discoveries, ideally while you’re at your current job – in the morning before work, during the evenings after work, on weekends, during commute, on lunch breaks, on vacation days, whenever…

Because if you don’t figure out what you’re looking for, you’re never going to find it.

And knowing yourself (your unique blend of skills, talents, passions and life experience) creates massive confidence.

When you don’t know what it is you want to do – when you don’t have a clue what work you simply “can’t not do,” then you feel like it’s impossible to make a change. And that, over time, is exactly how complacency kills a dream.

For example:

My wife Jill, can’t not do yoga.

My friend Johnny, can’t not do fitness.

My friend Alissa, can’t not do design.

My friend Skylor, can’t not do healthy food and living.

The object is to figure out what you Can’t Not Do!

Jill, Johnny, Alissa, and Skylor are all exceptional at what they do and it has taken them time to get where they are. Success didn’t happen overnight for any of them. But with consistent effort over time, they have all created businesses around the things that they can’t not do.

Once we realize what makes us come alive – the natural talents, strengths and skills that we apply to make our impact in the world, our fear suddenly gets converted into pure confidence and excitement.

And that’s when the magic starts to happen.

I challenge you to make 2013 your year to finally do something about the job you might not be very excited about.

Decide to make this the year to finally get serious about that little hobby or side-project that you’ve so badly wanted to call a business.

I challenge you to make this your year to commit to learning about yourself and finally start doing the work you can’t not do.

Things really can be different but we’ve got to take action.

What matters most to me is that you realize that things can be different, and then you begin taking the steps to live that reality. I don’t care how that happens. All I care about is that it happens.

Please, for you and for everyone around you, decide that you are done complaining and making excuses and that you’ll actually start doing something about doing work that really matters.

There is no standing still.

There never is.

A tolerable work situation now often becomes a miserable existence in a few years.

Your dreams either move forward or they die.

The great thing is you get to choose.

We are all here together to express our unique purpose.

All that’s left is the doing.

Here’s to 2013 being the year we do more of what we can’t not do!

Michael

Create a Life with Meaning and Money

Happiness

We’ve covered a lot of ground over the last few weeks.

We’ve talked about getting on your feet financially.

We’ve discussed embracing simplicity and setting priorities around the things that are most important to us.

And last week we reviewed how to make space in our lives to expand and create something brilliant.

Now it’s time for the final step in the series of getting paid to make a difference.

STEP 4: Begin Experimenting and Pursue Your Meaningful Idea

Before I jump into this topic, I gotta make sure that you have cleared a specific time in your day to pursue your greatness. It’s so easy to allow life to get in the way of pursuing great ideas. This I know because I’ve been there. I’ve made the mistake of opening email first thing in the morning and all of a sudden, an hour is gone! I’ve told myself that I will get to it after work, only to find myself too exhausted to do anything meaningful.

If you haven’t committed to setting aside time to pursue something meaningful, my advice is this.

Commit to waking up two hours earlier in the morning, and going straight to your computer with a cup of coffee or tea. Getting up one hour earlier isn’t going to cut it for most people. Try to sneak in two. I know the prospect of waking up that much earlier sucks, but isn’t the prospect of making money doing something you love, worth it? I’ve tried everything and this is the best time for busy people to work, because the world hasn’t woken up yet and started placing their demands on you. This time is stress free, peaceful, and all for YOU.

With time in your day you can now begin experimenting intensively with potential sources of meaning, passion, and purpose outside of work. Anything from artistic endeavors to starting a charity.

Many people are content to leave things here. They have a career that pays the bills and they also have time during their day or week to pursue meaningful ideas outside of work. There’s really not much downside to this path. It works. Worst case, you have a day job that pays the bills and you get to explore your passions (for starting a charity, learning a language, writing poetry) on the side.

For Those Who Want More

If your current field, industry, company, or organization does not reflect your deepest sense of purpose and meaning, then you’re going to need to take things a step further and begin aligning your money with your meaning. With new hours in your day/week gained from Steps 1, 2, and 3, it’s time to begin experimenting with things that might one day become both a source of meaning and a source of serious income outside of your current job.

This might mean starting a small business on the side, moonlighting in a second “start-up” career, or finding ways to earn money from your artistic and creative passions.

Whatever it may be, if you want to make a living from it and leave your current job, you’re going to have to dive deep into the area of expertise that interests you. You’re going to have to wrap your own passions, talents, skills and purpose – the things you care most about and are best at – into a package with fundamental marketing, sales, and networking skills.

If you know how to do that, you will get paid very well and you’ll be living in your passion and your purpose.

A major pitfall in this journey is that we are so conditioned to thinking of money and meaning as separate, that we overlook creative ways that we can bring them together. If you dig deep enough, you will find endless ways to combine your creative skills, passions, visions, and dreams with the already existing worlds of business and online commerce.

I’m not going to say this will be an easy or risk free task. However, once you begin researching and mingling with others that are living this way, you will have plenty of examples and inspiration to draw from.

Here are some of my favorite resources on how to align your meaning with your money:

These are all examples of people that have mastered the art of taking various components of their skills, desires, talents, and dreams and have put them together to create a thriving business. This is proof that we can make money by pursuing what interests us and create something meaningful in the process.

Are you ready to combine money with meaning? If so, you’re in luck because that’s where we’re headed in a BIG way! It’s going to get a little crazy and a little nutty around here as I move closer to rolling out a new web site and a new web TV show dedicated building a business that combines money with meaning.

