On Friday I had a very enjoyable chat with markinjapan as the prize winner of my “improve my blog” contest. During the conversation I came to a realization about something that happened while I was still working, but was on the way to becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
I called it flipping the switch.
Before I explain the concept, I need to set the scene a bit. I had a fairly high pressure job as a systems analyst at in a big government IT shop.
Some of the services I supported would have been considered “important” but not “essential.” What this meant, to someone in my job, was that work hours were slightly flexible.
If something was broken or projects were behind schedule, it wasn’t uncommon to put in a couple extra hours and fix it or to get caught up. This time was paid, of course, and I enjoyed the extra dough or time off.
Then I started reading about concepts like passive income and to fool around working on mini-projects on the web. I gradually got more and more serious about it as my web projects began to make a bit of money. I put more and more of my “outside work” time and energy into my online ventures.
As my income in my online business began to become a significant number I remember there was a point of realization that began to present itself:
Is this a hobby or is this a business?
It felt a bit like a point of no return and I remember having a clear understanding that this question needed to be answered carefully, that the answer would have a powerful effect on my future.
I don’t remember actually deciding, but the truth, that it was a BUSINESS, kind of bubbled up out of me…like a longing that had been waiting to express itself.
Clarity Changes Everything
Once it became clear in my mind that I was in fact wanting to create a real business, and not a just playing in a hobby, it had immediate ramifications on my job. The best way to express it would be to say that a dog can only have one master.
A switch, in my life, had taken place and the yardstick for many decisions in my life had changed from being my job, to my new fangled, fledgling online business.
Slowly this shift in allegiance began to manifest at in my job…
Coffee breaks weren’t for shooting the shit with co-workers; they were for getting a couple business emails sent.
Lunch time very seldom got compromised for a project meeting or improving studying senior analysts development practices, they were for pushing forward some aspect of my business as I chomped down a lunch brought from home [to save me the 10 minutes of running to the pizza place across the street].
At 4:31pm, unless someone was facing mortal harm at the hands of an application that I was responsible for, I was out the door…project schedules and perceived threats of lost bonuses were no longer my motivating factors.
I remember seeing a t-shirt for people like me: “My Real Job Starts at 5pm.”
The Big Switch
There really is a switch in your heart. I can remember it flipping. It wasn’t so much that I flipped it, I just got out of the way and allowed it to flip on its own.
All the Rich Dad books and years of asking for something more had primed its action.
When the switch is flipped you thrive or starve with the results of your own wits, nothing else.
It’s like Survivor but without a host, camera crew and 17 other millionaire wannabes to keep you from feeling vulnerable.
Another Funny Thing about the Switch
It’s not only a one way switch [kinda like once you've lost your virginity, you can never go back] but it is also set up in a unique fashion.
If you have the switch, the only power you have is to keep it closed. The switch is spring loaded; it wants to be flipped. It will whisper to you what it wants and ask you to get out of its way.
That’s what happened to me. The switch started to talk.
“Let’s get to work and make this business a success,” it said, “and if that costs
us this job, so be it.”
I don’t know how it will all turn out. I’m far from “making it” and currently my cash flow situation is negative, but I know that honoring the switch has been extremely valuable personally.
At the very least it allowed me to face a fear and walk through it and realize that the perceptions of a job as a mighty force to be catered to are largely made up…there are many alternatives.
A Side Note about the Switch at Work
You don’t have to quit your job when you flip the switch.
The switch is available to employees too. It means that you don’t buy into the subtle pressures that exist in your workplace. The more I “let go” of chasing the carrot on a stick [raises, bonuses & boss pleasing come to mind] the more I was respected at my job. In a year that I would have measured my performance as “below average” [my job was so boring] I earned a high bonus and high praise from my bosses.
There is nothing more valuable to a boss, at least in a healthy company, as someone who doesn’t operate from fear, because they are trustworthy and won’t engage in the games that other people play in an effort to save face and still chase the carrot.
In the next installment I’ll write about why most, me included, don’t want to find their entrepreneurial switch.
Professional Switch Flipper…living in a negative cash flow, so you don’t have to.