Say yes. Be free.

Not long ago, I wrote a post on saying no that got quite a bit of traction. It was about taking back your freedom and feeling secure enough to set comfortable boundaries.

Once you get good at saying no and setting boundaries, it’s easy to take it too far. It’s easy to turn your nose up at regular work and say, “Poo. No thank you. How pedestrian.” You can go from the most generous business owner to the stingiest in a heartbeat… if you let yourself.

I’ve been writing quite a bit on boundaries lately, since it’s a big problem for service providers all over the map (not just designers and developers).

No is uncomfortable, until it isn’t. Then yes is uncomfortable. Then everything makes you squirmy and you decide that maybe it’s time to throw in the towel to let someone else make the decisions for a while.

Quitting isn’t the answer. (Until sometimes, it is.)

The Art of the “Yes And”

A lifetime ago, I was a stage actor, where I spent a good chunk of my formative years. My favourite part of theatre was theatresports or, as it’s more commonly known, improv. Improv is a practice where you learn to say yes. It’s not just about saying yes – it’s about learning to add your spin to the yes.

When I first dove into improv, I was barely a teenager – fourteen, maybe. I was awkward and strange and didn’t want to make an ass out of myself. My acting teacher taught me something that I’ll never forget:

“Improv will make you look silly and weird and strange. The best improv actors are the most confident people in the room.”

It’s not something you develop overnight. It’s an openness that is sharpened and learned. And it’s up to you to determine if you’d rather be cool or be successful on the stage.

Sure, being cool has its fringe benefits – you look great on paper and your visage is coifed to perfection – but I’ve determined that sticking to the coolness is the best way to stagnate.

There is an art to the “yes and” that requires you – the creative, the artisan, the business owner, and entrepreneur – to be open enough to possibility, no matter how uncomfortable it seems.

During contract negotiations, I often find myself saying, “Absolutely we can do that, and it’ll cost you X monies in order to execute your vision.” Or, “I love where you’re going! And we can improve that even more by doing XYZ action.”

The power of the “yes and” ripples from your client relationships to your team as well. When you’re brainstorming, every idea is awesome and no one should feel like they aren’t smart enough or talented enough to contribute.

“Yes! That is an awesome idea and I think that we could incorporate it in XYZ category. Write that shiz down and put it in the brainstorming file!”

The Insidious Nature of No

There’s a paradigm or two that states that you should say no three or four or twelve (I can’t remember which) times for every yes you say.

For one year, I followed that. During the course of 2013, I said no to more and more while saying yes to less and less. I thought that the no was opening me up for the bigger yes.

In some ways, it did. In many more, it didn’t.

All it did was show potential clients how inflexible I could be, which contributed to a serious and incredibly troubling lull in my business.

Boundaries are incredibly powerful measures to cultivate, especially for we lovers and givers; if left unchecked, “yes and” can make martyrs of us. But there’s an equal insidiousness to “no” that we don’t tend to question.

We have to tread that fine line that encourages us to be firm and steady, while still being flexible; to be the bamboo or willow tree, instead of the firmly rooted oak.

Say yes to generosity and opportunity.

Tweet: Say yes to strange and wildly improbable possibilities. - @AmandaJFarough http://ctt.ec/NJBmb+Say yes to strange and wildly improbable possibilities (Tweet that.)

Say yes. Be free.

Photo by JD Hancock

Overcoming business fatigue

After three and a half years of running an online business, it seems like there’s an awful lot of explosive growth and very little Real Talk surrounding the repercussions of growing too big, too fast. Unlike those insane American investment banks on Wall Street, there’s no such thing as Too Big to Fail on the interwebs.

It’s about creating a buzz and riding that buzz long enough to create more buzz. Rinse and repeat.

Pretty soon your brain is buzzing all damn day and you’re getting more screen time than sleep time.

Here’s the thing: that kind of methodology is extremely tiring. Burnout is an inevitability of business, but fatigue is the Real Killer. Fatigue sets in behind your eyes and gives you migraines in the middle of the day when you should be doing client intake or heading to your event. Fatigue is what is burning in your soul when you’re filled with more resentment than gratitude. Fatigue is dangerous as all hell.

So why are we ignoring it and pretending to be okay when we’re not?

It’s okay to not be okay, you guys. I promise. Just sit with it for a moment and say:

Holy sweet mother of muffins, I am EXHAUSTED.

(Didn’t that feel better?)

Now that you’ve admitted to yourself that you’re exhausted, what’re you going to do about it? It’s not like you can run off to a retreat (at the moment) to recharge your batteries.

Here’s what I suggest.

  1. Admit it sucks. Revel in the suck for a few minutes. (A few hours.) Now dust yourself off. If you ignore that it’s sucking, you’re merely slogging. And slogging, dear heart, is not the way to Great Things. In fact, it’s the easiest way to burnout and business implosion. (No, really.) By admitting to yourself (and maybe even your beloved(s)), you’re taking the first step to unsucking.
  2. Create a plan. If you suck at planning (and that’s okay, darling), then hire Michelle — she will thoroughly unfuck the systems in your business and help you shine in the way you were meant to. As cliched as it may sound, Winston Churchill was onto something. If you don’t plan, you’re effectively hobbling yourself before getting off the starting line. 
  3. Create a reasonable schedule to Get Shit Done. A note for you overzealous folks (including me, of course): reasonable is not putting everything in the “OMGDONOW” category, nor is setting your sights on getting Big Projects done in less than a month’s time. (Aside: the last part can be true if you are exceptionally well-rested; have a great plan in place; and you’re so driven that it makes your best friend’s head spin. But seriously, if you do this every fucking month, you will fall on your face. I guarantee it.)
  4. Have a small panic attack at the insanity of your schedule. Reformat. Get input from your advisers. (Don’t have any? Be your own business adviser instead.) Now put it on an actual, for reals, meat-space calendar with many coloured markers. (I recommend Sharpies. Or Copic, if you’re an artist.)
  5. Now… throw out the plan. (Just for little while.)
  6. Do the easiest thing on the list. Forget about whether or not it needs to be done right now. Find the easiest thing to check off your List of Insanity, get it done in ten minutes, check it off your list, and dance a JIG. If you cannot dance a jig, the following dance moves are acceptable: the dougie, the twist, crumping, break-dancing, and moshing. (Please don’t break your furniture if you’re moshing. Up and down, not side to side. We’re not rocking out to Metallica FFS.)
  7. Rinse and repeat until you’re feeling exhausted again. (Dance breaks are mandatory.) Then, go do something that rocks your world in a non-business way. That means: no business books; no business podcasts or articles; no networking events that don’t involve you networking with your long-forgotten friends. For me, it’s playing video games with my family. (The family that games together stays together.)

Battling business fatigue isn’t easy. Hell, it’s an insidious piece of being a business owner that you’ll never really escape.

But checking in, planning, executing said plan (with dance breaks and plenty of ignoring the actual schedule), and then enjoying yourself from time-to-time means that it will suck a fuck of a lot less in the long term.