How 1 year and 4 months of freedom made me more self-aware and confident: a journey in 5 venn diagrams.
Since I became an independent professional, deciding on where to invest my time wisely between ideas, opportunities and enjoyable activities has been a challenge. Today, I’m taking a step back to realise that I’ve been doing quite great, actually. I leveraged this new freedom to explore and experiment several possibilities. This journey helped me figure out what I want and learn to follow my gut feeling. Let’s draw venn diagrams to reflect on life choices, and plan towards higher goals!
First, let’s see what activities I’ve been doing, and what motivations drove my choices. I’m laying out these activities between three objectives: Personal development and pleasure, Immediate profit, and (longer-term) Investment.
On this diagram, I can see three activities that satisfy all my objectives: teaching, coaching and co-developing a MOOC.
Freelance software development, and Gigster missions (i.e. also freelance, but inherently remote and very light on prospection) are other examples of immediately profitable activities, but they are less sufficient to bring me longer-term satisfaction on their own.
The most crowded sector of my venn diagram is between the pleasure and investment objectives: meetups & networking, blogging, maintaining my two newsletters (one about productivity, and one about my side-projects), developing side-projects, and participating to Mangrove (a community of passionate tech people working on several projects).
The only outlier is obviously tied to the Pleasure objective: playing music.
Okay, so how to split time between all these activities?
As you can guess, all these activities are important for me in their own way. But this does not mean that I should invest the exact same amount of time and energy to all of them!
First months as a Freelancer
One year ago, when I started working as a freelancer, I spent a lot of time in networking and communication activities: going regularly to meetups related to my expertise and blogging. So I was investing between my Immediate Profit and Investment objectives. My goal was to get myself known, in order to find clients to work for.
In return for this investment, I accepted several opportunities that allowed me to make a profit as a Freelancer: software development, and a little bit of coaching. At that point, I was investing right in my Immediate Profit objective. The work was interesting, but I was not really investing in myself.
Listening to my gut feeling
After several months of freelancing, I started a new kind of activity that I had been wanting to do for a long time: teaching.
This activity was far less profitable than working as a Freelance software developer, or coach. But I kept investing more and more time in it, for some reason. I really wanted to become a great teacher. I wanted to prove myself that I was able to teach programming to young students, even though 66% of them were not interested in programming, and rather eager to check their Facebook notifications during class.
Despite the low income, low experience, and difficulty of reaching my goals, I kept going. Because it was challenging. Because it was fascinating. So I followed my gut feeling and spent entire weekends looking for methods to improve my teaching, and writing my own software tools to evaluate the understanding of my students during my first year as a teacher. And I loved it!
For the first time, I was not only investing time towards just Immediate Profit. I was investing also for Pleasure and for the longer term. And even though I was not yet sure if it was a wise investment, I was convinced that many enjoyable and profitable opportunities would show up, thanks to that activity. Spoiler: I was right.
Luck? Nope. Passion & serendipity.
Teaching made me more curious about topics that were not needed for plain software development and coaching activities. I met new people. And people I was barely in touch with called me back to propose interesting missions.
I even increased my tolerance to “bullshit” (or I should say “serendipity”) while listening to Mangrove’s lengthy launch conference (ahah! yes, I told them about that). I let go while hearing the buzzwords “future of work”, “digital nomad”, and the like, despite a clear lack of structure of that very young collective. And I’m grateful that I did, because the young professionals I met there revealed to be very smart, creative, and sharing many of my values about work and life in general.
This group has had a good influence on me: they made me want to invest more time developing my own ideas, collaborating with others, and exchanging tips learnt on the way. So I started going less to meetups and networking events, and spent more time building my own stuff (side projects, newsletters…), and talking with these guys on Slack instead.
I started having fun again!
At the end of the winter, I also joined David Wise in a new project: produce a MOOC (i.e. a blended e-learning course) on how to create a startup company. Ok, doing this has been a lot of work, and was not always fun. But for the first time I was investing (or betting) a lot of energy on a serious project without being sure of its profitability. I was betting on the possibility that it may lead to a near-passive revenue stream (a.k.a passive income), even though I had no proof that it would be profitable in the long run. More importantly, I enjoyed taking that risk!
Not to mention several teaching and coaching opportunities that are being brought to me, these days. It’s awesome!
The virtuous circle
The more I was following my gut feeling, the more I was excited about taking more risky decisions (i.e. invest time on activities without serious proof of eventual profitability), and the more interesting opportunities were showing up right under my nose!
And, even though I’ve been spreading my focus on many activities at once, I feel like I’ve never been as productive as these days, and I even found the time and energy to play music again after my 1.5-year hiatus! For example, I had the pleasure to meet and jam with one of my favorite guitarists in Paris, and I’m even gently transitioning from rock to jazz music!
By allowing myself to do things I love, I gained skills, recognition, and more importantly, confidence.
I start to believe that these self-expression activities are not only hobbies but a sound investment for my career. And this belief makes me think seriously of building my own product(s). Yes, I have found the confidence and energy it takes to become an entrepreneur!
That being said, who knows what’s next?
I’ll just keep doing things I feel like doing, follow my gut, and see where it leads me! Stay tuned.