|photo: Rena Tom|
"The fortunate people - the truly fortunate - are not so much those who succeed in life as those who succeed in living. There are some who do both; many who do neither, and some who do either one, but not the other. Success in life, so called, can be overdone, but hardly success in living. It seems possible to succeed too much in various lines of attainment, legitimate and sincerely profitable in themselves, but success in living involves getting the most out of life, not in a day or a year or a decade, but in a lifetime. That involves living wisely, and you can't live too wisely."
-- Edward Sanford Martin, "Too Much Success", 1908
Jan asked me to start a conversation about a topic that is multifaceted and complex, yet not often broached online. There are plenty of articles on making your business more successful, but let’s look at the other side. Can you be too successful? And if so, what can you do about it?
As a creative entrepreneur, you might be thinking, "gee, nice problem to have," but be careful what you wish for. If you are not ready for success, you may end up overworked, underperforming and poorer - financially, emotionally, or both - than when you started.
Today I'm going to talk about success in broad terms, how to measure it and and how to achieve work/life balance. In future posts, I'll cover tactical tips for people who have too much success in their business, and then get into technology-based solutions to increase productivity so you can spend more time being creative and enjoying the fruits of your success with your loved ones.
How do you define success? Is it a specific number of units sold, or a dollar amount at the end of the year? Is it getting into your favorite magazine, or being featured on your favorite blog? Is it a really nice compliment about your work, or a warm thank you note from a fan? Or perhaps it's being able to make enough money to stay home and be with your family.
Everybody has a different definition, and the trick is to recognize your own standards and not get sucked into trying to achieve goals that other people set for themselves. Competition can be rather insidious, as this thoughtful article on design*sponge touched on. Focus on your own needs and stop wasting time thinking about the other guy!
To craft your definition, you should take your business goals and blend them with your personal goals. For the former, these tips break things down very nicely, and for the latter, I love how Mighty Girl formulates and achieves her life list. Review your goals at least once a year to see how you've done and also to see if the goals still hold true.
If you have hit a lot of your business goals but are still unsatisfied, maybe it's time to address your work/life balance. I talked to Meighan O'Toole who writes the fantastic contemporary art blog My Love for You is a Stampede of Horses. She recently made the decision to cut back on her blogging to three days a week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday).
|Meighan O'Toole of My Love for You is a Stampede of Horses|
Meighan also has a full-time job that she enjoys and wants to keep, which is sometimes the case – not everyone wants to quit their day job! Finding the sweet spot between hobby and full-blown business can be challenging, and is one instance where too much success with your creative endeavor can be a problem.
Meighan’s new strategy is "to cover the best of the best [to] set me apart from the hundreds of art blogs that have started in the past 2 years" and to stop "posting and posting - trying to keep up with the Joneses." We talked about burning out from trying to post so often and how the decision to go for quality instead of quantity is both less time-consuming and more satisfying.
She now schedules her week to allow time for both work and play, and focuses on her writing on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. On the other days she might do a studio visit but otherwise sees her friends, goes to the gym, et cetera.
Here are a few tips Meighan wanted to share:
1. Take a minute and enjoy your life in the moment. Refuse to 'capture the moment' to put online.
2. Make sure you get out & see people, get inspired. The book The Artist's Way says you must continually refill the well to keep putting out creative vibes. If the well dries up, so do you.
3. Take one day, maybe every week - maybe every two weeks - and do nothing job-related. Read a book, do something nice for yourself like a massage, sleep, watch bad movies. Stay still & let the world come to you for once. DO NOT open your laptop on that day.
I know that monitoring your business 5 (or 7) days a week is still a requirement for many of you, but Meighan's advice to not always frame your actions in a business context is solid. Business may be a very large part of your life, but it is not your entire life. Why be successful if you don't have time to enjoy it?
How do you balance the demands of your business with maintaining your personal life? Do you worry too much about what your competitors are doing? Do you feel successful?
Rena Tom is a retail strategist for creative business owners. She previously owned Rare Device, a boutique and art gallery with locations in New York and San Francisco that was renowned for its carefully edited collection of design objects, books, housewares and accessories, and for supporting small, innovative designers and artists whose work was not easily found in stores. Rena blogs about personal projects as well as retail trends and small business tips at renatom.net.. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and baby boy in an apartment filled with too many laptops, Sprecher root beer, half-finished craft projects and overdue library books.