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.