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.


16 thoughts on “Is it a Bug? Or A Feature?”

  1. i think periodic realignment is part of an aligned lifestyle.  The idea of our plans being fixed without any interruption or change of course seems nice, but I wonder if that would leave little room for creativity.  Not that I like constant unexpected changes, but I would say you’re right about change being a feature – but you have to see it in that positive way, of course, to make the most of it.

    1.  @deniseurena I have often been guilty of being upset when plans change. I had everything All Figured Out! But there’s zero point in fighting the tides. And so it goes…

  2. First, let me say props on the most PERFECT blog post image, perhaps ever. Just enough pun to make me smile, but not cringe. 
    Anyhow, on to my comment:
    My cousin recently told me that he believes that a person dies when they stop learning. I think this speaks to the idea that we are constantly scanning our current state, assessing it, and deciding how to move forward. From this process, we learn, we change, and we grow. 
    Good for you for questioning everything– even your profitable business– to decide whether it was where you wanted to head.  

    1.  @ethanwaldman Thanks! I think the hardest part was just to recognize that just because it’s making money = good. We recognize that easily with dayjobs, but it’s not as intuitive with your own business. 
      I had always seen cartoons of this image, but I’m glad somebody’s done it in real life. On a classic Beetle, no less!

  3. Oh goodness, I love this post. Let me count the ways.
    1. That image!! (How did you even find that??)
    2. The feature/bug analogy (there you go again, Metaphor Maven). Totally makes sense.
    3. Hearing about your process (helps me plan better as I’m thinking about my possible upcoming business!)
    4. The acknowledgement that you can’t just “set it and forget it,” that there is a constant and ongoing piece, that it requires constant vigilance and involvement. If you’re not paying attention, all sorts of things can go crazy. Actually, they probably will anyway. But if you’re paying attention, you’ll be able to work with them.

    1.  @remadebyhand The feature/bug thing is a very old programming joke — so old it has hair in its ears! I’m glad it helped you to hear about my process. I debated leaving it in!
      So important about paying attention. Really, most of life can be boiled down to that principle. 🙂

      1.  @Shanna Mann  @remadebyhand 
        Totally helpful to see other people’s processes! I think that’s one of my major “musta missed that class” problems – that I didn’t absorb the “process for getting there” along with the “end points”. I was lauded when I used a shortcut <i>and it worked</i>, but never given useful tools when it didn’t.
        Thanks!!  K

  4. One of the big takeaways from Ken Bechtel’s Permission Masters class was: “Life is like surfing – you have to keep re-balancing, or you’ll end up in the soup!”
    …and the Feature or Bug? question – that’s very much about whose side are you on – Your Own or Your Monster’s? 
    Welcome back – and happy re-adjusting!

    1.  @Karen J Yeah, I think it’s just a matter of how often it’s brought up. I feel like we’re always being told how to *get* to the aligned life, but no one explicitly says how to *stay* there, or at least not very often.

  5. AMEN! I needed to hear this one again – I actually have figured out that one of the keys for me is that I don’t like things to stay in-balance for too long. I like the ebbs and flows and changes that are inherent in an <em>interesting</em> life… so worrying about finding the perfect balance of things is a big waste of time for me. Thanks for sharing – this is such a great way of looking at it. xo

    1.  @sarahemily Truthfully, I think this is the longest it’s been in balance for me for, like EVER, so I’m feeling *particularly* disgruntled about it. The last shakeup was… February, I think. I’m out of practice at rebalancing.

  6. I got the joke in the picture. As a former technology liaison in corporate America, I just loved the “is it a bug or a feature?” conversations (insert sarcasm here).
    I never thought to apply this thought process to my personal life though. And that’s strange, because it makes total sense to do it after reading this.
    Are you sure we’re all aiming for an aligned life though? I don’t think I synch up too closely to an aligned life based on the way you describe it. Perhaps you mean to represent something like this?
    “Balance can’t be bought or sold.  It doesn’t need to be ‘implemented’.  Balance is a mind-set, as individual and unique as our genetic code.  Where you find joy, you find balance.”
    Or maybe this?
    “Balance Is For The Uncoordinated”
    Or maybe I’m way off.

    1.  @joeyjoejoe That’s very interesting. I do have a couple of balance-related posts in my arsenal (notably, You Are Not Off Balance– Ever) but IME, people can take almost any hardship or setback if it’s in service to their vision. But when their priorities are out of whack, and they’re not working the plan, they become frustrated, angry, disheartened and resentful.
      Maybe you should write a guest post on this!

      1.  @Shanna Mann I’ll get back to ya on the guest post invite. I have a few other ones I need to get cracking on first. But in the meantime, how about some guest post guidelines so I know what it takes to be a guy named Joel and be featured here? I don’t have a published book so hopefully that’s not part of the requirements. 🙂

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