Any conversation that starts with “I want to be my own boss” invariably results in a stream of discouraging words from the listener. People have told me ad nauseum about how many hours you need to work, the lack of free time, the uncertain income. Every article you read about startups, they mention the unrelenting grind of 17 hour days, the constant rejection from clients and investors, the myriad little things you absolutely must remember to do for fear of all your balls falling to the ground and bouncing off in a merry little band to float away on the nearest river.
No one ever talks about what comes before that; before the long days and the investor pitches and the abandoned partners. There is a gap between deciding to do something and actually doing it. It is the widest, deepest gap you will ever have to step across. But until you do, nothing will get done. You’ll still be talking about how awesome your business idea is when you’re 70.
I’m in that gap now. It’s the one where after a couple of hours of recording finances or writing a document, I’m exhausted and finding ways to justify leaving the rest of the work until tomorrow. I wander around the house, moving coffee cups from the bedside table to the kitchen. I stand outside and stare at my lawn, planning how many boxes of grass seed I need to make it the truly luxurious carpet I aspire to grow. I check my emails, even when I know there is nothing in there. I read countless articles and call it research. I PROCRASTINATE.
Why, though? Why could I spend 12, 13, 14 hours a day sitting in an office and meeting deadlines for someone else, but I can’t do it for me? Why do I have huge bursts of energy for a week or two and then a week of feeling so flat I can’t get out of bed except to pee and occasionally feed myself? Is it depression? Is it fear? Is it laziness? Is it just a normal cycle that I haven’t noticed before?
The short answer: Yes. It’s all of those things. But also, it’s CONSEQUENCES.
When you’re working for someone else, there are consequences if you don’t do your work, or if you don’t show up for swivel chair duty. Those consequences are immediate and unpleasant; you get yelled at, you get warnings, you get fired. So you do the job. Because you must. Consequences force you into action even when your back is aching and your eyes are drooping and you feel like you’re going to burst into tears any minute.
I, of course, am not going to yell, or warn, or fire myself. Hell, I’m not even going to let myself feel guilty, because that never did anyone any good at all. So how do I go about creating consequences for not doing the work?
The answer, as hypothesised on our magical porch, where all great ideas come home to roost, is to look far future, big dreams, barely possible goals:
- If I don’t get up, I am never going to hike Machu Picchu or see the Northern Lights
- If I don’t get up, I am never going to spend months at a time with my mother
- If I don’t get up, I am never going to start a global housing foundation for creatives
- If I don’t get up, I am never going to run an incubation hub in Jozi Central
- If I don’t get up, I am never going to change the world
All these things are vital.
All these things are MINE.
All these things are impossible, unless I finish that document and send it to the lawyer. Today.
I’m up! I’m up!