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Moment versus Momentum: Learning to Harness Fleeting Inspiration

Momentum Newton's BallsWhile pursuing a career in the uncharted territory of entrepreneurship, I frequently encounter other entrepreneurs along my journey. Some are decades ahead of where I am (and hope to be) and others are merely minutes into their decision to take the leap. Among this group of individuals, the veteran entrepreneurs always seem to have at least one quality in common regardless of industry or age—they have momentum. For the greener entrepreneurs, I struggle to access whether they possess this same momentum or whether their inspiration is merely a fleeting moment. The difference in the meaning of these two words – and the affect they have on the success or failure of a dream – is far more profound than two little letters. Rather this “um” holds the inspiration, the drive and the courage to turn a single moment into a momentous career.

Is your dream a mere moment or does it carry momentum?

Among your friends and acquaintances, think about those who you would consider a dreamer or an entrepreneurial spirit. Chances are you have a variety. These people are likely different, each with their own qualities that earn them a spot in this category. Now think about those in this group who have taken a goal or idea and are in the active process of taking it to the next level. Chances are this no longer applies to everyone you originally thought of. Maybe those that don’t fit this description more accurately fit the description of coming up with brilliant and creative ideas one day, but then you never hear or see anything more about it. This is the truest differentiation I can illustrate for you between moment and momentum. I, too, have contacts that I would consider entrepreneurs at heart, but this doesn’t mean every one of them has become a real life entrepreneur. Instead, there are those who think of innovative ideas all the time, but I’ve learned to not get too excited for they’re just having “a moment.” By the next month or even the next day, the big plan for a life change has already been forgotten as quickly as it was conceived.

How do we harness this moment of inspiration and turn it into momentum?

At the root of this problem are the differing qualities of each individual. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, just like not everyone is meant to be a doctor or a rocket scientist. We all have different strengths and for some, this is taking an idea from conception to completion. For others – this is a weakness. But just like how you were told when you were little that, “you can be anything you want when you grow up,” you CAN become an entrepreneur and find your inner momentum regardless of prior failed attempts. You have at least two options to better harness your moments of inspiration and turn them into something more substantial.

First, you can commit to making a personal effort to stop the bad habits that have led to loss of momentum in the past. This includes procrastination, lack of confidence, fear of hard work or fear of failure. Just as you would commit to quit smoking or lose weight, changing any existing habit takes energy and effort. Pick a single, well-defined goal and create a timeline of specific actions. When I knew I wanted to begin my own business, I defined all the steps I had to take to reach the point of leaving my former job. I knew I needed a functional web site, enough clients to pay the bills and to register myself as an official business with the government. And so I added these to my timeline and was specific in the actions I had to take to achieve them. Every day I would assign myself one immediate thing I could do to further this timeline, whether it was sending an email to a prospective client or creating a blog. These immediate action items prevented me from falling victim to procrastination or overwhelm because they kept me on track and made me feel accomplished each and every day. Over the course of a week and then a month, these actions ultimately came together to achieve my bigger goal. I still use this tactic when I’m in a phase of business growth.

If you’ve tried or are trying to change your habits to become a person of momentum, but it just isn’t picking up as quickly as you’d like – it might be time to consider the second option. You can team up with another person or group of people who will provide complimentary skills to help turn an idea into reality. Not every business is a sole proprietorship and that’s because sometimes working together is the only way to achieve a goal of a certain scope or size.  If you have an idea for a product, but have no knowledge or direction on where to start with manufacturing it; find a partner who can provide expertise and connections in this area. A partner or team will also keep you accountable to your ideas and actions. It’s not so easy to let a dream fade if the dream is shared by many different people.

In talking with even the most successful entrepreneur, I would be shocked to hear that they never once had a failed idea or fleeting inspiration prior to their current business. To find our true calling, we must allow our mind to wander as creatively as it chooses without feeling pressured to turn every idea into reality. But when you do dream up an idea that you can envision changing your world, or the world of many others, you must find a way to harness this inspiration and keep it moving. Sometimes all it takes to turn a moment into momentum is the willingness to change yourself or team up with others…and of course a little “um!”

people-say-that-motivation-doesnt-last

 
 

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The Work-Life Imbalance

Often I come across an article or a quiz asking me to examine my “work-life balance.” It’s a term we should have all encountered by now – whether in a magazine, an HR seminar, even in a casual dinner conversation. To nod your head and affirm, “Of course, I have a great work-life balance,” carries a sense of pride as if you’re really saying “Yeah, I’ve got it all together.” But what defines a work-life balance? Must the parts always be equal to keep the scales from tipping too far in one direction?

We spend the majority of our waking hours working in some capacity. In the best case scenario, only 40 hours of our week is spent in a formal work environment, but what about all of those evening and weekend emails, phone calls and “emergency projects” that cut into the little time we’re already given for “life?” Such tasks sneak extra weight onto the “work” side of the scale and can lead to an imbalance we don’t even know exists.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken more notice to how I’ve been chipping away at my free time by choosing to do a several minutes of work-related tasks here and there. Even just a few minutes can turn into hours over the course of a week. For example, I try to finish up my last work project of the day no later than 6pm. But while I enjoy dinner and a little bit of television, my mind is still very much on work. If I hear the chirp of an email – I answer it. And so this persists throughout the evenings and into the weekends. My best estimate is that on average, I burden myself with an additional 7-10 hours of work each week beyond what’s expected or demanded. When all added up, that’s a full day! A day in which I could have taken a road trip, enjoyed the beautiful fall weather or simply decompressed. And while these off-hour emails may help progress work, they put a major halt on life.

