Last week I asked my email subscribers to fill out a simple poll.
It was made up of practical questions like “How often are you happy to receive emails from me?” and “Do you enjoy my exclusive tips and advice emails sent on a Thursday?”
The idea was that I could use the feedback to send the kind (and frequency) of emails that my subscribers want. I was really happy to see that the responses indicated a high level of satisfaction with what I was currently doing, but it was the “Any more comments” submissions that really got me.
Of the 151 responses submitted, 30 people were kind enough to leave me some really heartwarming feedback, for which I am hugely grateful. However, there was one message in particular that really touched a nerve and inspired me to write this post today.
“Give Us What We All Need”
The message was anonymous, like all the others (except those who had actually identified themselves). Here it is (paraphrased):
Bring it. Give us what we all need. Much more saturation, more tears, more in-the-trenches detail of personal growth including:
- Big and small failures
- Daily miseries
- Impossible life-choices and painful dilemmas
- Green-eyed monster jealousy of others’ ease of success/looks/luck
- Debilitating backstabbing disappointments and letdowns of friends and family abandonments
- Dumb-luck rare wind-falls and unexplainable great breaks
Don’t ask me why this message struck such a chord, but it compelled me to do exactly what was asked for. So here we go — seven personal stories to match the seven requests in my anonymous subscriber’s message.
1. Big and Small Failures
Failure should be treasured (tweet this)
If I’ve done one thing well since I started down my path to leaving work behind back in May 2011, it has been the act of failing.
I don’t say that in some kind of self-loathing, “I’m useless” kind of way. After all, with the year drawing to a close I am absolutely delighted with how my first year of self-employment has gone — my income is going in the right direction and I really enjoy what I do.
Yet I have failed on countless occasions — some notable examples can be found in mid-2011. I launched two sites that both flopped dramatically — Modeling for Kids and Deal With Anxiety. Just reading those words may seem inconsequential but those two failures probably represent in excess of 100 hours work.
But I didn’t stop there. For instance, at the beginning of 2012 I tried to devise a system for creating profitable niche sites. A few months (and $3,000 in expenses) later, I gave up. And I’ve not even mentioned the multitude of small failures which occur on a weekly basis.
I believe that anyone who is trying to achieve something worthwhile must understand that failure is part of the process. If you’re not failing on some level, you’re simply not pushing yourself hard enough. Constant failure is something to be worried by, but occasional failure that teaches you invaluable lessons and pushes you in the right direction must be treasured.
2. Daily Miseries
Accepting that perfection isn’t possible can make you a great deal happier (tweet this)
I struggle with productivity on a daily basis. I’m a terrible sleeper which certainly doesn’t help — I often oversleep and struggle to concentrate come lunch time. That inevitably leads to a nap which can often extend well into the afternoon, despite my initial best intentions.
I can imagine that some of you must think it’s pretty great to be able to moan about taking long naps in the afternoon, and I get that — I understand how fortunate I am that I don’t have a boss to yell at me for sleeping on the job. But it’s a bad thing too. That same boss motivates you to work (even if you don’t like their method of motivation). When you work by yourself and are your own boss, all of the motivation has to be internal.
With tiredness comes lack of motivation, and with lack of motivation comes a poor work ethic. It’s something I really struggle with. Some days I will be totally fired up and work non-stop all day long. Other days I’ll feel like doing anything at all is a huge effort.
These days I’ve learned to simply accept that I’ll have good and bad days and take an average view. If I feel like I’m progressing overall then I’m not going to beat myself up about slacking off at times. Quite frankly, life is too short to do that to yourself if you can afford not to. And the fact that I can go easy on myself reminds me of how fortunate I am to have worked myself into such a position.
3. Painful Dilemmas
Quitting your job is always a risk, but so is staying (tweet this)
There are few more painful dilemmas than the decision as to whether or not you should quit your job. That’s where I was in November 2011. I had just one writing client who had paid me a grand total of $450 in October — not quite enough to cover my $4,000 outgoings.
Despite that, I made the decision to quit. And it may sound strange given the circumstances, but I didn’t actually feel like it was that hard a decision.
First of all, I was unhappy. I was leaving a well paying job that I enjoyed but I was never going to be satisfied by working for someone else. Although I was taking a big financial risk in quitting my job, I was risking my ongoing happiness by staying in the role for any longer. And if I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that money is not the most important thing in life (far from it).
Secondly, I could see the potential. If one client was willing to pay me $x per hour for my services and that hourly rate matched my current wage, theoretically I could make it work. In reality I felt that I could actually earn much more, and was proven right — in November 2012 I earned an equivalent hourly rate that was nearly five times higher than what I was paid in November 2011.
Conventional wisdom states that you should be earning as much from your side venture as you do from your job before you take the leap. I think that’s terrible advice for anyone who values their time and ability. If you have established a proven method of making money that you can scale, why wait? Quitting your job is always a risk, but so is staying. You’ll have to make a tough decision at some point.
