Through some recent coaching, deep thinking, and business strategy conversations, I have come to realize that I have been living a lie. At least, I’ve been running my business as if I were someone else.
The short version of my history is that for the first half of my adult life, starting when I entered the workforce, everything just… worked for me. I met the right people. I was in the right industry. Things just always seemed to fall into place. In life, in love, and in earning a living, I was 10 feet tall and golden.
Improvising everything (before I knew what Improv was); making it up as I went; “playing” at things to make them fun just seemed to work.
I had a series of jobs, doing what we were all trained to do: Join Corporate America. Follow their plans. Love stability.
Working at high levels in Citibank, Danka Office Imaging. and Verizon taught me how to play that game… with structures that large businesses need to run.
After a crazy “birthing period,” I swore that I’d never go back to a cubicle again. No more Corporate America for me. I had become psychologically unemployable. (My wife wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear that I was going to have no fall-back plan.)
I subscribe to the theory was that if you have a fall-back plan, you’ll fall back. If you have no other choice than to make it work, you will make it work.
I decided that I was going to turn my business into a Business. I’d get contractors and, one day, employees.
Since I had no business training and big corporate doesn’t teach you anything about running a small business, I started reading and attending seminars, and learning everything I could about business.
I’m a voracious reader and I would read three books a week, pulling everything I could out of each book in order to figure out how to run a a successful business. Here’s a few great ones I still recommend.
Now, after all that preamble and history, let me tell you how I’ve been living a lie.
I am an improvisor; onstage for years, but just generally in life, too. I am at my best when I don’t know what’s going to happen. Planning for me is a chore and plans don’t work out the way they’re planned anyway. I am a masterful impromptu speaker, teacher, and all-around “get-it-done whatever it takes” guy.
Living the first half of my life that way worked great. But for the last… 10 years, I’ve become someone else.
I have been trying to run my businesses the way the books say. I’ve been trying to Get Things Done like David Allen. I’ve been Trying to be a Highly Effective Person like Brian Tracy.
Basically, I’ve been trying to be the sort of person that they are and I can’t do it. Because I am not them! I’m nothing like them. Yes, we’re all people in business. But, if you look at our personality types, we couldn’t be more different.
There are all these “rules” that I’m carrying around about what is the “right way” to do things and I wonder why sometimes I struggle or don’t want to go get something done. Perhaps it’s because I shouldn’t be doing it! Or at least not doing it in a way that seemed to work for someone else.
Improv ALL the time?
My friend Laura, who is a vocal coach, once told me… actually she sang to me, <lovely lilting singing voice> “I am a vocal coach. I teach people to sing, but I don’t always sing when I talk to them or do my accounting.” <breath> “Just because you are an improvisor doesn’t mean you need to improvise ALL the time.” </ lovely lilting singing voice>
I thought that was a great point and took it to heart. It really IS good advice and a fun way to share it with me.
In fact, I had already been telling people to be two-headed about themselves and their business. I’d say “Certainly, you should plan, but always know that plans fall apart, things change. Be prepared to wing it when needed.” But combined with her example, I became even more dichotomous. PLAN, SCHEDULE, PREPARE! …and be prepared to wing it.
Somehow for me, Wing It became secondary.
Wing it and Win!
The recent revelation is this: While those people’s tactics, strategies, and mindsets work for them AND may even work for the vast majority of people, it’s not for me. Perhaps I’m weird. I can find dozens of people to attest to that. But, maybe you’re weird, too.
Perhaps you’re an improvisor (even without stage experience). Perhaps you’re a mulitpotentialite ala Puttytribe. Or maybe you’re just a free-spirited artist type that hates structure.
Guess what? You’re not broken or wrong!
Their way is not the only way. It may be a way for many, but it’s not the right route for you.
It seems so simple to say, “Follow your own path.” or “Dance to the beat of your own drum.” But, it’s always a weird revelation to find out that you have not been doing that.
I have, and maybe you have, been trying so hard to do it right, that I’ve been playing the game their way and not being true to myself, my personality, and my strengths.
I can look back at Laura’s example and advice and see it a different way now. Perhaps Laura is a vocal coach/teacher that doesn’t sing all the time. But, she is a teacher all the time, even in that moment. I appreciate the advice and the love and contribution behind it, but perhaps we were looking at the wrong piece of it.
I’m embracing my Wing It attitude. I’m getting back to being a full-time improvisor.
Can you do that?
Perhaps that sounds crazy to you. Then, it’s not for you!
Dance to the rhythm of your own drummer. Find teachers that resonate with you; that come from the “same place” you do and got to where they wanted to be. Follow that path a bit, too.
But, when feels hard to see yourself doing your work their way, perhaps you should do it your way.
Or try my way. I’ll be here to help… in the moment, with whatever it takes to make it happen.