4 things I learned about business in 4 weeks on crutches
posted by Lauren Rauseo on: 08/15/11 in category: just good business | tags:
If you keep up with my blog, you know that I had ankle surgery about a month ago (I was given the okay to walk without crutches just last week; see the pure joy I experienced at that moment in photo). And just because I’ve been hanging out on the couch while various people wait on me hand and foot for the last four weeks, doesn’t mean I was doing nothing. Oh no, I’ve been learning lots about my business. Here goes.
1. Patience is a virtue
You know how when you’re thirsty, and you want nothing more than a tall glass of cold water? Now imagine this scenario, with the aforementioned tall glass and pitcher of ice-cold water only steps away, only if you manage to hobble over there and pour the water while standing on one foot without spilling it, there is still no way you’d be able to transport the drink back to where you were sitting. It’s extremely frustrating (and potentially unsafe on those really hot days we had a couple weeks ago). But living under these circumstances for 29 days, unable even to carry my 3-month-old from the couch where we’re sitting to her baby swing, has really given me a lesson in patience. When you are eating dinner and suddenly there is sauce dripping down your face, and you are waiting for your husband to get you a napkin (while he is also in charge of both kids), it would be impossible not to.
How does this relate to business? There are a bunch of situations where this comes into play in my life as a freelancer: waiting for new business opportunities to arise, waiting for prospects to call me back, waiting for clients to give me feedback on a draft, waiting for checks in the mail. Even though I am a really efficient worker and tend to make an empty inbox my number one indication of a productive day, I have to remember that not everyone works that way. And the projects I’m working on with people aren’t their only priorities.
2. Most things can wait
Semi-related to number one (patience), I have learned in this month of misery that most things can, in fact, wait. The phone would be ringing, my son, wailing for apple juice, the baby, screaming for a new diaper, and the dog, whimpering because she hadn’t been let out since 7 a.m. But in my former condition, I typically didn’t get to the phone until it stopped ringing, my son was still thirsty by the time I made my way to the kitchen 10 minutes after his initial request, the baby’s diaper didn’t explode by the time I shuffled to the changing table and back to the baby with a diaper and a couple wipes shoved into my pockets, and the dog (thankfully, because I wouldn’t have been able to handle it) was able to hold it for 15 more minutes when everyone else was quiet. While my first lesson was all about me being able to wait, this one is all about others.
How does this relate to business?Like I said, an empty inbox, one where all the messages have been answered, completed, attended to, etc., is a happy inbox, and formerly, the only type of inbox that is acceptable to me. But I’ve learned that I need to tame my inner-crazy a little, and not answer every email the moment it arrives (though it’s difficult to reel in this impulse with the triple ding effect coming from my laptop, iPhone and iPad each time a new message arrives). This really hit home for me a few days ago when a client mistook my excellent customer service for eagerness to get the project over with. Most things can, and even should, wait.
3. It’s okay to need help
As previously stated, when you’re on crutches, you can barely put on your own underwear, so you really need a lot of help with most activities (though I’m proud to say I was able to master getting in and out of the shower by the third try). I basically gave up my role as general house manager to my mother and others who were willing to diaper my children, asking them to assist (Assist? Who am I kidding?) with laundry, cooking, dishes, straightening up, and anything that requires using your hands, since mine were constantly gripping my walking support.
How does this relate to business?I am a freelancer, a solopreneur, a one-woman shop. I do my own account management, my own client relations, my own creative work, my own website coding, my own billing, my own blog writing, my own marketing… You get the point. But sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for me to do it all. If I have a project, for instance, that requires complex illustration. Anything beyond a simple icon or a stick figure, and I’m not your girl. When these projects cross my desk, I know to call on the help of my fellow freelancers (you know who you are!) to do the heavy Adobe Illustrator work. Likewise, if I am building a website that requires functionality beyond HTML and CSS (like a content management system implementation), I know that I’m better off getting assistance from a developer more experienced in programming. And that’s okay! I am only one person and can only be awesomely talented in so many areas! I should play to my strengths and seek out help where I need it.
4. Bad days are there to make good days better
Someone I once knew told me that you need a lot of happiness in your life with just enough sadness to know the difference. Prior to my run with crutches (‘my run,’ get it?!), I was an extremely physically active person (hence the eventual torn ligament in my ankle). I regularly ran 10-mile races and half marathons, and completed my first (let’s be honest, my only) marathon in 2008. I was pushing my newborn baby in the stroller for a walk the day I came home from the hospital. I’ve never known what it was like to be forced to sit and do nothing. (In case you’re wondering what it’s like, it’s nice for about 24 hours, and then it sucks.) Now that I’ve regained my independence and ability to walk up steps (albeit it’s an adapted movement, with my enormous boot), I appreciate this gift so much more.
How does this relate to business? As a business owner, I go through plenty of periods where my phone is ringing, my email is dinging (damn full inbox!) and checks are coming. Those are the best! Then I have other times where I stare at my computer screen and wonder where my next project will come from. Those are the worst. Or so I used to think. Now I realize that the quiet is necessary so that I am able to appreciate the storm that will follow.