What Makes Work Meaningful
I learned a new word: Eudiamonia. It means “flourishing and living a life that realises one’s potential.”
I can’t pronounce it, but eudiamonia is all I want.
Work is surely only one component of a flourishing life, but it’s a big one.
Nikolova and Cnossen just published a study that identifies the three big factors that contribute to whether you feel your work is meaningful and satisfactory. The three big factors are:
Which means that you believe you have control over what you do with your time.
Which means you believe you can figure it out, even if it’s challenging, and that your effort contributes to a greater good.
Which means you believe you’re well-connected to your colleagues and bosses.
If you’re high on these three areas, the researchers say, you’ll be willing to withstand some underperformance in other aspects of job satisfaction. For example, the authors report that nurses usually have a high job satisfaction, even if there are parts of the job that totally suck.
I can hardly understand this, but those three factors were “4.6 times more important” than working hours, pay, benefits, and career advancement.
Pay and benefits were not as important.
Perhaps if you are forced to choose between purpose and pay, you’d choose purpose. But it’s a false dichotomy.
When you work for yourself, you get to set your own pay and choose your own projects. You get pay AND purpose.
And that’s why these particular results excluded people who were self-employed. The researchers said this was because self-employed people can’t score on relatedness, since they have no peers or bosses. Huh? I have a wonderful group of colleagues. (And the best boss, just sayin.)
If they included the self-employed, it would certainly skew the results, but not because of relatedness. Because we’d be the examples of eudiamonia – where you can do incredibly meaningful work AND have flexible hours and a strong income.
It seems to me that the only way to really achieve eudiamonia is to work for yourself.
When the researchers pulled a subset of the data, where they could include the self-employed, they found “the self-employed enjoy greater mental health and subjective well-being compared to similar regular employees… This well-being premium is often attributed to the utility of being your own boss and having autonomy and flexibility.”
And, I’ll add, BEING PAID WELL.
Did your mental health change when you started working for yourself?
Mine sure did.
And, to note, the researchers pulled this data from the European Working Conditions Survey – so this sample is a particular cut of society. One where it’s common to go on holiday for the entire month of August and take 2 hour lunches with friends.
How do you think these results would differ for people in the American work culture? Or the Indian work culture? Probably a lot, though I don’t know how. So take this with that particular grain of salt.
The researchers added that “career advancement possibilities and working hours are more strongly associated with meaningfulness for the non-self-employed group.”
Which, I’m speculating, is because we the self-employed advance our own careers and set our own working hours. We don’t rely on the benevolent boss to deem us worthy. We are worthy. All of us.
If you haven’t yet taken that spring off the cliff to work for yourself, let this study be one more reason – it’s the best way to achieve eudiamonia.
If you already work for yourself, let this study light you up on the darkest days of entrepreneurism, when you’re dealing with the parts that totally suck. Your chosen path is the best set up to flourish and make the most of this one wild and precious life.
Ok, I can’t end on such a tender note. I’m going to leave you with the one quote from the article that made me LOL:
“Dur and van Lent (2019) document that about one in ten employees finds their job useless, with the share being the highest among those engaging in routine tasks as well as those in sales, finance, public relations, and marketing.” (Emphasis added is mine, I love you people and wish you a flourishing life.)
Talk To Your Boss
Ryan (fake name) told me over Zoom that he was thinking about launching his own business, training dogs to walk on their front legs (fake business).
Me: Cool! When are you putting in your two weeks?
Ryan: Oh I wasn’t going to quit the day job. I just want this to be my side hustle until I can grow it more.
Me: Uh, but isn’t your day job also training dogs to walk on their front legs?
Ryan: Yes, but my boss is cool.
<red flags whipping up in my head>
Ryan: He saw some of my free YouTube videos and totally supports.
Me: He totally supports because that’s bringing business to him, since you work for him. You need to (1) check your employment contract for language around side gigs or competition and (2) talk to your boss about your plans.
Ryan: Ok yeah yeah thanks for the advice but I’m pretty sure I’ve got this.
<six months later, in which time Ryan did not talk to his boss but did announce the launch of his company>
Ryan: My boss is pissed.
Predictably so. I’ve seen this same pattern happen so many times, <insert joke about nickels and retirement>.
Margaret (fake name) got this same advice from me and said “It’s totally cool, our previous CEO knew about my side business and even encouraged me to do it.”
My dear Margaret, did you say “our previous CEO”? As in the one who is no longer your boss?
