QUIT: The Entrepreneurial Rat Race

[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end. I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]


You may or may not have noticed, but this whole summer, I was not technically blogging. I was recycling old favorite posts I thought were worth a go-around. (Which also did a lot in terms of helping me remember why I’m doing this in the first place, but more on that in a moment.)

Behind the scenes, I was also strategically not doing a lot of things.

Not drafting.

Not masterminding.

Not coaching.

Not brainstorming.

Not launching.

For the entirety of June through August.

This is because, by the beginning of this summer, I had officially burnt out to the crispiest little burnt-out bit possible without my actually ceasing to exist, the way those cartoon black holes do, in a wispy little poof! that is way cuter than ceasing to exist must actually be.

Stick a fork in me mentally, physically, emotional, spiritually, existentially—I was done.

It reminded me eerily of what it was like to be in my 9-to-5 depression, the one that launched this entire journey to freedom with one fell thought of nearly driving myself into a guardrail.

I had no energy for anything, even the things I used to love (like books. I had a stack of books-to-read that dated back to Christmas 2012). I had no desire to get out of bed in the morning. (The snooze alarm and I had a positively torrid affair.) I was self-medicating with carefully measured doses of caffeine and bourbon that gave the illusion of my being totally in control of my states of mind but was actually a scarlet-red flag of the opposite.

I had no blog ideas. I had no desire to have blog ideas.

I was crispity, crunchity, peanut-buttery burnt out. (Only without the peanut butter, because that would have made it mildly pleasant.) And, after a summer of severely cutting all ties but the ones that brought me direct income (bills still gots’ta be paid), I slowly came to realize something:

All those things I’d been not doing over the past few months? They basically boiled down to not being an entrepreneur. And I was much, much happier without them.

It seemed completely counter to everything I’d ever thought about myself, but I gradually realized (then came to accept) the fact that I have no desire to be an entrepreneur.


The Means vs. The End

No, I’m not packing it all in and returning to the traditional workaday world. I would do lots of lurid, borderline illegal things before it came to that. (No specific ideas in mind, but feel free to use your imagination.)

But I’ve come to realize something very important about the kind of lifestyle I want to live, and the kind of career focus that calls for:

Entrepreneurship, so say all the articles on the subject, is about launching things. It’s about constant, never-ending hustle. It’s about being a serial innovator. It’s a “primordial urge” to do, be, create, seize, risk, make and take things to the next level, forever and ever, amen.

And I don’t have that urge.

Or rather, I have that urge, but it’s not an end in itself. It’s something I channel to get to bigger ends. And now that I’ve clawed my way out of the entrepreneurship rabbit hole I fell down, I’m ready to get back to those bigger ends.

The purpose of this whole crazy build-my-own-business quest has never been to “become an entrepreneur.” It’s been to create a model that was best suited to allow me to maintain a life I love and encourage others to do the same.

And I’ve kind of already done that.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s still plennnn-ty of room for improvement. I’d love it if I could kick back with a 4-hour workweek that gets the bills paid and makes Tim Ferriss proud.

But the whole “being able to wake up in the morning and do things I enjoy on my own terms” thing? The whole “getting paid to write” and “not working for The Man” thing? I’m there. I’m doing it. It took an entrepreneurial drive to make it a reality, but now that it’s here, I don’t need to keep constantly looking for the next big thing to put on my launch list.

Entrepreneurship is the vehicle that allows me to live life on my own terms. But it’s not the purpose of my days. It’s not what inspires me to get up in the morning.

And now that I’ve “made it” when it comes to the self-employment goal, it’s time to get back to focusing on the things that do inspire me to get up in the morning.


ROI Is Measured in More Than Money


There are things I care about so much it hurts.

Things that inspired me to write all those best-of posts I republished over the summer—posts that captured a passion and a message I haven’t felt or conveyed in way too freakin’ long, if I’m being totally honest with myself.

Things that make random strangers from all over the globe send me the most amazing messages, telling me how they totally feel those things too and they’re so glad I said something.

Things that make a difference, other than boosting my monthly income category in Mint.com up a notch or two.

Those things include:

  • Kicking life’s unnecessary shit to the curb.
  • Having the balls to go after awesome things.
  • Believing you deserve and are capable of awesome things.
  • Creating a life on your terms, whatever that means to you.

The serial hustler in me, the one who’s been conditioned by the entrepreneurial blogosphere to launch–launch–launch full-tilt till eternity, would have me take on a million lackluster projects now that I’m back from hiatus—everything from starting a full-time blog coaching business because it “scales” well (I hate talking to people on the phone; much happier doing written reviews) to designing a paid webinar series because it’s easy “passive money” (I also hate public speaking/recording myself).

I technically can do these things, and I probably wouldn’t be horrible at them. They’d make me money. Money is good. They’d “build my brand.” Brand building is good.

But they wouldn’t serve any purpose that the girl who started this blog four years ago would respect. They’d serve the endless entrepreneurial “next thing” mentality, which tempts me to jump from a bigger, better bridge because everyone else is doing it and somehow self-employment (i.e. freedom from a rat race) equals a constant desperate attempt to make more money and grow a bigger empire (i.e. another kind of rat race).

ROI is measured in more than money. Money’s great, and I’d like lots of it, please and thank you, but right now it’s time to get back to the stuff that lights me up and makes me feel like I’m fulfilling a tiny bit of the purpose I was put on this earth to fulfill.

It’s time to start maximizing the meaning in my hours rather than the billable rate they command.

It’s time to look at the end of a long, hard-worked week and see more than a paycheck and a carefully measured report of how I’ve boosted key metrics for my clients.

It’s time to get back to the heart of things.

Buckle your pants and your seatbelts, kiddies, ’cause things are ‘bout to get real up in hee-yah.


Image: Flickr

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  • I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of this, Cordelia! I’ve tended to struggle with all the blogging / marketing / entrepreneurial advice out there. I have a crap schedule, no editorial calendar, no downloadable ebook (okay, half of one) and no real idea of what I can offer as a product or service.

    It’s taken me a while to realise that these aren’t bad things – that Doing My Own Thing takes time, and that it’s better to let all the other crap go until I work out what My Own Thing/s Is/Are.

    • Amen! Keep that in mind and you’ll do well, my friend.

  • GO GET IT.

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    You know I’m with you all the way.
    (Does this mean you won’t be buying me that mansion next year? Shoot.)

    • Anne Belov

      Or flying me out for a cupcake fest? oh well. This is probably better.

      • I cannot afford the flying out bit, but I will buy you all the cuppycakes your heart desires if you’re ever in the area. 🙂

  • Anne Belov

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes…you hit the nail on the proverbial head!

    • Thanks, Anne. Happy to hear other people can relate.

  • This is so helpful. I’m recently self-employed and just learning the ropes. I was questioning if I was the sort of entrepreneur who would be constantly releasing things, etc. and I wasn’t sure I had it in me. I’m still open to possibilities, but this post gave me permission to be OK with what I’m already doing (i.e. paying the bills!)

    • Entrepreneurship, and self-employment, is what you make of it. This is your career journey (and life journey), so structure it whatever way make YOU the happiest and most fulfilled, and don’t pay any mind to what everyone else is doing. 🙂

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