It’s not the thing, it’s the thing behind the thing.

Both kinds of dread!

Pretty much everything is more interesting to do once you’ve taken a couple of levels in Self Awareness.

F’rexample, I’ve learned in the week or so since I started this post-every-day-but-Sunday-experiment that the biggest reason I resist writing articles like this isn’t the actual writing of the article.

As long as I’m careful about the expectations I set for the writing (translated: as long as I don’t say, “Okay, article, you better be a goddamn masterpiece.”) this bit I’m doing now is usually pretty fine.

I don’t mind writing and editing articles. I hate all the things I have to do once I’m finished.

My torment, let me show you it:

Decide on a title.

Find the right picture.

Do all the SEO stuff.

Schedule a couple of tweets.

Doesn’t sound terrible. But now I pay more attention, I can feel my energy levels plummet while I’m doing it. Doing that ten minutes of work acts like the parachute they attach to drag racers. I was going along fine, and then FOOMSH.

But why does forty minutes of writing leave me feeling fine, when only ten minutes of admin squashes me like a bug?

’Cos they’re different kinds of work.

The writing is creative work. The choosing of the “right” (or at least “adequate”) title/picture/keyword/category/tag is analytical work.

And analytical work is, for me, the worst possible thing to start the day with.

Even ten minutes of it noticeably deflates the rest of my precious, precious morning. A client session will help to get me back to where I need to be – they are a super-injection of energy – but I have quite possibly lost an hour in aimless Facebook dickery before then.

So what to do now I know this?

Two things:
1. Short term, get more organised so I don’t have to do the argh-inducing bits first thing in the morning.
2. Longer term, hire someone else to do it for me. I would write a lot more often if I didn’t have to do the bits I hate.

I’m also wondering how many other things I resist doing where it’s not the actual work that’s the problem. I plan to keep an eye out for this and report.

A challenge for you!

Next time you’re doing a task you dread, pay attention. Is it a never-ending pit of suck, or are there just a few steps that taint the whole experience? And if so, do you have to be the person who does those steps?

Experiment and report in the comments!

“I got to”, versus “I get to”.

I’ve spent the last three months spending accumulated experience points, and now I’ve leveled up.

I gained at least two skill points in Self-Perception, with an extra specialisation in Catching Myself Saying Bad Terrible Not-Good Shit.

(Many thanks to Leela, who has dramatically reduced my training times. And many apologies to every non-roleplaying geek who needed to decipher what I just said.)

So yeah, for the first time in my life I am finding myself being self-aware in the moment, and not just four hours after I’ve screwed everything up.

I can hear the self-talk, and correct it, and move on undamaged.

It is FUCKING PHENOMENAL, GUYS.

For example…

This morning I was listening to the bazillions of 5:30 birdies in the Awesome New House and thinking about the day ahead, like you do. And I was also listening to myself as I thought it out.

“I’ve got the Pilot Light call, and I’ve got to update my address for my driver’s licence, and I’ve got to update the metrics, and I have to write an article, and I gotta spend some time with the Provocateurs, and I have to plan that new resource for them, and… and waitasecond, why am I saying “I got to” and “I have to” so much? Holy crap, I made all of that – except for the Pilot Light group call – sound like chores. No wonder my enthusiasm has been a bit lacking lately – doing stuff just because I gotta is the buzzkill of all buzzkills!”

I turned over and thought some more.

“I don’t HAVE to do any of that stuff, except for the driver’s licence and calling the insurance company. Those are gottas. The other things, they’re all GET TOs. I get to do this because I am ridiculously fortunate enough to run my own business, just the way I want to. When you get up, you just remember that.”

And when I got to my computer I remembered it. I spent ten minutes on Twitter, responding like I used to do (and was worried I had forgotten how to do). I replied to FB posts and got into a memejoke thread with Dusti and Amanda. I planned my day with lightness instead of grumbletude.

I said, “Write the list of get to’s.”

So here they are.

I get to spend time on social media with delightful, intelligent people.

I get to give Ellie advice via DM while I’m writing this article.

I get to sleep in as little or as much as I want to.

I get to talk about myself, a lot, and have it make people’s lives better. (I still don’t understand how that happens.)

I get to make as much money as I am comfortable making.

I get to expand how much money I am comfortable making, if my present limit does not serve me.

I get to talk to people who make amazingness.

