There is a distinct difference between having a job or having a business. Many small business owners, freelance workers and professionals have built themselves good jobs with a decent income, but these types of self-employment are often not real businesses.
What is a Job?
A job is when you get paid for doing work. Your salary is generally directly proportional to the hours of work you put in. Work more hours – make more money. Work less hours – make less money. Most people are stuck in a job for life. If they should ever fall ill, get injured or worse, income stops coming in.
What is a Business?
A business is about creating systems and processes that earn you money irrespective of the time you put in. Ideally a good business can get to the point where it almost runs itself. Ideally, an effective manager shouldn’t have to do anything, because her employees and the systems put in place practically run the business by itself.
A key factor in running a business is having people to do the work. Work online has opened fantastic opportunities to outsource almost any type of work to experts or inexpensive unskilled staff from anywhere with an internet connection. Online tools like Google Docs and services like www.norada.com make collaboration and project management with these outsourced workers sometimes better than working together in the same office.
Focus on the One
Productivity and efficiency are all about maximizing results for the least amount of effort. We all need to focus on work that will create the maximum impact on our lives. I call this, focusing on the one. Everything else should be outsourced or handed off to employees.
Sure you can design your own website, maintain your own servers, manage your own newsletter lists and answer your own emails. You can do everything. In fact most people starting out, do everything on their own out of economic necessity. However, by trying to do everything yourself, you will sacrifice output, quality or both. Get good at outsourcing to professionals and you can accomplish a magnitude more than working alone. Outsourcing is not without its pitfalls, however, you can’t become a business without getting others to assist you in your endeavors.
There are far too many mediocre businesses competing for attention. You need to do amazing things to stand out. Focus on what you do best and create systems and processes to effectively manage other outsourced professionals. That is how great businesses are built. Stop being an hourly wage slave and turn your job into a business.
We all have made the excuses before, we have talked ourselves out of all types of opportunities because we are “too ________” or “not ________ enough”, insert your favorite adjective.
Not enough money
Not enough time
Not enough experience
Not enough connections
In fact, print this list out for the next time you consider acting on something that you really want to do in life. It will save you time from thinking of your own excuses and you can get back to watching television on the sofa.
For those of you still reading, we know that all obstacles are surmountable with persistence and a little ingenuity. People make excuses all their lives for not doing things. And unsurprisingly, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where nothing gets accomplished. Just because you are unwilling to work hard towards something, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Consider age, surely there is a limit to when you can change careers and gamble on your future. An 80 year-old may never become a gold-medal olympic athlete but that doesn’t mean that every goal is impossible. Many people get stuck in old limitations. For example, why is it assumed that 65 years-old is the retirement age? It is an old idea based on different types of work and a world with different life expectancies. Just one century ago, living to 65 years old was an extraordinary accomplishment. Work was very hard and took a huge toll on people’s lives. Access to a balanced diet and knowledge of nutrition were limited so people were less healthy. Medical care was also very poor so people didn’t live as long. 65 become the retirement age just because that was the end of most people’s lives.
Now, with advances in medicine and knowledge about health, life expectancies are above 80 and likely to continue increasing in most developed countries of the world. At a time when you began work at 16 or so and worked until 65, if you made it that far, the middle of your work career was around forty years-old. Now with people starting careers after traveling and second degrees, careers can take until about 30 years-old to get underway. With a life expectancy of 80+, that puts the middle of your work life at about 55 years old.
With demographics shifting toward an older population, governments around the world are scrambling for ways to prevent an implosion of our health care and pension systems. It is inevitable that retirement ages will gradually increase in coming decades. Retirement ages have to be increased just because countries can’t afford to have so many people collecting incomes for so long after they stop working and there are not enough younger workers entering the workforce to make up for those leaving. It is not all bad, work can be interesting and challenging. People live longer and happier lives if they have a purpose and are engaged in meaningful activities. Work sure beats afternoon TV dramas for twenty or more years.
Do not set limits on yourself based on old technologies and ideas of life. It is quite possible to reinvent yourself and start over well into your sixties. Even a sixty-year-old can potentially have twenty or more productive work years ahead of them. A lot can be accomplished with twenty years of focused effort.
Many people have goals to be rich, famous, travel the world, write a book or maybe even to lose 5 kilograms or 10 pounds. Those are all nice and interesting dreams but that is all they will be for most people; dreams. It is great to accomplish specific objectives and achieve goals, but there is more to life than just crossing off a list of experiences or purchases. What about the notion that the journey is its own reward? Is that just another bunch of feel good nonsense?
Perhaps a better way to improve the quality of your life is by cultivating habits. A habit is something you do everyday because it makes you feel better about yourself and your purpose on this planet. Instead of creating a goal to lose 5 kilograms, you might start eating healthy and exercising every day. What will have a greater impact on the quality of your life: losing 10 pounds or a lifelong pursuit of health and fitness? Of course, when you stop worrying about a big goal that can sometimes seem impossible to accomplish, and just focus on doing 5 or 10 minutes of exercise a day to start, you will soon see that your goal of losing weight will be accomplished anyway.
You may have a goal to write a book. Completing a full book, getting it published and marketing it is a huge undertaking and is likely to be overwhelming for most people. It is much easier to put it off until you have more time, more experience, more education, etc. We can always imagine a better time in the future to do something. That is called procrastination! How about starting the habit of writing instead of the goal of finishing a book. Everyday turn off the TV and write for one hour. Often your writing will be total garbage, but sometimes it might actually be creative and insightful. One thing is certain, you will get more done and the very act of writing will improve your skills regardless of whether you ever publish a book or not.
