Committing to Your Home-Based Business

sort-of-momThere are a lot of things in life that are one way or another – with no real middle ground. Your dog can no more be “sort of” housebroken, then a woman can be “sort of” pregnant. Either he goes inside or he doesn’t – she is or she ain’t.

Earlier this week I talked about using a Nest Test as a trial run for your new home business. A test can be crucial to the success of a home-based startup. Not only do you get the opportunity to ease into it, you can get some early feedback on what works and what doesn’t. The problem comes when people continue to linger in the in-between stage where they consider themselves “sort of” in business. When they talk about it, they may talk about their day job, and then mention “this other thing” in passing. The apprehension over making the full leap creates a home-business purgatory, where you’re working, but not really thriving.

When it comes to your home business, there comes a time when you need to get serious. Pee or get off the proverbial pot (and for those who’ve been through potty training, HOPE that it’s done in that order, not the other way around).

So, are you in business or not? There are two main reasons that hold most people back from making a full commitment – fear and perfectionism. Let’s take a look at each and what you can do about them.

Fear – Just Look at Your Toes

Fear is a stupid thing. Really. Fear is designed to protect us against saber-tooth tigers, even though they’ve been extinct for thousands of years. Our fear-based lizard brain, that’s tucked inside our new-fangled mammalian brain, gets all the inputs first. And like most two-year olds, its first response is, NO!

By the time our rational, logic-based, and creative selves are able to think about something new, it’s been poo-pooed by Lizard-Boy (or Lizard-Girl). Change is seen as a threat, and it’s not good to threaten the lizard mind.

So what do you do about it? You look at your toes. Okay that might not make any sense to you if you never had diving lessons as an 8-year old in the late seventies. It describes a somewhat sadistic, yet quite effective technique to get a kid to dive off a board suspended 200 feet (this may be exaggerating, but is as I remember it) above the water. No kid is his right mind would just walk to the edge and trust a very large and scary woman not to push him off. So instead, the deal was that I’d just go to the edge and look at my toes. That’s it. So it did. And she pushed me off.

Now you’re not going to hear a lot of bellyaching about child trauma, because it worked. The next time, I went up and dived – and again, and again, and again. That small seemingly safe task of looking at my toes was enough to trick my lizard brain into overcoming the threat. Then my rational brain took over, and I kept on diving.

lizard-brainThe lesson here (there is one, I promise) is that you can overcome fear by taking small, seemingly safe steps to trick the fearful brain. One of my favorite books on the subject is One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. It explores how to use the Japanese concept of kaizen to make small changes to create lasting change.

You can use this approach as a way to help overcome the fear of committing to your business. For the next few weeks, expand your business actions a little at a time. Take small steps to make it ready to go full time. Then when you’ve proven to your fearful brain that you have what it takes to succeed, and are doing the work you were born to do, you have gained the confidence to dive in and REALLY be in business.

Perfectionism – Polished or Perfect

This one can be even a bigger pain, because it seems pretty rational. You can’t launch a business if it’s not perfect, right? You only get one chance to make a first impression, and the marketplace will judge you by your first outing. In a way, that’s true. But I have to tell you, it’s never going to be perfect. I know, I’ve tried.

Paraphrased from a comment I made yesterday, sometimes you just have to launch the thing. Like a piece of art, some things may never be “finished.” We may have to just go with polished. The important thing to remember is that polished doesn’t have to mean perfect. (Hat tip to Easton).

If you keep waiting for the time to be right, your marketing copy to be flawless, your Website to be pixel perfect, your eyebrows to grow back, or whatever else you think you need, it will never come. Get to polished, not perfect. Get to professional, not perfection. Get to refined, not ready. Then just launch the damn thing.

So, are you in business or not? At some point there comes a time when you need to make that final decision. You know in your heart whether it’s right. The best time to take the plunge is now. There’s no absolute safe time or perfect time to do it. But there is today. And it’s as good as any other time, don’t you think?

Modeling Mashup: Your Template of Success

something-to-ponderME “Liz” Strauss has a regular event called “The Mic Is On!” featuring a topical conversation in the comments. It’s a cool idea, and though I wasn’t able to make it this week, the topic, “We’re Having Parallel Lives” got me thinking about how we can view our ideal selves.

The discussion surrounded who we might like to be in a parallel life or lives. People we find inspiring or interesting, doing things that we’d like to do, and living lives we find exciting.

Rather than just hero worship these types of visualizations can be productive. A technique called modeling, is a great way to create a shortcut to success by modeling the behavior of those already successful in the area you are focusing on. Though there are different views on the technique, I’ve found it to be very effective.

The term mashup describes mixing pieces of different songs, videos, or Web sites to make a new work.

So instead of parallel lives, what about creating a “Modeling Mashup” of our role models? Think of 5 to 10 people (real or fictional) you find to be living the “ideal” life. Those that embody your idea of success, or that represent an area of success for you. Then visualize a mashup of those models to get a sort of template of your ideal model. Do you want Trump’s money and business acumen, with Jobs’ flair, Branson’s sense of adventure, and Oprah’s compassion? Who exemplifies those qualities, or maybe just a single quality, you find important to have in your life? Here’s my current list:

  • Alton Brown – truly loves what he does, knowledgeable and funny (sort of the hipster of the culinary world).
  • Bill Amend – Foxtrot cartoonist – funny and a little bit geeky.
  • Charles Schulz – an extraordinary cartoonist and my first hero.
  • Dave Barry – one of the funniest people on the planet.
  • Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable – the epitome of cool, funny, and loving dad.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer – sales guru with entertaining approach.
  • Malcolm Gladwell – incredible and prolific writer who sometimes ticks people off.
  • Peter Max – one of the greatest artists of all time.
  • Steve Jobs – creative and a great business mind.
  • Wayne Dyer – great speaker, big thinker, and loving father.

