For a long time, I was playing business. Or rather, I was playing life.
I wasn’t taking it seriously. I was being an amateur.
I mean, I was serious – look at this face – but I wasn’t approaching my work or my life seriously.
I had struggled to get out of a crappy job, escape the midwest winters, and then got to California and life was relatively good.
I was always wary of becoming a “Thailand entrepreneur” – the digital nomads who traveled to Thailand to baseline their costs and figured out how to make $1k/month to live like a baller in Thailand.
This was the promise when I was getting out of my job – but the problem was with a lot of these guys – is that they never figured out how to make anything more than $1k/month.
They balled it up in Thailand because it was so cheap, but $1k/month is still $1k/month and that doesn’t get you much outside of SE Asia.
I never wanted to be that guy. And thankfully, between IMPOSSIBLE, Ultimate Guides, and X – I didn’t have to be. I was able to live between California and New York – bouncing around wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I went on a ton of adventures and even raised a bunch of money for charity.
But then I got a wakeup call.
I got sued. I started to realize how much stuff was working “okay”, but not optimal. I realized that I wasn’t taking my accountant seriously because “taxes were boring.” I realized that I almost lost my business because I didn’t think “lawyers were important.” I realized that my team building skills left a lot (and I mean a lot) to be desired.
The past few years have been a wakeup call for me. For me to turn pro. To focus seriously on what I’m trying to do at IMPOSSIBLE and in my businesses. In my life. In what I’m trying to do.
For a long time, I thought it was cool to be the “care free” entrepreneur. Live anywhere, do anything, anytime. No rules, no systems, no obligations, just the obligation to make enough money to have a good time doing whatever I wanted wherever I wanted.
- Don’t worry about team calls. If you miss them, you miss them.
- Don’t worry about showing up late, who’s going to fire you?
- Don’t worry about documenting or organizing stuff – that’s part of the fun of entrepreneurship, right? Winging it!
But over time, man – it wore on me.
- Wonder why your team isn’t engaged? Maybe because you’re not engaging them.
- Wonder why people don’t trust your plans? Maybe because you’re not showing up.
- Wonder why it feels like you’re doing the same thing over and over again? Maybe you should have documented it.
- Wonder why you’re stalling out on your fitness goals? Maybe it’s consistency.
The paradox of professionalism.
You gotta know the rules first before you break them. But if you break them, you better know them really, really freaking well.
The truth is, I avoided professionalism because it reeked of the shirt and tie culture that I tried really, really hard to escape when I was at my desk job in Milwaukee. I thought that sticking rules, hell boundaries of any sort (even a lease) was too constraining. And so I ran amuck in freedom – too much freedom (but that’s another story for another blog post).
The thing I missed was this:
Professionalism isn’t about looking a certain way, it’s about being a certain way.
You know what’s cooler than eating whatever you want, whenever you want, without judgement? Looking and performing to your potential and beyond.
You know what’s cooler than vaguely knowing your KPIs and thinking you’re doing “okay.” Actually knowing your KPIs and killing them, and knowing it for sure.
You know what’s cooler than feeling like you’re on a treadmill over and over, doing the same tasks again and again? Building rock-solid systems and teams to make sure they’re executed to the standard every, single time.
You know what’s cooler than hoping your trademarks are protected. Locking them down and becoming bulletproof.
You know what’s cooler than making mish-mash jokes about not knowing what your taxes are the past few years. Getting that ish on lock and getting out in front and doing projections and planning for future years.
You know what’s cooler than being the “carefree entrepreneur”? Being a pro.
Pros don’t show up only when they want to.
They don’t show up only when they feel like it.
They don’t show up only when it’s convenient.
They show up because it’s their job.
And they do it well. Every time.
Finances. Trademarks. Organization. Documentation. Processes. Teams. Systems.
They all sound contrarian. They lock you in. They force you to show up. Do things a certain way.
And they’re all constraining things.
But when you’re forced to show up, the paradox kicks in.
The more you show up. The tighter you’re locked in. The more ability you have to improvise when you want. The more professional you are, the more freedom you gain. As Jocko would say – #disciplineequalsfreedom.
So that’s the job.
That’s the gig.
You picked it.
Now be a pro at it.
And do the damn thing.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing seriously. You’re not helping anyone by slacking on that front.
Being an amateur isn’t cool. It’s not cute. It’s not funny.
It’s just amateurish.
And the worst part is, being an amateur in one thing, will start to seep into everything else.
How you do anything is how you do everything.
So if you’re going to do something – be a pro at it.
Steven Pressfield has a book on this subject (Turning Pro). I’ve read it years ago, but it’s always good for a kick in the butt. Be a pro. Be better.