Your Business is Your Golem

Many of my clients are self-employed, or at least working towards that goal. Although most people can probably benefit from the services of a life coach, the self-employed are a peculiar problem– their businesses almost always reflect the issues that they themselves grapple with.

Not only is their business’s health a sort of bellwether of their mental and emotional health, their business is often a proxy by which they can tackle the limiting beliefs that affect them in every facet of life.

Their business, in essence, is their golem. You can dress it up, make it do whatever you want it to do, you can even pretend to yourself it has a life outside of what you yourself give it, but it’s still going to manifest whatever flaws you baked in.

So let’s talk about what issues can manifest in your biz:

Confidence Issues

This, actually, is one of the easiest issues to tackle, because for most people, being successful in their business almost automatically correlates into increased confidence elsewhere. If you’ve already started the business, the issue is almost certainly cosmetic — you think you lack confidence (more likely you just wish you felt more certain about things) and you just haven’t got the experience yet to feel certain that this feeling of uncertainty  never goes away, you just develop a tolerance for it.

If you haven’t started your business yet, starting it is almost precisely like practicing approaching women, or whatever else you fear. You’ll probably fail a few times, but that’s what will teach you that failure’s not actually that bad. It’s like tripping over a curb– your pride is hurt more than anything else.

Money Issues

I wish we could go back to mandatory home economics class. The last 70 years of consumerism have create generations of people who have no conception of the idea that your household and personal finances should be run with the same oversight and attention to detail that a business is. Instead, society has systematically encouraged people to buy whatever they feel like they can afford, and extended cheap credit so that people don’t feel too limited by what’s actually in their bank account.

But whatever bad habits that cheap credit and a steady job have helped you pick up, you’ll soon learn better when you have a business. Cash flow? What’s that? Don’t worry, you’ll find out. Business owners learn to delay gratification, become intensely averse to spending money they don’t have yet, and they discover just how many incidents of Murphy’s law they want to keep cash on hand to cover.

Modern life insulates consumers from all but the worst consequences of their actions. A business won’t allow you to avoid them, so you’ll learn, and learn fast.

Self-Worth Issues

Nobody’s born knowing the market value of their strength and skillsets or with the ability to graceful demand fair compensation for same. Women especially are prone to diminish their value. This isn’t just an issue in business or the workplace– very often its an issue in our personal lives as well, this inability to take up space, and unapologetically ask for what you want. This is an issue you can work from both angles, and probably should, because they don’t transfer so readily as confidence issues. But for many people, asking for what you want in a business setting is actually lower risk than asking for it in personal relationships.

Integrity Issues

Do you not always do what you say you will? Are you often late for meetings and deadlines? Do you tell people what you think they want to hear? Do you shirk responsibility? Do you go along to get along? Do you bend the rules just a tad too far sometimes? All these issues and more are thrown into sharp relief when you are in business, and if you don’t get a handle on them, your business won’t last long. But once you do address them, the effort will pay dividends in every relationship in your life.

Self-Knowledge/Vision Issues

This culture has space for people who aren’t sure who they are or what their purpose is. Life goes on; as long as they keep coming to work and pay their bills on time, no one cares what kind of angst you’re struggling with.

It’s kind of like having a child– it doesn’t matter how out of your depth you feel, or whether you really want to be there or not: Someone has to be in charge, and that person is you. And counter-intuitively, that kind of pressure is very galvanizing. You don’t have time to waffle. You only have time to do. You’re operating largely on instinct, and that’s not the worst way to manage things (although eventually it will need to be backed up with systems and processes). A business, however, is fairly intolerant of these problems. It needs your focus, and your vision for what it can become, and your awareness of your strengths and weaknesses so that you know where and when to seek help.

The best part about having your own business is that it can grow and change as you do, or you can start a new one. There are plenty of ways to manage a changing vision or understanding. Although it feels like it sometimes, your business is not you. It’s a proxy, not your clone.

How has self-employment helped you to tackle your issues?