I get to avoid negative people.

I get to reply to the glowing email from a new reader in my inbox.

I get to connect people, into one big Voltron of wonderful.

I get to do the work I am best at.

I get to choose who I do that work with.

I get to work from wherever I wanna. (Although it’ll need at LEAST four bars to do Skype calls.)

I get to put a painted hand grenade on my desk.

I get to wear whatever I want.

I get to reply to the thoughts people share with me in the comments.

I get to process invoices when I get paid.

I get to pay the rent with my brain’s endeavours.

I get to do a side hustle if I want to.

I get to publish this now so I can have breakfast.

HOLY FUCK I HAVE THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD.

Why did no-one tell me?

photo by: StarsApart

Profitable and panicked: business without shock absorbers

Christmas Day was always spent with Mum’s family.

Us, the aunts, the related uncles, and the dozens of cousins, out at the property. Keeping that many children entertained is not a small task, but fortunately the property had endless possibilities in the way of kangaroos, aboveground pools, dogs, and the best of all: the tractor ride.

The appropriate uncle would hook up his trailer to the tractor and take us for a spin around the back paddocks. The trailer had inflatable tyres, and there were hay bales to sit on, but the ride was still bone-jarringly jouncy. The trailer would go over a rabbit hole or a washout and suddenly you would find yourself in the air for one glorious moment, and then – click! – you would hear your teeth audibly come together as gravity took you back.

For a half hour on a hot Christmas day, this was a highlight almost on par with the number of presents one receives if your mother has five sisters. The discomfort and the jostling (and the dust) were the reason it was fun.

It was fun because it was just a half an hour, after which there would be lemon crush and running under the hose and opening presents and a barbeque. No-one in their right mind would want to stay on the shaking bouncing trailer for much longer than that.

But I have. I have spent this year riding a version of the trailer that doesn’t even have the grace of a haybale for cushioning.

That is what my business life has been.

Here is a list of potential shock absorbers under your business.

Which do you have?

  • 2 months of savings
  • A waiting list of clients
  • Long-term contract work
  • Retainer work
  • A partner who pays vital expenses
  • An emergency credit card
  • A dragon hoard
  • A pipeline of potential one-day clients
  • Royalty payments
  • Passive income
  • Income protection insurance
  • Regular referrals from a colleague
  • A pension
  • A part-time job

If you don’t have at least two of these things (or things like ’em), you aren’t going to enjoy your business as much as you ought to.

At one stage I had this nailed.

I had a couple of thousand dollars in savings, I had an emergency credit card, retainer clients, The Dude covering the food bills, and always five or six people who would turn into paying clients any moment now.

In the last six months, due to three months of illness, bad advice, and a change in business model, I have had maybe one of those shock absorbers in operation. Sometimes, I have had none of them.

The funny thing is, I am actually making more money than I was previously. On paper, on average, I am making more money than I need to thrive.

But without the shock absorbers… most people don’t talk about this, but it is possible to be profitable AND panicked.

When you have a cushion and bottom out for a moment – a bad week in sales, a major affiliate quits, unexpected expenses due to a tech failure, whatevs – it’s noticeable, but it doesn’t hurt you.

If you have no shock absorbers, then every single time the road becomes less than smooth, you’re gonna get bruised.

Living the I-have-$17-for-groceries-while-I-wait-for-this-$1500-to-transfer-from-my-PayPal-to-my-bank-account life, the constantly-playing-catchup-on-bills-and-rent game… it’s, quite simply, shit. Try to imagine sleeping on the rusty metal in the back of that trailer as it hits every pothole and rock. You get the occasional bit of smooth road where you can relax for a minute and then – BAM – wake up, we’re in the air again!

I don’t want to play this game anymore.

I can’t.

A couple of months ago, I realised: I miss my flawless eight hours of sleep. I am sick of freaking out every time the phone rings because I don’t have the money this week, I’ll have it next week. I am oh-so-very over forever being behind on everything because the slim weeks come before the fat weeks, and not the other way around.

So I made a commitment: I will do whatever it takes to change this.

The last two months have been full of realignment.

In the biz, Ash and I have been working hard to install springs and better tyres. We’ve already improved how we connect to new readers and build a relationship to potential clients. We’ve added a resilient and much more enjoyable affiliate system.

