Creating my own success

I read an article this morning that explained why I’ve been feeling so down. I’ve been ungrateful for my career because despite having my dream job, I still feel bored, and it’s driving me crazy! Or at least, it was, before I read the article.

Steve Errey did a guest post on Men With Pens. He explained that people aren’t successful because they use the wrong measures for success, so when they get what they want, they still feel like a failure. To quote him:

Far too many people fail to create their own definition of success. Instead, they chase an idea they’ve patched together from what they’ve read, observed, or think they should be aiming for. They go after the wrong kind of success and wonder why it feels hollow when they get there.

As an example, Steve listed some common misguided reasons why people start their own businesses:

  1. To blow other people away with what you’ve built
  2. To earn yourself some great money
  3. To impress your peers
  4. To bring about a better lifestyle
  5. To be your own boss
  6. To work on your own terms
  7. To feel successful; to feel like you’ve “made it”
  8. To finish it, because you already decided to build it
  9. To take vacation time when you want
  10. To be respected by your peers, mentors, family and friends

I admit I agree with almost everything on that list. It’s why I quit my job to write! And even Steve admits they’re pretty good reasons. They’re just not working reasons, which is why you’re still unfulfilled once you get them.

I love to write, and I love that I’m paid to do it. So I looked at the list and realised that all I need is a shift in perspective. Steve says you can only be successful in your work if you do it for love. If you work because you love it, then every moment of work is a success, and you won’t think about how much you make. Well, you won’t think of it much.

So back to that list:

  • 1. To blow other people away with what you’ve built

I don’t say it often, but I have a bit of a chip o my shoulder. I took a  break from college to have my baby, and I didn’t get round to going back. I’d still like to finish my degree some time, if only to hear the silly song, wear the silly hat, turn the silly ribbon, and throw it in the air like they do in the movies. A lot of people put me down for not having a degree, and my former employer threatened me with it whenever I asked for a raise or better contract. So a key reason I started freelancing was to prove a point, to show them I could do it. Well guess what, I did it. Still not happy. But … if I focus on just writing instead of the weight on my shoulders, I still come out smiling.

  • 2. To earn yourself some great money

Duh! But I’ve noticed money isn’t everything. I’ve earned half a mill this year and none of it is in the bank, so I need more motivation. Dollars and cents aren’t cutting it. I actually have more fun working for free. When I’m doing a client project, I need a Twitter break every three minutes. But when I’m writing on my blog, here, here, or here, I’m in the zone for hours before I know what time it is. A post takes me an hour or two, sometimes three, but I never notice how long I’m at it. Again, it’s all in the love of writing.

  • 3. To impress your peers

Refer to 1. Also, some people get really jazzed when you tell them you work from home. It makes them jealous, and makes you sound really, really cool. Of course, unless you love the work, you spend all day answering emails while convincing yourself that you’re ‘housekeeping’. Love your work and you’ll do it anywhere – in the office, in your bedroom, or on the roof of a really tall building … while it’s raining.

  • 4. To bring about a better lifestyle

You can do this with any job if you just earn enough. A good job means good money, which means buying stuff, which means a better lifestyle, right? Except your lifestyle isn’t fun if you’re unhappy all the time. You have to really love what you do, or the money won’t help. You could also say it gives you time for gym, or for being with your kids, but it’s back to love. If you hate fitness or TV, then there’s no point in having more time to indulge in them. A good lifestyle means finding joy in all you do, and yes, there’s a lot of joy in typing words that make people laugh, even when describing something as boring as linen sheets.

  • 5. To be your own boss

First, there’s no such thing as being your own boss, period. Your client is your boss, double period. Also, surprisingly, having no one to stand over you sometimes means no work. With a salaried job, you’re always afraid you’ll get fired, so you work even when you don’t want to. You would that in freelancing, the threat of sleeping hungry would drive self-employers to work more. But you’d be surprised how long you can last with TV, closed curtains and a locked door. For me, it’s fun knowing I don’t have to dress up for work. I wake up, send baby girl to school, hit the gym, have a shower, get back into pyjamas, cross my legs, then sit at my computer and write until she gets home. Or until I get hungry, whichever comes first. That’s way more fun than sneaking in late when my boss isn’t looking.

  • 6. To work on your own terms

This is a pretty good reason, and I love it. But still, refer to Number 6. Sometimes when no one is pushing you, nothing gets done. You have to love your work, and like Mr 3CB says, if it was easy to do, it wouldn’t be called work. Still, it’s a lot of fun knowing I don’t have to minimise my tweets, work around VLC, or whisper when my favourite song comes on.

  • 7.  To feel successful; to feel like you’ve “made it”

Totally overrated. Once you make it, what do you do next? Find something new to ‘make’? Unless you love what you do enough to keep doing it, you’ll just jump from one project to the next, and you can only jump so long before your knees give out. By getting this job, I’ve more than made it. But for me to stay in this job, I have to remember that I love it, because I’m not very good at double dutch.

  • 8. To finish it, because you already decided to build it

Luckily for me, I don’t have this problem with work. I sometimes have it with other things, because I stick with lame decisions just so I won’t have to admit I changed my mind…

  • 9. To take vacation time when you want

Er … actually … no, you can’t.

  • 10. To be respected by your peers, mentors, family and friends

Refer to … well … refer to all the odd numbers on this list. I suspect there’s a reason why they’re odd. It’s kharma.

So basically, I started out the day feeling bored, discovered the reason why I’m bored, learnt a way to fix it, and realised I had the right tools all along. I just had to move to the left, tilt my head slightly, and see things a little different. Thanks Steve, you rock.