I recently reread Elle Luna's wildly popular piece, The Crossroads of Should and Must, where she talks about choosing a path in life according to what you feel compelled to do, not what society deems appropriate. Elle argues that we come to this crossroads constantly, and every time we do, it's our choice which path to take. Contentment and happiness are not one in the same, and it's often the battle between Should and Must that makes all the difference between which category we find ourselves in.
Sometimes the Shoulds and Musts are small - work another late night because it impresses the boss, or use that spare hour or so to find peace and mindfulness through a sorely missed pastime? Other times, the Shoulds and Musts are life-changing - continue down the path of the good-enough job with all the perks and benefits but none of the passion, or walk away and steer your boat through the choppy waters that lead to the fulfillment of a greater calling? I found myself at this very crossroads just over two years ago, and though the journey hasn't always been smooth-sailing, it's been one hell of a ride.
I constantly meet people who express unhappiness with their job and their desire to strike out on their own, but who also have a litany of excuses that leave them paralyzed. Want to work for yourself and get paid to do what you love? I can promise you this: there will ALWAYS be a reason not to. Do it anyway. Here are some of the common excuses I hear that come between you and your greater calling and why you shouldn't let a single one of them stand in your way:
1. I don't have the time. I get it. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and sometimes that can feel like it's just not enough to do all the things we have to do. But the key isn't to find more time, but rather to learn how to spend the time you do have differently. If you allow yourself one week to complete a one-hour task, I guarantee it will take one week. But give yourself an hour? You'd be shocked at how quickly you can get things done. Yes, some days will be hectic in a way you never imagined they could be, but eventually you will learn how to use your time wisely and probably even be surprised by how much you can get done in those very same 24 hours that never used to be enough.
2. I don't have the money. Being a solopreneur is about two things: doing more with less and adaptability. One of my favorite ways to accomplish the first of these two things is good, old-fashioned bartering. Don't have enough money to pay a designer for a logo? Trade your services as a writer, social media specialist, teacher, maker, whatever in exchange for what you need. Don't have enough cash to launch your business the way you imagined? Change your business plan. A wonderful perk of working for yourself is you don't have to run anything by anyone - there is no more red tape. This is nimble at its finest.
3. I want job security. This is one of my personal favorites. Although there are some exceptions, for the most part, gone are the days when you graduated college, got a good job at a good company, worked your way up the ladder for the next few decades, and then retired with a gold watch and a pension. Today, it's more common to jump from job to job and even shift careers multiple times in the pursuit of the path that works for you. But similarly, companies are more than ever exercising their right to let loyal employees go when someone 'better' comes along or when business isn't so good anymore. Job security in the traditional sense is not the safety net it once was, and in this shifting landscape, it makes more sense to have multiple streams of income rather than one. As a solopreneur, your destiny is in yours hands and your hands only and the good news is if one source of revenue dries up - such as a client who no longer needs your services - there are often several others that are still going strong and can keep you afloat until the next one trickles in.
4. It's a big risk and I could fail. You know what? You're absolutely right. The possibility of failure is what makes a risk, well, risky. The good news is that with time you can recover from nearly any stumble or setback... and likely come back stronger, wiser, and more determined than ever to succeed. But the one risk you can't recover from? The risk of always wondering 'what if?' when 'why not?' is no longer an option.
5. I'm not as good as so-and-so. The temptation of comparison exists in any endeavor worth trying and the hard truth of it is that there will always be someone better than you. On the other hand, there will always be someone worse who is wishing they were you! The point is, keep your eyes on your own lawn - someone else's grass may be greener, but maybe yours is healthier, or taller, or fluffier. You'll never beat someone by trying to do what they do. Do your own thing, put your own spin on your business that makes it distinctly you. Comparison is the thief of joy and the whole point of pursuing your dream is to make that joy yours.
6. People will judge me if it's not perfect. The work of a perfectionist is never done, and while perfectionism has its benefits, it's a double-edged sword that can also leave you unable to move on - or, worse yet, even get started. Let it go. If you're afraid of being judged, let that go too. You will be judged regardless and your version of perfect isn't necessarily someone else's, so stop trying to cater to the masses. I've found that most of the time, the people with the loudest criticisms are the ones who wish they had the guts to do what you're doing. So stop tweaking your website for the one billionth time and hit publish. There will never be a better time than now to pull the trigger on your dreams.
7. It's too hard and I'm afraid. In the words of the all-wise and sometimes-sober Jimmy Dugan, 'The hard is what makes it great.' Going out on your own, putting yourself out there, chasing your dreams, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable can be terrifying... or it can be exhilarating. Embrace the fear and let it excite you to action. A journey only seems long when you look at where you are now and where you want to be at the end. Try envisioning where you want to be in the next month, week, or day instead, then take the small steps required to get you there. The road will never be without its bumps. The fear will never be silenced completely. But what awaits on the other side of the hard work and obstacles and disquietude is a life with purpose, a higher calling... a life of Must.