We’re also developing recurring income, like a paid Cash And Joy community, and bringing back the retainer work for the right kind of clients. These are good tools to even out the ride, and there are more on the way.

In my personal finances, I have been making big changes, too. No matter how tight things are, I have been putting 10c of every dollar into my security blanket fund. (I slept the whole night through for the first time in weeks when I had $75 in there. It is both wonderful and ridiculous how much difference that made.)

I hatehatehate to admit this, but I also bit the bullet and applied for government assistance. I expect that 95% of the time I will receive no payments, but one week in twenty it will be a profound relief to have a safety net under me.

And lastly, I’m contemplating getting a part-time job. Preferably something that builds my skills, or at least provides physical and/or social stimulation, but I am willing to be much less than fussy.

I am ashamed as I admit this.

I want to be a spectacular business success who never, ever needs to look at other options because everything is working so goddamn perfectly.

But you know what? It isn’t. I kept afloat while seriously ill for months, and I am proud of that, but it has had major consequences. It’s not really a question of cashflow – we have lots of new clients and expenses are goddamn minuscule.

It keeps coming back to that cushion. To that resilience. If you have resilience, then uncertainty isn’t too much of a big deal. You have resources to deal with it.

But without the resilience, everything is a problem. Every change is worrying. Uncertainty will murder your sleep and make you very, very unfun to live with.

In the last months I have had to rebuild the health of me and the business. And I have done it! But I have not succeeded in also building a surplus of resources to protect me from the next problem.

I realise that it is kinda stupid of me to be disappointed in myself for this.

To use a relevant Olympic metaphor, it’s like starting the 400m a lap behind everyone else and then being disappointed for only getting a bronze.

Of course, this metaphor suggests that my success is a competitive sport, instead of a solo event.

Because it is. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

I am often daft enough to compare my biz – recovering after the sole proprietor was out for the count for months – to, well, everyone who is talking about their wonderful businesses. I’m aware of how incredibly foolish that is, and I am working on not picking up the whip of but-so-and-so-is-doing-amazingly-well and flagellating myself with it, but not with remarkable success thus far.

(Because jouncing along on the rusty floor of a trailer  is SO much better when your back is raw and bleeding.)

I know that I am not the only full-time biz owner who is casting an eye over the Help Wanted ads.

Plenty will admit to me privately that they’ve started a side hustle or an eBay store or a shift delivering pizzas. And I curse the culture that says, “But if you do that, you are a failure.”

Bullshit to that! Fie, fie! I do amazing work and I have remarkable clients. I should not be shamed by needing more regular income, too. I would prefer, of course, for it to be within the biz, and I hope that the paths we pursue to that end bear fruit. But deep down, I know that I would be a better businesswoman if I had two months of expenses in my bank account and I knew damn sure where the rent was coming from. I am willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen – to be strong and consistent in my biz.

This is what The Pilot Light is all about. It is, again, supremely embarrassing to be needing to do the work I teach, but that’s the spiral, yanno?

So my biggest priority is shock absorbers. And then I can start enjoying the ride again.

Speaking of The Pilot Light…

We’re starting again in just a couple of weeks and there are still two spots available. It’s your last chance to jump on board and off the rickedy-ass trailer, jellybean.

Email me TODAY if you’re yearning to smooth out your business’ ride. (catherine@cashandjoy.com. DO EEET.)

I originally wrote this as a newsletter to my Rise and Shine peeps.

(Which means that if you’re not signed up, this is the kind of amazingness you are missing out on.)

I usually receive a half-dozen replies to my newsletters.

This time, I got three dozen in the first 24 hours.

All of them saying some variant of, “THANK YOU for saying the thing I have been thinking.”

If you can, please share your thoughts in the comments. Because clearly, there are lots of people who really wanna know they aren’t the only ones.

(And that, of course, includes me.)

photo by: Jem Yoshioka

Dark Glamour, attractive madness, and Bad Idea Boyfriends

I do not know who this is. This is probably for the best.

“Why,” I complain to a charming colleague, “is there a common belief that to succeed in business you need to be completely bonkerdoodles?”

She laughs and agrees. I say, “If I wanted to create a riveting spectacular of crazypants, then I have plenty of examples to deconstruct, reverse engineer, and recreate.” We don’t name names. We don’t need to.

(Okay, we name a couple of names.)

After we hung up, I kept thinking.