That’s like telling the cop who pulled you over for speeding that the last cop just let you go free.
Margaret did not talk to her new boss.
Margaret blasted her new business all over social media.
Margaret got fired.
Don’t be like Margaret.
Talk to your boss.
Say something like “I wanted to let you know about my plans to start a side business. I don’t anticipate that it’ll have any impact on my performance here. But I’ll be announcing it soon on social media and I don’t want that to take you by surprise.”
Be prepared with information about what your contract says regarding side work. Especially so if your side gig is similar to the work you perform in your day job.
You may have to speak to details of your plans, like your anticipated clientele, in order to illustrate how you aren’t creating a competing business.
But you don’t want to overindulge.
It’s a tricky conversation, for sure.
I’m not trying to fool you into thinking this conversation is going to be easy or clean.
It could get uncomfortable.
It could lead to putting some agreements in writing or, sorry about this, even more meetings.
Even if you follow my guidance here, there are no guarantees.
I *had* talked to my boss. I had my boss’s approval to work side gigs in writing. Girl, I had receipts!
And it still didn’t matter to HR, who told me I had two weeks to close my side business.
Their rationale: The topic I wanted to develop on the side – data visualization – could potentially become something the company wants to focus on also, at some point in the future, if they so decided one day. So, my side gig was considered competitive.
But, listen, bottom line is HR doesn’t care whether their logic is cohesive or fair. It doesn’t matter what your boss put into writing.
So why should you talk to your boss, if the conversation amounts to protection as fragile as an eggshell?
Because you’ll feel like you did it right. You’ll have gone about the process with your ethics and integrity intact, no matter the outcome.
On the other hand, don’t talk to your boss.
If you know your employer explicitly bans side gigs of any kind or you just have a boss that’s a little unhinged, don’t tell them about your plans.
You’ll be fired faster than you can tweet that you’re open for business.
2. Hoard your salary in a savings account.
3. Then quit your day job and launch your new website in the same day.
What You Need to Start a Business
This issue is about the third question budding entrepreneurs ask me.
The first question is “How do I price myself?” which is understandable but the wrong place to start.
The second question is “How do I find clients?” which is actually what seasoned entrepreneurs need to be asking, too.
The third question is “What do I need to start a business?” and it’s the same thing I still need every day after running my business for 13 years:
Grit, tenacity, and an unwavering trust that you’ll figure it out.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not a six-month runway of savings.
While that’s comfy, sometimes it’s actually TOO comfy. The pressure of a rent payment will light a fire under your tush and activate your tenacity in a way that nothing else can.
That route is not exactly for the faint of heart. It’s just to say that you do not need investors to start or grow a business.
If you don’t have six months saved, you will find out how efficient you can truly be.
You also don’t need to have a stack of clients lined up.
I promise that a lack of clients will force you to put yourself out there in a way you wouldn’t if you were being safe. And even if you get rejected by your first 10, each one of those rejections is a rich lesson in what you need to tweak ASAP.
You don’t need rich parents.
You don’t need to look like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos or any of the other privileged people who seem to have it easy.
The adversity you have faced in your life is your strength. It’s where grit comes from. Grit is what you need to keep going when you get that 10th rejection.
Don’t get me wrong, getting comfortable with rejection is no pizza party. I’ve had more fun writing out my will.
Even these days, 13 years into starting my business, I still have dreamy potential clients turn me down.
You wanna know what helps? Normalizing it. Take a deep breath and email me about your last rejection.
You bring your grit, tenacity, and unwavering trust. I’ll bring the support.
How To Launch a New Offer
My friend, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve launched several businesses, each one hitting six figures right out of the gate.
So you’d think I’d have the launch process totally figured out by now. While experience did help me foresee some steps I’d need to take, I still fumbled and it took me way longer than necessary.
As usual, I’d love for you to learn from my mistakes.
So here’s the diagram of my last business launch. Whether you’re launching a totally new business or just looking to sprout a new branch for your existing business, you’re likely to run through the same phases. Though if you look carefully at my mistakes, you can probably do it faster.
LAUNCH PHASE 1
I truly believe most businesses are born from frustration. When we find ourselves engaged in something so poorly executed, we’re like “I could totally do this better.” In fact, a lot of armchair consultants on Twitter pull inspiration from this very place. Your hyper critical friend lives here and has a dozen new business ideas every day.
