“I guess I’d take a thousand a month.”
My companion stared at his drink, unimpressed.
“You’re going to quit your job on a thousand?”
“Your wife’s going to quit her job on 5,000?”
“Okay, okay. Ten thousand.”
And so went the happy-hour-cum-lifecoach-session with my friend from my entrepreneur cult, a “made” guy we’ll call Pete (because that’s his real name), who, as I understand it, is now hanging out for three months in Bali just because he can.
There are multiple reasons it’s finally appropriate for another post, even though I can feel Breaking Ferriss using up my “glucose”. Well so-much-the-better. I’m not writing sales emails today anyway. The rest of my hard-won creative energy, I plan to donate, at pennies-on-the-dollar, to my day job. But I’ll get there.
It’s early in the year in 2015, and I just finished a product launch, so it’s worthwhile to talk about those things. Probably more worthwhile now than after I discover whether the launch has been a “success” or “failure”. I’ve also been getting into the extremely life-hacker-cult habit of “morning rituals”, which everybody from Ray Dalio and Peter Thiel to the Brain Pickings lady says they do. (There’s a small chance it’s because they’re all getting coached by the same charlatanic life-coach – an idea that gives me a smile.) The morning ritual that’s all the rage now, and which I suspect will soon occupy the dustbin-of-bygone-fads along with Hare Krishna, Primal Scream Therapy, and AIDS, is meditate-then-journal. Long-story-short, I’ve been meditating, which has been going pretty well (dig that erudite description, haters), and the “journal” component, which may have originated as a way for people to sell journals (I’m not kidding), I’m directing into Breaking Ferriss. “Don’t waste glucose describing your personal journey, but journal every morning.”
So it’s 2015, and how did I do on those resolutions from last year?
1) Give less mental import to my day job (location of which I’m no longer going to mention by name in this blog because it turns out there’s a thing called “linkedIn”, and potential employers actually search the internet for you). (Strange, the choice society hands you – between truly being yourself and realizing a resonant level of creative honesty and being employed at a “reputable” company. As if between me and Joe Rogan and David Choe there’s a chasm of unemployability. It makes sense, actually – there’s that Seth Godin “dip” again. If it was easy, everybody would do it. Anyway, it’s now slightly more difficult for the lazy – read “average” – HR person to find anything on me other than a sterling work history and no tattoos.)
2) Spec out what would be necessary to be bi-coastal. Could I do it with no more money than I had at this point last year, with no change of job, etc.
3) Break tasks into whole days, with no more than one mission-critical task per-day.
4) Increase my earning power into the “minimum happiness” threshold, so as to remove money as a stressor.
5) (Which I actually labeled as “4”, resulting 2 “4s”, then decided to leave that way because I liked it.) Get better at Mandarin.
So how did I do?
Well, the mental-energy-at-work thing is a tough nut to crack. My assumption had been that I could negotiate a part-time/remote arrangement with the boss, then fulfill my obligations in stellar form, and everybody would be happy. Two things went wrong with that. First, I’m part of a team, the other members of which have within their reach the ability to negotiate any arrangement they want, but chose do nothing, and continue to sit at their desks from 9-6 Monday-through-Friday. Good on them. The issue? Instead of changing their lives, they began to resent me for the arrangement I’d negotiated. They’re good people and this isn’t a dirty-laundry session. The takeaway was really “teams don’t work well unless there’s a shared ethos”. I think a Four Hour Work Week-style remote work arrangement could work in cases in which I was a cog in a big wheel, judged by monthly results, or part of a team that shared a culture of efficiency and effectiveness. As it stands, it’s a constant game of cat-and-mouse to avoid getting “meeting’d”, and I’ve given into some concessions, like “face time” at the office to reinforce that, even though I don’t punch a clock like the others, I still have their backs.
The other things a successful remote work arrangement requires are fixed and clear systems and performance metrics. “Is Joe handling the remote thing well? You Bet he is – just look at his numbers from last quarter.” There are no such metrics or standard operating procedures at my job. Everything is re-invented each week at the Monday Meeting, which can result in a frustrating degree of “project creep”, in which nobody remembers what we agreed to do last month, but that’s what I’ve been trying to measure up-to, only to discover we’re now doing something totally different. As such, “performance”, to the degree it’s “measured” at all, is measured by hours in the office.
Blah blah so how am I coping? I’m doing my best to deliver the 80/20 of what they need, and drawing boundaries – insisting that people adhere to the agreement I made last August – while walking the tight-rope of trying to keep people on the “team” happy. That’s what they don’t tell you about in FHWW – the interim between starting your business and leaving your company, if your company isn’t system-driven and performance-based.
I’ll skip to something positive. Number 3 – achieve a minimum-happiness income. With the earnings from my business increasing steadily (if slowly) that now seems within reach. Indeed, if my day job was a cake-walk, I’d be tempted to add up the job income and the business income and call this experiment a success. As the conversation I described in the opening to this post alludes, the positive side of the day-job-doldrums is it’s forcing me to think bigger.
The question for 2015 is: What if I had to quit my job by May?
What could I do? Would the business be able to ramp up enough by then? It would need to grow at a pretty staggering pace. What other options do I have? Transitional jobs? Part-time jobs? The bottom line is I need to average slightly more than I’m currently making at my job before I’ll feel comfortable making the jump. But this experiment in thinking big is putting me in the headspace I need to be in.
Last fall I solved two crucial problems with my business. Finding something people were willing to pay me what I wanted to charge for it, and removing selling my time for money as a bottleneck to scale. I had been doing one-on-one coaching, which people in my niche are just not willing and able to pay me enough to make worth-my-time. Luckily, there were more-than-happy to pay for a biz-training-style online course with multiple modules, so I took a version of the curriculum I’d been using for coaching clients and put it up on a membership-site platform on WordPress. The course has been selling at an agreeable conversion rate, and my customer acquisition costs are next-to-nothing, thanks to a simple hack I’ll talk about in a future post. The only problem left to solve is scale, and that takes time. But for the first time, I can report that I have a viable, scalable business model.
Which also resolved a big quandary from earlier in the year: should I be doing the business I’m doing? When Dan Andrews and Dan Norris are out there preaching “get up-and-running-in-seven-days”, what am I doing wasting months teaching drummers? The answer is a simple one, and the same problem I solved with my existing business – Product-Market Fit. “Can you find something your clients value enough to pay you an amount that makes it worth it for you to supply it to them?” Most “success stories” with the “seven day startups” have programming or web design experience. “You can start a consulting business by selling your WordPress problem solving expertise.”
Yea. No shit, Sherlock. I can also breathe through my nose by closing my mouth.
But the starting point of these entrepreneurs is Second Base – they already have a skill other entrepreneurs are willing to pay top-dollar for. For those of us starting from scratch, doing B2C (business-to-consumer) stuff, we need to build those skills. Which takes us to another extremely common tactic – so common it’s a little odious. The Parlay. Example: I had to learn a platform called Member Mouse (and will likely learn one called WP Courseware before this thing is concluded) to host my course. Once my existing business reaches its apogee, its success becomes the primary selling point for the membership site consulting, which I can sell at a far higher price than drum lessons, and that’s the parlay. My dream is still to be the Pat Flynn of the drums, but forced with a choice between freedom and more-of-the-same at the day job, I’ll hang a shingle as “the membership site guy” so fast it’ll make your head spin, Private.
Ok – at the 1500 word mark I think that’s enough for one post. Back soon with more details.
Happy New Year, all.