Business as Usual, as Usual

The other day, I got an email from a reader asking, “How do you get motivated to do the things you don’t want to do, but have to in order to be successful?” It’s actually a question I hear semi-frequently, so I think it’s safe to assume a lot of people wonder about that.

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know how I feel about hard work; I think it’s the most important ingredient in successful risk-taking. The reason most calculated risks fail is a lack of commitment.

Yes, over time, persistence beats talent, but only if you’re motivated to be persistent. There are a lot of things about writing and maintaining a business that I simply don’t enjoy and cannot get motivated to do—accounting, schmoozing, trying to be a salesman, things like that. If I try for too long, I burn out and give up.

So, instead, I just don’t do those things anymore. At all. You’d think everything would fall apart but, surprisingly, it doesn’t.

We’ve been doing business the same way for so long that it’s common to think there’s only one valid path to follow, but the truth is quite different. What if, instead of trying to force yourself to do things you hate in order to “make it,” you poured all your energy into the things you actually enjoy. Can you truly say you’ve made it if you build your life around doing things you don’t enjoy?

Business as Usual

“Business as usual” is an interesting phrase. We all use it on a regular basis, but depending on who you’re talking to, the connotation is completely different. There’s a huge swath of the business world that still believes the only way to start a company and make money on your own is to get a loan or venture capital, hire a business development team (whatever that is) and work around the clock until you can either retire or get acquired.

Offices, printers, graphs and charts, accountants, and tax strategies are just part of the game. That’s “business as usual,” and to them, it’s a beautiful thing. To me, it’s horrifying. Business as usual makes me cringe; I can’t fathom spending my days reading reports, talking to accountants, and doing other business as usual stuff.

I’d have never made my first $100 on my own, let alone my first $1,000, or even anything at all if I’d continued to think that’s what’s required to make it. Instead, I just did whatever I felt like.

The Alternative “Do What You Feel Like” Method

Think about what your little business would look like if you just did whatever the hell you wanted to.  At first, the idea is pretty scary, right? Everything would fall apart, you’d be penniless, toothless, and you’d eventually die alone under a bridge, yeah?

Okay, maybe not that bad, but I bet that’s where you were headed. I headed there too, but when I actually tested that assumption, I was wrong. In fact, the opposite was true.

The more I focus on doing what I want and ignoring the boring business as usual stuff, the better seems to do.

I think this is because what I end up doing I actually do very well. When I put my energy into what I care about, the business does better and people seem to care more and be more interested. Plus, I’m really productive when I work like that. I actually look forward to working, so there’s no hesitation or resigned acceptance of having to “just power through it.”

If I spend much time worrying about business as usual, I end up spending a ridiculous amount of time just convincing myself to get started working. When I finally do, the results are usually lackluster.

Why try to motivate yourself to do something you don’t want to if there’s an endless supply of work to be done that you actually enjoy? The only reason I can see is an assumption that things would fall apart if you didn’t. If that’s gone, what’s left?

The Unintended Consequences

I don’t want to be too flippant and sound like the world is all roses when you make this shift. It’s been an incredibly positive change for me, but there are some unintended consequences. Their real effects, though, are a matter of perspective.

I could have had a smaller tax bill this year if I’d done a better job accounting for the business side of AR. In fact, if I’d focused entirely on that, it could have been zero because I wouldn’t have made any money.

I could have more business contacts by now if I’d spent more time reaching out to other bloggers and business folks. But, I’m pretty happy with the contacts I have now since most of them came to me and I didn’t have to do a lot of work to make them. I think this is because I focused on what I enjoy and do best, and people were drawn to that.


Sometimes I still have a hard time with this; I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m writing this article from a hostel in Austin, Texas (and now I’m in San Francisco) because I thought it was important to go to big conferences and try to meet big, important people. Luckily, I realized the folly of that about halfway through my trip, sold my conference pass to some guy on Craigslist, and started meeting up with interesting people, regardless of who they were, outside the conference. That’s much more Tyler like and, as a result, I met a lot of great people like Scott Young and Matt Frazier and had a much better time.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea to implement strategies that could help your business grow, but I do think it’s probably a bad idea to do so at the expense of your own happiness.

Business should be fun, and I’m cautious around anyone that thinks it’s only about the sacrifice. If you want sacrifice, get a job you hate; the paychecks are more stable. If you want to enjoy your work, focus on doing what you actually care about. The result might actually surprise you.


Image by: Okinawa Soba