EPISODE 21: The Four Ships: how certain relationships form the foundations of your business

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Hello, and welcome to From Hustle to Hell Yes, I'm your host, Emily Carter of change agent studio. And we're solidly into 2022. Now, and if one of your goals is to grow your business sustainably, steadily increasing your income without burning out or stalling out, than today's episode is for you. Today, we're going to dive right into the foundations of creating that sustainability. And I want to begin by talking about the things that we accept about running a business. Because truth be told, sometimes what's keeping us from growing has more to do with the culture we've been conditioned by, that prevents us from seeing our own potential and keeps us from seeing the opportunities in our business too.

So if you've been listening to me for a bit, you've heard me talk about hustle culture and toxic capitalism, and the beliefs we've been conditioned to accept as part of running a successful business. Things like do more and do it faster. Productivity as self worth success as a limited resource, stuff equals happiness, growth at all costs, forward movement at all times. All this can add up to stress and guilt and resentment, and burnout. It also creates a box that most of us simply can't fit inside for the long term. The reason that this conditioning creates problems for us in our business, it's because of the way they undermine the four relationships that we all have that are always operating and having a huge impact on our business. I call them the four ships, and they are your relationship to self, your relationship to time, your relationship to work, and your relationship to people who matter to you, your family and friends, your community of support your clients, the communities that you're engaged in, and are meaningful to you. Each of these four relationships, or the four ships, as I call them, all impact each other, they do not exist in individual bubbles. They're all working together so that pushing and pulling on one has an effect on each of the others. And what's really awesome about that is that by improving just one of these relationships, you inevitably see benefits and all the other relationships too.

Now, before we go further, I just have to acknowledge that what we're going to talk about in this episode is a little bit controversial.

There are lots of people out there that will encourage you to work 24/7 on your business to hustle ever harder now with the expectation of bigger payouts later to follow their exact script for guaranteed success. Gary Vee, I'm side eyeing you. But the truth is, you're a better business owner, when you give yourself permission to enjoy what you've been building while you build it. You're more creative, you're more efficient, and you're much more effective. Everything you do when your cup is full, you're better able to respond to the needs of your customers or clients, when you operate from a place of already receiving what your business is capable of giving you even if it isn't providing all of what you need from it yet. When I work with clients, I use the analogy of our goals. But our businesses ultimately allow us to do be and have. Those ambitions are like an island. And our business is just one mode of getting to that island. And so our main objective each year is to be in the experience of getting as close as possible to that island. Navigation is not always precise. But we can course correct. We use the four relationships, aka the four ships to get us closer and closer to what our business ultimately allows us to do be and have, of course, between us and that island is an ocean of obstacles that we have to navigate. But the four ships can get us there. Building a business that has real staying power means building it in a way that's sustainable. And that means creating balance while also making bank. This is critical for solopreneurs. And businesses have one. Everything that happens in your business flows from you. If when you get paid, it's because of something you made in this world that exists because you created it, then running a business is inherently creative work. You can't create anything worthwhile when you're exhausted mentally and physically. So the first order of business is to make sure that's not where we're headed. So yes, we're going to talk a little bit about work life balance, but mostly so we're all on the same page about what that really means. We've been trained to think about work life balance as a magical number of hours that we spend working versus everything else. And the truth of the matter is that work life balance is not some magical thing. number of hours that you spend at work.

And PS, the appropriate number of hours for working so as not to become overworked or burned out will be different for each of us. For some of the US that numbers 30 hours, for some of us, that number is 60 hours, there are a lot of factors that go into that number. Our physical and mental health are most effective ways of working, and so much more, it's too much to go into in this episode. So we'll save that for another time. But just know that that number is different for all of us. And it has a lot of different variables.

When I talk to people about work life balance will often tell me something that sounds like, I want to spend 25 hours a week working 20 of those hours, I want to be working with clients to make money and I want to be able to spend the rest of my time with my family and friends pursuing things that interest me, I want to be able to take vacation four weeks a year. So first of all, there's absolutely nothing wrong with having these goals. But if you're expecting that to result in a feeling of balance, you are almost certainly going to be disappointed. And here's why. Most of the time, when I'm talking with folks about this kind of balance, it's about working toward it. It's like a future goal that will be achieved when their business has a certain amount of success. Because it may not be possible to have those things right now, exactly the way that they're outlined. Right? That makes sense. It's really important, though, for the sustainability of your business that you be in right relationship to the season of life and the season of business that you're in. So I talked about this a few episodes ago in detail. So go back and listen to that one to get more acquainted with the kind of seasonality that I'm talking about here. But avoiding burnout means doing the right things at the right time. It's also how we grow our business most efficiently. I would say that in the early years of your business, you might not get to spend 25 hours working with clients and just five hours doing all of the other stuff, right, the marketing and, and all of that other stuff that goes along with running a business. That might not be possible, because in the early stage of building your business, the problems and situations that you need to solve are all about getting clients and perfecting that lead generation and sales process and getting those things dialed in.

Now, like I said, a lot of folks I work with recognize this when they talk about work life balance in this way. They're imagining a situation in the future when their business has reached a certain level of success. And they'll be able to have balance. And here's where people will argue with me a lot. They haven't really, I mean, this really tweaks some folks. So I just want to warn you, you don't have to wait for success to have the balance that you need. In fact, you can't wait for this balance, it's essential to your sustainability. Because balance is just another way of saying I can keep doing this for as long as it takes. So no matter where you are in growing your business, it's really important that you get as close to your ideal as you can. And here's where things tend to get heated. It has less to do with the number of hours your butt is in a seat, hammering out content or making widgets or whatever client work you're doing right now, versus the time you spend in leisure, it's really more about the quality of time that you're spending in those places, so that you can feel satisfied in your four ships. So your business will be successful if you stay with it long enough to make it so but it can take a while to dial in what that specifically looks like. And if you don't pursue this sustainability, you will quit before you succeed. Or instead of running a business, it'll be running you. So remember, our business goals are rooted and what we want our business to allow us to do, be, and have. And those desires are rooted and how we want to experience enjoyment and pleasure, and most importantly, satisfaction. So instead of thinking about sustainable work life balance as hours working versus hours in other areas of our lives shift to thinking of balance as a feeling of satisfaction in the four ships, relationship to self relationship to work, relationship to time, and relationship to other humans were connected to.

We've been talking about the four ships as they relate to laying a foundation of sustainability that keeps you from burning out or stalling out. But that's not the whole story with how they're impacting your business. They're also the foundations of how you run your business, the marketing tactics, you'll experience the most success with the systems and processes that align with your specific ways of working, your community of support and the impact and influence your business has. And the best part is that no matter which of the four relationships, self time work or community that you work on, all of the ships benefit and you create a rising tide for you and your business.