I thought of madness and art, how we think of them as closely correlated.

Most of my favourite musicians, the ones who deeply speak to me… well, I wouldn’t have wanted them in my house while they were creating their masterpieces. They would rip apart my furniture in drunken rages, shoot up in the hallway closet, use my good kitchen knife on the veins inside their ankles.

The contention has always been that the sane and normal people left to make money and love and happy memories, and only the ones too broken to go anywhere else stayed the course. If you have no friends and your family is shit, it’s easy to stay in your room practicing chord progressions for five hours a day. To ignore the pain of the work, or to prefer it to the pain of absolutely everything else.

It’s romantic, or at least it was to my sixteen-year-old self. I was always unmoved by the pleasant-faced boy bands (to date myself, the boy band of my teens was New Kids On The Block).

No, I yearned for the broken boys.

I wanted Mike Patton from Faith No More. I wanted the darkly satanic lead singer of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. I wanted Rob Zombie. If I had known of Nick Cave when I was sixteen, I would have wanted him badly.

I called them my Bad Idea Boyfriends. You’d find yourself in a bathtub in a dirty neon hotel, with stolen credit cards, three exotic sexual infections, and your kidneys stolen. And you would love it.

This dark attraction has followed me to the world of business. It’s followed us all, maybe.

Call it the Dark Glamour.

My personal Dark Glamour is a three-ring, glittery-black, motorcycle-accident drama, with a soundtrack by Meatloaf and costumes by Alexander McQueen. It’s a particular form of madness that I am attracted to – the cool black rock and roll kind.

I knew where my Bad Idea Boyfriend fantasies were headed – in a twisted way, that was part of the attraction.

(It was going to end badly. That was the point.)

In business I have perhaps been less mature, less nuanced.

Because on multiple occasions I have fallen in love with businesses that have turned out to be as destructive and grotty as a ten-day orgy with the front man of a prog-rock band.

But at the time, I thought they were healthy. I thought they were wise. I thought we’d end up happily ever after.

This is a misjudgement on par with thinking that Jack The Ripper would be the perfect fellow to settle down with, raise some kids, open a bakery, perhaps.

The Bad Idea Boyfriends advertised their dysfunction, and there was never any doubt that they meant me no good. Tangle with them, and I would end up broken, broke and bruised. That was the attraction.

But, I realise as I write, the businesses that have lured me played a slightly more subtle game.

“I have been broken,” they said. “But for you, I will be broken no more.”

Holy fuck, they combined Bad Idea Boyfriend with Mr Darcy. I never had a chance.

Note to self: watch out for this in future.

My Dark Glamour is not yours, as my charming colleague and I know.

We shared the “I can’t believe people fall for this shit” onlooker-headshake fascinated gawp. Sometimes you see through the costumes and the soundtrack to the complete shambles within, but a lot of people just. Don’t. Get It. and you wonder, “How have you missed this? Isn’t it obvious that this person is completely bugfuck crazy? Run, run while you can!”

Because I know, from both sides of this particular fence, that you can’t dissuade someone from their Dark Glamour. Logic won’t touch it. The well-meaning opinions of others will bounce off; after the drug has worn off, if they are kind, they will not say, “Dude, I told you so” too often.

But while it’s in effect? I spent literally thousands of dollars and almost destroyed my biz last year chasing a particularly virulent Dark Glamour. My inner sixteen-year-old should have approved: I kept my kidneys, but otherwise it was the Bad Idea Boyfriend fantasy come to life.

It wasn’t actually that much fun.

I’ve always known this, down deep, which is why I don’t hang around the stage entrance of Marilyn Manson concerts.

I don’t truly want to wake up to the sound of sirens and the sting of a fresh tattoo.

I’m hoping this was the last time I chased a Dark Glamour. I’d like to start chasing the equivalent of a physiotherapist with two Labradors.

Which leads me back to the question I asked my charming colleague: “Why is there a common belief that to succeed in business you need to be completely bonkerdoodles?”

And the only answer is have is, “Because some kinds of madness can drive us to push the edges. Because some kinds of madness are darkly glamorous. Because it’s much more interesting to talk about the car accident than the hundreds of people who got home safe. Because I am broken. Because we love both the dark and the light.”

“Because.”

It’s not a great answer. But it’s what I have.

What’s your answer? Tell us in the comments!

photo by: Rik Goldman