I have a lot of conversations about my process, or more specifically, about the amount of time I spend on different facets of what I do. I used to take a lot of it for granted before I realized that our process is everything.
The space we work in, the amount of time we give to it, our willingness to remove distractions and not cave to the pressure to blow off the day just because we don’t answer to anyone but ourselves.
Somewhere I made a decision to partition myself into an owner and a dedicated worker bee.
Slade. Stop. I’m still reading this from a cubicle. Even better.
So maybe that’s not your job situation (yet!), but in the microcosm of whatever your passion is, you actually are in charge of both the management and the labor. I don’t care about your office job; I’m interested in your art.
Because this split-personality approach weirdly works. I get to be the boss I imagine I’d want, and in return, I get an employee who will bend over backwards for me.
But to do that, I’ve had to first establish the physics of this particular relationship.
When I finally committed to writing my book – and I mean actual commitment, not the four years I spent “editing” old stuff in the hopes that a book would somehow materialize without any actual work – I gave myself a day job.
Manager Me decided that Worker Me needed to write from 9:00 in the morning until 1:00. After that, I could do anything I wanted.
Every day, sick or hungover or tired, despite writer’s block or any other excuse I could manifest.
I do the same now, except I’ve been working at this “company” long enough that the boss trusts the worker. Now, as long as I get everything done, I am quite forgiving of what I am allowed to do with any extra time.
So how long does it take me to forge a mailing list post, or flesh out a new fifteen minutes for the stage, or edit travel videos, or produce a live podcast, or spearhead a motorcycle festival, or launch a radio show, or plan a diving excursion?
There’s no pat answer, just “however long it takes.”
But it’s all predicated on the fact that I love and trust the guy I’m working for. I am a thousand times more accountable to him than I ever was to the guy who ran the Joe’s Crab Shack where I worked in my early twenties.
That manager couldn’t get past my refusal to dance to Stayin’ Alive along with the rest of the staff (Joe’s has some pretty stupid rules, including making every employee do line dances every thirty minutes). So even though I outsold everyone by a mile and I absolutely killed at making people do ridiculous things for their birthdays, I ended up fired.
There is irony in being punished for refusing to dance in a city called Beaumont (a nod to you Footloose fans).
I remember thinking, even back then, that was an absurd way to handle people. A more effective manager could have explained to me why I was vital to that store’s rendition of the Cotton Eyed-Joe. Maybe he could have pushed me more towards the things I excelled at instead of dwelling on the trivial.
He could have noted that in my time there, aside from my upselling ability, I had also taught myself every station in the kitchen, how to run the expo line, and learned to troubleshoot the point-of-sale system that they’d just installed, but he was a poor enough leader that he couldn’t get over a waiter who wouldn’t do the Chicken Dance. He probably still thinks he was right, too.
I don’t have that problem anymore. The guy I work for gets it. He was looking over my shoulder as I went down a Google rabbit hole earlier (one that started with game theory, which made me wonder what “stochastic” meant, which, through Ten-Degrees-of-Wikipedia, led to me looking up the names of all the Ewoks that they made toys for in 1984. Logray was the one I couldn’t remember, in case you were wondering).
I’m allowed this freedom because I know I’m not going anywhere until I’m finished with what I sat down to do, which happens to be this at the moment. After all, I do have a boss to impress, and he understands that those tangents can sometimes spark the best ideas in me.
But I’m thrilled to do it because the rationale and reward system has been clearly explained to me. This is my bi-monthly commune with like-minded folks. It’s become a conversation with thousands of people that want the same things I do, and the things I’m learning as I carve out my place in this landscape are valuable.
I enjoy sharing the victories and the speedbumps.
So if you’re of the entrepreneurial ilk, or maybe you’re just working on that passion project in your spare time – whatever it is, take the time to establish some ground rules for your new operation.
And remember to buy something nice for your boss.