I'd Rather Eat my Britches than Do This

Published: February 04, 2016 (almost 4 years ago)
Updated: almost 4 years ago

You’re an entrepreneur! Congratulations. You’re wearing every hat in the business. The technician, who executes on getting stuff done or making things work for the client. The marketer, who finds the next paying customer through writing, talking, greeting, calling, canvasing ad infintum. The visionary, who sees the grand picture of where the company can go and boils it down to actionable steps. The bookkeeper who’s paying the tax man and minding every penny spent and earned. And so on! There are two types of entrepreneurs in this world:

  1. Those that figure out how to get somebody else to do the things they hate doing themselves.
  2. Those that do everything themselves and wears every hat every day or at least often enough to get a few bouts of indigestion.

Which one are you? If you’re exploding business-wise and pulling in clients left and right, you’re almost definitely the second person. Otherwise, you’re probably #1 or on the cusp of figuring out how to be #2. If you fall into the first category, you’re undoubtedly saying to yourself on daily (perhaps hourly) basis, when that certain hat goes on your head, “I’d rather eat my britches than do this.”

What you perhaps haven’t figured out yet, is why!?

You see, even if you are superbly capable of doing it all yourself, you’re going to hit some limit where you’re the bottleneck and that limit will assuredly stop the growth of your business and it’s bottom line at some threshold.

Guess what? I’m in the first category. I do it all. I’m super-human. I write massive amounts of code, I do the accounting, I invoice, I pay the bills, I juggle the family, I put the hours in and somehow get it done. But I’m exhausted from all that “work.” I’d rather eat my britches than do all this. It’s a business for crying out loud. By now, it should be earning seven figures, not six!

I realized something fundamental last year: I’ve gotten stuck. I’m at a threshold or ceiling I am never going to bust through on my own. No matter how many hours I put in. It’s just too much work to do all by my lonesome old self. With this realization comes the eureka moment: “I need to quit doing all the work.”

Huh? Indeed! It doesn’t matter that I’m incredibly good at what I do. I gotta stop doing it to seriously grow the business. That means finding ways for others to do my work for me. That’s when Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek got my attention.

At first, I couldn’t figure out how to delegate what I do. After all, I solve incredibly complex business problems to automate businesses. To say it more concretely and in pure techno mumbo jumbo, I build Ruby on Rails apps that can interface with any external system and move data from point A to point B and “it just works.” Then I realized, it was all the other crap in the day-to-day business that needed automating for myself.

That’s where Tim’s book really came in to help me recast my vision and think about the problems of the business different. Every time I groaned at an upcoming task, I realized this is something I need to offload to somebody else. I now use cloud-based services to track feature requests, bug reports, track my time on projects, generate invoices and record when they’re paid.

I don’t open my mail any more. I send it all to a mail processing facility that opens and scans it for me. Not only did I just save myself long boring weekends of opening, scanning and dealing with that mound of paperwork, when a piece of paper does get misplaced in our house, it’s quicker to find. Double bonus!

If I’m struggling to write something down on a blank piece of paper, I hit one of the popular virtual assistant websites and request a writer produce the article for me for $5 - $10. Then I edit the hell out of what I get back. Much more productive than starting from scratch!

After a year of figuring out what bits and pieces I can delegate out, I find that I’m also looking at my business model entirely differently today than I did a year ago. Instead of chasing the hardest projects on the planet, I now look for easier projects – projects I can sub-contract out or put 10% to 20% effort, yet deliver same value and impact as if I gave it 100%. And guess what, I still charged for 100% effort, because I still delivered that high value to my client at the same service level they’re used to from me.

So where am I today? I probably have delegated or automated enough to take around 40% of my former effort off my plate. But I’m not yet squarely in the second camp. Right now, I’m learning to judge a potential worker’s ability to produce. I’m learning to cut engagements with the virtual workers short as soon as I know it’s not going to work out rather than continue coaching a lost cause. I’m learning to judge when the virtual assistant I delegated a task to didn’t fully understand my instructions and how to get that necessary feedback sooner rather than later.

Another thing that’s different today is perspective. Before, I was constantly asking myself where I’m going to get a few more hours just to accomplish a few more tasks before the week’s out. Today, I don’t ask that question much, except in sprinting to some hard deadline. Today, I’m constantly asking myself: how can I build a passive income stream? What type of business do I want to launch that is going to be hands off when it’s off the ground? One that generates majority of my income, yet only requires 10% of the effort I am expending today? The first 40% off my shoulder were low hanging fruit. The next 40% is more challenging because I have to change my business model or establish an entirely new business that will overtake the existing income generation. The good news is that I’m doing it because I’m learning how to put others to work for me.

Do you want to be in the second camp? Start asking the question every week: “How can I work just four hours a week?” It doesn’t matter if you ever actually get to just four hours. Some folks, like me, need work to keep their brain occupied and boredom at bay. What matters is that you’re in full command of your time and that you’re working when you want to work. When you’re in full command, you won’t be thinking about prepping your britches for consumption. You’ll be thinking about problems that are exciting to solve. You won’t be bogged down in details when you go to solve them either because you’ll naturally plot a course for others to solve it for you.

That’s a paradigm shift that will catapult you squarely into Lifestyle Engineering and the exceedingly successful entrepreneurs of the 2nd camp.

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