I’m dipping my toe into this Reverb 10 thing. Not sure I can devote 31 posts to it, and December’s already halfway gone, but as I understand it, the spirit of the project is to inspire and catalyze reflection and transformation, not to create heavy homework – so if one post is all I manage, so be it.
Here’s the prompt I’m claiming for today:
Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
A couple of things come to mind, in the entrepreneurial context.
First, I let go of being The Designer. From the day we opened our doors (February 1, 2000) until the day Emira left on maternity leave (February 1, 2010), I was Raised Eyebrow’s lead designer. I did just about every bit of design work that we produced.
When Emira was pregnant and we were planning for her leave of absence, we knew something was going to have to come off my plate. Something big. Because I was going to be wearing a lot of hats: salesperson, project manager, information architect, strategist… and that’s just the client-facing stuff. (There was also the whole running-the-business thing.)
We looked at the list of duties I performed and the answer was clear: I couldn’t keep doing the design work and remain sane. So we went on the hunt for help. We found a friend and colleague we’ve known for years, whose work I have always loved, and who is a breeze to work with. It’s been a joy. He doesn’t seem to mind too much when I get all creative director on him; he works incredibly quickly; and plus he’s this cool, vegan, environmentalist surfer dude who I get to hang out with in Tofino.
I went through the requisite identity crisis: I’m not a designer anymore. Who am I? Do I still get to call myself a designer? Can I still claim to be “creative”?
Yeah. All that stuff. And at the same time I knew I was growing up, entrepreneurially speaking. This was exactly the stuff of The E-Myth and its brethren: the point where you stop working in your business and start working on it. Big stuff. Good stuff.
Ten months on, I am delighted not to be The Designer anymore. I am doing enough (perhaps a little more than enough). It’s good.
The other wise decision I made was to take on contracts for stuff we’d never done before. It was tempting to avoid taking risks while Emira was gone. To play it safe & controlled, because things were already feeling pretty wacky with my right-hand woman away. But within days of her daughter being born, I got calls from some fascinating prospective clients, asking if we did such-and-such and so-and-so. Those services weren’t listed on our website. I wasn’t entirely sure how to quote them. And I knew they could lead to fantastic things.
I had recently had dinner with a friend – a fellow entrepreneur – who said to me casually, “I’m sure you’ve done that thing where a client asks you if you can do something, and you say ‘yes’ even though you have no idea how to do it.” He looked at me expectantly, knowing that jumping in feet-first is a classic entrepreneurial trait. And I had to admit that I don’t really do that. I’m cautious and careful of over-promising. I hate disappointing people.
That caution has held me back. This time I didn’t hold back. And those projects were among the most satisfying work I have done all year.
Well, then, self? Take note:
- Try letting go of the work you think you can’t possibly let go of. See what happens. You can always change your mind later.
- Take a chance on saying yes to new challenges once in a while. Mix it up a little. A little of the stuff you can do in your sleep, and a little of the stuff that scares you stiff. They’re both nourishing.