“Hi honey, how was school? Did you kill anybody today?”
I’ll be the first to admit, this is not a normal, end of the day greeting for one’s 18-year-old daughter.
Then again, May is not a normal month here in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. At least, that is, if you have a child who is a high school senior, as I do.
Because every spring, in our town and in many others across the country, high school seniors engage in a month-long game called “Senior Assassin.”
Don’t worry, it’s not as sinister as it sounds; it’s more or less an elaborate game of squirt gun tag.
Here’s how it works…
1. You team up with a friend.
2. Each week, you and your friend are randomly – and secretly – assigned a team to “kill” (i.e., squirt with a water pistol).
3. Meanwhile, another pair of waterlogged hit men is out there trying to kill you.
4. To advance to the next round each week, you need to both kill your target and avoid being killed yourself.
I have to confess, the whole thing is kind of exciting, if only for the fun of stumbling upon an unidentified teenager dressed in full camo, hiding in the rhododendron as you wheel the trash down to the curb in the morning.
It gets better. As of this writing, and from an initial field of 108 teams, I’m proud to report that my lethal daughter Emily and her homicidal friend Kayla are among the 15 or so pairs remaining.
But it hasn’t been easy for them. In fact, it’s been interesting to watch as Emily and Kayla plan their strategy, something which has necessarily gotten more complex and refined with each passing week.
It’s even made me realize how much survival in Senior Assassin has in common with survival as a solo professional (you knew I’d get to this).
Two things in particular stand out:
- The only way to stay in the game is to kill someone.
You can’t expect to win if you simply hide in your room doing nothing all week long (that’s what the other 11 months of the year are for). Sure, you’ll be safe. But to advance, you also need to squirt someone.
The same applies to us as solos. Yes, I know it’s fun and oddly mesmerizing to fool with your web site, tweak your tagline or ask one more weary friend what they think of your logo.
But most of that falls under the heading of “setting the table.” Necessary, yes, but sooner or later, and to score points in the game of solo professionalism, you need to make your mark out in the world – by networking, by publishing, by marketing, by selling … and by doing other things that require interacting with potential clients.
- The only way to kill someone is to risk your own safety.
Stalking people at their own house isn’t that productive. Particularly with the kids who have connected garages, you can wait in the bushes for hours for someone to come home, only to watch them drive in and close the automatic door, safely behind them.
And with school property, moving vehicles and places of employment officially off limits, the craftier kids quickly figure out that the best place to catch a killer is to stalk them while they’re away from home, stalking someone else. As a result, going out to score points is about the riskiest thing you can do.
Being a solo works the same way – there’s risk in going public. What if your newsletter stinks? What if you announce a webinar and nobody signs up? What if you post a comment on a blog and somebody tears it apart, arguing that you are both clueless and guilty of poorly grammar?
All possible. But I have an even scarier “What if?” What if you go out of business because you’re too afraid to try anything?
Here’s the bottom line. Working as a solo can be scary, no doubt about it. Everything about your business, good or bad, is on you. And when things go wrong or don’t work out, there’s nobody else to blame.
But you know what? When things go right and do work out, there’s nobody else either. You get to stand back and enjoy whatever it is you’ve created, something that people with jobs often go years without experiencing.
Win or lose, I know one thing for sure. I’d rather get water-pistoled out of the game than simply be disqualified because the clock ran out and I still hadn’t left the house.
P.S. Congratulations to Emily who will be attending the University of Puget Sound in the fall!
P.P.S. You may have noticed that the typeface on this site is now about 50% larger. It took a bit of getting used to, but I find it easier to read now. What do you think (comment below!)?