Many people would love to travel around the world. That is a very worthy goal that everyone should aim for if they can. However, dreaming about it doesn’t make it happen. Start acting today and everyday towards something that can help you travel. This may be forgoing eating lunch out everyday. Instead make a simple but healthy lunch at home and each and every day put $5 into your “travel around the world” jar. Five dollars a day is about $150 per month and $1800 per year. With some other savings and maybe some airmiles accumulated from credit cards you will be able to take that trip in a few short years.
I want to buy a new 17″ Macbook Pro, they are beautiful computers. I haven’t bought it yet so it is still a goal. It is not a particularly difficult goal to achieve. Anyone can buy one and if you don’t have the money you can probably put it on a credit card. However, getting the new computer will only bring temporary happiness as you play with your new toy. After the novelty has worn off you will be looking for the next latest, greatest gadget to add to your collection. Instead of having a goal to buy a new computer, try to put aside 10 percent of your income aside for purchases that are not really necessities but would be really nice to have. Let’s call it a “cool toy fund”. Instead of rushing out to buy it just because you can, consider if it is really necessary to the life you are trying to live. Think about the purchase for a few weeks before you buy. You may very well need the latest, fastest toy to do your work but still take some time to consider the purchase.
Consuming products doesn’t make you a better person, living positive habits everyday is the path to improving your life. Achieving goals do not make you a better person and they often don’t improve your life in measurable ways, but positive habits do. Consuming less, eating healthier, exercising more, thinking and writing more, all create lasting happiness in your life if they are lived daily as positive new habits.
What does it take to be great at music, sports, writing, business, or technology? What key success factor do great athletes, musicians, writers and computer programmers all have in common. Success is often attributed to luck, connections, risk-taking and innate genius. Certainly those things help, but there may be more to it than that. The secret might turn out to be good old-fashioned hard work.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his new book Outliers, with the subtitle, “The Story of Success” has a chapter called “The 10,000-Hour Rule.” Drawing on research of classical musicians, computer billionaires like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and even the Beatles, he points out that shear effort and persistence are a key characteristic of world class talent. It takes about 10,000 hours of concentrated and purposeful practice to reach the upper echelons of many fields.
In one study, music school professors helped to divide violinists into three groups: amateurs, good musicians and stars with the potential to be world class performers. While all children began playing at about the age of five and practiced a few hours per week, over time there were large differences in the amount of time spent practicing. Good students had about 8,000 hours of practice by the age of twenty, while the elite performers had more than 10,000 hours. Top musicians in their peak years, practice more than 30 hours a week. In similar studies, no natural geniuses emerged. No amazing performers rose to the top without the requisite 10,000 hours. Also, there are no examples of people who put in the 10,000 hours and didn’t become great performers. We are not born with greatness, it is developed and nurtured.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and other technology luminaries had similar amounts of access to computers in their teenage years. Many were renown for spending 60 or more hours per week behind a computer. The Beatles also learned their trade by playing strip clubs in Hamburg for five or more hours a night, seven days week. Even before The Beatles became popular in the US, they had completed an estimated 1200 live performances. Gladwell writes, “most bands don’t perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers.”
Ten thousand hours over ten years means approximately 20 hours per week of serious, focused effort. With ten years of diligence you can become a world class writer, musician or computer wizard. What are you willing to put that much effort into?
A couple of years ago an old friend of mine, laughed at the fact that I was regularly driving to the gym to run on a running machine. I have often thought of how ludicrous that idea was and have since given up my gym membership.
I used to get my gym clothes ready, drive to the gym, search for a parking space, go to the locker rooms to change, stretch, run, maybe do a little weights, take a bath (I live in Japan) get dressed, drive home. A 30 or 40 minute run often took me a couple of hours. If I met up with an acquaintance or friend, I might be talking for another half an hour or so. Friendship and socializing are certainly important but it does still strike me as as foolish way to live.
For the most part, our working lives have become so physically undemanding that we actually have to pay a company to provide machines to exercise on. Isn’t that a little silly?
It gets worse, I have noticed that same pattern in all areas of my life.
Buy a new car >> Drive more >> Exercise Less >> Get out of shape >> Go to the gym.
Buy a bigger house >> Waste time and money shopping for more furniture >> Spend more time cleaning and doing yard work >> Requires more work, to make more money, to buy more things
I would have been much better off without a car. If I cycled everywhere like my university days, I would still be in shape. Money has afforded the luxury of a car and taxi rides when needed but at the cost of physical deterioration. These equations do not even factor the environmental footprint I have left in the wake of my wanton consumption.
I should have never moved to a bigger house. All the time and money I have wasted in in acquiring the house and all the new furniture could have been much better spent with friends or on cool projects.
All the conveniences of modern life that I have consumed haven’t made me a better person. Quite the contrary, they have made me physically and intellectually slothful. I want to consume less and I want to live more. I want to have excellence thoughts and excellent experiences. Excellent things do not happen in shopping malls.
Here is another cycle we commonly experience.
Work in the city in a job you hate>> Go out for lunch everyday >> Eat something unhealthy >> Drive more and spend more money >> Get out of shape >> Live like a zombie throughout the week >> Feel unhealthy and unsatisfied.
What would happen if the process were reversed?
Consume less >> Require less money >> Work less >> Use the free time to gain more skills >> Work on higher paying but less time consuming projects >> Keep expenses low >> Invest more time into personal experiences, training and relationships >> Enjoy life more!
Grow my own vegetables and herbs>>Eat healthier>> Have regular relaxation and meditative time>>Feel better physically and mentally
Ride a bicycle for transportation >> Stay in Shape at virtually no cost >>Appreciate the commute much more.
Success is not a fancy house with a wine cellar and a BMW in the garage. Success is more time with friends and family and working on cool things that excite me.