“Good morning,” the little prince said to him. […]
“Three and two make five. Five and seven make twelve. Twelve and three make fifteen. Good morning. Fifteen and seven make twenty-two. […] Phew! Then that makes five-hundred-and-one million, six-hundred-twenty-two-thousand, seven-hundred-thirty-one.”
“Five hundred million what?” asked the little prince.
“Eh? Are you still there? Five-hundred-and-one million–I can’t stop . . . I have so much to do! I am concerned with matters of consequence. I don’t amuse myself with balderdash. Two and five make seven . . .” […]
“Millions of what?” […] “Ah! You mean the stars?”
“Yes, that’s it. The stars.” […]
“And what do you do with these stars?” […]
“Nothing. I own them.” […] “I administer them,” replied the businessman. “I count them and recount them. It is difficult. But I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequence.” […]
On matters of consequence, the little prince had ideas which were very different from those of the grown-ups.
“I myself own a flower,” he continued his conversation with the businessman, “which I water every day. I own three volcanoes, which I clean out every week (for I also clean out the one that is extinct; one never knows). It is of some use to my volcanoes, and it is of some use to my flower, that I own them. But you are of no use to the stars . . .”
I find this extract about the accountant from the Little Prince to be a great illustration of how things can sometimes get mixed up in life… how we can easily forget or drift away from our true / original goals and become trapped or simply become too comfortable with adopted/superficial goals. In other words – goals which often don’t truly get us to where we want to be.
Many of us have a natural tendency to ensure that all the ‘nitty-gritty’ details are taken care of as thoroughly as possible, however some of us become so involved with the smallest of things, because we think that only ‘I’ can do this or that in the best, or quickest way! This kind of extreme approach/possessiveness, not only causes great stress to ourselves, having to keep up with ‘everything’, but also causes much tension and stress for others involved.
Having the inner need to ensure that things are done well is a good quality. It means that you strive for a certain standard, that you are not content with a ‘whatever’ result. That’s good!
However, when we become too involved in every detail of our business we create so many bases to cover that the system can often not function without us. We need to be there to ensure that doors are being opened, bases are covered, deals are being closed, and that the right people are let in/let out etc. We become like a busy ‘guardian’ running around in the courtyard doing the errands while at the same time feeling important and having a sense that things are progressing.
If you are happy in this position and the scale/breadth of the business it generates, then that’s great! I am genuinely happy for you.
However… if you have long term plans which require growth beyond ‘you’, then being such a guardian is a trap. Being too involved in our day-to-day business, does not create the time or enough of a distance between us and the business, which is vital to think objectively about it’s growth and the best direction forwards. Also, it is hard to grow a system largely dependent on one individual – ‘you’. Thus, if we want to grow our business, this trap should be avoided/overcome in order to move forwards successfully.
It is not an easy step as we often become ‘comfortable’ when things are starting to work and little effort is needed to maintain that basic comfort. If we start feeling the thorns of this comfort, i.e. being not satisfied with ‘where we are’, having that anxiety that we (us/the business) are not where we should be, then it is a good sign that we should not stop here, that we should move forwards.
Everyone’s situation is different and the changes needed are different for us all, but from my observations so far whilst working with clients and from my own personal experience, the steps for such a change are quite simple:
- Firstly, we need to accept that we cannot do everything and that we cannot achieve things alone. It is important to let go of the need to control it all and start trusting other people more. As uncomfortable as it may sound, everyone is replaceable. In the grand scheme of things we are very small and there is no need to make ourselves overly important. There is someone out there who could do the task with just as much, or even more love and care, and everyone will be happy. One just needs to look for him/her. I have to admit that at my early days, I was one of such “control freaks” until I learned to let go and trust other people. This feeling is very liberating and I wish it for you too as soon as possible…
- Re-examine the overall system from the big-picture point of view.
- Figure out which responsibilities should be delegated and taken off our back.
- Draft a job description based on this.
- Find a good person to do these tasks.
- Train that person.
It is as simple as that, but it takes time as it is a process in itself. So patience please :). Of course, we might be thinking that it is expensive to find another person, that it is a head-ache to train that person, etc. True, but don’t worry about it! (Put those ‘worries’ in a box for something else!) There are always creative ways to go around these things. We might even enjoy this process once we start doing it as ultimately we never know until we actually try. If we want to move forwards we need to overcome these kind of aspects that are associated with growth. The end objective is to gain the time we need to plant the other seeds so we grow in whichever direction we’d like to go. If we don’t overcome these steps, we’ll be trapped at the level that still shows us it’s thorns and thus we won’t be happy.
Also, don’t be like that accountant from the extract of the Little Prince above. Creating a business that also creates opportunities for other people to fulfill themselves, rather than controls/owns the people is such a rewarding thing. The scale or quantity is not that important here. If we can bring these opportunities through our activities to at least few people, that’s already a positive impact in the world, don’t you think? Through that, not only our business grows, the people we need also grow and we grow personally as well.
When we put the right elements into the system and ensure that we are doing what we like or intuitively feel we should be doing, then we suddenly get so much new energy. The overall system starts functioning better and this naturally yields more profit down the line. It is quite magical, you’ll see.
I’ve also noticed that adjusting a position within our activity is not a fixed solution (at least for me). As we grow, expand our horizons, discover new passions, our interests and priorities change. That’s natural, thus, it is important to embrace this change and readjust our “professional model” based on our new interests so we live a more satisfying life. Don’t get attached too much to what you are doing now and don’t set the boundaries. We never know what tomorrow will bring. If the system gives us the wings, we’ll be able to fly with it where ever tomorrow takes us.
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Grace Bonney, the founder of the Design*Sponge blog which I love, has shared the lessons she has learned since launching her blog. I can connect with quite a few things she reflects on. Perhaps you’ll like it too…
All the best,
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