The past three years have been weird.
Before I continue, I want you to know that I’ve been staring at that last sentence for three weeks, unsure of how or why to illustrate that statement further.
The short version is that I ventured off to start my own design and development consulting business, I got busy, and kind of fell off the edge of the Earth so to speak.
Over those years, the same things happened that happen to anyone starting a new business: I had some successes. I made some mistakes. The combination created a rollercoaster ride that, at times, made me wonder why the hell I thought this was a good idea. And, then, I’d get to experience a moment that I’d never have been able to if I were employed elsewhere. Then I’d remember why I did this. Somewhere, in the middle, I forgot to attend an AAF-KC event, write a blog post or record a podcast episode.
The long version is, well, more complicated than that.
I think that somewhere over the past year and a half I purposely withdrew from the community that I had been part of for over two decades. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why I did that. But, I got some clues this weekend when I rewatched The Last Jedi with my family.
The legacy of The Jedi is failure, hypocrisy, hubris.
I think I withdrew from both my online and local communities because I felt my hubris had come to roost and that I didn’t deserve a place there anymore. After a successful first year in business, I had a very unsuccessfulsecond year. Here I was, this person that was supposed to be talented at what he does, who had worked on large web projects for national brands. A person who some have called a creative dynamo. Yet, I was barely making ends meet for my family. In the midst of it all, I felt like a complete failure. And failure doesn’t pay the bills.
In the lens of hindsight, I realize that this was because I was letting hubris cloud my path forward. I was trying to go after business that was too big for me to handle alone at this point in my business’s history. I was thinking that small projects were beneath me1. Or, at the very least, I wasn’t going to make a name for my business if I wasn’t working on the largest projects I could find.
As I wallowed in self-pity and fear of the future, I closed myself off. I didn’t want people to know I was failing. Sounds kind of like a certain old Jedi Master we all know, doesn’t it?
Returning to the Resistance.
So, here I am. A web designer hermit that has hidden himself away on a proverbial island because he’s embarassed that he wasn’t an immediate success on his own. But, even though no wide-eyed pupil has come to discover me and my throngs of super cute bird bear creatures, I’ve decided that it’s time to return to the fight to lend whatever wisdom I have to those who might need it. Honestly, I think the person who needs the wisdom the most is me.
While the past three years have been weird, the past three months have been a long slog of trying to shore up what I’ve been through so that the next three years and beyond are sustainable and enjoyable. I’ve gotten enough of a taste of the self-employed life that I’ll do whatever it takes to protect what I’ve got. I feel like I’ve got a plan, even if I don’t have all the pieces in place right now.
The three lessons.
Just like Luke promised to teach Rey three lessons in the way of the Jedi, I have three lessons that I’ve taken away from the rollercoaster of the past three years that might be of use to you2:
- The opportunity to do your best work isn’t dependent on the size of the project. In fact, the smaller projects usually give more opportunity for creative ideas to shine.
- The rollercoaster effect is part of being a business owner. The freedom you have is a benefit that largely outweighs the instability that you encounter.
- Get out of your own way, but don’t get out of everyone else’s. Solitude does nothing toward helping any depression or anxiety that you might face.