(Listen to this post, here.)
I might be exaggerating, but I bet I’m the only person in my entire town who woke up yesterday morning happy that it was just three degrees out.
Three degrees is cold, even for New England. But when I jumped out of bed, ran over to the thermometer and saw 3.2 on the screen, I could hardly contain my excitement.
Was it because I left $50 worth of fresh shrimp in the backseat of my car and forgot to bring it inside? Was it because I have extra oil in my basement that needs burning? Or is it just that the number three is my favorite of the digits?
I applaud your creativity, but your guesses are all wrong.
I was happy because I possess a backyard ice skating rink – 2,100 square feet (35×60), thank you very much – and good ice requires really cold temperatures. The colder the better and three degrees is about as good as it gets around here.
This is our eighth or ninth year building a rink and I don’t mind telling you, it’s become somewhat of an obsession for me.
Building the frame, laying out the liner, filling the rink and keeping it shoveled and resurfaced with fresh water (every other night at least) throughout the winter.
For me, it’s more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. And while I don’t mean to suggest that standing on a rink in the dark, holding a hose gushing hot water while I watch the steam rise off the surface is the highlight of my existence, it’s definitely in the top five.
But here’s the interesting thing: I don’t really love skating. Or hockey. Or cold weather.
What I love is “perfect ice” and the daily challenge of keeping it that way.
It’s kind of an odd arrangement if you think about it. I do all this work, all winter long, to create and maintain something whose practical value has little interest to me.
That’s not a problem for a leisure activity. But it’s not a smart way to market a business.
Here’s what I mean…
Many of the solo professionals I come in contact with are obsessed (to a fault) with process. They love caring for the ice; they don’t spend much time skating.
They hold off on launching a new web site until it’s “just right.” They organize and reorganize their contact lists. They fine-tune their bio, redesign their logo, fool with their pricing and rewrite their newsletter again and again and again without ever sending it.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inappropriate about putting your best foot forward and making sure your marketing materials and presence are well done.
That said, perpetual table setting – without inviting any guests – is dangerous. It feels like activity – it is activity. It’s just not the kind that by itself will ever bring you the avalanche of clients and money you want.
At some point, the benefits of incremental tweaking are outweighed by the cost of never taking action. And it’s action – visible, real, scary action that comes with the possibility of failure – that you need.
So go ahead. Build, organize, prepare, polish. Just don’t let your preparation become an excuse for not lacing up your skates and stepping out on the ice.
After all, only a fool would build a rink that he never intended to use.