I began this blog, ADayOn.com, 10 years ago to encourage myself to quit my job and embark on a new way of making a living… and a life. I was trying to teach myself how not be afraid to step off the conveyor belt of job after job after job and into, what then seemed, a fantastical life where I made the rules of my workplace as I saw fit.
There were and are plenty of “start your own business” blogs and books but none seemed to address the fundamental belief… or disbelief that I knew I had to overcome. It was like that moment when your parent lets go of your bicycle seat and you ride off on your own. Except I wasn’t sure who was holding the bicycle seat of employment. Was it “Society.” Was it my own preconceived ideas of what it means to “earn a living?” Or, was it just the way work is? (That’s why it’s called work.) Plus, I didn’t know what would happen if the seat were ever turned loose. Can I actually move forward on my own? What if everything falls apart? I felt as if I were tinkering with the fabric that held the universe together simply by turning my back on pre-packaged world of employment and heading into the vast unknown of self-employment.
Does any book or blog about starting your own business deal with that actual moment of metaphysical separation from what seems safe and familiar into the exposed and exciting? Mine would.
I’ve written before that the blog I began writing is about taking a leap of faith by filling up the chasm with a thousand days of “doing what you love.” Taking a day on! You take enough “days on” and pretty soon, maybe without realizing it, you will find yourself on the other side. That was my hope.
I started my own business – web design. I began getting jobs. And I kept at my blog, adding a post when there was time or when an idea or roadblock occurred, or when I just wanted to think things through.
Looking back now over the ten years since I began doing my own kind of work I’m more than a little surprised. Looking back from the other side, it seems that the transition happened all at once, and not gradually over the past ten years. Today, while taking a break from my web work and taking some time to write and think, I allowed myself to stop and turn around to examine the path I’d travelled up to this point. For the first time ever I saw my journey with a new clarity. For literally the first time ever it occurred to me that I’m no longer the guy yearning for a new work-life. I’m doing it. I have been doing it. Hmmm… I must be in the place I wanted to be.
It’s as though I landed in my destination but somehow it’s taken me ten years to realize it. How strange a realization!
Turns out that two of the things I’ve been doing mostly for the past ten years is working and worrying. Taking a momentary break from those I realized I am a real business and have been one for a decade. Who knew! The fact is that a decade has passed, I’ve survived. I was so busy doing the work and worrying needlessly that I didn’t even realize I had arrived and I’ve been inhabiting this strange planet of my own imperfect, though very conscious design for over a decade.
Is it really possible that I had never glanced into the mirror and realized that I had actually changed forms from a slave of various jobs, to a man who had become his own boss? Instead, what I have seen as I’ve passed mirrors for the past ten years is an impostor at worst, someone in training at best. Never someone who has succeeded. I never re-assessed my natural state and accepted that I’d leveled up. Never recognized and celebrated that the graduation and transformation that was complete 10 years ago.
And, I’m not talking about the sought-after “beginners mind” here. I’m not talking about remaining humble. I’m literally telling you that I never recognized that I had arrived at this destination. Graduations and initiations are designed to help both the individual and society recognize individual transformation. But I had no graduation ceremony. No going-away party. No welcoming parade. I wonder how many other entrepreneurs have experienced this lack of understanding of validation. Why, I wondered.
It’s as though this arrival had been dismissed by my inner critic who stowed away as my uninvited travel companion. Imagine going to the destination of your dreams accompanied by someone who hates travel! But this is what I had inadvertently done.
As much as I’ve followed my own desire to try something new, to grow and to develop as a person and as a craftsman, I brought along my internal critic for the ride. He refuses to believe that I’ve achieved new and worthwhile skills. He doubts if there’ll be enough money to pay the bills tomorrow, next week, next year. He talks me out of going after new business. He negotiates with me to lower my rates down when I see every reason to raise them.
As much as I’ve told myself (probably the only regular reader of my blog) that when I take A Day On and spend it doing what I want to do transformation happens immediately, my inner critic didn’t buy it. And, now, ten years on I almost can’t believe that I somehow missed this crucial fact!
It’s as though today the voice that contradicts me slept in and I stepped into this wonderful landscape without him for the first time.
At no time over the past ten years have I ever stopped and offered thanks for the safe passage because he had convinced me that I hadn’t yet arrived.
He convinced me that eventually the money will run out. He cautioned me that I will have to go back to the safety and drudgery of some uninspiring workplace. But today, for some reason, I woke up without my companion’s negative admonishments. Today I realized that the bicycle isn’t wobbling and that I probably won’t crash to the pavement. The hand that I thought I needed to stabilize me, it turns out, let go ten years ago.
Ten years ago, in my florescent-lighted cubicle, I would have counted a single day of doing what I loved as a victory. I would play hooky from work to experience one day of what is now my everyday work life. How is it, then, that the past ten years could ever have been mistaken for a struggle? How could I have allowed myself to mislabel some months as “bad” or “hard” or “trying” or “lean?” It’s been ten years! The bills weren’t put on credit, they were paid! The experiment was and continues to be a success! One third of my work life has been what I wanted all along. How could I so nearly have missed it?
So, let me just stop for a second to look around and notice that it is dangerous to confuse imperfection with failure. Perfection doesn’t exist but life is better. Life is real. Life is what we have and it should be enjoyed.
Not taking notice of our life and enjoying it is to deny it and to deny life is to be dead. Let me remind myself to look around and make note of every miraculous detail.
Look around. Ask yourself would you miss about this moment? A moment that some voice might have whispered was mundane. Some voice might have told you to be come aggravated at the dull drone of a neighbor clearing wood with a groaning chainsaw. But listen to it with your own ears. Some voice might have been whispering to you so that you didn’t hear the birds chattering. Some voice might have been whispering about the bills you have to pay, sharing his worries with you you might miss the sound of someone coming home at the end of their work day? A whispering voice might have made you miss the cold breeze of the ceiling fan?
It might be possible to move on before you have acknowledged where you are. I can’t help but wonder if this was what was preventing me from enjoying my work before I embarked on this journey to find work I loved. That voice can be distracting and had he not slept in this morning I wonder how many more years in this place might have been wasted.