Although business has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, some antiquated ideas persist. Like the dichotomy between generosity, service, authenticity and integrity somehow being at odds with earning money in business. Or how work is not meant to be enjoyable or easy – that you either do something for the love, or the money, but never both.
Business has changed for the better. With the help of a laptop and access to the internet, anyone with skills and a bright idea can hang out their shingle in cyberspace and earn money. So how do we reconcile these dichotomies in business? How do you work for the love and the money? How can you make joy a KPI, even as you pursue a healthy bank balance and a robust profit and loss statement?
Start with your values
Your values are your building blocks in business (and life). When you bring your values front-and-centre, you can examine these old-school dichotomies with clear-eyed objectivity. Earning money is not unethical and wanting to earn more is not greedy. It’s all in the how.
If you have strong opinions, use these not only to guide your decisions but also to explain to people why they matter. Don’t use your values to corral people into following you. Nobody likes to be harangued or feel judged.
Instead, use your values as a rallying cry to help people identify themselves and feel good about their choices, including the choice of doing business with you.
Until you have safety, you don’t have choice
In trauma therapy literature, we need to establish safety before we access our ability to make effective choices. In Nikki Myer’s Y12SR training for rehabilitation sustainability for people in the 12-step program, Nikki says “until we have a solid no, we cannot have a healthy yes”.
In yoga, this is our foundation, our base chakra which is essential if our higher chakras, of love, self-expression and joy, are to open. If you want more joy in your business and more freedom in your choices, you need healthy boundaries and a sense of stability.
Money gives you stability and the freedom to chose. When your profitability is low and your cash flow ebbs and flows with the tide, it’s far harder to feel confident and secure. And our compassion and aptitude for joy will always be limited when we don’t feel safe.
Edit your life ruthlessly
Some years ago, entrepreneurs were wetting themselves about the concept of ‘lifestyle design’, which suggests digital nomads, designing their business around their wanderlust, picking up client work en route from Madrid to Rio de Janiero.
While the hype around lifestyle design is problematic, the concept is useful when making joy a KPI. When you overlook the propaganda that “lifestyle design” suggests, consider the following, “edit your life ruthlessly and frequently. It is your masterpiece after all” (source unknown).
When self-employed, we already have the major advantage of not needing to give over the middle portion of our days, and the middle portion of our years, to work on somebody else’s dream.
We are able to mix the colours, pencil in the finer details, erase pieces that don’t fit, or start again with a new sheet of paper to iterate what we’ve already done with a fresh perspective. Every day is a new opportunity to start over and reinvent ourselves and what we have to offer.
It sometimes takes years of self-employment to appreciate that we are very much in charge. We can make your client endure your karaoke singing, should we wish. We can brand our own champagne to gift at Christmastime. We can say no to work, or ask clients not to return. We can work remotely, take January off each year, or self-publish our own book or YouTube TV show.
Creation is only half the game. Editing is where the rock becomes a diamond. Edit your service offerings, your terms and conditions, your suppliers and stakeholders, your clients and business friends, little by little every day.
Rigidness will strangle joy
The biggest rigidness is our identity, or ego. When we identify too closely with something, we make it real. “I’m not good at numbers. I don’t like money” easily translates into the business owner running from cash flow crisis, to debt crisis.
It’s easy for each and every one of us to become addicted to the way we think and rigid in how we process reality. But when these worn out beliefs are no longer helping, it’s time to excavate our programming and start travelling lightly. And this includes over-identifying with joy.
Over and over again, I’ve seen business owners who believe that things need to ‘flow’ easily for it to be the ‘right’ decision. Owners who have given far more power to enjoyment, believing that business needs to be a long series of interesting talks and courses, long lunches and conferences in exotic locales for it be real and true.
But running away from the difficult conversations, neglecting the minutiae of terms, conditions, insurances, contracts, and failing to build a strong foundation means your joy is fleeting, rather than enduring. Make joy endure but ensuring that you have built a solid foundation with boundaries, a cash buffer, and a healthy cash flow. Lighten your mental load by not grasping so tightly to your attitude and beliefs. Relish the dichotomies in business, while appreciating that much is outside of your control, and feel how freeing that is.