Nothing much beyond grumbling typically happens – until the flash of a truly better idea comes, along with the details that make it a viable product. I had fluorescent flashcards and a notebook and a lightning bolt at 3am that helped me hammer out the product and the plan.
Then I entered the likely avoidable span of time where I overthought it. The plan was awesome. My experience told me it was going to take me a lot of time and energy to turn it into reality.
And then I questioned myself.
Where would the time and energy come from?
Did I actually even want to do it?
Would people buy this product from me? Who, exactly?
Haven’t a bunch of other people already done this? What makes me think mine will be better?
I know what’ll help me answer these questions: Listening to every single possible business coach.
Geez that was a huge waste of my time.
You’d think, by now, I’d know not to let these thoughts distract me. Maybe this stage is unavoidable. Yeah, maybe we all have to go through it. But it doesn’t have to take as long as mine did. And we can feel these feelings while also continuing to make progress. Without letting those self-doubting thoughts freeze us in place.
LAUNCH PHASE 2
The key to getting out of the self-doubt whirlpool is to focus on the people you want to serve.
They have needs and they don’t have time for you to mess around.
In my case, I have new and seasoned entrepreneurs in my DMs nearly every day, asking to pick my brain for 15 minutes. I said yes to a few of these folks, seeing it as an equal exchange – I’ll give advice and they’ll teach me about my audience.
Once I had my audience figured out, I started to build the business’s infrastructure, with those particular people in my mind at all times.
I sorted out the framework/structure/package for my services. This is the part most people skip cause they don’t know they need it. But you have to create the container. Give it a name.
Then I brainstormed the business name and connected with my web developer to (1) figure out if we could even do this, (2) research URLs, and (3) start the build.
People usually spend too much time in this phase. They’ll create business cards and deliberate over the web site design and consult 800 people about their business name…. and then never actually launch. Don’t get stuck here.
Then it came time to actually build the program. I had to write out my curriculum – which ended up taking me much much longer than I had planned. The amount of solid business advice that had been just rolling around in my gray matter – honey, the curriculum was longer than any book I’ve ever published.
Took me forever to get it all out of my head.
At the same time, I was planning the marketing strategy, coordinating with my web guy, and shooting the videos. This was a super intense time that I wish I had been able to spread out more.
LAUNCH PHASE 3
Phase 3 is go time.
I launched with a newsletter (hi! This one!) while I was still finishing the website build and testing everything.
I developed some freebies while still testing everything.
Then I announced the new program and opened enrollment. The hard work is supposed to be done at this point so I make it a priority to celebrate with my friends and family.
However, students were unearthing issues we hadn’t found in any previous testing. I don’t know how. But this seems to happen every time I launch. And I think it may be unavoidable? This is why restaurants have soft launches. Maybe we all need our own version of a soft launch.
Every step of the way I’m making mental note of what worked and what didn’t. I formally collect all of those thoughts in a debrief session with my project notebook. *IF* I’m gonna ever do this again, there’s no freakin way I’ll remember every single tweak I’d want to make unless I write them down while they’re fresh in my mind.
Then I chew on those lessons learned while watching student successes and monitoring my own mental health and it’s those things together that lead me to the final point in the process: Do I want to do this again?
And I do.
I’ll open Boost & Bloom again in Feb. Get on the VIP list for early access and a discount.
I’m already thinking about another business, too. I’m in the “I can do it better” stage. This next time around, I’ll be on the lookout for the tedious overthinking stage and do my best to skip it.
I hope you will, too.
What stage are you in? How long are you giving yourself until the next stage? Do you even know what your next stage is? Email me with a note about where you are right now.
Your launch doesn’t have to look like mine. But please at least consider my sequence of steps and my mistakes and make adjustments to get to your next launch faster, better, stronger.
Looking Forward to Freedom
I got to cutest, most sweetly naïve DM from Angela:
“Can I have my own business and also have a lot of time off, especially in the summers, to spend with my young children?”
What would you say to Angela?
My reply was “HELL YES! That’s kinda the whole idea!”
When you work for yourself, you get to create the life you want to live.
In a big picture sense, that means you aren’t necessarily tied to a specific geographic location – you can work wherever you want, in theory.
In a small picture sense, it means you have the freedom to construct each day of your life on your own terms. However you want it to go. You get to make it up!
I freakin love that level of autonomy.
Angela will too. Because it means that if she wants summers off with her kiddos, she has the freedom to book all of her clients during the school year, even during school hours, so that when the bell rings, she’s there to pick them up.
