One of the biggest dilemmas of the early stages is that you need to make the right decisions for the long-term development of your business and career, while actually being in urgent need of money right now.
A lack of money does many things to us.
Most importantly, it turns us into nervous wrecks. Scared of tomorrow. Scared of the bills. Scared of what might happen.
What are the chances that we think long-term under those circumstances?
In fact, close to zero.
And yet, being driven by the urge of trying to make money as quickly as possible is the worst thing that can happen to us.
Because it is the equivalent of loosing control over our lives.
Sure, as an entrepreneur you no longer have a boss who tells you what to do. But money can easily become your new master. Before you know it, it tells you what to do and how to spend your time.
In short, it sucks you so deeply into its orbit, that you can hardly think about anything else at all.
So, what to do about that?
If, right now, all you are thinking about is how to pay your bills for next month, then you need to take a step back and ask yourself what is important for your career or business on the long-term.
Think about it this way:
If all your attention is focused on scrapping together the money to pay the bills next month, then how are you ever going to break free from that cycle?
Before you do anything else, you need to give yourself permission to let go for a moment, and take the time to re-establish your priorities.
Problem is, you are inevitably going to face thoughts like this:
“Are you crazy?
You’re going to starve next month, and here you are thinking about what happens 10 years later!”
That’s a natural reaction of your brain. Since it craves for stability and security, it is going to try and steer your attention from anything that is pulling you away from the immediate ‘danger’ at hand.
You will have to live with that.
Remind yourself that thoughts like these ares something natural, and that you are going to have to ignore them if you want to escape from the cycle of hardly being able to pay tomorrow’s bills.
Give yourself the space you need
The only thing you can really do, is to set some time away in your calendar which is specifically for long-term planning.
“The battle for happiness begins on the pages of our calendars.” — Bob Goff
What gets scheduled, gets done.
In the beginning, a few hours per week will be enough for this. After all, you are still in the process of thinking and planning. This is also a good way of practicing to make long-term thinking a part of your regular schedule.
As you are slowly moving into the execution phase, you can gradually increase the amount of time that you are spending on long-term projects.
Essentially, what you are doing here is to make long-term thinking a natural part of your schedule by turning it into a habit.
But this is still just the first step in a long process.
Working full-time on your long-term project
By the time you have done what I have just outlined, you are going to spend a portion of your time each week on your long-term project, while still spending quite a fair amount of time on short-term projects that exist to pay the bills.
In other words, you are still splitting your time between short-term projects and long-term projects.
This is already a significant improvement compared to the situation before. Money is no longer your master in the sense that it is dominating all of your thoughts.
Instead, you are now in control of shaping your own destiny by investing a portion of your time in projects that are a true investment into your future.
But this is simply not enough.
After all, your ultimate goal should be to focus all your attention on the things that truly matter to you on the long-term.
The projects that you stand for. The projects which make your work truly original and unique. The projects which are truly your own creation. The projects that you are proud of.
Here’s how you do that:
Get your long-term projects to the point where they are making money for you right now.
Regardless for how little it is in the beginning, the time that your long-term project is starting to make money for you, is the moment that you are starting to reduce your dependency on projects you don’t really want to work on.
There’s no need to rush this process.
After all, you have been working on these short-term projects for most of your career. So why the urgency of getting rid of them right now?
Instead, take your time to experiment with your long-term project.
Invest your time in researching the market. Experiment with different products. Try different marketing techniques. Learn as much about the consumer needs as you possibly can.
Produce the best product you possibly can.
But do it in public for everybody to see. Cultivate a group of core-customers from day one. Get feedback as early as possible. Find people who become true evangelists of your products.
In short, find the kind of people who are willing to take a risk on you and your project.
The worst thing you could possibly do is to spend years quietly tinkering away at a product, which nobody cares about in the end.
Some final words:
Ultimately, your goal should be to make your short-term projects, and your long-term projects, one and the same thing.
We can only operate to the full degree of productivity, if we are throwing all the energy we have into a single project, giving it our undivided attention.
And that project should be the one single thing that is the most valuable to ourselves and our career.
But the reality of life makes this extremely difficult.
Hardly anyone is in a position to put almost all of their attention into a single project like that.
After all, there are bills to pay.
That’s why we have to follow a process of slowly putting ourselves into a position where it is possible to put all we’ve got into our single, most important project.
- Scheduling some small portion of your time every week to plan your long-term project
- Gradually increasing the amount of time that you are investing into the execution of your long-term project
- Gradually replacing the income you are making from your short-term projects through the income you make from the thing that truly matters to you
- Putting yourself in a position where you are capable of making a living from your long-term project alone
There’s just one problem with all of this.
This whole process may take years, or even decades.
For our brains, which are primarily concerned with our survival right now, this is an incredibly difficult pill to swallow.
One thing is certain: your brain will keep telling you what kind of idiot you are, for ‘wasting’ your time on this project, which may never come into fruition.
This is where nothing helps, but your own will-power.
You yourself will have to…
… keep pushing ahead, no matter how difficult it gets.
… develop the right habits of making long-term thinking a priority.
… resist the urge to quit.
If you follow this process, stay strong and keep pushing ahead, eventually you will reach the point where you’re going to be able to make a living off your long-term project alone.
This is the moment when your ‘side-hustle’, is becoming your ‘main-hustle’.
Until then, keep pushing forward.
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