A Close Shave

(Listen to this post, here.)

I shaved off my beard last week … accidentally.

Hang on, I have what I believe is a reasonable explanation.

I use a small, electric trimmer with a circular dial that adjusts how close it cuts. As you turn the wheel between 1 and 10, the cutting guard moves accordingly.

Well, on this particular day, I had removed the cutting guard to clean it. That’s when things went sideways…

With the guard still sitting on the sink, I turned the dial to 3, as always, and made a long upward cut along my chin.

Uh oh. Absent the cutting guard, the dial was effectively set to zero. 

Adjusting it had about as much impact on the outcome as when your four-year-old turns the pretend plastic steering wheel from the back seat.

Seeing the damage done, I had little choice but to remove the rest and start from scratch.

So, what’s the lesson here? 

A case could be made, I suppose, for greater mindfulness: Pay attention to what you’re doing. Live in the present. Stop multitasking. 

And I concede that in terms of reducing shaving mishaps, it’s probably good advice. When it comes to growing a small or solo professional service business, however, it’s not nearly enough.

Not that you shouldn’t pay close attention. But unless you add to the mix speed, action, multitasking and a willingness to make mistakes, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities.

First, because the cost of error is low.

Back in the day, when you printed a brochure, or placed an ad, or self-published a book, it was much closer to an all or nothing proposition.

You wrote a big check and three weeks later, 5,000 sheets of your brand-new letterhead arrived. You know, the one with the typo in the phone number.

Today, with nearly everything electronic and so many do-it-yourself tools available, few mistakes require a lot of time or money to fix.

Second, because sitting still is your worst option.

When you work in a big company, few decisions – whether involving creative direction, renting office space, promotional offers, etc. – are made by you alone. There are always other people chiming in.

Even the question of where to eat lunch invariably awakens some schmuck at the other end of the conference table who counters your suggestion with a request to “play devil’s advocate.”

Life in a large organization may be dull, but big mistakes are rare thanks to so many eyes on the ball.

When you work alone, on the other hand, it’s all on you. That’s a fantastic feeling once you get used to it, but at first, it’s pretty scary.

So you think. And you plan. And you ask a friend. And you do some research. And you ask another friend.

Next thing you know, weeks (months?) have passed and you’re still unable to decide if your logo color should be red or blue. (The correct answer is blue.)

All the while, instead of getting in the game, you’re sitting on the sidelines, missing opportunity after opportunity.

Third, because the learning is in the doing.

I didn’t earn a dollar that didn’t come in the form of a paycheck until I was 40.

Compare that with my son Evan who began giving guitar lessons to neighborhood kids when he was 16. Today, at 27, he’s on his fourteenth revenue-generating endeavor.  

Some ideas have been complete and total losers. One has already generated over $1 million in revenue, and it’s still growing.

When I asked him the other day how he figures all this stuff out he said, “I don’t know, I just start doing it.”

The best way to learn is as you go.

Here’s the bottom line.

Slow and steady may feel safe. It was very much my motto for a long time.

I’m just not so sure how well it applies in today’s world (I’m not sure it ever applied for those of us who work for ourselves).

As legendary race car driver Mario Andretti famously said, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”

P.S. Click here to check out Evan’s latest project.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s the most expensive mistake you’ve ever made? (Extra credit if it’s your first husband.)
  2. When was the last time you paid for printed letterhead?
  3. What color is your logo?

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14 thoughts on “A Close Shave

  1. Diane Spadola

    1. Quitting my corporate job, before I had ever heard of Michael Michalowitz, or PROFIT FIRST. I would have started out differently….
    2. As part of a VIP membership at VIstaprint. Still have it all in a drawer.
    3. RAINBOW! that was an easy decision and I really had not other choice.

    Congratulations to Evan. This was a great newsletter.

  2. Gina Havranek

    1. Pass… 😉
    2. I have used letterhead in the past but not for my business.
    3. Pink, kinda by accident, but I have gotten a lot of positive feedback on it so I will keep it for now.

    PS. I love Buzzles. What a great idea. It would make great hostess/holiday gifts. I will be a customer!

  3. Kate Bosch

    1. Most expensive mistake: An entire shipment of really uncomfortable shoes (Back when I owned a shoe store in the ’90’s).
    2. I’ve never paid for printed letterhead!
    3. My logo is gray with a pop of orange.

    As I’m on my 3rd entrepreneurial venture, this week’s newsletter was great. I tend to be like Evan in that I just try stuff and see where it goes.

    Thanks for the link to Evan’s latest venture. The puzzles are the perfect gift for three hard-to-buy-for people on my list who are all wine AND wooden puzzle enthusiasts. I never realized that those two things seem to go together!

  4. Gina Longo

    1) Yep, first husband. Luckily, I made a fast getaway inside of a year. One mistake of that magnitude was enough… I’m not the marrying type! It was only expensive for my parents, who paid for the wedding, though, not me. (I will pay them back someday.)

    2) It’s been a few years since I paid for printed letterhead, and pretty much every sheet went into the recycling bin when I shut the business down due to a complete lack of interest. On my part.

    3) Logo colour depends. I have a few logos. Purple/teal, pink/green.

  5. Lorraine Lane

    1. What’s the most expensive mistake you’ve ever made? (Extra credit if it’s your first husband.)
    Yes! Yes! Yes! that’s 3 ex – husbands, I’ve learned my lesson. Now live with a partner and we both agree. No more marriages needed.
    2. When was the last time you paid for printed letterhead?
    5 years ago. Still use the darn stuff…for scrap paper.
    3. What color is your logo?
    Blue and silver
    Share your thoughts and comments, here.

  6. Ellen Finkelstein

    1. Really, I have no idea. I think that’s a good thing.
    2. Too long ago to remember–even in the early days, I created my own and printed it out on my printer.
    3. What color is your logo? Blue & green


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