That’s all for this week. See you again next week as we dive further into the art of making a living through meaningful work.

In Gratitude,

Michael

Create Room for Expansion (so that you can create something brilliant)

expansion

We covered steps 1 & 2 for moving in the direction of getting paid to make a difference.

Step 1 was all about getting on your feet financially. This is a critical step for launching a meaningful idea that can make a difference in the world. When you have a steady flow of income and the bills are covered, there is much less pressure around making your big idea work.

Step 2 was about embracing simplicity and setting priorities around what’s really most important. When we begin to remove the fluff from our lives, it opens up room for those things and experiences that make us feel most vibrant and alive. And then it becomes easier to focus on what really matters most.

Step 3 for Getting Paid to Make a Difference: Create Room for Expansion

Step 3 is all about expanding your life in the direction that is most inspiring to you. I’m not just talking about pursuing the things that give you fleeting moments of pleasure. I’m talking about making room to experiment with your biggest and brightest ideas.

See, once you are on your feet financially, the next step is to get a little playful and creative about ways that you can use your skills, talents and experiences to offer big value to the world.

This is the phase where you begin to wonder ‘what if?’

And then begin experimenting with finding ways to blend your meaning with ways to make a living. Finding a comfortable meeting ground for your meaning and your money is going to require a fair amount of experimentation. And experimentation takes time and it takes money. And it takes room to fall and to fail.

Having the financial stability gained in Step 1 makes it a lot easier to start taking some measured risks in your life. For example, I have a job in the software industry that I happen to enjoy and it pays the bills. Outside of my day job I use mornings and weekends to write this blog and soon turn it into a full-blown web TV show. I am going to be interviewing people from all over the world that have succeeded at creating a six-figure businesses doing what they love.

Do I have all the steps in place or know how this will turn out?

Nope!

Am I excited about this project?

Hellz yeah!

The point is that I am using some of my discretionary time and income to follow my desire and create something meaningful that brings value and education to people. This is an experiment that I’m passionate about because I’m fascinated with creative entrepreneurs and I am genuinely interested in the steps that they have taken to create their dream lifestyle. So I figured, what better way to learn than talking directly to the peeps that have figured it out. And then creating a platform where I can share this with others via my own blog and web TV show.

Another example is my wife, Jill. She worked in financial services while she began developing her yoga teaching and massage skills. She began experimenting by taking a yoga teacher training program and eventually going to massage school. Fast forward a few years and she is happily teaching yoga, leading yoga retreats to tropical locations, and now has her own yoga mentorship program for new yoga teachers. See how all this all unfolds?

It’s just so different – and better – figuring out how to make a difference in the world and find meaning in your life when your bills are covered and you have a secure roof over your head. Its way less stressful than trying to do it when you feel pressure to make money. And once the hurdle of supporting yourself is achieved, you’ll be much less likely to go down a path that leads to financial burden or stress.

Now, one problem that you may encounter once you’re financially stable is that the time it takes to create that financial stability in your life is so great, there’s nothing left for anything but your job. This is where Step 3 comes in.

Freeing up time and space

You will need to free up time and space for experimenting with innovation, creativity, making a difference, and finding meaning. One of the ways which I ensure that I have creative time for myself is to get up earlier and get one thing done towards my meaningful project.

Almost every day I get up between 5:30 and 6:00 so that I can have quiet, dedicated time to think, write, research and create. I determine the single most important task that will move my idea forward and I spend at least an hour engaged with that task.

I tend to have more creative energy in the morning so this is when I make time to work on my project. I often spend some time in the evenings as well but the point is to set aside time to experiment with your ideas and stick to it. Do you realize that if you did this for an hour in the morning for a year, you will have accumulated over 350 hours of experience towards learning something new or creating something meaningful?

What if I work a demanding corporate gig?

If you’re working 70 hours a week at a corporate job, there will be very little space left for anything else.

In this case, you should begin looking for creative ways to pursue flextime, working at home, telecommuting, and working from your laptop. These ideas just aren’t that foreign anymore. At the company I work for, over 70% of the employees have home offices and spend at least a couple of days a week working from home. It has been proven that this saves companies money as a result of reduced sick days and happier, more productive employees.

As an example, one of the requirements that I had set when looking for my current job was to have a flexible schedule and to be able to work from home. When I was networking to find this job, I told people that these requirements were non-negotiable and that I am most productive and effective in that arrangement. And you know what? I got just exactly that! And I am exceptionally productive and very good at what I do as a result.

I’m not here to say that you storm into your boss’ office on Monday and demand that you be allowed to work from home. What I am saying is that there’s really no excuse for not creating some flexibility in your workday now if you want it. The only excuse might be your own fear and lack of imagination – and those just aren’t good enough!

Next Steps

  1. Decide when you will set aside time to pursue your meaningful idea. This could be anytime but make sure it is during a time when you have the most energy. For me that’s first thing in the morning but for others it may be 11:00 at night. Just make the space and then we’ll talk about what to do with it next week.
  2. Extra credit. While you’re at it, make space for exercise or movement. There is no single better way for me to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced than going for a run, doing yoga, or even going for a walk. Make time for this every day and it will change your life!

Create room for expansion in your day and pretty soon you’ll be filling that time with brilliant experiments that will move you closer to a life of meaning and money.

In Gratitude,

Michael