12 thoughts on “Your Business is Your Golem”

  1. Confidence, money, self-worth — those are my issues. I’m good with integrity, at least! I can see where a few successes would help in terms of confidence. I’ve been slowly learning to fail in productive, non painful ways, and that’s helped.
    I need to learn how to be comfortable handling money. My approach tends to be, “Well, we need it, so we’ll buy it” without regard to a budget, which I’ve tried to implement several times. My husband and I aren’t irresponsible spenders and rarely make big purchases, aside from things like plane tickets to visit his family in India, which we view as more of a necessity than a luxury. I have to figure out a way of dealing with money that works for me.
    As for self-worth — I’m terrible at being willing to take up space. Something else to work on, I suppose, and perhaps something else that comes easier (like confidence) with a few wins under one’s belt.
    Thanks for this — good things for me to keep in mind as I take my first business-y steps!

    1.  @remadebyhand It actually tends to be the people who are thrifty by nature who do the best at business money matters. What few impulses you’ve got are tempered by the fact that you maintain plenty of buffer. This enables you to never think about money, because there’s no real need. So when you get into tax preparation, there suddenly is a need, and you’re fine with it. There’s no resistance to the notion of tracking because it won’t expose your bad habits to the blinding light of day– you don’t have any. 
      Taking up space is a pretty long term project, but making sure you get paid what you’re worth will sure accelerate it! 🙂
      I’m glad you like it. If you have any other business-y questions, ask away!

  2. Self-employment has tackled my biggest issue in a long time: the feeling I’m not leaving a legacy for my family, friends, or to the world.
    Money, vision/self-awareness, and confidence issues are not problems. But I do struggle with integrity from time to time. And it’s over stupid stuff I should know better about like whether to approach a potential business relationship from a business perspective or a friend perspective. Not knowing ahead of time (or defining once it’s started) causes some weird incentives and awkward conversations down the road.
    Overall, self-employment and becoming an entrepreneur has done wonders for my happiness and self-worth. I’ve probably solved 5 issues for every 1 that’s new as a result of this lifestyle.

    1.  @joeyjoejoe I like hearing that self-employment solves more problems than it starts. I don’t think that’s the case for everyone, but it was for me too. Everything just got so much easier once I stopped trying to find a job that worked for me!
      That integrity one is tough; sometimes what you most need — someone to talk out your problems with– is the thing you least have access to. Spouses are great, but they often don’t see the business person’s perspective (“I don’t see why you can’t offer my brother’s sister-in-law 20% off. She’s practically family!”) Masterminds, mentors or coaches are absolutely crucial for this. What’s fair? What does fair even mean? These are really tough questions and require ongoing deliberation.

  3. Nice comparison with parenting.  I still haven’t put any decent systems in place in that regard though.. there’s a lot of trial and even more error (in my case)  Self employment helps with confidence issues because your really have to put yourself out there whether you like it or not.  So, it forces you to face your fears, if you have any, in that regard.

    1.  @deniseurena The systems will be forced to come online when you have to explain yourself 🙂 (not sure how old your kids are). That’s also when it comes online for your business, when you’re trying to explain it to someone else, and get them to take it off your plate. Of course, systemizing now will simplify things for you too!

  4. I would say that self employment has led me to confront my own laziness and productivity issues. When you’re not required to be anywhere or do anything, it’s much harder to get everything done.  For some people, self employment leads them to confronting issues that end up being too big- which lead them back to a regular job. For me, I think the productivity thing will work itself out. Ultimately, it’s making me a better person. 

    1.  @ethanwaldman Yeah, I think people can find that whole the-buck-stops-with-me thing extremely unnerving. It can be pretty terrifying to realize you’re your own safety net.
      But yeah, the productivity thing will work itself out as soon as you figure out how to trigger your own motivation. 

  5. Innnnnteresting. The last time I was self-employed, my inability to handle the money issues is what sent me running – hopefully a better handle on it this time, even without the home ec. Would you believe, we had to give up home ec to do honors classes? I guess they just figured that honors kids would know how to manage their money? Or maybe that we’d be able to pay other people to do it for us….

    1.  @sarahemily I think in a lot of schools, home ec was considered ‘non-academic track’ and ‘smart kids’ were encouraged to spend their time ‘more productively’. Blerg. 

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