It might seem like this is only possible if you work in a digital consulting space, but not so.
My all time favorite pizza shop closes for entire weeks out of the year so they can all go on vacation.
The framemaker a few blocks from me put up a sign that said “Out for the summer. Reopening September 5. By appointment only.” The quality of his work is so high and people are willing to pay a premium for it, that he can have a brick-and-mortar that’s only open for appointments.
In a more micro picture sense, the way you structure each day is a part of the freedom entrepreneurship gives you.
Lots of newbie entrepreneurs initially set up their days to mimic whatever corporate or academic environment they came from. 8 hours a day, butt in chair. Work through lunch. Clock out at 5.
And if that’s your jam, rock out.
But you’ve got options.
You’ve got freedom.
My daily structure has changed with the seasons of my life. When my kid was younger, I mostly followed the school day schedule, working 8-3 each day of the school year and 10-4 during the summer, getting in exercise and errands after school let out. (PS – those are 6 hour work days, in case ya didn’t notice.)
I have LOVED being there for my kid before and after school – a privilege that so many folks can’t usually enjoy.
Now that my kid is older, I wake up and read a book with my coffee. I go for a long walk or tune into a YouTube yoga class or pretend like I know what I’m doing at the pilates studio. Then I start work around 10:30. Heck, I’m writing this at 11am on a Saturday because he’s a teenager and he’s still sleeping.
I didn’t work Fridays at all this summer. I’ve taken SEVERAL weeks of vacation. We’re looking at a house in another country.
Other people embrace their night owl nature and work 3-midnight.
Some folks, like the owner of my nail salon, want a weekday off to grocery shop or whatever without the crowds, so they trade Sundays for Thursdays.
I’ve heard of people who make all the money they need for the year starting in January and as soon as they hit their financial goal, the rest of the year is totally off.
And this is all aside from the new digital nomad model where you literally take your computer and work from the world’s best coffee shops.
I’m just throwing out ideas here, to help you dream.
How you shape your day and your life is up to you.
That’s the kind of flexibility and freedom you get when you’re the boss.
But listen: The only way you can afford to work 4 6-hour days per week and take off as much time as you want and work from anywhere in the world is to be highly focused and self-disciplined in the time you are on the clock.
I can’t spend that time scrolling IG, hopping on every latest trend. I have to give my sole focus to the actions that keep my business strong.
With freedom comes great responsibility.
So, my friend, what will you do with that freedom? What’s the thing you want to have space for in your day or your life, that entrepreneurism can bring you?
For you seasoned entrepreneurs, what have you enjoyed most about that flexibility? Or did you forget that you’re the boss?
I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Email me.
There’s joy in that freedom. Let’s find it.
I’m gonna pre-apologize right now. Cause this post from Sun Yi’s Instagram is so accurate, it hurts.
Let’s say I want to buy a house in Portugal. It’s been a lifelong dream and I finally feel like I’m in a place in my life where it could reasonably happen soon.
I’m absolutely not jumping on a plane and flying to Lisbon and buying the first house I see.
I’m going to read up on the rules of international house buying. Join an online ex pat community and listen in for advice on fun neighborhoods. Talk to my family.
Then – and this is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART – I’m going to start a conversation with a real estate agent in Porto. That’s when it gets real. And that’s the step we put off.
Because there’s always more research to be done. Another influencer with the one tiny tip that’ll make or break you – better keep scrolling. Right?
Honey, you’ll scroll your whole life away.
The difference between being a wantrepreneur and an entrepreneur is in the balance you strike between researching and doing.
Stop researching and go get a client.
How does anyone get clients? You sell yourself. Talk about your work. Reach out to people who need your services.
That’s when it gets real.
“I want to be an entrepreneur, but I’m scared it won’t work. I’m scared I can’t do it.”
For reals. Those are true legitimate feelings that don’t fully go away, ever. It IS scary.
Now that we’ve settled that, can you view fear as that annoying colleague down the hall and just do your work anyway? Todd in Accounting as been training you for this for years.
There’s just no other way around it. Put yourself out there and focus on getting clients first. You’ll figure out everything else as you go.
“I don’t know what steps are involved – better read yet another CEO’s book.”
Everyone’s path is going to look differently but the one thing you can trust is that, once you start walking, the next step will be revealed to you.
I had just a couple clients under my belt when a prospective and I were emailing back and forth and she said “This sounds great. Do you have a website I can show to my team members?”
