Even if you’re not self-employed, your boss is you. You manage your career, your day, your responses. You manage how you sell your services and your education and the way you talk to yourself. Odds are, you’re doing it poorly.
If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much of your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.
I’m amazed at how often people choose to fail when they go out on their own or when they end up in one of those rare jobs that encourages one to set an agenda and manage themselves. Faced with the freedom to excel, they falter and hesitate and stall and ultimately punt.
We are surprised when someone self-directed arrives on the scene. Someone who figures out a way to work from home and then turns that into a two-year journey, laptop in hand, as they explore the world while doing their job. We are shocked that someone uses evenings and weekends to get a second education or start a useful new side business. And we’re envious when we encounter someone who has managed to bootstrap themselves into happiness, as if that’s rare or even uncalled for.
There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It’s hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.
If you fit the description as the worlds worst boss, then you are a hobbyist.
Do you close your laptop saying, “I’m tired”?
Have you decided to wait because “I don’t feel good” seems like a good enough reason?
Do you find yourself thinking, “I’m not in the right frame of mind”; and then walk away from what you know has to get done?
Sure we all do these things at different times. Sometimes we get so fed up that we have to take a break. But it is the consistent slow action that produces the result. If you do any of these things on a semi-consistent basis, then you have already lost. You are a hobbyist.
It’s not your fault. Your teacher told you that you were wasting your talent. Or your parents never really got why you wanted to do ‘your thing.’ But here you are now with nobody holding you back. And nothing.
Because a hobbyist only shows up when it is convenient. A hobbyist wants applauses and credibility. They need someone to cheer them on because they are lost and insecure about that thing they so desperately want to do.
They got tricked, and they don’t even know it because it is easier to not do the thing. It is easier to point a finger and talk about how they felt or what held them back. It is easier to just give in and not be generous.
A professional on the other hand shows up when they are tired, hungry, or in pain. When they are sick or not in the right frame of mind they work through knowing that the work has to be done.
It doesn’t matter if you are writing sonnets, painting pictures, or just trying to make a difference in your little corner. The work you do that is generous is what we all need. The work that you get done when things aren’t going well and you know that you have to push through is what we all need.
The guy working on the roof in the building next to mine didn’t wake up this morning and have self-talk that started with, “I just don’t feel like doing the roofing today so I’m going to do something else” [Lord knows he might have said that very thing, but he also got over it and showed up hammer in hand]. None of them arrived at work to talk to their supervisor and say, “man I am not as good at this as I should be, so I don’t think I’m in the mood to be a roofer today”.
So why do we feel like we can do that?
It starts with putting too much emphasis on the wrong things. It ends with the paralysis of just not making progress. There is a huge chasm that exists between those that do and those that don’t.
Just take a look at writers. Stephen King wakes and writes 2000 words a day, every day–holidays and all. RR Martin is left scratching his head and takes months to write a paragraph. But you know there are plenty more writers in the world that have lived a lifetime to write nothing–and they are lost to time forever.
If work operated this way [and it does to some degree]. People would wake up to head into their job and call off around 80% of them. Sure when I said it does operate like this in some ways it does, plenty of people show up half-cocked and ready for nothing. They are hobbyist at their own jobs.
Price said it best: Prices Law states
50% of the work is done by the square root of the total number of people who participate in the work.
As an organization grows, this becomes more and more evident. The base of people might change. It shifts all the time. When Aunt Sally dies and ol’ Betty ends up with a slew of kids she didn’t have before someone picks up the slack they always do. That is part of what makes organizations work.
But there is a dark side of this whole business. It comes down to that Worst Boss post and the concept of being a professional vs. a hobbyist. No matter your work and your chosen endeavor. Strive to show up and be the professional.
Because the dark side has nothing to do with falling profits or you being a downright ass. Instead, it has to do with what you take from yourself. How you hold yourself back and deny the world the gift you were supposed to share with it.
