Days of Business and Nights of Study
I'm quickly approaching the halfway point of my year-long project. My days are increasingly full (but NOT busy). 10-hour days are the norm and 12-hour days are totally acceptable. I'm drawing closer to my first branded product each day, and the inquiries, negotiations, and research are picking up in proportion to the added complexity.
Daily business habits
As I mentioned, my schedule is "full" but not "busy," and, "Not only am I doing whatever building my company directly entails, but I'm also studying Chinese, reviewing Japanese and Spanish, helping my mom fix up her house to sell, traveling, and taking classes on finance, importing, photoshop, marketing, web design and Excel (just to name a few)."
The fact that I'm not "busy" is particularly obvious in my level physical inactivity. 90% of my work time is spent quietly at my desk, working through the tasks and minutiae of the day, planning my next move, and thinking up ways to capitalize on my business ventures. But it's not just work. Need to study Chinese? Language exchange via Skype. Have to replenish inventory? Check Amazon and then order more on Alibaba. Got to write a new post? Take care of that at 1:15. My computer is my company's lifeline; I rarely leave my house, hardly use my car, and spend virtually no money outside of necessities and travel. Driving costs time, and basically everything except the library costs money. A shoestring budget makes for an interesting business companion!
A bit of insight
After reading those few paragraphs and my article about not being busy, you may ask, with tears ready to roll down your confused face, "But why punish yourself like this?! "Don't you want to have some fun in life?!"
Before we get into the thick of this subject, there are some things you should know about me. First and foremost, I'm a very optimistic person. Not the kind of "beaming-sunshine-light-up-a-room-with-smileful-energy" kind of optimism, but rather the optimism that comes from recognizing a simple fact: "I've made it this far intact and I'm fine. QED: life is good!"
Second, I can have a fantastic amount of focus. Before you get too far into thinking that I have some preternatural ability to block out distractions and work on a task with laser-focused attention, I must confess that my attention span isn't any longer than yours. Rather, I've learned through trial and error what works for me (e.g. setting my phone to "Do Not Disturb") and how to use it to my advantage (e.g. use this mode during all working hours). Case in point: if I'm bored, I will NOT pay attention. Won't happen. End of story.
Third, I DO enjoy this! Dedication, focus, and pursuing an interest are interconnection and self-reinforcing. The more you do it, the better you become at it, so the more you want to continue doing it. I never feel like I'm suffering from this venture. Besides, if it's were so terrible, I could walk away at any minute. No one is holding a gun to my head!
The nitty gritty: penchants, personality, and the past
"That's all good and well," you may say, but still wonder, "Where does all your energy come from?!"
I'll be the first to admit that I'm about as far away from the "active, outgoing, mega-socializing ball of energy" that people often associate with entrepreneurs. In fact, I'm quite possibly the polar opposite; I'm usually so relaxed that I can fall asleep anywhere and anytime in under 5 minutes. At my most stressed times, you might still need a doctor to check my pulse to make sure my heart is still beating!
I could go on all day about this, but here are a few of the reasons I think I can handle this workload with ease:
- Truth be told, I've had a pretty easy life--no sob story here.
- I'm not even close to being considered well-off, but I've had everything I've ever needed (including a supportive family).
- I was blasé about school until university (e.g. not accepting the relevance or importance of grades)
- Read: my report cards look like a rollercoaster at Six Flags.
- But I love learning, especially self-directed learning!
- I never bend over backwards to make it to the #1 spot. Rather, I just do my best, fulfill my responsibilities, and do what I can to help people, companies, etc. move forward in the best way I can.
- Competition may be extant in the world, but not in my mind. If I make it to the #1 spot, great; if not, oh well.
- I've had a borderline-obscene amount of leisure time (mostly due to my interest in traveling).
- In general, I only do things that make me happy.
- If something makes me unhappy, at the least I'll adjust it, and at the most I'll remove it from my life.
- I've only got one life to live, and while there are things that occasionally I must do, I refuse to live an unhappy life.
- I can get frustrated, but I very rarely feel stress.
- I think this is related to optimism (mentioned above). Why feel stressed when I know I'll make it out ok?
No stress + doing what makes me happy + actively seeking leisure time = plenty of energy to use as I see fit!
There are some things a person is born with. For example, I have naturally brown hair. Most things, though, are amenable to change--so long as you're willing to work toward it. My relaxed demeanor, unrelenting focus, and love of self-directed learning weren't things I was born with; they're things I've cultivated (mostly by accident). These things have conspired to provide me with the energy, the know-how, and the interest to pursue a job that is in line with my interests. Right now, that happens to require a ton of work, and I'm totally ok with that.
If you have some deeply concealed goal that you've always wanted to pursue, there are plenty of encouraging blogs to read out there. I mean, check out this video of a guy climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without legs or arms! This video highlights the importance of my first step: stop making excuses. If Kyle can scale a mountain on padded elbows and knees, then I can chill at my desk and crunch numbers for a few hours. My lifestyle is likely wholly unsuitable to you--and that's ok! Find out what you want to do, what it will take to get you there, and how you can make it happen. And while you're at it, throw away the idea that you're "just not that person." If you want to be that person, you can be.
Coming full circle
So, in conclusion: when it comes time to actually get to work and keep my nose to the grindstone, I have decades of energy reserves to use at my disposal! And why shouldn't I use them now? During the 4.5 years since graduating university, I have collectively worked full-time for only 2 of them. The other times were spent studying (on my own), traveling, planning, or (admittedly) relaxing. I'm ready and willing!
My energy comes from many places. I've set myself up for success by cultivating good habits, training myself to be positive and calm, and being mindful of my goals, strengths and weaknesses. This makes my life smoother and easier. I've thought long and hard about what makes me tick. This means my life is more inline with my interests. I've tailored my job around those interests, as well as the strengths that I've built up over the years. This has allowed me to create a job that's a good fit for me.
My happiness, success, and energy meet at the confluence of my personality, habits, interests. All of these things were learned, practiced and reinforced. While my life might seem drastically different or odd on the surface, I'm actually just a normal person like all of you. As I affirmed in my article about traveling with a skill mindset, I'd like to repeat my main takeaway here: if I can reconfigure my life to achieve my goals, you all can too! How we get there and where we're going are the only differences.