Category Archives: solopreneurship

The only two rules you need

I’m at Camp Nerd Fitness right now! So as John Green occasionally says, I’m writing this from the past. While I’m away, I’d like to share a short story with you of something cool that happened to me recently.

I was having a Facebook chat conversation with a good friend who lives halfway around the world the other week, when I had one of those moments where I inadvertently said something absolutely perfect. My friend was saying how she really wants to write book reviews, but is concerned that lots of other people are writing them as well, and that her reviews might not be as good as theirs. This was my response:

There are two rules to doing anything you want to do, in this case writing book reviews.
1. Fuck what everyone else is doing. Do your thing, your way, for your enjoyment. Full stop.
2. When in doubt, refer to Rule 1.
If you’d like a bit more to go on than that, try this: imperfect action done today will beat perfect action done next week/month/year nine times out of eight. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, it only matters that you do it. Doing it means you can make it better as you keep doing it. Thinking about doing it will never improve anything, and trying to make it perfect before you do it will only ensure you never actually do it. So just start doing it. Love that you love to do it. Love that it’s not perfect yet. Love that it’s your thing, your way, with all the good and bad things that means. Love that you get to keep working on it. Love yourself for getting off your cute but sedentary ass and actually DOING something. And when you see other people doing the same thing better than you, love yourself for working to follow in their footsteps, and love them for leaving the footsteps for you.
That is all.
I could write a long and involved conclusion for that, but I don’t want to.
See you in the future, when I get back.

I’m not running anymore

So one of the people who really inspires me and the trip I’m on, unsurprisingly, is Matt Kepnes, known in larger context as Nomadic Matt. I got to meet Matt very briefly at World Domination Summit, and he’s quite a pleasant guy, a bit soft-spoken but more than willing to answer a rather specific question about travel insurance despite being in the middle of a gigantic party and having only been introduced to me 30 seconds prior.

One of Matt’s most inspiring posts for me was one he wrote back in 2009, the one called Everyone Says I’m Running Away. In this post, Matt talks about how he is in fact running away from a traditional. conventional life, and toward the kind of life he wants for himself–a life on his terms. I didn’t see that post till over four years after he wrote it, but it spoke to me very clearly, and it’s one of the reasons I’m doing this trip and this location-independent life.

Today I’m going to offer my own perspective on running away, not in relation to travel (Matt did that handily already), but in relation to starting a location-independent solopreneurial business and lifestyle.

In the months before I started seriously considering the trip I’m currently on, especially while I still had my full-time job, I did a lot of research on the kinds of entrepreneurs I wanted to emulate and be like–Nomadic Matt, Sean Ogle, Mike Hrostoski, Jenny Blake, James Clear, Chris Guillebeau, Laura Simms, and many others. I also read books like The $100 Startup and The 4-Hour Workweek, which contained many examples of everyday people who transitioned from 9-5 jobs to financial independence in various ways.

I noticed something about the majority of these people: when they started their journeys to location independence, they were in one of two places. Either (1) their current situation was intolerable, and they wanted to get out of it, or (2) they had some earth-shattering idea that they just couldn’t wait to make reality. In other words, they were either running from something, or running toward something. In fact, pretty much everyone I read about fell into one of those two categories. And a lot of people did some pretty amazing things in the interest of running away from their untenable situations or running toward their fantastic ideas.

That being said, I believe the focus on those two categories creates a false dichotomy.

(What the hell is a false dichotomy? It’s when a scenario is set up to make two choices appear to be THE ONLY TWO CHOICES available. A common example of a false dichotomy is “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” It’s patently false, as you might also be an innocent bystander or in some other way unrelated, but it also convincingly paints the picture that if you’re not one, you must be the other.)

“Either you’re running away from something, or you’re running toward something” is a false dichotomy. For one thing, you may be doing both at once. For another, you may be doing neither; it’s possible to pursue location independence without trying either to escape a bad situation or bring a great idea into reality. There are options three and four right there.

But what really intrigues and draws me is the fifth option. The fifth option is simply this: you’re not running at all. Even if your current activity involves movement or travel, you aren’t running. Not running from or to anything, not running in place, not even running your engine in idle (to stretch the metaphor to its breaking point). And while I have definitely related to running away and running towards at various points during my early exploration of location independence, not running at all is the option I choose.

Because when you aren’t running, you are okay with where you are, even if it isn’t where you ultimately want to be.

When you aren’t running, you’re content to move at the pace that feels right to you, or even remain still.

When you aren’t running, you’re at peace with yourself and with the world.

When you aren’t running, you’re okay not knowing everything yet.

When you aren’t running, it doesn’t matter when you started, because you’re not chasing anyone who started first.

When you aren’t running, it doesn’t matter when you get there, because “there” is where you decide it is.

When you aren’t running, you probably won’t burn out or collapse from exhaustion as easily.

And when you aren’t running, you have time and energy to appreciate the journey you’re on.

Now THAT’s the kind of trip I want to be on.

So in the words of John Mellencamp ca. 1999: I’m on my way, but I’m not running anymore. Who’s singing it with me?

