I wanted autonomy. To control my days and make the decisions. To show up and leave when I wanted and have a beer at lunch if the spirit moved me. I wanted freedom. That is why I decided to work for myself 20 years ago. And yet. I discovered that self employment and freedom are worlds apart.
I may choose how to organize my days, but often I feel anything but free. Commitments to employees, vendors and customers must come first and supersede any desires and illusions of freedom.
Freedom and Responsibility Don’t Share Space Well
At first it worked. I observed the marketplace and decided what services to offer and how to set myself apart. I decided how hard to work, when to work and who to work for. Many of these decisions were based on the feeling that I could control my destiny. And to some extent, I did.
Fast forward 20 years. Monday mornings now start with the mental inventory of fires burning in the company. Weeks go by like this, and I realize I’ve created a system in which I feel most un-free. When your business is small, there is more wiggle room to exercise your personal freedom; as your business grows, you need grow up with it.
Growing up with your business means moving away from making business decisions based on impulse or convenience and stepping into a proven process.
Learning to Trust a Process
In every business, success comes to those who trust a process. How much in life boils down to finding the right recipe and then following the instructions? There is a trade off: relinquishing a sense of freedom as you free-fall into a time-tested process. And we don’t have to like it. As Jerry West, former Lakers basketball player and executive, once said “If you only went to work when you felt like it, then nothing would ever get accomplished.”
Your business can only be as process-oriented as you are
The tempo starts at the top. Just as any diet will only be as successful as the dieters commitment to it, so any business will fail to thrive without the owner’s personal discipline. I’ve been down this road many times and have PTSD from my previous failed attempts at leading change. I see them in my mind, stacked on the side of the road like cord wood.
Are you willing to be accountable to yourself?
Unless you are willing to take control of your own life, Your business will never reach it’s full potential. Expecting your organization to operate with discipline, efficiency and accountability, while you operate your personal life as a maverick is straight hypocrisy and trying to pull this off will only frustrate you, as you attempt to align 2 competing realities.
Start with something small-
- Set your alarm and get up when it goes off
- Decide what time to be in bed and commit to lights out at that time
- Create an exercise program and do it every day, at a scheduled time, regardless of feeling
- Cut out a certain food or drink or bad habit from your life
Start with any one of these things or choose your own. The point is to start small and get your self under your control. Do this and you and your business, can grow up together.
Do you agree or disagree? Please share your personal story in the comments below.