Time To “Go Big”?

March 7, 2010

A couple of weeks ago one of the members of Valerie Young’s Profiting From Your Passions creative career consultants group posted to our group’s forum looking for other people who are ready to “go big.” I applauded her for putting intention and initiative into her dream, and especially for reaching out to connect with other people in a Mastermind group for mutual support. Making plans and gathering a resourceful tribe is a very entrepreneurial thing to do.

But I also feel strongly that it’s important to explain why “going big” isn’t the best choice for everyone at this time. Some of us don’t need to go big, and some of us aren’t ready to go big yet. I am not a good candidate for a “going big” group right now, and I want to explain why to help other people struggling with this part of life and work design.

A lot of people choose self-employment in order to have a certain lifestyle – not a lifestyle of the rich and famous, but a lifestyle that fits them comfortably and is compatible with who they are at the core. But then those priorities get pushed aside.

Some of us get distracted by the overpowering messages from marketing consultants telling us that success in a business means reaching a six-figure income, and then a seven-figure income, and then seven figures per month. We hear that we don’t go for the big bucks because we don’t believe we’re worth it or we have problems in our relationship with money.

Many people actually do have self-doubts and discomfort around money. They believe a worldview that says people who make a lot of money must be bad, and they must be making money by exploiting others. It’s a watered down version of anti-capitalist beliefs. But in truth, when people freely choose to pay for a product or service they see as valuable, it’s a mutually beneficial and moral transaction. Some people need to hear that message.

But the same message that tells some people they can open the way to earning a lot of money by overcoming their limiting beliefs inadvertently tells other people they should make earning a lot of money their top goal. Life and work design is not about accepting other people’s shoulds for our lives. It’s about learning what fits us and expresses who we are, and using that self-discovery as our inner compass.

I finally figured out the kind of work I want to do. Now I have to figure out the scale of work that fits me right now. In this season of my life, I need to focus on creating a right-sized business, one that is sustainable within my natural way of being and my current life design. I need to create a manageable smaller business. I started feeling guilty when I realized it’s not the right time for me to focus on racing to grow a big business. With wonderful serendipity, I found a blog post by Suzanne Falter-Barnes titled “This Year I’m Going Small & Intimate.” Suzanne summarized and clarified a lot of the things I was trying to figure out. I am grateful to Ken Robert at MildlyCreative.com for pointing me to Suzanne’s blog post.

As I went through training in coaching and in the creative career consultant program, I had visions of where my business can go. Those visions got really, really big. But I have resisted pursuing bigness consciously, subconsciously, and unconsciously.

First reason: Right now, in this season of my life, I need a career that submits to my family priorities. They are diminishing over time because my children are getting older. But my wife is a physician and does not take off days from work. If we have a sick child I care for him – our older son just started college but last year had his wisdom teeth out (several days of recovery) and had a concussion (several days of scary recovery). During the summer I take care of our younger son, so even with activities scheduled for him I need to have more free time.

The complicated weird thing is that in my head I struggle with this. I think I need to be a warrior and grow a monster business and bring in the big bucks, but I also know my children will miss out and have regrets, and I will miss out and have regrets, if I push them too far aside in my quest for money or success or whatever it is I choose to blame.

But in my heart…

That’s where the unconscious and preconscious resistance have been standing up for me. Even when I don’t notice why, my heart stops me from investing time and effort “going big” right now. I wasted some past opportunities to focus on my children when they were younger, gained nothing but regret from doing so, and don’t want that to happen again. So I’m focusing on designing a business that is flexible, not really part-time or full-time but right-time.

Second reason: Big visions scare the hooey out of me! They can take my breath away. I was thinking about planning some teleclasses and then imagining what it would be like to develop a live workshop program when I suddenly got this vision of owning and running a retreat center. Where did that come from? The bowels of hell, I thought at first. It took my breath away and sent chills down my spine. Then I realized it was exciting as I got past the terror. It was never part of any plan I had before, but it suddenly appeared.

Big visions freeze us. We get movement by focusing on the next steps, not the big vision. And though a few people can sketch a big vision and then chase it with enthusiasm, I think most of us are put off by a big vision. I think our comfort with a big vision expands as we expand.

So the conference center (it was beautiful when it showed up in my imagination) scares me right now. It’s too far from where I am. But in the future, after I’ve done more live workshops, I’ll know what I like in conference rooms. I’ll start thinking, “This is where I would like to present” and “This is how they should treat clients who give workshops,” and the vision of my own center will seem less scary and more do-able.

So owning a conference and retreat center might be a way I “go big” some day. It might be part of my future – just not my near future.

This sort of “blue sky” vision or Big Hairy Audacious Goal – BHAG – can be powerful. Even if you’re scared by the big vision, you can benefit from a “going big” group. Knowing where you want to be in the distant future helps you plan where you go today. But it has to be your blue sky. It has to be your audacity, not someone else’s. That kind of vision emanates from the core of who you are and expresses your priorities.

Is a “going big” group a good fit for you right now? If in the quiet times alone you are really excited by going big, it’s for you.

If the main thing in your way is wondering if you can do it — heck, yeah, you can do it! A “going big” group is for you.

If your life has changed or is changing so old priorities are dropping off and you’re free to focus on your business, it’s for you.

If you realize you build unnecessary distractions and false priorities around you like protective walls and you’re ready to start taking them down, this kind of group is for you.

If you chose to become self-employed to supplement your income and you really want to keep your full-time job, this kind of group may not be for you… yet. Maybe as you get the business going you’ll change your focus.

If you chose to build a business as a part-time thing so you can have time to care for aging parents or young children or be available to travel with a spouse or partner who makes a comfortable income for both of you, this kind of group may not be for you… yet.

I had a coaching client who shifted from finding ways to add clients and grow her business to focusing on cutting her overhead, opening up her schedule for more things she enjoys, and increasing her income. Going bigger wasn’t right for her because a bigger business meant a smaller, more anxious life. A smaller, more profitable business meant a bigger, more expansive life.

So the question is… What part of your life do you want to expand?

Answer that. Then decide if growing your business will help you get there.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey


3 Responses to “Time To “Go Big”?”

  1. suz on March 8th, 2010 11:32 am

    Couldn’t agree more, Steve. As i get older, i am even less willing to devote my precious time to other peoples’ shoulds for me. Small and versatile is just right for me, too. Finding the balance in our own blue sky…that’s the ticket!

  2. Bonnie on March 9th, 2010 8:18 pm

    Right on the mark! But there is a lot of pressure on small business owners to go big. “If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying” is one comment I hear often. A business can grow in many ways, sometimes through the business owner’s personal development, by reducing expenses or increasing profits, or outsourcing or hiring staff, or moving to a storefront location instead of a home based location. There are no rules to how big you need to get, or how you “grow”. The sooner people stop buying into that idea that staying small means failure, the sooner they will have a business that suits their lifestyle perfectly. And that IS what it’s all about!

  3. Steve Coxsey on March 9th, 2010 8:33 pm

    Suz, it sounds like a versatile business is going to help you reach for your blue sky vision. I love how you stand up for self-determination.

    Bonnie, what a force of an idea. A business can grow in so many ways, so a business that is only getting bigger might actually be dying.

    Thank you both for visiting and joining in.

    Best Regards,

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