Although I love what I do, one of the more frustrating aspects of running a business is that YOU are always the bottleneck for everything. The reason we don’t produce sites faster is because I, personally, have to review them. The reason sales are at X but not Y is because I personally have not yet hired the right salesperson and because I personally am too busy to proactively follow up with every single lead. The reason we haven’t developed our new products faster is because I personally have to do some user interface designs but have been busy with other things.
It sounds awful even just writing all that! Actually, the obsession with “I personally” is ultimately I think the completely wrong attitude when it comes to growing a company, but that’s the topic of another post I’ve been germinating lately.
Anyway, one unfortunate side effect of being the bottleneck is that it creates a feeling that I’m never finishing everything I want to, which is stressful. In school, we were always taught that finishing 100% of our homework was a good thing. You worked and worked until you finished what you had to do, and then you go have fun.
But what if you’re in a situation where you will literally NEVER finish all your work?
That was by far one of the most frustrating aspects for me of entrepreneurship. I was never “done”; I was never “caught up”. My personal productivity was always less than the amount of things that needed to be done.
So what do you do with a situation like that? Do you just raise the white flag and mentally adjust to “I’ll do the best I can”? Do you enlist the support of others to lighten the workload? Do you try to alter the whole dynamic of it all (stepping “outside” the problem)? Well, yes.
I actually have adjusted my attitude on this to three Key Ideas:
I can only ask of myself that I do my best.
By definition, I can’t possibly do better than “my best.” So it stands to reason that all I can expect from myself is my best, and anything beyond that is simply unreasonable. This was a pretty helpful realization because it relieved me of the stress of trying to get everything done and instead made me realistic about what COULD be done.
Enlist the support of others.
If I want our company to increase revenue by 5x this year, can I work five times as many hours? Can I work fives times as productively. Well, no. And yet there are companies that have grown by more than 5x in a single year. Where does the magic come from? It can only be through leverage: by enlisting the support of my colleagues, by enlisting the financial support of investors, by squeezing more juice out of the oranges our vendors send us, by capitalizing on the relationships we have with our clients, etc. I’m still not nearly as good at this concept as I’d like to be, but I’m starting to realize it’s the ONLY way that great companies are ever built.
Make the mental choice: Is your life a series of stresses or a series of adventures?
And finally, after a long talk with my Dad one day, he summed it all up for me so well: “You can either choose to view life as a series of stresses, or life as a series of adventures.”
It’s so true. I realized after he said that that there will ALWAYS be something to stress about. Those stresses don’t get in the way of life; they are PART OF life! And so, when the next stressful event comes up, we can choose to be stressed (which is natural, and often healthy even), but we can also choose to see it as a fun little adventure. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, here in the USA most of us have our safety, a roof over our heads, and food in our stomachs, not to mention friends and family. At the end of the day, whatever we’re stressing about isn’t really life or death most of the time.
So those are my three big Key Ideas. I don’t practice them perfectly yet, but at least when I go to the office tomorrow and realize yet again I won’t be able to get to everything that I want to, I’ll have some perspective on it!