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.

New Pin Drop Test – Back to School Week

pin-dropSprint used to have an ad that used a pin drop test to show how clear calls on their network could be. This week I had my own annual pin drop test – the kids are back in school and the silence is deafening.

Working from home you get used to certain routines and work habits. Annette Clancy at Interactions talks about rituals as part of “Staying Sane When You Work From Home:”

Ritualise: Create rituals around the beginning and ending of your work day – this is particularly pertinent if you don’t have an official work space in your home. I sometimes burn different aromatherapy oils to transition from one space to another. Clients of mine dress in a particular way if they are in work mode and another when they are not – simply to create a boundary.

These rituals naturally revolve around the rest of the household – for me, the wife and kids. So during the summer, the routines, along with the noise level, reach new levels of fullness. After about day 5 of summer vacation, I get use to the noise. It becomes part of my office chatter (which sure beats “Corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking. Just a moment… Corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking. Just a moment… Corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking. Just a moment…” and repeat). So when the silence returns, it takes some getting used to.

So I fire up the iPod, invite the snoring dog back into the office, and get ready for a few months of new office rituals.

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.

Taking a Kid’s Sick Day

Gretchen Rubin over at The Happiness Project has a great post about her bad morning.

… she started to make the universal sign for “ear infection” – pathetically batting the air next to her head, trying to wave away the pain.

Listening to your own baby crying in pain is agonizing. This is obviously advantageous from an evolutionary standpoint, but my nerves were shot after the first few minutes.

As a parent, it’s easy to know exactly what she went through, and her reactions.

sick-day-One of the benefits of working from home is being there when your kids need you.  Knowing that you can finish that important project tonight after the kids are in bed, makes it easy to take off and watch Peep with your little one, as she tries not to think about her awful ear pain.

Making good money from a job you love is the cake.  Being there for your kids is not only the icing, but the ingredients that make the cake so tasty.

Lets Jump Right In: Quitting Your Day Job

I thought I’d forgo the requisite “Hello World” first post and just jump right in. To learn more about me and this site, take a look at the About page.

bored guyOne of the more common questions I receive about working from home is “when should I quit my day job.” This can be one of the hardest decisions when it comes to launching a home-based venture. Sometimes, the answer is “never,” especially if your goal is simply to keep your business as a hobby, there for the soul purpose of just exploring an interest. If you don’t intend to make your unique talents and passion the fuel for your livelihood, then it only makes sense to stay put.

It’s when you plan to make your living from home, and build a business (or at least an additional income source) from your nest, that you have to decide how far you’re willing to go.

If you are the only breadwinner in your family, the decision becomes harder. The stability of a traditional job often isn’t painful enough to drive you to set out on your own. If you love your job, chances are you’re already using you unique talents and skills on a regular basis. The yearning comes from missing time with your family, the lack of purpose, and grinding away at a job where you can’t use those skills you know you are great at. But is that yearning strong enough to allow you to put your faith in your talents, your dedication, and your luck, and make the leap?

Here’s where a good mix of right-brain and left-brain really come into play. First, listen to your intuition. What’s your gut telling you to do? Do you see signs, little “coincidences” that point to your answer? What about your dreams? Often we work though these major life decisions in our sleep, but just don’t remember it. Make a conscious decision to take a look at your dreams, and maybe even ask yourself to send you some guidance in your sleep. Sometimes it’ll just come as an impression, and other times as a full blown dream movie pointing you towards the right answer. If you’re the kind of person who has learned to trust their gut, and listen to their intuition for guidance, this is an easy first step.

Once you’ve gotten a good feel as to what your heart’s telling you to do, take the logical left-brain approach to making the decision. Get a good handle on how much money you need to live. Most people never sit down and hash out what their true living expenses are. If you use something like Quicken, Microsoft Money, or Liquid Ledger, it’s much easier to do. If you use a paper register and statements, don’t let that stop you. You’ll just have to do more up-front work you get the numbers.

You’ll be amazed at what you actually spend each month. The first time I did this, I used Quicken to make up some reports. I actually had a chart and report for how much we spend on pizza each month. At one point Quicken asked if I wanted to make Tony’s Pizza (no relation) a regular automatic payment. That’s when it’s time to reassess living expenses.

Once you know how much you actually need to survive and what can be cut out, take a hard look at your proposed venture. Can you realistically make what you need each month? Doing some research on budgeting, personal finance, and your money values can go a long way to helping determine where you are and where you need to be.

If you’re a 2 income household, and one of you is looking at running a home-based business to be home with your kids, you might find it’s actually cheaper to stay home than work. This seems counter-intuitive, but when you add commuting cost, dry cleaning, parking, food away from home, day care, and the other expenses necessary for the working person, you may be surprise how much you’re actually netting each month.

Granted this is just a starting point, but these are the first exercises I recommend folks go through when they reach the point that they’re ready to the make the leap. Once you have a good framework, you’ll be more comfortable with your decision.