I had a few days where I was not feeling that great, terrible excuse I know. The other part to the delay is I got all excited and started finding old blog posts and writing some. I ended up doing nothing 😀
Right now I have been working on a proposal for Better PC Health and doing so has forced me to think about many of the details. I know what needs to happen, now it is just a matter of making it happen.
I’ve also been working on an exercise called the self-authoring program. This is an interesting one. There are several modules about the past the present, and virtues and faults. I have been working on the past portion for some time–really I just put it off for some time.
You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you’ve been.
I can see some patterns in my life that I need to end. Some of them are caused by the incorrect reaction on my part to other peoples bad behavior, but I can see the unhealthiness. Some of it is overcorrection for self-protection. Other bits are just incorrect assessment, on my part, of the situation.
But we are actually really good at doing these things.
We make these kinds of choices before we even know it. Once we make the choice and the synapsis are firing and the chemicals are flowing… now we ‘decide’ as we know it.
When something happens a region in your brain called the frontopolar cortex starts sending signals in some unconscious ways. But it is not until around 10 seconds later that you actually are conscious of the decision. What is more interesting about this is the next part.
Your conscious mind interprets what choices you have made. In other words, it tells stories. This is fascinating to me. You think you are going down the street because you need to look at new lighting for your dining room, however, maybe your unconscious mind wanted a hot dog from the stand outside and directed you down the street knowing full well you would cheat on your diet.
What is more interesting on the same note is the way we might have an impact on your unconscious minds, and how that might play out in our conscious mind. Part of the program I am doing filling all this info out. Thinking about things will alter the way things will play out. But the interesting part is I may not have as much control over this as I would like to think.
However, I know to some degree the things I take in the thoughts I tell myself to have do have an impact. It is a very strange thing to think about and something I’m doing more reading about etc. Expect future updates on this as I learn more.
This is in a way a cheap trick. Basically it goes like this. I thought there was something ready so I didn’t spend any time writing today. Now 15 min before my deadline I’m sitting here saying “what am I going to write about?”
I think a lot of people would assume writer’s block, however, no. I typically have the opposite problem in my life. Too many ideas, too much to choose from and often it is hard to just pick.
If I want to think about this properly. If that is a thing. We could just apply some structure. I’ll give you an example. When playing poker. One needs to tell others about their hands. There is a way to do so that would convey maximal information.
You could start with the facts. Focus on what happened in the hand ensuring that you touch on all the important points. What was the game type/structure? What were the stacks? What position are you and what about the opponent we are focusing on?
Then you tell your story in a logical, typically time organized, fashion. Bonus tip you can learn a lot about another poker players thinking process and ability in general by listening to them talk about hands.
Now that we have the right information. We can analyze the situation and devising a strategy moving forward. What we have done is take a situation, analyzed the outcome, and predicted a method to have a more desired outcome on the next go around.
Now admittedly this is a little oversimplified. There are differences that we will not look at in this post (maybe another time). Differences between “games” of imperfect information and those with perfect information, but the overall plan remains the same. Think in this case poker vs chess.
This gets interesting because we can do this same thing with any life situation. Personal, business, and whatever else. For instance, let’s pick something easy. Maybe even something stupid but something I have had issues with in the past, maybe I’m not alone in this.
Drinking enough water.
We live our normal daily routine. Then for whatever reason, we might realize that we have failed to have enough water throughout the day. For me, this means headaches and tiredness.
As ridiculous as it might seem the process is simple. Look at what actions happened in the day. Think about the way we can improve or change them for the next day to avoid the headache.
So we might do something like wake up and have a glass of water first thing. Or we could try to carry a water bottle around. I feel like you can get the picture.
Of course, drinking enough water is helpful but that is not the point of this post. This comes back to one of the many topics I would like to talk about in the near future. Elon Musk’s use of “first principles” it is a mental model. Take things down to an understandable base unit and then examine them with some structure.
