Idea extraction wise, I’ve worked (and am currently working) on these things:
- Shut up and listen. Don’t finish sentences or confirm your understanding.
- Get more comfortable waiting even longer when silences are dropped
- Prepare implication questions (SPIN!)
- Look for no (and don’t give yourself an excuse to quit)
- And my last and most important one: craft a shorter, sharper and more honest introduction to create instant understanding of my proposition, filter out ‘goodwill’ conversations, and end up with people that want to talk about improving their business.
But… the last couple of weeks, on a personal level, things have been much more intense. Rationally I’d say these are simply excuses to keep myself from IE action and making calls. But my gut is telling me these are important long-term learnings.
Evaluate the 5 people you spend most time with
This is huge. I know how the people you spend most time with influence you. It’s literally who you are. For over a year I’ve spent time to gather people around me who were like-minded in business. I’m a big believer of the lean startup movement, and think it’s amazing how The Foundation is taking lean principles one step further by starting out finding a problem without an idea.
So to find interesting people I connected with old colleagues, I attended a lean startup weekend, and I ran a meetup myself. I focused on finding people expressing their hopes and dreams of freedom, entrepreneurship and creating value. And the funny thing is, there are so many of them. But in a year time, I learned how hopes and dreams are not the same as acting on them. Few people really understand lean. And there’s a big difference between movement and action, and you can use it to fool yourself with.
This is actually one of the scariest things to say out loud: be selective about your friends and co-workers, and create people around you that support you and are of great influence in your life. The first time stating this I felt like a freak, but I got more comfortable about it. Up to the point where I now seriously understand how unhealthy it is to act otherwise and couldn’t go back. It’s what you deserve to yourself: people around you that do not fool you or themselves, who will hold you accountable, and will point you out on your own bullshit.
Demanding a quality environment will filter out talkers. It raises the bar for the people you are already spending time with, and sets a standard for new ones to meet. For a few weeks, consciously I’ve been evaluating the people around me, and it’s been super painful and emotional to make a decision when I realise how some people act very toxic. Slowly I’ve been reserving the space around me for high quality people only.
Saying no to pointless meetings
As a freelancer and in any business actually, you get meeting requests for coffee (some people refer to it as networking). I used to always accept these. Some are great, but many are precious time wasters as well. Especially when they claim the little time you have to actually work on your business. Saying no to colleagues and companies has been a tough one. At first I felt a little arrogant, but I’ve learned it’s the best thing for both. It’s not about saying no. It’s about getting both to express your goals. If your goals are not aligned right now, it’s perfect to talk about it, and decide meeting doesn’t help.
Declining valuable freelance project requests
I’ve been working freelance for almost a year while putting money aside to eventually take a break from freelancing and being able to dedicate my time on creating a business. Now is the time to do so. With my plans on joining The Foundation I wanted at least 6 months of no freelance work, which I should manage right now.
When my last big freelance project got to an end, I kept declining big projects, but almost naturally accepted a few small projects. I thought they would be great to do on the side to make some extra money, but the day I accepted them I felt totally overwhelmed and realised how I was sabotaging my focus. Didn’t I save enough money then? Maybe I got cold feet. Eventually I told my clients about my plans learning entrepreneurship and how I would probably get myself in trouble creating quality time for their project. Giving back the assignment felt dishonorable at first, but afterwards it felt honest to myself and perfectly aligned with my goals.
Create a dedicated place and time for business
(And saving me from killing my back working on dining room chairs). Next to working as a freelance designer I used to dedicate 2 days a week to create my own business: every thursday and friday, working from home. This was fine for a while. But last week I’ve scaled up to 4 days a week. With my girlfriend also going freelance, working from home is not an option anymore.
There are a lot of co-working and flexible workspaces available, but since I need to make phone calls all day without disturbing people around me, I figured I need something private. So last week I managed to get myself a solo office. What do you know, luck was on my side, making a phone friday afternoon, signing a contract the next monday morning. It might be a temporary office (and an absolutely amazing one), but I’ll find a new one when I need to. More importantly, the actions required to arrange this shifted my mindset.
It cost me almost a week to get it up and running, and it wasn’t the moving and buying of office stuff itself that cost me most time. I think it was the transformation in my mind from seeing business as a side project, to seeing business as my priority.
Investing in proper sleep equipment
This sounds like a small one but is one of the most important ones. After being sleep deprived for nearly 3 weeks in a row I had one lucky night of sleep and felt like superman. Incredible. I told myself to always remember how good I felt that day and wanted to make sure I had full control over feeling that way every single day in the future. I found out how my old sleeping couch/bed was killing my back. Buying a good bed was a big investment, and now one week in, I’m sure it’s one of the best investments I’ve made.
I can’t describe what it feels like to type this all up, the first day of a new period. I know this is just a small high, and there’s another challenge around the corner. And I’m up for it.