In a 2015 MarketWatch study, nearly 40% of current employees said they aspire to own their own business sometime in the future.
I shudder to think how many of those people might get accidentally exposed to what I consider to be false and in some cases downright bad advice for anyone starting their own gig.
I’ll admit the quote “in question” is catchy… and on the surface it appeals to my desire and my commitment to align my life and my livelihood with what I believe is my calling but after 16 years of being self-employed and 7 of those 16 in a career that I chose because I loved it… I feel compelled to get the word out on this one.
I’ve found the quote in two forms … one from the Chinese Philosopher Confucius and the other from actor, singer & television/music producer, Marc Anthony. Not many blog posts would feature such an odd pairing, to be sure, but more evidence that even a misleading quote can endure a long, long time. We’re talking centuries here.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” -Marc Anthony
It is not often that I go against the word of Great Sages of International acclaim and wisdom but I am willing to give Confucius the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps 551–479 BC was a much different time and perhaps this quote had some relevance back then that it no longer has… but Marc Anthony… now he should just plain know better!
While there are aspects of this quote that I do agree with … the danger that it poses is that it sets up false expectations. And to a newly beginning business owner or self-employed person – misleading expectations are dangerous. We need to be both inspired AND aware. We must know the challenges we face and we do face challenges.
Dangerous Misconception (BUSTED) #1 — Trust me, you WILL work.
Ok, look even if you have only been doing work that you love for about 3 days now… you will quickly realize there is some “work” involved. I love what I do but my business isn’t all about what I love to do. There are plenty of things about owning and running my own business that require me to do things that are rote, routine and quite frankly have very little to do with my passion for coaching and supporting self-employed and small business owners in having their lives and businesses look the way they want them to look. Hello, QuickBooks anyone? I want my self-employed clients to go into their ventures eyes wide open… there will be days when you do things that you don’t love and days where you do things that you outright dislike … one day you might even outsource those things or have a breakthrough in your relationship to those things… but until then please don’t think you’ve made a grave error or that something is wrong because you are finally doing work you love but are having moments (many moments) where it feels like work. Challenging work. I find in working with Self-Employed people that it is more accurate to say that starting, running and growing your own business is the greatest opportunity for self-development and personal breakthrough. And trust me, you will never hear me say it doesn’t involve “work.”
Dangerous Misconception (BUSTED) #2 — Stay Ready So You Don’t Have To Get Ready
This expression, attributed to multiple sources may actually originate from one of the military branches. I first heard it used by my husband who absolutely values and prioritizes preparedness in his personal and professional life. The upshot here is that you will love your work even more if you have a plan and are prepared and ready for the challenges that come with it. The person who enters this venture with the mindset of “Wow, this is great… I will never have that feeling that I had while at the office or while in that other job” is setting themselves up to have EXACTLY that. One of my mentors once told me… whatever you don’t face or handle the first time it is given to you … will show up again. When I had a more standard career, I had challenges around money, asking for raises, going for higher salaried positions, etc. That challenging aspect of work did not disappear the moment I started doing what I loved for a living. In fact, it got amplified. I still needed to sort out my rates, ask to get hired by clients (many, many, many times) — in the beginning it felt as if I were going to a job interview each and e-v-e-r-y time. The breakthroughs that we need in order to become the most self-actualized versions of ourselves don’t simply stop coming because we decide we are going to do what we love for a living. I believe it is important to ask ourselves and work with a mentor or coach to understand what those challenges are and look for ways that those challenges will present themselves in our businesses. I do believe there are opportunities in challenges but we will never see them if our guiding principle in our new business is “great, I never need to truly work again.”
Dangerous Misconception (BUSTED) #3 — Vilifying the 9-5 and Traditional Forms of Work
Businesses of passion and purpose are often businesses that offer luxury and not necessity. While I believe that coaching has an incredible return on investment… when it comes to fixing the broken furnace and staying warm in the winter vs. living an empowered personal and professional life … it is easy to see the difference between necessity and luxury. And while I could easily write a blog post on the “necessity” of coaching… as someone could write about the necessity of art… it simply doesn’t compete with how the world at large views necessity. As such many startups find that at some point, despite their best efforts, they may need to supplement their income with other more traditional-based work. Going “back” to earn income from one’s non-passion based career is too often perceived as failure and can be completely disheartening if approached from this mindset of “now my life has truly begun and I will never work again.” You need to be financially solvent and viable to run your own business and needing to supplement it with “work” can also be viewed as persistence and dedication. A longer route? Maybe. Not what you had planned? Sure. A problem? Not necessarily. Consider you are simply doing whatever it takes to fulfill on your purpose and passion.
I like to call it the warrior’s path.