Why Don’t You Do Some Damn Work?
Entrepreneurs look like we don’t work at all. But I’m working five times as hard as you, every single day. The difference between you and me? I love my job.
I’m currently keynoting a business conference in the Philippines, on a small island called Cebu. It’s a beautiful location, with gorgeous sunrises, warm temperatures, and balmy breezes. My Instagram is filled with tons of photos of beautiful scenes, and I’m tweeting out value-bombs from the other speakers here around the clock. But to those catching my posts from their jobs, it would seem like I’m doing absolutely nothing of value.
“Tough life,” the haters say. “Why don’t you do some work,” others post. I understand their need to hate, I really do. For non-entrepreneurs, it’s hard to understand how this could possibly look like work. But it is work. It’s ridiculously hard work. But it’s awesome work, and it’s fun, and it’s scary as hell, and it’s more addictive than any drug. I recommend it to everyone, but few people will do it, and that’s what separates entrepreneurs from haters.
Chances are, those above don’t realize that between the time I boarded my flight here from NYC five days ago and now, I’ve launched a new website and podcast about the benefits of ADD/ADHD, started the process of moving my private entrepreneur-only community to a new platform, and wrote, edited, and sent to my agent a 12,500 word proposal for a new book I want to write. Oh, and just for fun, I relaunched a t-shirt for entrepreneurs on Teespring, because, hey, why not?
Oh, I also managed to give a keynote for which I received a standing ovation, meet 150 other entrepreneurs, agree to be on four podcasts, get in a workout every morning, and as an added bonus, had two Skype calls at 3am my time that resulted in two new speaking engagements for later in the year, one in NYC and one in Singapore.
I’m not bragging, I hate self-promotion, I avoid it like the plague. I prefer helping people. I list what I did above, however, to prove a point: Still want to tell me I should go and do some damn work?
I wrote a similar piece about entrepreneurship about eight years ago, and it generated a firestorm. I got slammed by tons of people, but even more backed up my logic, and most importantly, I was told I helped a lot of people take that next step. So, sure… Let’s do it again.
In the 18 years I’ve been an entrepreneur, the haters have occasionally surfaced in reaction to some of my various Facebook or Twitter updates, since I often write things like “Driving from LA to SF, anyone along the route want to meet for coffee on me?” or “Sitting in the lounge at Gatwick, I’ll do a Facebook Live AMA — bring your business questions,” or “BKK → EWR flight delayed, hitting Duty Free, anyone want anything?” “Sitting on the hood of my rental car, here’s an amazing sunset for you,” and of course, “Wheels up in two hours, got nine hours on the plane, tell me how can I help you while I’m in the air?”
“Why don’t you do some damn work for a change?” -Haters
To my detractors (who I truly don’t believe are hating to be mean,) I respond simply with “On any given day I’m working five times as hard as you if not more so, and if you’re wasting your time hating on me, you’re simply not as adept at playing the game.” And I mean that with absolute respect, and no insult intended.
So why is work fun for me, and not fun for you?
I don’t do well in offices, I don’t do well in a structured environment, I sure as hell don’t do well in a cubicle, and the last time I had a “job” with a “boss,” I quit within three months of starting. I’m very fortunate to have realized it as early as I did, because what it tells me is that I’m simply not designed for working the way you work, but I’ve been smart enough to learn from it, and adapt my lifestyle to not only meet my needs, but exceed them, all while having fun.
I can work from anywhere. With the technology available to me, I’ve worked from a forest, the back of a conference room in the Philippines, (as I’m doing now) a Taxi, and a beach in Phuket. I’ve closed deals and produced quality content while waiting to board a plane, on a Metro North Railroad, or while being driven down the King Fhad Causeway, hoping my Visa is still accurate.
I’ve also closed deals and/or generated sellable content at nightclubs, in bars, or while running through Central Park at 11:30am on a Tuesday. (And gotten arrested for running through Central Park at 4:45am on a Thursday.) I’ve taken calls while taxiing down the runway while in the plane out of which I’ll skydive from nine minutes later. I’ve gone on TV to talk about the 2016 political campaign with 27 minutes notice, stopping in a Nordstrom to buy a button down shirt and jacket, because I was wearing a t-shirt at the time, and it was soaked with sweat after a run. With logic suggesting that I’ll be placed at a desk where the camera won’t see the lower half of my body, I walked in to the newsroom in a button-down shirt, blazer, Nike shorts, and Brooks sneakers. I washed my face in the bathroom, they applied foundation and pancake makeup two minutes to air, and 15 seconds before we came back from commercial, a production assistant ran on set to pull off the tag from the sleeve of my jacket. The interview went flawlessly.
