I’ve worked with all kinds of businesses. From countless Etsy shops to solo consultants to $5MM companies to large corporations. I’ve seen both employees and independents fall into a handful of traps that get in the way of their happiness, success, and fulfillment.
Here they are. Along with some tips for bitchslapping yourself back to good sense.
Hope has its place in the world. I hope my elderly parents don’t get dementia. I hope an asteroid doesn’t destroy the earth. I hope there’s never a zombie apocalypse. Hope makes sense when we’re truly powerless. But there are few areas of life where adults have absolutely no power over their lives. Terminal illness, war, things like that. The rest of the time, Hope’s place is on the sidelines cheering you on while you kick and scream in the field, making shit happen.
Saying, “I hope things improve” isn’t worth dick when seventeen zombies are heading your way and yours is the only brain in town. Hope never saved anyone. But action does. If you find yourself hoping things improve, slap yourself a few times and get to work.
Say instead, “I’m going to make things improve, by god. I can and I will.” Learn what you don’t know, be where you haven’t been, and surround yourself with people who empower you.
Hope is for cowards. Be the fighter.
Whenever I witness a person complaining about his first world problems (including myself), I imagine that Exorcist kid flailing about on the floor screaming for more candy, filth spewing from every orifice. Except the kid is an adult. And the adult is a fuckwit.
Complaining is the opposite of power. Complaining says, “You’re the boss of me and I’m a helpless little bunny. Save me.” I know people who value venting as if it’s the panacea for emotional pain. They’ve presented their power to someone or something else in a finely carved box lined with fear and self doubt. Complainers want The Other to save them.
I know. I’ve been there.
If you need to call someone an asshole in a weak moment, fine. But if you spend more than two minutes pontificating the smell, size, and sphincter-ness of him, you’re doing yourself and those who have to listen to your bullshit a grave disservice.
End it by finding your choices. Your ex talked shit about you? Prove him wrong to those she targeted. That client didn’t pay up? Write it off or find a lawyer. If you’re spending more time thinking about problems than acting on solutions that deliver immediate results, you’re trapped. If you think someone else has caused your pain or anger or frustration, you’re buried. Grow up and get the hell out of that hole.
Complaining is for bunnies. Be the lion.
3. Wrong Focus
I see this on Etsy more than anywhere else. People focusing on copycats, worrying about what Etsy might do, and other red herrings that don’t put food on the table. I’ve never worked with a proper, successful business owner who focused on Others as much as some Etsy forum users do.
If you’re like many small business owners, you work 50-90% of your waking hours. If you want to free up some of that moneymaking time, the path is this: Focus on what actively earns or saves money. Focus less on what may happen and more on what you can do – today – to handle whatever might come.
Etsy shops don’t lose revenue because someone copies their descriptions. Few skillful copied artists are in any danger of losing clout. People who get upset by this are controlled by the same part of the brain that makes First Class travelers whine because some obscure cocktail isn’t free.
It doesn’t fucking matter.
Unless that copycat is selling thousands every month and you’re eating cat food, focus on making money instead. Recognize that the value you get from such focus may pale in comparison to the money you’d make innovating, marketing, and connecting.
Focusing on stupid shit that doesn’t put food on the table is for princesses. Be the soldier in the field fighting for his survival.
4. Failure to Diversify
Diversity is all the rage. Diversify your revenue streams. Diversify your workforce. Diversify your bloodline. And for good reason. Diversity is protection and innovation. It insulates you against the kinds of diseases that come with insularity like hemophilia and bad judgment.
If your goal is career autonomy for life, diversity is a path to it. No longer are we bound to work for the same company for thirty years, but we can make a few bucks in public speaking, have multiple shops, offer wholesale, and even make some advertising revenue on YouTube. Our sense of security comes not from some Big CEO in the sky, but from our own genius, resources, and creativity.
Figure out all the ways you can make money, however little, and roll them into your income. Before you know it, you’ll be sipping cocktails midday while those dress code chumps stare at fabric walls and fall asleep during conference calls.
Insularity is for conformists who value safety over independence. Be the happy innovator with finger licking yumminess in many delicious pies.
5. Ignoring Trends
On Etsy, people boast about ignoring trends. They seem proud to hover above pop culture, Snapchat, and today’s Trump memes. It’s fine if you don’t want to get sucked into the whirlpool of the popular kids, but in business it may be the death of you.
If you’re running your own show, you already know shit changes. All. The. Time. And no matter how much you want to bury your head in the sand, paying attention to change may be the difference between career autonomy and working for some asshole with bad breath again.
Take Blockbuster. A company whose revenue model was based largely on late fees. Then Netflix exploded and Blockbuster vanished. Same thing is happening to B&M retail right now. If retailers adapt to this monumental shift in the way consumers shop, they’ll survive. Otherwise, the next two decades may leave us with a lot of empty shopping malls. (Sidebar: I envision a lot more retail shopping “experiences” and vending machine style shopping in B&M’s future.)
Before you’re quick to gloat about how cool you are for ignoring what’s hip, realize your superior attitude may have you working in a cubicle by the end of the decade.
Ignoring trends is for overthrown empires. Be the self made geniusaire who transforms like Madonna and stays relevant for life.