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