Back when I wrote about The Two-Day Truce, I urged everyone to resist the urge to do unnecessary work on the weekends because it only causes the recipients of the emails to feel the pressure to respond. Essentially it takes away from everyone’s weekend. I have gotten better about not being a weekend warrior with work, but I realized an even bigger problem. We’re so trained to work, we do it without even knowing it. Consciously we may feel like we’re living a pretty balanced life, but really our scales are so off kilter they’re nearly falling over altogether.

I couldn’t tell you how many times a day I check my phone for new emails, especially after “work hours.” I’m not sure I would want to know. By proactively checking for emails and refreshing my inbox, I’m looking for work to do instead of enjoying that other component that should fill our time – life. A true Work-Life Balance is so much more than saying you leave your office or close your laptop at 6pm. Chances are we’re very accessible to work during any of the hours in between. But when we’re at work are we this accessible to life? Every week’s schedule is different and there’s no doubt that there will be some weeks that demand an imbalanced share of our time for work. The key is to find the balance not every day or every week, but over the long run.

The Work-Life Balance may not be so much about balance after all. Maybe it’s more about flexibility and our openness to work more when we absolutely have to, but to also seize extra moments of “life” when the opportunity should arise. If you can’t close down by 6pm tonight, don’t sweat it, but plan for some extra relaxing time in your schedule later this weekend to make up for the difference and realign the balance!

What about you. Is your work-life balanced…flexible…or somewhat of both?

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Business & Success, Life

 

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I’m an “I”—Understanding the Inner Workings of an Introvert

One week ago, I would have considered myself an outgoing, social extrovert…but that was before I saw the results of my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. According to this highly regarded test, I’m quite an introvert. Should this really come as a surprise to me? I mean, I did choose a career in which I work by myself 90% of the time. I hate talking on the phone, often answering voice mails with emails. And I only check-in with my own family about once a week. Yet, there are so many ways to identify someone as an introvert that are far more common and far less socially awkward than what the generalizations would have you believe. We’re not all hermits, we aren’t necessarily shy and we can still be the life of the party. So what really does define an introvert? I can only speak for myself and am by no means a psychologist, but these are some of my own qualities which may help explain why Myers-Briggs calls me an “I.”

I get my energy from being alone. This took me the first 20 years of my life to really identify. I couldn’t figure out why I would go to a party, have a great time, but after so many hours – like the flip of a switch – feel an even greater desire to go home. I’m very much a social person and enjoy interacting with people, but as an introvert, it requires a great deal of my energy. Once this energy is depleted, I want nothing more than to be some place familiar and alone. I need to decompress. Because both my office and my work schedule are flexible, I recharge during the day and appear much like a social extrovert when I’m with family and friends in the evening. The only time I ever really notice my need for downtime is when I don’t get enough. It’s not that I can’t function when this happens, I just might be a little less energetic and a little quieter.

It might be ridiculous to consider a cat a close friend, but with a face like this who could resist?

I have a few, very close friends. In both relationship and proximity, my “closest” friends are Scott and my cat Pinot…compounded by the fact we all live together. Rather than having many broad friendships, I prefer to put my energy into fewer, but deeper ones. Who I’m closest with at any given time may vary, but my number of close friendships remains fairly consistent. One of the most difficult aspects of being an introvert is that I don’t have a need to be around other people. That’s not to say I don’t like people, but I just don’t need to have daily social interaction to thrive. Because of this, I can go weeks, months even years without seeing someone who I consider a really close friend. To me, closeness isn’t dependent upon frequency of seeing each other, but to my friend – especially one who is an extrovert – this may make the relationship feel distant and out of touch. This is something I’m trying to make a better effort to overcome.

When I spend time with someone, I like it to be substantial. Closely linked to my statement above, when I do set aside time to be with someone, I like it to be for several hours, if not more. It’s not in my personality to “drop by just to say hi” or “swing by for a quick drink.” If I’m taking the time to get ready and go somewhere, I want to stay for more than a few minutes. For the longest time, I envied people who could just casually hang-out with friends, watching TV, going shopping, picking up a bite to eat. They made it look easy when everything I pulled together had to be so structured and formal. I now realize that as an introvert, I’m not inclined to casually hang out because for me it’s an energy loss not an energy gain. So when I do spend time with someone I like it to be substantial because it’s not likely to happen as frequently as it does for an extrovert.

I’m more thought-oriented than action-oriented. Another way to put this is that I do most of my living internally or mentally. I thrive in a work environment that’s completely serene – no people, no noise, no artificial light. I’ve been told this is unrealistic and like working in a vacuum. I don’t disagree; it’s just how I work most effectively. I can and have worked in other environments that were quite the opposite. I still accomplished my tasks, but I never felt like I was working as efficiently as I could if I were alone. Another good example of these differences is to ask someone what they like to do on vacation – a time often dedicated to relaxation. An extrovert might enjoy sight-seeing, exploring the social nightlife or taking part in a lot of activities like surfing or jet skiing. For me, a relaxing vacation is a book and the beach with plenty of personal space and no agenda. By the 5th day, sure I’m starting to crave some excitement and that’s the point. When I come back from vacation I’m completely recharged and ready to tackle whatever life has in store.

The bottom-line: My experience of better understanding my own personality through Myers-Briggs has also given me a better understanding of the personalities of those around me. I’m now able to see that many of my frustrations with someone often stems from us not understanding or respecting each others’ personalities and why we can both experience the same situation, but process it differently. You would think I would have understood the “everyone’s different” concept long before last week – and I thought I did – but there’s so much more to it than that.  Rational behavior and right answers are completely subjective to each individual person and how they would handle a situation. The goal should not be to make someone believe your viewpoint, it should be to meet them halfway.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Life

 

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