Best part? One of my greatest accomplishments is that I have NEVER, EVER missed an email, or not replied to a text. I’ve never had a colleague tell me that I missed a meeting with them, or wasn’t focused during it. In fact, 90% of the time, I don’t tell people where I am, and they naturally assume I’m in an office, at a desk. Good. That’s what they should be thinking!
But before you tell me to fornicate myself as you read this from your desk, know that it’s not anywhere near as free-and-clear as it might seem. With this freedom, comes the inevitable other side of the coin. And this flip-side is for my friends who shout “do some work” in all caps in the window of a tweet.
Sure, I might try and tack on a half-day of skydiving or a few hours of beach time after a business trip before flying home, but the last time I took an honest-to-G-d vacation, without a laptop or cell phone? July of 2012. Last time you did? Probably a few months ago, if not sooner. Every year, my friend Cheryl heads to Fiji, or the Galapagos Islands, or Brazil, or Portugal for a week after the NYC Marathon. My friend David scoops his family up for a week at Disney, completely off the grid the entire time.
While I try to explore at least one new place every time I travel, the concept of “off the grid” is virtually foreign to me. My family has never seen me take a true “vacation.” I never know where the next deal, book, speaking opportunity, or the like is going to come from, or who’s going to present it. My plane seat-mate? Not this trip, but my 29-hour return trip starts in two days. At the supermarket? Always carry a business card or two, just keep a few in every pocket, you never know. At a step-cousin’s Bar Mitzvah? Why not. It’s happened. Watching the Mets? Who knows what the guy next to me does for a living when he’s not trash-talking the Pirates?
Remember the scene in Beverly Hills Cop II, (I doubt you would, normal people wouldn’t, it’s just how my brain works) where Eddie Murphy, undercover, says to the guy with the fake credit cards, “If you can’t handle this, I’ll just go to someone else. I’m a bizness man. I’m doin’ bizness. I’m makin’ moves. I’m movin’!” He’s snapping all around, moving in a million different directions to make his point. That’s how I live — Spinning ten plates at any given time — and thoroughly enjoying it! And that’s the key — when you enjoy what you do, it’s never work. That’s why the part about not going off the grid or taking a vacation isn’t a plea for sympathy — quite the opposite, it’s saying “hey, the way I work is awesome, and you can have it too, but to get it, can you handle doing things a lot differently than what you’re used to?”
“Why don’t you do some work?” This is work! This is what I do! I meet people, I put people together, I make deals, I make two and two equal five. I don’t sit behind a desk and create spreadsheets. I introduce people to people. I’m a finder. I don’t move numbers from category A to category B. I don’t take phone calls asking where the TPS report is from a boss who hovers over me all the time, and I certainly don’t send an email, then go out for a donut, hoping that when I get back to my desk, I have a response. If you’re in my line of sight, I’m thinking how we can do something mutually beneficial together. All. The. Time. Wherever I am, that’s work. Whatever I’m doing, that’s work. And no, it’s not at a desk, or a cubicle, and yes, I’m having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. My day starts at 3:45am every morning, and I love every single minute of it. If I didn’t have to sleep, I’d do this 24-hours a day. (And I should mention — because I know someone’s going to bring it up — When I’m with my three-year-old daughter, it’s all about her. That’s the only time I’m not thinking about work. No devices, no connectivity.)
So Let’s translate “why don’t you do some work” into what it really is:
“How come your job lets you fly all over the place, and have meetings in really cool places, and it never seems like work, and why can’t mine? Your job certainly doesn’t seem like work, why does mine?”
My answer to them? Because you don’t want it badly enough. If you really did, you’d have it. You’d take the risk, and play the game. (In actuality, that’s all it ever is — one giant game.)
