I spent January 2018 remote working in Montevideo, Uruguay. I’ve been excited about this experience for months, and for good reason – it’s been incredible spending a month I normally have to trudge through (I’m not a Winter person) enjoying summer sunshine, palm trees and ocean breezes, as well as light-filled skies until 9:00pm.Continue reading
Last March, I decided that I would spend January 2018 remote working. Anyone currently living through Toronto’s winter doesn’t need me to explain what prompted the decision. For the next four weeks, I will be living and working in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.Continue reading
This post was originally published on December 3, 2015
When people ask me how I like having an independent practice, I tell them that I enjoy it, that it’s stretching me beyond where I was before, both as a consultant and as a person. But I also tell them that, like anything, making this choice has involved trade-offs. One of the biggest trade-offs for me is living through the down periods, those times when the emails don’t come and the phone doesn’t ring.
Making the choice to go solo was exhilarating, but also terrifying. All my life, I (like most people) have been affiliated with organizations of some sort – first school, then work – which shaped much of how I spent my time and the things that I accomplished. There is a particular kind of terror that comes with letting go of those affiliations, much like diving off a cliff into the surf below, hoping that you are going to emerge from the turquoise waters unscathed and not jump head-first into a pile of craggy rocks.
Lately I’ve noticed that I am getting better at managing the down times. Having been through it before, I’m starting to understand that not only is this part of the drill, but that these periods have also taught me some valuable lessons. I thought I’d share some of them here, since I’m guessing many of you will relate to this situation in one way or another.
Things don’t always come at the time that you want them to, and that’s okay
When your work involves providing a service to others, you must learn to accept that you are not necessarily in control of how much work you have when. When this gets frustrating, I remember a quote from author David G. Allen: “Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” And then, in addition to pursuing professional opportunities, I look for life opportunities to fulfill that I might not have had the time to address if I had a standard full-time job.
Celebrate the small wins, because they’re the precursor to the bigger ones
It can be easy to dismiss the significance of a conversation or an email, but I have learned from experience that a series of little wins can ultimately add up to interesting work and a thriving practice. The easiest way for me to move myself from fear mode back to peace and productivity is to consider how much I have going on compared to the previous year. While I still have a way to go, there is room to celebrate at every stop along the way.
Reward yourself for the effort, not necessarily the results
There’s always more to strive for and I’ve found that if I only reward myself for major wins, I get a warped view of what I’ve accomplished. It’s worth feeling good about every new conversation you have and every new contact you make. After all, if my practice is just a never-ending slog to a new finish line, why do it?
Playing the long game DOES ultimately get results
It’s a well-known adage of sales that most people give up after contacting a prospect a few times, but successful sales can take 10+ contacts. Each time I reach out to my contacts, I’m pleasantly surprised to see a few new individuals responding in a way that forwards our relationship a little bit. I try to provide content with some insight and value, and it’s always interesting to see who responds to what.
When the things you want aren’t happening, make other things happen
After a rough start to 2015, I decided to reach out and look for speaking engagements. After all, putting together a talk was something I could control and accomplish without relying on others. I have found speaking publicly to be tremendously helpful in establishing new contacts as well as professional credibility. And from these engagements other things have started to happen, which further legitimates the effort.
In addition to helping me thrive during leaner periods, the beauty of a lot of these learnings is how they apply to so many other things in my life. Part of the reason that I began an independent practice was that I felt a need to branch out and stretch myself. You never know what you’re going to get when you take these metaphorical leaps, but experience has taught me that the end result, while typically looking different than I imagined, will be worthwhile.
Here’s to a happy and productive 2016 for all of us.