Think of your own success models and mix them together into the perfect representation of success. It’s a fun and creative way to help get an idea of what you consider to be the necessary ingredients for a successful and fulfilling life.

Happy mashing!

In Service of Others – Choosing from a Different Perspective

file-checkerYou want to work from home. That you know more clearly than anything you’ve ever known before. The only problem – what kind of work do you want to do? You’ve explored and quickly ruled out all the semi-legit “work-from-home-opportunities” that cover the internets like kudzu. Your neighbor’s kitchen gadgets franchise seems interesting (you love to cook) but everything you bought from one of her parties is broken in a drawer somewhere. You know your talents, your unique genius, and your values, but can’t seem to think of how to turn those into a business. One excellent way to help get to the answer is to stop thinking of what will make you happy, and start thinking of what you can do for others. To borrow from Kennedy’s well known speech, “ask not what you can do for you, but ask what you can do for others.”

Ask yourself this question several times a day:

“How can I best use my unique talents and gifts to be of service to others?” Then, listen for the answer. Once you let your ego know that this isn’t just about me, the unconscious part of you that wants to contribute something of value starts to speak up. Chances are, within a few day (if not a few hours) you’ll get some clear indications about the best path for you.

Dick Richards, the author of the fabulous book Is Your Genius At Work? (which I’ll be talking about more in an upcoming post) writes this in a recent post on Purpose:

…knowledge of purpose will arrive only after the demands of ego have been transcended enough to allow that knowledge to enter awareness.

By “ego” I mean that set of personal underlying programs that concern themselves only with their own survival and gain… Those programs drive out what is needed to seize and run with a purpose: courage, willingness, surrender, open-mindedness, and other-centeredness.

Turning the spotlight on how you can serve others allows the pressure of finding work that will make you happy to be released. Once you know how you can best provide value to others, using your gifts in a way that brings you fulfillment almost always follows.

The Effect of Positive Energy and Fun

Maria Palma from CustomersAreAlways mentions a couple of overheard conversations regarding work – both positive.  I had a similar experience the other day at my favorite Chinese restaurant – only from two different ends of the spectrum.

file-checkerA few tables over, a couple was discussing their newly launched home-based venture.  I wasn’t able to gather what it was exactly, but they were ecstatic about it.  The positive energy just seemed to flow from them as they talked about being able to be home with their new baby who was quietly sleeping in next to them.

Contrast that with the conversation overheard from the table behind me.  A group was out to lunch from a local office and they were all complaining about their jobs.  One young lady in particular was livid that her boss was making her check that all the files on the network were okay after she transferred them.

“So for 4 days this week, I’ve spent most of my time opening files, looking though them to make sure they looked okay, then marking it down in a spreadsheet.  What a bullsh** job!  I’m paying a ton of money for daycare so I can come here and do busywork!  So much for my business degree…”

Now, I’m paraphrasing a bit.  I can’t remember the conversation exactly, but the bullsh** part I remember.  And the part about the money for day care.  I had this barely controllable urge to turn around and shake her yelling “dear God lady!  Do you hear yourself!  Is your new Navigator really worth THIS!”  (Okay, I’m not sure the Navigator they came in was hers, but it makes the point more dramatic.)

Maria’s point about positive energy and fun are right on.  Not only were there two radically different types of energy being felt, but they affected those around them differently.  I couldn’t help but notice how the same waitress was a great server to the first couple and a “…slow and I ordered a spring roll” type of waitress to the file-checker lady behind me.  The waitress didn’t change, and neither did her level of service. The difference was the perception of the ones being served.

Defining the Good Life for Yourself

good-lifeI find it interesting the range of answers I receive when I ask what different people consider to be “The Good Life.” When talking to folks that work from home or are considering it, I get very different answers than when I ask people working the corporate ladder. The first group tends to value life as a whole, where their career pursuits mesh well with family, friends, travel, and life experiences.

We all have to define for ourselves what we consider to be the Good Life. Money, fame, and prestige may be part of that, but if we look deeper, it’s rarely the foundation.

An exercise I find useful for getting to your real desires is what I call the “What For…” technique. Ask someone (or have someone ask you) what they want out of life, and when they give an answer ask, “What for?” When they answer, ask it again, and again. Eventually we get to the heart of their longing. So when they say “I want to make lots of money,” ask “What for?” When they say “to buy stuff,” again ask “What For?” Carrying this to its eventual conclusion, we end up with their desire to control their own life, and be appreciated. Sometimes it’s a quick trip, other times meandering. But this is a good way to determine what you’re really looking for.

Some of us have a clear picture of the Good Life, and others not so much. More often, our picture is actually our parents’ picture, or our friends’ picture, or Budweiser’s picture, or People magazine’s picture. In order to find true satisfaction, we all have to find our own definition, not one that’s dictated to us.

Spend some time imagining what your perfect day would be like. What would you be doing? How would you spend your time? Then ask “What For?” to find the core of those things that make up your perfect day, and your perfect life. Once you have that basis of what you truly want out of life, you have a strong foundation on which to build the Good Life.