Doing this allows us to make very good decisions. In life the decisions we make shape our futures and lives. Now I would write some more examples here, but I’ll save that for next time.
So just think about what you want to improve. The exercise is fun and interesting and may lead to insights that propel you forward.
This was something I wrote a year ago and though it had posted. However, the scheduler didn’t work correctly. So this is counting toward my goal this month and I’m going to make minimal changes.
Originally written Nov. 26, 2018 Updated Sep. 5, 2019
You know how sometimes things come at you one after another…
Yeah… me too.
So I have been wanting to do a follow-up post on what I have learned about male infertility for months now, but I have also been busy working my behind off…
Sometimes it’s like we make ourselves busy to avoid the things we should do. The funny part is when we are avoiding that one thing it might cause us to become really productive in another area.
So for about 1-1/2 months I have really been knocking out some things that are fairly important but some of them I have managed to put off doing for years. You know the stuff that is “important not urgent”…
Possibly it will make more sense when I take the time to articulate what I am thinking…
On Another Note
For the first time in years I see a few things clearly that I was missing before. I know how I should have structured Better PC Health to grow it at a rapid rate and be able to sell it for a very high price. I think I had thought about this before but could never see clearly how to make it work.
Originally my thought was to make something that made a difference. A real impact. I had this vision of virus writers and bot handlers looking out on their maps of infection and controlled zombie PCs and seeing a huge void in the Tulsa/Oklahoma region. I would imagine them scratching their heads and wondering if people in the Midwest just didn’t have computers.
I now know the vision was and is possible but I should have designed a healthy profit and clear path for growth.
I feel like the plan I have come up with now is decently solid.
[note from 2019: this plan has changed somewhat and will be detailed in a future post]
The plan would be pretty straight forward.
Offer to partner with shops/providers on an Alpha version 2.0
Charge them 1 of 3 ways either: franchise, license, or 1 time lifetime early adopter membership
Use the money to take the existing system to the next level
Sell franchises and continue development
Or offer the whole system up for grabs as a kind of business ready to go
This plan seems so obvious now. I could do the same thing with the InfoFlow and the myriad of other products and services I have created. Each would be slightly different, but the concept is the same.
I did try something like this with the InfoFlow. I met with or spoke with the providers I could find that seemed to be in the space. I went out and talked with the end users I thought could use the thing.
I did demonstrations and installed a few, but never got much further than that.
What I have learned over the last few years is how important it is to not be the one doing everything all the time. I think that is why we can call these things failures.
[Thanks Todd for that lesson]
I’m still that guy to a much larger part than I want to admit. [Now a year later I think things have improved on this front, but I also think I have learned many new lessons about how to work with and manage other people.]
So let’s use some real world examples here and show why always being “the guy” is a huge mistake. It isn’t scalable at all, and when I go down all systems go down, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.
When I first went out to sell Better PC Health something interesting happened when I would make a sale. I would become very busy for about 3-7 days. During those 3-7 days no other sales could be made, my time was occupied by cleaning, securing, and setting up the computers I had just contracted to manage.
This sounds great except for there are few problems.
I have to charge more than I designed for the system to account for lost time
For instance I could lose 3-7 weeks selling and setting up a new client. That is because the turn around on new clients was not a quick decision that someone would just jump right on. Of course there is always exceptions, but in general you can count on about 4 weeks before hearing back from someone. To speed up the process I would be in contact weekly and stop by often if I was in the area.
Support calls are much higher when there are new clients
This should have likely been obvious but it wasn’t something I really had a way to plan for… see the service is designed to reduce problems and possibly eliminate service calls. But I would often spend 70% of my phone and computer support time taking care of issues that were not actually covered.
I started doing this due to ignorance on my part and often it could be easier to just take care of the problem instead of trying to explain that they needed to call a 3rd party support. This of course depends heavily on the client and the situation. However, I got to learn of new issues and things to watch for.
