Featured image credit: Shelby Rae Photography.
Are you familiar with the show Parks and Recreation? (If not, have you been living under a rock?!) Besides being one of the best television shows of all time, it's also where I heard one of my favorite quotes.
In Season 4, Leslie is trying to work her day job while running an active campaign for city counsel. Spoiler alert: she's dropping the ball on everything and creating a lot of chaos, which is why her boss and mentor Ron Swanson, tells her.
“Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.”
The following personal essay is the story of how I decided to whole ass one thing in each aspect of my life that was failing.
My bright idea…
The idea for this month's “About L.Bee” column came from all of the wonderful encouragement I got after publishing an article my recent entrepreneurial struggles at the end of March.
You can go back and read the article, but for the sake of this essay I'll briefly recap: I used to run a large content management company in addition to running this blog. It's a large misconception that I've been a full-time blogger since last year, but that isn't true. I've only recently begun to make what most would consider legit full-time income just from this website.
To make ends meet, I was a freelance writer/marketing gun-for-hire (mostly for small businesses), it was my side hustle long before I made the switch to full time lady boss, and somehow between the two endeavors I was able to cobble together a pretty decent income during my first year of solopreneurship.
At the end of 2015 I was feeling very anxious, unmotivated and lost. Desperate to shake things up I decided to let 90% of all my content strategy/management/writing clients go in an effort to clear my plate and focus exclusively on growing this website, the readership, and..yes, the income I make from it. Instead of holding onto the “safe” and “easy” gigs that I thought allowed me to be creative while still keeping a roof over me and my puppy's head, I wanted to bet on myself.
So I did. And it has been a success…in more ways than one.
The Financial Ramifications of Doing Just One Thing
Thank you so much for the comments, emails, social media lovins, and general positivity and awesomeness many of you sent my way last month. I'll likely never be able to express how much it meant.
Being busy with the play (we open Anything Goes April 29th!) has made it hard for me to keep up with emails and comments (I usually respond personally to every email and comment both here on the site and on social), but I got a lot of questions after last month's post when live and I wanted to be sure I answered them.
How has this change impacted your finances and earnings?
Positively. And although I'm not rolling in the big dollars yet, my income has been on an upward trend since the end of last year when I decided to actively focus all of my energies on building my website income. I have big goals (think my friend Michelle, and her 70k+ online income months), and I like that I get to control them and instead of relying largely on the whims of my clients or their seasonal content needs. The chart below is my blog only online income before expenses. Very exciting stuff.
And while money is certainly something to consider, I'm also happier and more satisfied with the work I'm doing. This has drastically improved my productivity, which translates into bigger earnings.
How did you know the right choice to make?
I didn't. You'll see above that my decisions did work out for me, financially, but I wasn't for certain about any of it at the time I was doing it.
In fact, I was freaking out because there were literally six weeks in January and February that I brought in $0.
Talk about a nail biter.
But like most things in life worth having you either have to take a gamble or make a leap of faith. Sometimes you have to do both.
I will say that for a very long time, probably nine months or so, I had a nagging feeling that the business I was building wasn't the right business for me. Once the high of actually working for myself wore off, I felt lonely without my office buds, felt like the projects were just as creatively non-stimulating as the work I was doing as an in-house strategist before, but now I had even more people to answer to and please.
And worse…I actually had to chase people down for money, which I hate.
It's hard to admit all of these things after you've quit your job and that train takes off from the station. You feel like a stupid asshole.
But when something isn't right, that feeling rarely goes away.
Instead it just festers and grows, waiting to pop up at the most unlikely moment.
Those feelings are waiting for your brain to openly acknowledge what your gut, heart, instincts, and intuition have been telling you — quietly — for some time.
So when making the decision, I tried to listen to how I felt.
And that's when I realized the feeling of wanting a different type of business wasn't shocking– it was familiar — because I'd wanted it already for quite some time.
What are some of the tools you used to help make your decision?
I'm pretty impulsive (…isn't it obvious?), but much less so than I used to be. Admittedly, I'm still working on my chill.
But this decision, the one to bet on myself and my ability to make income online, wasn't one I took lightly. I didn't have the safety net of a cushy corporate job as I've had in years past. If I fell on my face, I didn't have anything to catch me. Once I realized what I wanted to do, it still took me several weeks to put in motion actions that would make what I wanted happen — I was stalling, but why?
Fear. If you look at the big problems in your life, how many of them can be traced back to good, old fashioned, apprehension?
Probably more than you think.
Reflecting on Personal Values
One of the biggest things I lean on during times of distress or when making a big decision is reflecting on my personal values.
