Two key points I worked out the hard way in the early days of my wilderness wandering in my 20s are that (1) if there are no jobs, you can still earn a good living, and (2) it is easier to get work doing what you love than simply settling for whatever you can get.
Great! Then why doesn’t that happen so much more often?
Because that second part is tricky.
First, most people—yes, most—have no idea what they want to do. That makes things difficult, that is, impossible. You know what would be fantastic right now? See…you’re waiting to find out…you should be saying, “Yes I do!” and telling me enthusiastically what would be fantastic right now! Just a little humor, granted—but nonetheless true. We don’t know what we want. This is why Napoleon Hill’s point about a written definite major purpose is so important. William Oncken (author of Who’s Got the Monkey? and Managing Management Time) tells of asking his business consulting clients to write down the problem his company was there to solve in a sentence or two—because if they can’t write it down, they damn sure don’t know what it is…or what they want to happen instead.
Second, while talk of being proactive is common, the reality is we prefer to be reactive. We even aggrandize it, romancing the shoot from the hip fluid approach to events of the day, never seeing it for what it is—drifting rudderless. That’s fine if you aren’t really going anywhere. But if you’re trying to accomplish a goal, drifting isn’t likely to achieve that objective. Focusing on what you love is going to take prolonged proactive…well, focus! Reactive, though, is easier, and is generally manifested as complaining about conditions and exterior barriers as the reason for not achieving those dreams we can’t specifically name. Try a test. For 30 days, simply don’t complain. About anything. At all. The results—if you can get past the difficulty—will surprise and delight you. Most people—no cynicism here, just a statement of fact—will prefer to complain. It’s how we most commonly do things.
Finally, given those two points, proclivity to react and not knowing what they want, most people, despite talk to the contrary, don’t actually want to run their own enterprises. They might dabble in something part time for a while. But rarely do people step up and step out on their own. Getting a job is simply easier. And there’s nothing wrong with that per se. The caveat, though, is to be sure to recognize that this is what’s happening, that this is the preferred choice, and not to choose it while living life in resentment of the choice, the boss, the conditions, the customers, the company, and so forth. Choose, and choose fairly and completely. If the choice is to work for a boss, embrace that choice and be glad of it. And if you want to be the boss, be sure you want to run the show.
Almost everyone thinks, “Gee, if *I* were the owner/manager, things would really straighten up around here!” And, feeling fully capable, this is a frustrating thought. Why are some people kept down, when others thrive, rising to the top? Where’s the justice in the world?
See the victim thinking? The main problem here is—none of that is true.
All too often, managers become managers because they were employees who worked hard and were promoted as a reward for their hard work. This has two problems. First, the business just gained a completely untrained and inexperienced manager. And second, the business just lost its best worker.
Management has nothing to do with bossing people around (you may have noticed that doesn’t work well anyway). Management has everything to do with the ability to get results through other people. It’s a whole different game. The manager’s ability in terms of doing the desired tasks is irrelevant. Absolutely irrelevant. If you’re a manager, or would like to be, track down William Oncken’s Managing Management Time (it’s out of print—you might have to find it on the web), and find an old recording (I have a cassette version!) of The One Minute Manager meets the Monkey, containing an eye-opening live lecture by both Oncken (his Who’s Got the Monkey is the most requested business article reprint from the Harvard Business Review – you can find a .pdf online) and Ken Blanchard (author of The One Minute Manager) as a starting place. From there a wealth of information awaits—but recognize you are not a natural manager. No one is. As Blanchard points out, “How many people work for you in round numbers?” The answer is zero—people work for themselves, and good managers know this (and what to do about it). As famous economist Peter Drucker put it, “Labor is a resource, not a cost.” These employees are your only hope—learn to manage their talents.
Similarly, many people dream of owning their own business. After all, when you were manager, it was always that owner in the way, right? Or more positively, you’ve always wanted to open your own ____________ place, whether restaurant, shop, gallery, service etc. As we’ve discussed earlier, you can avoid being one of the 80% of businesses that fail in the first five years with some basic attention to market—simply opening your dream doors does not mean that because you built it, they will come—supplemented by reasonable financial planning grounded in realistic expectations, not wishful thinking (especially in terms of cash flow).