Embracing the suck

So with a title like that, I’m sure you’re already bracing yourselves for a post full of whining. Especially following the one I wrote earlier this week about not being on vacation. But please, hold off on breaking out the cheese plate to go with my potential whine, and bear with me for a bit.

One of the reasons I’m writing this blog is that as a 31-year-old new solopreneur, I’ve dealt a lot with feeling like I’ve started this late and everyone else is way ahead of me, so that I’m the only one dealing with the beginning solopreneurship blues anymore. I realize that this is patently untrue, and yet it’s a hard feeling to overcome in the day-to-day rush of trying to do everything on my to-do lists (yes, I have more than one). I also figure, however, that if I feel this way, there are probably lots of other new-ish solopreneurs who feel exactly the same way from time to time, and thus if I sometimes need to hear that I’m not alone in dealing with this shit, some of you reading this might be helped by hearing it too.

So for myself and all the other beginners doing this brave adventure with me, I’m going to start with a quote from everyone’s favorite billionaire daredevil, Sir Richard Branson: “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.”

I first heard that quote at World Domination Summit, and like many of the amazing insights I heard there, I wrote it down and then quickly forgot about it.  I was reminded of it this evening after I stumbled across my WDS Evernote doc and getting sucked into rereading it instead of writing this blog post. But when I saw that quote, I realized it was applicable to what I was thinking about writing here.

It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. To me, this quote is about timing and goals.

The short game can be stressful, inconvenient, expensive, tedious, tiring, terrifying (remember the three T’s?), uncertain, cramped, busy, confusing. and a hundred other adjectives that make it less fun, but the long game can still be a blasty blast, which makes all the short game struggles worthwhile.

Conversely, the short term can be full of amazing experiences, but the long term can still be really difficult and not very fun at all, which can bring up questions of whether all the short term activities were worth doing after all.

I think it all depends on where you put your focus. If you want to focus on short-term fun (thinking like a backpacker), sometimes your long game will suffer. If you want to focus on your goals for the next two years, things you want to do in the next two months may need to be sacrificed. And both of those situations can be okay, provided that you face them and accept their consequences.

Trouble is, as a solopreneur (especially a beginning one) sometimes you feel like there’s no either/or option, that you need to cover both the short term AND the long term simultaneously. And that, to bring this post full circle, really sucks. Who wants to feel like your immediate needs are so pressing that you have to work on them yesterday, and simultaneously feel like the truly important long-term work you want to do is falling by the wayside and needs to be revitalized immediately if not sooner? “Not I,” said the James. And probably not you either.

So how do we get out of this trap, or learn to avoid it altogether in the first place?

Search me. I don’t know yet myself! But here are my thoughts on what might help:

– Work to strike a balance between short and long term activities, like working on one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, or taking one or two days per week to devote exclusively to each one.

– Take imperfect action. Accept that you probably won’t get all of it right the first time, or even the hundred and first, and do it anyway.

– Consider your why. If you find yourself moving away from what inspired you to get started to begin with, see if you can recenter around that thing or at least remember it as you work.

– Be kind to yourself. Remember that you’re learning, and that everything is a practice, and that even doing each day 1% better than the last (or 0.1%, or 0.01%) will gradually get you where you want to be, so be patient with your efforts. Remember that you are doing the best you can, right now, and that is perfect.

– Get support. If you can delegate or outsource some things, do that. Reach out to people who’ve been where you are and ask for their perspective. Develop skills and hacks to make your life and work easier.

– Practice self-care. Exercise, nap, call friends, get a massage, take a long shower, whatever you need to do to feel your best, make time to do it.

– And finally, embrace the suck. In the words of John Green, “the way to do something really difficult is this: you accept that it’s difficult. You acknowledge that it’s going to be really tough. And then you DO IT.” One task at a time. Head down, inch toward daylight. Embracing the suck is not fun, but remember, it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.

These are some of the things I’m trying to do. Beginning solopreneurs reading this, what are some of your ways of coping with being pulled between the immediate and the long-term? More established readers, how has your relationship with that situation changed over time? Any thoughts or advice to share with us newbies? Let us hear in the comments.

I’m Not On Vacation

So I’m on a trip.

A road trip.

A road trip that’s currently taking me all over Florida.

A road trip on which I’m getting to see lots of friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in months or even years.

A road trip that has no set itinerary, no final destination, no boss to call me back to work after two weeks, and no limits of location or time.

So I’m on vacation, right?

Not so fast. For starters, let’s not forget that someone has to pay for this trip, and that someone is me. Since I’m a freelancer, that means I spend a lot of time working on my laptop, either getting gigs done or looking for new ones. And since my goal is to have a self-sufficient business, that also means that when I’m not doing the work that pays my immediate bills, I’m developing my skill sets, reading entrepreneurship resources, reaching out to contacts, working on this website, blogging, journaling, and doing the hundred and one other things that find themselves on my business-building to-do list. So while I do make time for self-care (exercise, naps, time with friends, reading), this lifestyle, despite taking place on a road trip, is most definitely not a vacation.