When I'm blog/brand coaching, I recommend every person write down 3-5 brand values, or things they want their website/business/etc. to stand for. (My workbook includes multiple sections on this!) Some of my brand values include always being approachable, never representing brands I don't personally use, and not representing credit card companies because of my own personal history with them.
But I have personal values as well. One of them is to not pass on things just because I'm afraid.
Don't get me wrong, fear is healthy and good and has its proper place in the universe. It's kept my life from becoming an episode of Law and Order: SVU; kept me safe and healthy for nearly 30 years.
But having a personal value of always pushing past my own fear has allowed me to do some awesome things: like moving to New York with $300 in my pocket, purchasing my first home, and becoming my own boss.
My Sassy Decision Making List
In thinking about a big life shifts in preparation for writing this essay, I had a revelation. It's not the follow up actions that are the hard part, but the actual deciding of the thing: you know, weighing the road vs. the one not taken and all of that. Sometimes we just can't decide because our heart and brains are at war, creating chaos.
To help me quiet this heart vs. brain chaos, I sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down each scenario at the top of a sheet of paper (focusing on the blog vs. focusing on the business or going back to work for a company–yes, I was so frustrated I was considering this!) and then made two columns.
In one column, I wrote down what I would have to do/keep in order to make that scenario a reality. In the other column I wrote down what I would have to let go of in order to make it happen. So, it's like a pros and cons list, but more sophisticated. (I like to imagine this list wearing a french beret!)
The list of things I'd have to let go of? A lot of the shit I hated about my old business. Easy.
My list for growing my copywriting business/going back to work full time, admittedly, included a few things I've missed over the last twelve months. But the column of “things I'd have to let go of,” included some of the most favorite aspects of my lifestyle and digital business, a lot of those things I couldn't imagine going without. My life is different now in a lot of beautiful (and fun!) ways.
Putting it all down on paper made it seem so obvious. How had I not seen it before?
Personal Ramifications of Doing Just One Thing
I was so pleased with how narrowing in on a true focus for my work and career turned out and made me feel, I began to wonder if I could apply the concept to other aspects of my life — specifically, my heart. After a fair amount of self-reflection, I realized there was one thing in my personal life I really wanted: to release some lingering emotional baggage so I could be my happiest, most authentic self.
I knew it would help me be a better business owner, but mostly I wanted to do it for my own health and well-being.
Long time readers will know that three years ago, I was engaged. It was the impetus to buy my home in the first place, and in the years since my assistants and I have carefully scrubbed all mentions of it from this site. It's something I don't really like to talk or think about.
In the three years since that time I've pretty much focused on everything but how that situation made my feel, finding one glittery distraction after another including: working full time, writing a blog and doing a side hustle, plus two back-to-back serious relationships.
I was doing everything I could to not focus on how much the events of 2013 hurt.
So instead I just kept going, kept working and renovating the house and dating and it worked for a little while. After all of that running, no wonder I found myself f*cking exhausted by the end of last year. I think I did it because some part of me was afraid (there's that word again) to stop and slow down; that if I laid down, I'd stay down, completely unravel and never be myself again.
But you know how I mentioned before that these nagging emotions always have a way of worming themselves out from underneath the skin, often at the most unpredictable moment? Yeah, that happened to me…. three years after the fact.
Because I never really gave myself the chance to process. So I finally allowed it: a lot of time alone to face down my demons and think about how I got to this place. It hasn't been fun, nor has it been pretty.
I can't really explain it, but a few weeks ago something in my heart unlocked and said, “I don't want to carry this around anymore. This isn't serving me.”
And then it was done.
All because I decided (there's that word again, too!) to acknowledge that pain and let it go.
And all of a sudden my creativity levels have returned. I finally feel like writing again, which after two years of slinging copy and flirting with both deadlines and burnout, is the biggest blessing I could have asked for.
Big or small, crossroads are tricky, and your emails tell me they're tricky for you too. I want to be helpful. I'm at 2231 words now, and I know this whole post probably feels very intimate and TMI, but I'm sharing all of this because I know at some point or another you'll run up on a crossroads point of your own:
- Do I take this job in another state or stay with my old one?
- Do I leave this relationship or try to make it work?
- Do I go back to school in order to pursue something more exciting or try to find a different path in my current career?
- Do I continue to let this bother me, or do I let it go?
Life is full of choices, which also means it's full of decisions. If you're struggling between two options, being greedy and killing yourself by trying to have it all, are stuck in a rut, or if things generally just feel off….I want to encourage you to stop running and focus on just one thing at a time.
I hope the examples in this post can serve as small examples of the powerful things that happen when you do.