Face it — Having a job where you’re not the boss is safe, but not necessarily rewarding. You might hate it, you might think you can do it better, and you might want to firebomb your cubicle, but in the end, it’s safe. Your direct deposit comes in every other Friday, and you know it’ll be there, and that’s what keeps you from going out on your own.
Going out on your own is hella-scary, and it never, ever gets less scary, no matter how much money you make. You’ll worry every single day that this is the day you’re going to screw it all up, and lose it all. And when you woke up at 3:45am the next morning, (not because you can’t sleep, but because 4:30am to 5:30am is the only time you can work out and most likely not have to reply to calls or emails) you’d smile that you kept it going another day, and actually look forward to working. You’ll think you’re full of shit every single day, but that’s what happens to entrepreneurs. You’ll get out of bed and the feeling will pass, and you’ll hit the shower smiling, no matter how early it is. You’d be scared on a regular basis and the paycheck wouldn’t be guaranteed. The excitement, however, most certainly would be. And that’s why we do it. Excitement is fun.
In the end, it comes down to boundaries, be them self-imposed or imposed by your own environment, either of which you feel you can’t fight. Boundaries that say “I have to work at a job and make a living so I can provide for my family and not be risky.” AND THAT’S FINE! There’s nothing wrong with that. But that boundary comes at a cost, and it can be expensive at times, and I’m sorry, but those boundaries that lock you into your desk job aren’t my fault.
See, I just never understood the boundaries. (Hell, I never understood a lot of things.) I never got that there were these man-made boundaries between working and playing that said the two shouldn’t ever meet, and because I never understood them, I couldn’t understand how to respect them. That definitely got me fired from the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Yogurt” store when I was 17, no question. After college, I had two jobs. The first one at America Online was a ton of fun, and I was there for three years. The second one wasn’t, and I lasted three weeks before I quit. And let’s not confuse “hard work” with fun — hard work, if you like the work, is fun. I’ve never left a job because the work was hard. I’ve left because I wasn’t enjoying it. And that’s two different beasts, entirely. The best New Yorker Cartoon I ever saw showed a man on a beach on his laptop, talking to his wife. The caption read “I”m not a workaholic. I work to relax.”
As I said above, I absolutely LOVE what I do. I became an entrepreneur because I had no other choice. I don’t work like normal people. I honestly do like telling a story, teaching people how to live their lives better, and I’ve been blessed with an ability to do it very, very well. I happen to be really good at putting people together, writing, and speaking. The first led me to start and sell a multi-million dollar company, and then invest in others. The second and third let me talk about it, teach other people how to do it, and start the whole process over and over again. I’m very, very lucky, and very, very happy.
The entrepreneurial aspect of all of it has come from, well, from not caring what other people thought, really. The same brain that got me beaten up in junior high is finally able to express these ideas that, shock of shocks, are actually worth something! How freakin’ cool is that?? If you go out and interview 10 entrepreneurs, I guarantee that almost every single one will say that they got teased as a kid, they were different, etc. (And they all had ADD/HD, more than likely.) And where are the kids who teased me? I’ve got no idea — but I’d be willing to bet they’re in a cubicle somewhere. And again, that’s cool — if they’re happy.
The problem though, comes when “do some work!” really translates into “I hate that you get to do that and I don’t.” Because if that’s the case, then don’t waste your time hating on me, telling me to “do some work,” but rather, do some work on your own, and figure out why you’re unhappy, and if need be, change your life. Once you figure that out, I guarantee, you won’t call it “work” a second longer.
Want to try it? I encourage it! Why wouldn’t you? Figure out what you love to do, like The Merrymaker Sisters have done. Figure out how to do it on your own, like Jordan Harbinger, and go to town, like I have! It’s not for everyone — no doubt — just like I couldn’t handle a cubicle, there are people who can’t handle the doubt and fear that occasionally comes with doing it on your own. And that’s totally cool! That doesn’t make you any the less of anything! This isn’t a competition, which is what my “do some work!” friends don’t ever seem to get. The only people we have to compete with in this life are ourselves. If we’re happy with what we’ve done at the end of the day, whether that’s working for someone else, for ourselves, or somewhere in the middle, then I think we’ve won.
“Do some work?” This coming October will be 18 years since I incorporated my first company. For the past 18 years, I’ve done nothing but work. But you know what? It’s never once felt like it.