Having a One Major Goal to work towards is great and all, but that can only be achieved if you can keep this current pace up long enough. To make sure I don’t get tunnel vision and burn myself out, I have come up with L.E.A.D. as a way to reflect on my day-to-day enjoyment of work.
Warren Buffett’s career advice
There is a great story about Warren Buffett giving career advice to a Harvard student about doing work you enjoy. It goes like this:
A Harvard Business School student tells Warren Buffett about the jobs he has done so far and that he is considering to go work for a big management consulting firm next. Warren Buffett asks him if it is a job he wants to go do, to which the student replies that it isn’t, but it would round out his resumé nicely.
When asked when he plans to do work he does enjoy, the student replies that he will get to that someday.
Warren Buffett apparently replied:
“Doing jobs to build your resumé, is like saving up sex for old age. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me”.
No idea if that is true, but one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, right 😉
Now vs Then
In the past month, I have had three separate but very similar conversations with other entrepreneurs that reminded me of this story. Whenever I shared that I am happy with my progress and the way things are going, the other half in the conversation politely reminds me that my business is still in its very early stages. That it is not sustainable yet. That I have no significant e-mail list yet. And that I “still” need to do projects and client work to get income.
All of that is true. This site is only 6 weeks old at the time that I am writing this. TJIL.nu has a few dozen members, which is nice, but not yet able to stand on its own. Additionally, I am doing group training and 1:1 coaching to help people grow now.
What confused me in all those conversations is that it gave me a feeling that it is nice that I am grateful, but that does not really count, because I have no big business yet. Something like that.
My truth is that I have been happily unemployed for 2 years now, and I am still doing this. Sure, this is not the desired end state for the business. But what is? I refuse to hop on the hamster wheel of getting more all the time.
Money is to life, what fuel is to a car…
…a way to keep going. More fuel makes a car go further, not faster. My goal is similar: to keep this way of living going and optimise “this way of living” for whatever matters to me (and my family) now.
Having a ‘One Major Goal‘, is important to give your business (and life) a sense of direction into the future. But, focussing only on the future is a recipe for mental issues, especially if that future goal is not LOFTY and can be summarised as “more of X/Y/everything”. That is like putting ever bigger carrots on ever longer sticks.
The truth is that I get to do this today. And again tomorrow. With all its stress, challenges and uncertainty that come with it. And all the purpose, fulfilment and flexibility too.
L.E.A.D. your work
To make sure I focus on doing fulfilling work today and in the near future, I use L.E.A.D. as a way to reflect on my work.
It stands for Love, Enjoy, Accept, Detest and I use it to gauge how I like or dislike aspects of my work. It comes up as part of a monthly review I do. (Though, if I am honest, I call it “monthly review”, but I am not that strict with it.)
There are a few ways to use L.E.A.D.
- Reflect on your ability to understand what you like doing
- Balance the work that you need to do
- Prioritize tasks to do
Let’s look at each in more detail.
Reflect on your ability to understand what you like doing
This is the most valuable way to use L.E.A.D. It acts as a tool to help you discover what you like doing. That may sound strange, because you probably have an idea what you do and do not like doing. But using L.E.A.D. to categorise tasks into levels of enjoyment, helps understand on a deeper level what it is that makes you Love, Enjoy, Accept or Detest that task.
Example: I <L.E.A.D.> writing a blog post
Discovering that I Love writing a blog post is a result of using L.E.A.D. Writing helps me articulate thoughts and ideas better. Seeing that it resonates with other people, and that it helps them in one way or another, gives me great satisfaction. I find writing these posts pretty hard sometimes, but putting in the effort, is worth it to me.
To aid in this discovery, I went through my calendar and task list for the next two weeks. For each item on my calendar and to-do list, I added a L, E, A or D tag to indicate how much I thought I would enjoy doing that task.
During a review two weeks later, I went back through those items and ‘graded’ those same tasks. Or at least the ones that got done. The tasks where estimate and reality match, are the ones I seem to understand best. But the ones where estimate and reality differ greatly, are worth looking into a bit more to see what caused the difference. That way, L.E.A.D. helps to learn what I like doing and what I don’t like doing.
Balance the work that you need to do
This is pretty self-explanatory, I think. Grading the tasks and appointments for the week (or so) ahead, allows you to balance the stuff you love doing with the stuff you don’t like doing. There are always things we do not enjoy doing that still need to happen. Mixing them with something more fun, is a great way to get them done.
For me, it works best to use “temptation building”: doing something I Detest or Accept before doing something I Love, makes it slightly easier to get the stupid stuff done. Knowing why you Detest something, may also help to find a way to make it a bit less difficult or to make a change in the work you are doing.
You may write me off as an overly romantic: only do stuff you love. But it really makes a big difference in my day-to-day enjoyment of being independent. There is nobody telling me what to do. So given the opportunity, I decide what I do as much as possible. One day I feel particularly strong in commitment and willpower, I can easily plan the stuff I dread doing and plow through it.
On those days that are harder to get through, I plan for a bit more fun in my work. Or I allow for more space to relax and maybe take a long walk. Read an inspiring book or listen to a relevant podcast.
The purpose of a lifestyle business, is to have a business that helps you live the lifestyle that you want. While you may want that lifestyle to be different in the future, there is a lot of wealth to be found in being able to learn what you love doing and to choose how you do your work today.
I strongly believe that that helps to build a sustainable way of doing business, which is what you need if you want to keep going for a long time. Believe me, I haven’t figured this whole ‘indie entrepreneur’ thing out just yet, but using L.E.A.D. to discover and plan the work I enjoy doing, definitely helps and prevents me from failing completely.