Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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Is it a Bug? Or A Feature?

One of the difficulties of managing a highly integrated life is that when one thing changes, everything changes.

Meaning that when your vision for your future is integrated with your career, your goals, and with your day-to-day duties, any one of those things changing means that something is out of whack in the gear box.

What you then have to do is decide whether this malfunction is a bug, or a feature.

Volkswagen Bug with 'Feature' on the license plate

When is a Bug a Feature ?

We’re all aiming for an aligned life. An aligned life is where all the component parts work together towards a single, unified vision. Your vision for your life is supported by your goals, and your business or career supports and reflects them both. And when you’re fully in alignment, your day-to-day actions reflect and uphold all three.

What you have, in effect, is a well oiled machine, chugging along quietly and efficiently.

But what happens when one of those aspects gets out of whack with the others? For all that tons of people and books have step-by-step instructions on how to get to the aligned life, I’ve never read any that point out that it’s an ongoing process of adjustments and triangulation— especially given that you can decide you want to head in a different direction entirely!

It can be frustrating to find yourself back at square one, because you don’t need to reinvent yourself– you just need to course correct.

This is where I found myself a couple weeks ago. A small business I had started for strategic reasons (and because it served several of my goals) had started to  take off, to the point where it far outstripped the role I had planned for it to take. I was spending far more time with it than I had anticipated.

So I had to decide: Was this a bug or a feature? Do I scale back the time spent (and hence the money it made) in order to bring my day-to-day actions into line with my future vision? Or, do I adjust my future vision to reflect my day to day goals?

When you put it down on paper like that, it seems like a simple decision. But it isn’t, or at least this one wasn’t for me.

The Process

I’m about to share the details of my process. It’s a pretty boring section, and might not help you much, so feel free to skip it if you want.

In the first place, I have the freelancer’s firm belief that when people offer you money, you should never turn it down. So it was hard for me to imagine saying, “Oh, no thank you, I have enough work.” But the problem was that the money itself was just barely above my resentment rate, and running into even a small snag would put it below it. No wonder I was resistant to doing more of this kind of thing.

So ideally, I should raise my prices. Easy enough, right? But, you see, there is the psychology of the thing to consider. I had only been working with these clients since May. I felt it was a bit early in our relationship to say, “Well, it’s been fun, but I need more money or I’m gone.” Naturally I’ll raise my prices for all new work, but it doesn’t seem right or fair to do it to current clients just at the moment.

And in the second place, when I started the business it was a ‘proof of concept.‘ I hadn’t gone to the trouble of branding or marketing it properly, and hence it didn’t exactly emanate “This is good value.” Therefore, to raise my prices, I would have to expend some effort on the marketing end of things. Was that worth the effort, and did it fit in with my other long-term goals and vision? In the end, I decided that it did. And so “demonstrating the value of the product” became an extremely important medium-term goal.

In fact, building the whole business did. I do maintain that it’s a very smart thing to test out business ideas before you invest a whole lot of time or effort into them, but as soon as you decide to go forward with them, building a strong foundation under your fledgling business becomes the single most important use of your time. If you don’t, because you’re too busy, or you tell yourself things are working fine, you’ve built a business on a shakey foundation, and it won’t weather storms very well.

It’s extremely time-consuming to develop and implement systems. But it’s crucial to do so.

Anyway, that’s knocked a big bloody hole into my next two months. Which means that most of what I planned to do during August and September has been back-burnered. And so I had to go through and ensure that shelving those projects wouldn’t cause a bunch of nasty ripple effects, throwing off other projects in their turn. I had to make sure I wasn’t going to break any agreements I’d made with other people with regards to deliverables, and most importantly, I had to figure out how to arrange all the things that couldn’t be put off.

All of which requires some intense, focussed effort to assess and plan. Hence the Silent Retreat last week. So! Now I’m back, with all sorts of crazy targets to hit. Back in the saddle, etc, etc.

What Does All This Mean?

Ok, skippers, you can start reading again.

All this backstory has simply been to point out that |taking control of your life” is not a static state. You don’t simply “set it and forget it.” You don’t read 4-Hour Workweek, implement the steps, and then wander off to learn Tagalog on a secluded beach somewhere. For one thing, how long can it possibly take you to learn Tagalog? And then what?

When you take over as navigator, you’ll always have to keep an eye on these things. 

You can be a world-class planner — — shit’s still going to happen that you didn’t anticipate.

You can be certain of your life vision and goals — and even if your vision doesn’t change, the path you choose to get there might.

You can change your fucking mind — — — and that’s not an issue. It’s YOUR life, YOU decide how you’re going to spend it.

So when the situation changes, don’t freak out. You’re not failing. You’re not giving up on your dreams. You’re just course correcting.

That’s a FEATURE of an aligned lifestyle. Not a bug.