But here’s something else—of those business that survive, only 4% will still be around in ten years. And a lot of that isn’t even financial struggles—it’s creating unsustainable systems. What seemed like a good idea just doesn’t work well day after day after year after year. As Robert Frost observed, “By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.” Many business owners would chuckle ruefully and point out they’d love to put in twelve hours and have a break from their sixteen hour days. They created plans that weren’t scalable, that is, that could work as business grew without growing the time input by the same amount (or even more). They are thus tied to their businesses.
And it’s really more the last part—all too many businesses are prisons created by their owner-inmates. Striving for success, people commonly overlook the balance of the rest of their lives. I don’t mean simply taking time to smell the roses. That won’t work—stuff needs to get done. What I mean is thinking through things like lifestyle, location, who you want to be working with, incorporating things that invigorate you as part of the business—living a life that’s you, now, rather than one you’re working toward “one day.” If you don’t, no matter how passionate you are to start, you’ll grow to hate and resent your own creation and prison warden.
I have made this mistake myself—repeatedly. I created the venture, it was off and running, it was well received—and I hated going to work. All of these ventures could have been saved; I just didn’t want to do it. I had focused on “Well, I could do this, or I could do that, and I could do this other thing” type thinking quite a bit, brainstorming some frankly nice enterprises—a musicians’ cooperative acting as if an independent label, a concert/event promoter, a business consultant, several music ensembles/bands, an independent performer/recording label, co-author, T’ai Chi teacher—all of which flourished for a bit, then died with the help of their creator. By focusing on could, I did things a lot of people only imagine doing. But by overlooking whether I should as a long term endeavor, I ignored several intangibles that were too important to ignore for long.
And the same is true for jobs, incidentally. You can’t work at your passion for school teaching, for example, and bemoan the lack of a top income. This just isn’t going to happen in that profession, no matter how exhaustive or amazing your talents and accomplishments. If you want both the income and the teaching, you will have to recognize that the rest of the income will have to come from elsewhere. And if you don’t have the time to invest, then it will have to be an automated enterprise.
But start by getting clear about who you are, what you want (from life, not just work), and how you prefer to pursue it. Stop blaming companies, managers, the economy, politicians, bad luck, family obligations, uncooperative people, or whatever else you invent as an excuse. Get clear about where you want to go and how. That’s the real stumbling block. Then create plans to get there.
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October 2012 is a series of daily posts about “A Wilderness Hike,” taking readers through the healing of wilderness experience and glimpses of my work at Kwan Yin Healing and of my book, “Getting Unstuck.”
You can read the series from the start via the links here:
Oct. 1: A Wilderness Hike
Oct. 2: The Sixth Hour
Oct. 3: Snowy Mountain
Oct. 4: Letting Go of Baggage–the Wilderness Way
Oct. 5: “Bear” the Thought
Oct. 6: Mountain. Buddha. Impermanence.
Oct. 7: The Rewards of Rain
Oct. 8: Finding the Keys
Oct. 9: “I’d love to, but times are bad.”
Oct. 10: Attracting the Law of Attraction
Oct. 11: We are not our thoughts
Oct. 12: Honesty, Forgiveness, Healing
Oct. 13: Getting Unstuck: Feeling Overwhelmed
Oct. 14: Money is remarkably easy to come by, if that’s all you want.
Oct. 15: To be Time Rich, Learn to Be
Oct. 16: Changing Thoughts for Changing Work
Oct. 17: Finding and Sharing your Gifts
Oct. 18: Do you want to be the boss? Be sure you want to run the show.
Oct. 19: Finding jobs within jobs
Oct. 20: Bright Mountain Dream
Oct. 21: Escape the Wilderness of Addictions
Oct. 22: The Importance of Spiritual Direction
Oct. 23: In Search of Enlightenment
Oct. 24: Relationship Thoughts from the Wilderness
Oct. 25: We learn in realtionships
Oct. 26: Chrysalis
Oct. 27: Self-Healing, part 1
Oct. 28: Self-Healing, part 2: Time for a new perspective
Oct. 29: Dix Mountain
Oct. 30: The Mist-Filled Path
Oct. 31: From Wilderness to Wondrousness