I decided. I refuse to build other people’s houses while they just give me a tent to live in, in their back yard. I can still help them, but I want to be building my own house at the same time.
In my previous blog I wrote about lessons I learned in the past years. This week, I realized I didn’t really put some of those lessons into practice – I still get really stressed over matters I cannot control, thinking I could control them when in reality they are out of my scope. But I also learned a new lesson, which is that you first need to take care of yourself before you can devote your energy to outsourcing your talents to others.
My week started with my body reacting to a sudden dose of stress with an ancient mechanism of producing cortisol. It basically ruins my day or even week with irritating physical and psychological symptoms, even though the problem requires an essentially different approach than the good old ‘fight or flight’ response.
This has just been another one in a long series of such annoying stressors and responses in the past 2 years. It finally woke me up to the realization that I’m investing 50% of my active life stressing over things that aren’t directly benefiting me, or aren’t even my problems, and it is about time to start figuring out a way to move forward.
How I imagine it, this is the first step of a 3-step program of ‘building your own castle’. Because, if I’m going to stress over issues, I want those issues to actually be mine.
The push towards self-fulfillment
I suppose there are two kinds of people – one has an internal motivation to be better, do greater, the other has external motivators. For the latter, bonuses and e.g. morning huddle meetings with the bosses help feel motivated (I guess also intimidated) to do their best. To me, these things actually have the opposite effect.
Since I first and foremost want to show myself that I can be and do the best, a bonus conveys to me a message that I am basically not good enough under normal circumstances, and only if I achieve some KPIs will I be appreciated. Morning huddles with bosses also make me feel like I am demoted to a primary-school level where I have to report my homework and give reasons to why I couldn’t achieve a – totally arbitrary – priority among all the other 30 things I have to do.
As a predominantly introverted person (as per Jung’s classification of personality types), my aim in life is to live up to my own standards. It is difficult, because I am also my biggest critic, therefore I already know that I will never be good enough. But that is not necessarily a bad thing! It means I will always push myself further. Still, what is the point if all I do is use my talents, energy and time to build someone else’s empire, and in return get only enough to survive + some life lessons?
If you have a talent, it only makes sense to use it for your own benefit first, before outsourcing it to others.
Imagine if Gaudi had built all his marvelous buildings but lived in rented apartment of one of his clients. Wouldn’t that just be ridiculous? Or can you imagine Picasso living in a house with bare white walls all around? I don’t think so. So, since I am giving 120% anyway, I decided to do it for me and my own projects, my own business, my own house.
This way, even if I fail, I would have something to show for it — I could say: “no regrets, at least I tried”.
Realizing you cannot do it alone
It is still really overwhelming to start thinking about building a house when you only “have a tent in someone else’s garden”. Thinking about it, it became clear, we were never meant to do it alone – which is why marriage was invented: to partner up, supplying each other with capital in both labor force and finances/real-estate. The difference today is that with capitalism and a broader spectrum of business opportunities (we are no longer just producing food, clothes and babies) marriage can take form in business alliances as well, in a sense.
As a person with the aspiration of starting my own business I look for the following in a partner, and aim to provide the same in exchange:
- Financial security – to have a place to live/work and what to eat, even if the business is not going well
- Emotional support – at hard times, when things aren’t going well
- Encouragement – when things seem too scary
- A common goal – that we both work towards
- Complement – each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Two heads are better than one.
I’ll continue with Gaudi as an example:
I always wondered how one man had the time to design, draw and oversee the production of all his buildings, with such attention to details and so many innovative solutions. I found out recently that he didn’t do it alone. He had a friend who was his right hand as well throughout his career. His name was Francesc Berenguer i Mestres, and since he dropped out of architectural studies early, he couldn’t do any work as an architect himself, but he stood by Gaudi and did the technical drawings instead of him. This enabled the master to devote his time and attention to the designs and execution.
Dare to do it, and do it now!
Once you realize you’ve had enough, don’t contemplate too much. Do what needs to be done! Start planning, start putting down the foundations, look for a partner, get going! Because one day, the client’s house will be built, and they will let you go, and maybe even keep the tent. And you don’t want to be thinking about building a house at that point. You want to have at least the lot with your own tent on it. So you could feel safe in the knowing that you are already past the first step, and on your way to having your own castle, or hut, whatever you prefer.