No ma’am I do not. But I’ll have one up tomorrow.
The next step shows up at your feet if you just get started.
You build it as you fly.
“I need a lot more experience first.”
Um, how do you think you get experience? You have to go get clients.
You might be thinking, who wants to work with someone so new? You wouldn’t want a surgeon on their first surgery, would you?
I don’t know about that. The best cleaning I ever got was from a dental hygienist who had just graduated. She was well-researched – no one could know more about the most current best practices. And her freshness made her sooooooo careful and detailed.
Listen, your experience will perfectly match someone’s budget. Just go find your someone.
So yes, of course, you need to do some research. But instead of thinking that there’s a research phase and then a doing phase, think about researching and doing simultaneously, back and forth, onward. Both at the same time.
If you want to actually reach those big dreams – that house in Portugal, that business empire, that award-winning YouTube channel – you have to switch to DO mode. Contact the real estate agent, connect to your first client, make your initial video.
Yeah, the first one will suck. So get it out of the way as fast as you can.
So, what’s the next big thing you want to do? The thing you’ve had your heart on but haven’t actually *done* yet? Hit me up for a little pep talk.
Signs You Can Quit Your Day Job
THE LEAP! The leap feels so big. Quitting your day job to launch your own empire is full of so much anxiety, fear, curiosity, hope, and thrill.
Most of us aren’t equipped to sort through that many emotions, all happening at the same time. It’s like the Jungle Juice from your college years. And most of us weren’t equipped to handle that either.
So, while there’s no one path to entrepreneurship, let me help you sort out when you’ll know you’re ready to take that leap.
Money & Insurance
The biggest burning questions I get in my DMs are fears about money and insurance.
If you’re in the position to stay in position, do it. By that I mean, if you’re able to stay in your day job while you grow your empire on the side, that’s the most stable situation. Yes, it’ll mean you’re sacrificing some nights and weekends but if you’re just rewatching Breaking Bad again, you won’t lose much.
When you’re earning 75% of your day job salary through your side empire, you’re in a position to walk.
I mean, I walked without having much lined up. People do it all the time. But ideally you’ve built enough of a bridge to make the leap more like a hop.
You only need to get 75% of your salary covered because once you take the leap you’ll have a lot more time on your hands for business development to get you to 100% +.
The + also includes covering your insurance, which is probably the #1 block for people in the US who have to suffer through employer-based insurance programs. It’ll become a cost of doing business. You can handle it. But now’s the time to research how much you’ll be paying and add this cost to the list of expenses you’ll incur regularly (you’ll use that list to help you figure out your pricing).
Thing is – people get jungle juice feelings about money and insurance but it isn’t the first thing to sort out.
What the hell do you sell, Honey? You have to start here.
What do you offer in exchange for money? Usually it’s some kind of product or service. To make a successful leap, you’ve gotta articulate exactly what you sell and package it up in a way that potential buyers can clearly understand.
It’s one thing to say “I’m a stylist and I’ll tell you what to wear.” Dime a dozen.
It’s waaaaay more attractive to say “I’ve got a curated box of clothes in your size and style that I’ll mail to you once a season.” THAT I would buy. It’s packaged. Ok, literally – a box of clothes – but conceptually too and that’s the more important part.
And even more important than that is the underlying mechanism you develop to actually deliver the offer. You can’t just *say* you sell a box of clothes, you have to actually set up the processes by which you’ll find out what customers want, establish relationships with stores, think through the packaging (physical this time – the cardboard box you’ll mail).
You need the idea, plus the processes to make the idea happen. Figure that stuff out first.
The second thing you need in order to quit your day job, right after the idea and process, is the clientele. Almost everyone has their first clients long before they get their first logo.
Client demand can start out small – like, you told your idea and process to a friend, who told a friend, who wants to work with you now. Even if you aren’t ready yet, that counts as client demand.
If you find yourself saying no to some potential work because you’re out of hours in the day, that definitely counts as client demand and that’s how you know you can walk… or leap.
(By the way, I used these same signs to help me navigate my process of cutting out some income streams that I don’t like and leaping over to others that bring me more joy – uh, like Boost & Bloom. This ain’t just for the newbie entrepreneur.)
A strong, sustainable empire will also require branding and marketing and systems and strategies and you’ll build all of that as you go. Don’t worry about it now. Just get product, demand, and money sorted out and you’ll be ready to quit your day job.