All Problems Have Solutions. That's What Makes Them Problems.
For the last 146 days (but who's counting?) I've been getting up at an ungodly hour. A time reserved for paper boys, vampires and people who have yet to go to bed from a hard night of partying. My Fitbit vibrates at 4:38 a.m. My hands search the darkness for the headphones plugged into my phone. Two minutes later the sound of my alarm breaks the eerie silence. I hop out of bed, followed by a plump little Pug who seems lively but is only awake for a 47-second scarf down of kibble before crawling back into bed. For me, this is the start of my day. This feels like a problem without a solution.
There's a twelve-hour difference between me and my employer. I load up my computer and at 5 a.m. on-the-dot I'm staring face-to-face with a five-year-old kid in China. He's come to learn English. I, on the other hand, have taken some part-time work to help me build my business. Once I had a taste of working for myself, I knew my palate couldn't go back to the generic bland offerings it was used to. I'd do anything to bring this vision to life.
There is not a chance in hell I would have taken a 9-5 that required me to get up at 4:38 a.m. But when your day is wrapping up at 8:10 a.m., you have the flexibility and freedom to do whatever you want. It was a creator’s dream. I made enough to cover my living expenses to boot. Everything I made in coaching could be invested back into the business. I could work on projects and with people who fuel, energize and inspire me.
But it was coming at an expense. There's early and then there's early. As crazy as it sounds, my partner getting up at 6 a.m. for the gym became something I envied.
Over the last year, I've taken baby steps, week-after-week, and the compounding of weekly action was paying off. An upcoming workshop series, a partnership venture with a local consultant with decades of experience, an expanding number of people who want coaching, my days were long but I knew the year would be short. But I couldn't help but feel like I was losing sight of priorities.
As I've talked about before, I've had the curse and the blessing of a mind riddled with anxiety and depression. I truly do believe it's my superpower. But like any superpower, when not kept in check, it goes rogue. You become Thanos from Avengers. We all know how that went down. We have the best of intentions, but your vision becomes one of delusion to which you're willing to sacrifice everything that is beautiful and meaningful to you in your life.
I felt trapped. There are only so many hours in the day and I was falling back into old habits. Fewer days at the gym, less meditating, fewer moments with my partner. I'd been there before. I knew where that path led. It was a march straight off a cliff. Sharks of apprehension circle, waiting to feast on my foolishness for falling back into an old pattern.
All problems have solutions. That's what makes them problems. Reading those words from Seth Godin felt like a teenager had snuck into my brain and lit off a row of ladyfingers. Why did I feel like I was trapped? Because I was failing to see this as a problem. As Seth went on to explain, "The solution might involve trade-offs or expenses that you don’t want to incur. You might choose not to solve the problem. But there is a solution. Perhaps you haven’t found it yet. Perhaps you need to do more research or make some tradeoffs in what you’re hoping for."
I read a similar story of realization from the uber-talented writer Alexandra Franzen. She tortured herself as most of us creative entrepreneurs do by believing there are things we "must do" or commitments that you've "got to do." But says who? As Franzen came to realize, there's always a simpler way.
Godin and Franzen forced me to look at my situation with a new perspective. If there is no solution, then it's not a problem. Franzen's realization came when she started a line of questioning that comes from seeing an issue as a problem: "Could there be a simpler way? A better way? A kinder and gentler way? A more efficient way? There probably is. Maybe you've just been too hustle-bustle-crazy-busy-frenzied to see it clearly."
Her advice is liberating. Stop rushing. Stop everything. Pause. Breathe. Give yourself space to think.
I forgot that I didn't need to ask anyone for permission to hit reset. I work for myself. I have the freedom to choose what my days look like. I'm not in a rush. The journey is the destination. Designing a life I don't need to escape from takes time. It's a reminder that I get to do what I love every damn day. I get to make my own rules, so why make ones that I don't want to play by?
Sacrificing NOW for LATER is a terrible trajectory. Happiness matters. It matters to us and to those around us. Taking some time for what matters each day can make all the difference.
It doesn't matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.
I'll let Franzen wrap up this post with a beautiful bow, in a gift all creative entrepreneurs can learn to appreciate. "When I stop forcing and cramming and sprinting from one task to the next, that’s when a life-changing epiphany tends to arrive. A new idea that changes my whole day. It doesn’t have to be like this. There’s always a simpler way."
PS - Do yourself a favour and sign up for Alexandra's perfectly timed drops of hope she sends to your inbox. She somehow knows exactly what you need to hear.