In a recent guest article on Sean Ogle’s Location 180 site, entrepreneur Mike Harrington wrote about several traps that new location independent solopreneurs tend to fall into. One of these traps is thinking like a backpacker. Says Mike, “Backpackers employ the ‘short timer’ mentality.  This means they’re trying to pack in as much fun and experience before loading up their packs and moving on to the next stop on the backpacking trail.” Now, I am moving from place to place a lot on this trip, but if I focused solely on the fun activities I wanted to do in each place instead of the work that sustains my travels, I’d run out of money and be stranded in about three days. Does that mean that I don’t have a goal of being able to go somewhere amazing, take a week off working, and just enjoy some great relaxing time? Hell, no! You bet your asbestos I’ve got that goal.

But “goal” is the operative word. I would love to think like a backpacker, but I know I’m not one yet. First and foremost I’m a word coach, a business builder, and a long-distance driver, which means most of the things that don’t support those activities take a backseat (yes, that pun was intentional) to the things that do. Case in point: I just spent a week in Orlando, with free tickets to both Disney and Universal parks available for the asking from my host family, and I didn’t go to either one. I had work to do. And I was okay with that, because I’m not on vacation.

But when I take an actual vacation, I’ll be back. Because that’s the goal.

Exercises in self-love: the professional bio

I’ve written a few guest posts for a few other blogs recently. And for each, I’ve been asked to provide a bio, so the readers of these blogs will know who I am and why I’m awesome. And while like most people, my favorite topic of conversation is myself (ha, ha), I realized that writing about myself is not easy.

It’s not because I haven’t done anything. I know I have. And it’s not because I can’t think of fun ways to write about the things I’ve done. I know I can. It’s something different. Actually two somethings.

First, I feel like a rookie. A noob. A tenderfoot. I feel like trying to write about the things I’ve done so far in a bio is like a recent graduate padding his resume for a job interview. I know I’ve done some cool things, but a lot of those cool things have happened in the last three months, or at most the last couple of years. Talking about them out of context and timeframe seems almost disingenuous.

And second, the way I want to talk about who I am and what I do is still taking form. I know that I want to describe myself from the perspective of the mission I’m on and the impact I want to make and the WHY of what I’m doing, but I haven’t figured out the perfect words for those descriptions yet. All I know is I want to say more than just “I’m an editor and a speaker coach” or even “I’m a word coach and a professional giver of feedback,” which is the next step up I’m playing around with at the moment.

So when I had to sit down tonight and produce another bio for a podcast interview I have tomorrow morning (and can I please take a second and FREAK THE HELL OUT that someone who does a PODCAST wants to INTERVIEW ME?!?!?!?!), I really had a hard time getting started. I knew I had the bios I’d written for guest posts to inform me, and that I wanted to use some of their language, but I didn’t want to just copy and paste–not entirely.

I’d like to say I thought of some inspiring things that made me a lot more comfortable writing about myself, that made me feel less like a noob and more okay with imperfect wording. Unfortunately, I can’t say that, because the things that came to me in that vein didn’t explicitly surface in my memory until well after I’d finished agonizing through this version of the bio. But here they are anyway:

First, something Mike Hrostoski talks about: don’t be humble. Own your shit. Whatever things you’ve done, be fucking proud of them, because it’s your power and your awesomeness that’s enabled you to do those things.

Second, something several speakers at World Domination Summit talked about: take imperfect action. A decent plan executed today will beat a fantastic plan executed next week nine times out of eight. Don’t worry about it being perfect, just do it.

And third, which applies to both being new and being imperfect, writing a bio is just one more way of saying “I absolutely fucking love myself.” It’s simply the form of that statement that goes “let me tell you about who I am and what I do, because I absolutely fucking love myself and I can’t wait to share with you why I feel that way.”

So for those of you that ever need to sit and write a professional bio for yourself, take a few deep breaths and look at it as an exercise in self-love. You may still struggle with language, and you may feel like a rookie, but you’ll know those feelings are part of the perfection that is you doing your best, right now. Bet you anything changing that outlook will make the process easier and more fulfilling.

P.S. Here’s the bio I came up with. What do you think?

After several years of feeling life was holding him for ransom, James decided it was time to hold life for Ranson instead. Now he is an itinerant word coach and professional giver of feedback on a road trip across North America that has no set itinerary and no final destination. His mission: to enrich and amplify the impact of stories the world needs to hear. His superpowers: wordsmithing, listening, laughing, and giving amazing hugs. James contributes content to Start Young Financial, Next Stop Who Knows, Career Indulgence, and One Week Without, has edited pieces for Overachieve.Us and Huffington Post, has coached speakers for four TEDx events, and is a staff editor at Highly Conscious Man. A recently reestablished Crossfitter, an all-purpose tenor, an avid life experimenter, a travel and solopreneurship blogger, and a huge a cappella and Game of Thrones geek, James isn’t sure who or where he’ll be tomorrow, but he can’t wait to find out. 

If you feel moved to, write a practice bio for yourself in comments. I’d love to see how you guys absolutely fucking love yourselves. :)

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