It is possible for sacrifice to make you happier (tweet this)
It would be far more dramatic for the purposes of this post if I could say that I’ve made huge sacrifices in getting this far, but I really don’t feel that I have.
When I started out I knew that I would have to cut back, and for a time I did. I kept a careful eye on my expenditure and tried my best to keep my savings from disappearing (which they were doing so at a fair rate in the first few months of 2012). I got down to around $3,000 in the bank at my lowest point. With my outgoings being more like $4,000, I was getting a little bit closer to the breadline than I would’ve liked.
Big sacrifices were certainly on the cards. I agonized over selling my beloved car. I considered selling my house and moving in with my sister in Texas for a period. And that’s not to mention all the less dramatic considerations like getting rid of my satellite TV package, buying cheaper groceries, going out less, and so on.
But none of these considerations of sacrifice gave me regret for the decision I had made. I felt that I was on the right track, and more importantly, I was happy with what I was doing. Although I was earning less, I was happier, and that was far more important to me.
As it turned out my income continued to grow and in July 2012 I broke even for the first time. My income hasn’t dropped below $4,000 since then and I would like to think that it never will. But regardless of that, I still know that I made the right decision, and I have never regretted it.
To be ignorant of success is to not understand how it was achieved (tweet this)
If there is one constant in life it is that someone will always be “better” than you.
I remember reading a post by Marcus Sheridan many months ago when he made note of that the fact that he had launched his blog in the same month that Michael Stelzner launched Social Media Examiner — a behemoth of a website.
Whilst there is no doubting Marcus’ success (I for one have a huge amount of respect for him), one must acknowledge that Michael has a far bigger site and presumably makes a great deal more money.
You can’t avoid those facts. I can’t imagine how many people there are that started out in May 2011 that are way ahead of me. But what’s the point in me comparing myself to them? How will that help me?
Holding yourself to a higher standard by focusing on how you can improve yourself to beat your competition is one thing — beating yourself up because someone who you perceive to be “similar” to you is doing “better” (whatever that means) is a waste of time.
As for putting someone else’s success down to luck — that’s a dangerous road to walk down. Trivialize other people’s success at your own risk, because to be ignorant of success is to not understand how it was achieved.
If there were no assholes then you wouldn’t appreciate those who are good and kind (tweet this)
Fortunately I have not been the victim of “letdowns of friends and family abandonments” during my journey. I was certainly the focus of plenty of concern and perhaps a lack of faith in my ability to achieve what I set out to do, but people’s hearts were always in the right place.
Neither have I been backstabbed, although I have certainly been verbally attacked on more than one occasion. The last time was just a couple of days ago in fact:
At such times it is all too tempting to stoop down to their level and respond in kind, but that is never a good idea. I am slowly learning that the moral high ground is always the best place to operate from, so I responded as such:
To Elaine’s credit, she apologized for her first statement and all was well in the world again. But I know that there will be plenty more antagonistic tweets and angry emails in the future — it comes with the territory. Whilst it’s always disappointing to be confronted with them, it’s something you have to accept.
In short — people can be assholes. That’s part of life. If there were no assholes then you wouldn’t appreciate those who are good and kind. So accept assholes for the value that they offer and only give them as much time as they deserve.
7. Great Breaks
Never presume that the smallest of opportunities won’t result in a positive outcome (tweet this)
Ask a hundred entrepreneurs when they got their “big break” and most will roll their eyes and tell you that they don’t exist. What people consider to be “big breaks” are typically the culmination of months or years of hard work.
Well…I may be the exception that proves the rule. In September 2011 I submitted a handful of pitches for writing jobs via the ProBlogger Job Board — more out of sheer frustration with my lack of progress than anything. I didn’t expect to receive any positive feedback. After all, I had no writing qualifications or experience.
But from those pitches I received an offer to trial for the WPMU blog. That trial led to a writing job which inspired me to quit my job, which in turn inspired me to seek out more clients and establish a successful freelance writing business. That then inspired me to write and publish a freelance blogging guide. My freelance writing income enables me to commit many hours every day to passive income projects, and I hope to see my income grow in future months. All because of a handful of pitches, submitted on a whim.
That experience taught me an extremely valuable lesson — that sometimes the best opportunities and outcomes arise from the unlikeliest of situations. I see this fact repeating itself time and time again. For example, just the other week I landed an exciting new client from one of this blog’s readers. I certainly wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for a referral from her, but it came nonetheless!
Never presume that the smallest of opportunities won’t result in a positive outcome. Be as indiscriminate in your focus on every possible avenue in life as you can afford to be.
What’s Your Story?
There you have it folks — seven distinct stories that encapsulate my journey to date. I know that there will be many more stories to come and I can’t wait to experience them and share them with you as they happen.
But now it’s your turn — I’d love to hear your story. So pick from one of the above themes — one that strikes a chord with you — and tell it to us in the comments section!
Creative Commons image courtesy of Genista