Pass the monkey
Ever since I was 16 years old, I’ve had a job working for someone else. This usually included paid time off if I was sick and paid holidays and vacations. It meant that if I was having a bad day, feeling a bit unmotivated or tired, I still got paid. Of course it also meant that the next day when I had to work like a dog to catch up I got paid the same amount as on the slow day. Sounds almost like communism.
I am learning a few things from this experience—things that I suppose I’ve always known but that were never quite so in my face. Like the need to reach out to others for help when things become overwhelming. And the need to maintain focus on the truly important things when there are so many other important but nonpaying things clamoring for attention.
But the scariest thing, is that there’s no safety net. If I make a decision on how to run my business, it’s all mine. Sure, I can ask for advice, but in the end I have to make up my own mind and live with the results. When you work for a larger company, it’s very easy to push difficult issues up the chain of command and then complain about how frustrating it is that no one will make a decision. But when you’re “self employed” the only person to blame is the one looking back at you in the mirror. Put my future and my family’s livelihood into the hands of that joker!? What are you crazy!
One of the new things I have started doing is some structural design work on additions and rehabs for local homebuilders. The fact that I’m on my own is seldom more stark. If I recommend a beam size or how much rebar to put into a slab, the builder is going to do it that way. If it falls down, then I’m responsible. No more pushing the buck!
Many years ago I had a boss who only half jokingly told me that the objective of working for a company was to get rid of the monkey. His metaphor was that every task that came along was like a monkey on your back. The idea was to find a way to get that monkey off your back and onto someone else’s. If you had to do some work to get the monkey to go elsewhere, fine, but just be sure he’s gone and can’t find his way back.
Most of you are self-employed, too, so you know what I’m talking about. Tell me how you cope with the pain and pleasure of business ownership. How do you get the monkey off your back? Or does he just hang around no matter what you do, smoking your cigars and generally making a mess?