When you’re a thought leader, your life becomes your business.
That’s why I refer to my life as Robin, Inc. I view my entire life as one, with no distinction between my personal and professional lives. I understand that my life and goals are a sum total of how I spend my time, capital, and energy. What I’m not saying is that you have to give up things like family time or vacations, but by thinking of your life as a whole, you can allocate resources effectively to design the life you want to live.
Once you commit to the mindset of building a business, other aspects of being a thought leader start to make sense. With this mindset you understand that your business will require monetary expenditure, consultants or employees, clear goals, metrics, and a plan. In order to move toward your goals and proactively build revenue streams that fit those goals, you cannot compartmentalize your personal and professional lives, living them completely differently.
You need to start thinking of your life as You, Inc. If you think of thought leadership as a side project or hobby, you will be unfocused and have less chance of success.
In this article, we’ll look at how to begin connecting your life and your business.
Focus on What You Do Best
First, consider what you would and wouldn’t do under your “professional hat.” For instance, business owners who work in an office likely wouldn’t be the ones to clean it. They wouldn’t go to the store to buy paper or design the business cards.
Yet so many people waste time scrubbing the kitchen, running errands, or dragging their feet on their taxes because the forms are so tedious. All these tasks can be easily outsourced to professionals who complete those same tasks for many clients.
Ask yourself what you do in your personal life that you really shouldn’t be doing. What is wasting your time? It’s time to get creative.
Choose the top five things you should be doing, and outsource the rest.
You need to start thinking of your life as You, Inc.
Ask this same question for each task or revenue stream. For example, when it comes time for me to build a new keynote presentation deck, my time is better spent on rehearsing than making the slides beautiful. I focus on what I’m good at and hire a designer from a platform like Upwork to template a design and touch up my slides so that they look professionally done. It would be a waste of my time to spend ten hours perfecting the design of the slides, and in the end, the slides would still look amateur.
When I need a new website, I hire someone for $500 to $2,000. I know that design is labor intensive, and there is a learning curve with every new design template or software platform, so I invest the money to hire someone to do it for me. A designer can do in one hour what might take me ten hours. I then free up my time up to focus on other tasks that I can’t outsource, or I use that time to get some extra sleep.
Be Flexible in Your Thinking
Whenever you adapt to new technologies, opportunities, careers, and more, make sure you are flexible in your thinking. Flexible thinking combined with a solution-focused mindset will help you survive this massive job shift we’re experiencing.
Pay attention to your own excuses for not doing something differently than you’ve always done it. Those excuses are usually barriers for change, created in your mind from fear of change or the unknown.
Like time, stress needs to be considered. Is the stress worth it?
Almost three years ago, I decided to never drive again and sold my car. I eliminated the stressor of traffic, parking, car maintenance, and driving altogether. I just sit in the back of a rideshare car and work on my computer, have a phone meeting, or listen to music.
That simple choice has significantly impacted Robin, Inc.
Remember that time is currency and has an opportunity cost. When time passes and nothing productive is done, you’ve wasted an opportunity to build your business. Again, go back to that question: would I do this in my “business life?”
If the answer is no, why are you doing it at all?
The Early Days Can Be Terrifying
When I began my career, I had two revenue streams from working two part-time jobs at separate companies. Even then, I always had side volunteer or consulting work. Just like everything else in life, the hard part was going to be the first few years: twelve-hour days, six to seven days a week, plus capital investment in my career.
Yes, it was absolutely terrifying sometimes. Every day was hard work and high risk, with no guarantee of success. Even now, as a successful professional speaker, the reality of my world can be daunting. Every day, I must compete against men, some of whom have multiple degrees, and the only money I have to invest in myself and my work is the money I make. So, if you were looking for a warning sign or a red flag, here it is:
Everything worth doing has risk.
If you’re not taking risks, then you’re not thinking big enough to succeed. If you want to live up to your potential, you must be willing to approach each day a little bit terrified.
Understand that this journey requires risk. In your first year, you might not see any direct ROI from money spent. If that’s the case, don’t get discouraged. Those who are successful are the ones who stuck with it for the long-term.
You Will “Waste” Money
It’s easy to waste significant money early on by making poor decisions. In my first year, I spent a lot of time listening to thought leaders, studying their processes, understanding their value propositions, finding out who they use for PR, websites, software, marketing, and more. Fortunately, this helped prevent me from wasting a lot of money.
But even with hardcore research and recommendations from professional speakers and authors, I still spent money that, in retrospect, was unnecessary.
Everything takes more money and time than you would expect. Always budget more than you think you will spend. I put aside money for those kinds of wastes.
If you happen to not need to use the money during the year, then it becomes extra money you can keep. Remember, these count as business expenses. You are getting more value out of your spending than you might realize.
Due Diligence on Hiring
In my first year as a thought leader, I used nearly 40 different people at Robin, Inc. All of them either came from companies that do specific functions (like PR), platforms like Upwork, or virtual assistant companies like Leverage.
You have to do your due diligence with freelancers. At times, I paid $100 and received fantastic work back in return.
Other times, I paid $500 for a website designer who took multiple iterations because they didn’t understand my instructions.
The best lesson I have learned is that when you hire consultants for You, Inc., know that not all consultants will work out. Just like full-time employees at a corporation may not give the company they work for full effort, consultants might not perform better simply because the money is coming from your own pocket.
Make sure your budget has extra room in it for those few people you hire that don’t live up to your expectations. This is just the cost of doing business.
In these cases, you will likely need to pay someone else to redo the task. Corporations deal with this reality. I deal with this reality. You will too.
This was adapted from The Thought Leader Formula. For more advice on merging your life and your business to become a thought leader, you can find The Thought Leader Formula on Amazon.
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