I had not thought this through well enough and eventually it became a burden on the system… if we can call it that … aka you can’t call me and me alone a system.
When I’m Sick on Vacation or Just Want to Breath
Then what??? Even after eliminating most of the actual support calls and making the support software run smoother I still had no “out”. I was still too large to sneak away and too small to hire it out.
There Can Only Be One Ring to Rule Them All
Me… Yes, when you’re the only guy showing up and the one doing the work. Suddenly you are the only one they trust to service their computers. I mean for most people computers are still a great deal of magic and mystery.
For most people they are “private”… I even read an article recently about how our brains operate differently in our hyper connected world and most of our computers and phones have become extensions of our minds. Try telling someone you are going to have someone work on their computer systems they don’t know or see…
I’m still not diving in as deeply as I could, but I think you can start to see the picture.
Let’s talk about the first thing on my list for creating a solution and then go through why it solves nearly every issue I outlined here.
Ok, so we are starting out and call or visit every computer shop in town. This is our up-front work. We make an easy offer. This is my pitch:
“You join my program, and I will give you software and teach you how to use it to clean computers faster than you ever thought possible. You will be able to make them more secure and give your clients peace of mind while charging them monthly or quarterly or even yearly as opposed to when they occasionally bring their computer to you or call you for a service call.
“Further you will be notified preemptively of hardware issues that are detectable, network and virus issues that are detectable, and this can prompt a call or email to your client giving you business. In other words you will see before their hard drive fails that it will happen and be able to call them up and say something like, ‘Mr Client, I can see in my system that your hard drive is about to fail and lose all the data, why don’t you let me take care of that before it is a costly disaster that we both want to avoid’
“Now because you are cleaning computers faster, taking preemptive action and have a new recurring revenue stream you can support more clients and you can afford to advertise to get those new clients!
“If you don’t sign up then Computer Shack down the street will and in 1 or 2 years time they will get all of your clients and you will be closing shop because my product makes your service so much better you can’t do without it.”
Following this road problems 1-4 have just been automagically solved. Our new partners find the clients. They are already taking the support calls and should actually see a drop in calls. It’s not me. Last the clients already have built-in trust for the computer guy they have been working with for years.
The influx of money from the new partnerships can be put 100% to development, and new and long planned features can be built on top of the existing system rather quickly.
Now that I have typed this out I do actually like it better than when it was just rolling around in my head. It is kind of exciting to see how a plan can come together. Think about the possibilities. If current owners were not willing to partner it could be sold as franchise to people in their mid 40’s to about 55. It could be sold as a retirement vehicle like a McDonalds.
[Interesting to see this a year later. I say this has some merit.]
I have had an error on some of my WordPress sites for a long time that looks like this:“Warning: Parameter 2 to wp_hide_post_Public::query_posts_join() expected to be a reference, value given in /srv/users/x/apps/x/public/wp-includes/class-wp-hook.php on line 286″It too me a while to figure it out but the error was caused by WP Hide Post plugin and PHP 7.1+I was able to fix the error but I also decided not to use the plugin any longer so I just removed it from the sites that I had installed it on. If you are interested in fixing this error yourself check it out here: https://www.nafzinger.com/2017/11/03/solved-warning-parameter-2-expected-reference/ PS. This doesn’t count toward September Challenge 😉
I have a lot of posts that I have not finished over the last year. Often I start writing about something typically a question I have and as I’m writing I realize the answer. Now I’m going to try something different. My goal is to make a post each day for the rest of Septemeber. I’ll try to teach you something, but the warning is I could be very wrong.
You might learn better by reading and deciding to do the opposite so take everything with a grain of salt over the next few weeks or so.
Now that the warning is out this counts as my first post! ‘Go me’
I have not decided what to touch on tomorrow, but it will either be based on my notes from last month or one of the many unfinished posts. I have been experimenting on other sites with different formats and layouts and approaches to blogging. For the most part, I can tell you it does matter; I’m not going to worry about it here.