For the first time since my sophomore year in college (so roughly 15 years), I don’t currently have some side business going on. It’s a bizarre feeling to come home and have to think about what I’m going to do at night once my son is in bed. It used to be a given that I’d go to work on some component of whatever scheme I was working on. The most recent project I’ve decided to step away from is SupplierPartner.com. It’s currently for sale and on auto pilot, so soon it’ll be official. This was a tough decision but there are two main factors that led me to decide to do this.
- The potential at my current job far exceeds any opportunities I’ve been exposed to in the past.
- I came across the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less a year ago and have been reading it every couple of months. It’s changed my whole way of thinking.
You may be thinking I should have done this so that I had more time with my family, but I’ve always made an effort to have quality time without any screens present with both my wife and my son, so my entrepreneurial endeavors have never really tipped the scale too far in the work direction.
This was a tough call though because I’d say about 50% of the skills I bring to the table as an ecommerce professional were not learned because I needed them on the job but because I needed them for whatever project I was working on at home. Some of the things I learned about on the side were HTML, CSS, Google Analytics, statistical analysis, WordPress, site design, UI design, cold calling, copy writing, photo editing, working with offshore developers, managing software projects, buying and configuring servers, customer service, dealing with people you can’t afford to lose, negotiating contracts, doing demos, and much more.
As I developed these skills I was able to utilize them in new jobs and become more valuable as an employee. Had I gone home each night and turned on the TV I would have never been able to progress. So this makes me nervous to stop now. What has led me to believe this is the way to go is this Essentialism book. So far I’ve been able to collect a large quantity of basic skills that are useful to small ecommerce businesses that need help across several departments, what I believe I need to do now is go far deeper into these subjects to milk them for all they are worth. This requires much more time and a much more focused approach. It’s more akin to studying a subject than throwing together a new project. To use a grandiose term it’s the way to mastery.
If I can develop a more sophisticated and mature understanding of the subjects I already have a good grasp of, then I think I’m playing my cards right at this point. I’ll use my evenings to dig deeper by reading and researching, as well as sleeping enough to be in good mental shape for the following day. This is probably how many people live their lives but it’s a crazy new lifestyle concept to me! It’s going to force me to be intentional instead of just staying busy, and require more thought than it takes to figure out the basics. It’s also going to require me to double down on my ability to deliver at work. I won’t be able to make excuses to myself on rough days that I’m only there til my “other” thing takes off. I think this raising of stakes will allow me to hold myself to higher standards than I have in the past and over time increase my value as an ecommerce professional.
All in all I think I’m on the right track here. It’s going to take some time to learn how to approach this, but I feel like I’m reaching a new more mature level. It’s sort of like a bass player that chills out a bit over time and stops hitting as many notes per beat, instead focusing on playing the right notes at the exact right time with the proper tone. At least that is what I’d like to think.
So to answer the question I posed in the title of this post – side projects are absolutely productive, but only to a point. At some point I now believe you need to stop and dig deeper. Commit to something dammit! The question is when that inflection point occurs. Has anyone else experienced this dilemma in their lives? How did you handle it?