You’re Supposed to be Relaxing Right Now
It's Summer. Just about all of your clients are going on vacation. And when they do, they pause all of their projects. This is supposed to be your time to sit back and relax too, but you're trippin' instead. You’re worrying about money instead of enjoying this extra time you have.
So why aren’t you relaxing? What's going on here? When you have plenty of work and plenty of money, you have no time and you complain about it. But then, when you have no work and no money, you have plenty of time but complain about the lack of work. You've been doing this for a while so you know that there are slow times of year, yet you always seem to forget how it goes.
Maybe if you were the type of person who keeps a journal you’d have years of notes about this and you’d be able to look back and see recurring patterns. Maybe if you were a little more pragmatic you’d remember to plan your vacation to coincide with the vacations of your clients. Maybe you’re actively trying to manage things by setting aside money so you can weather the slow periods without worrying so much, or maybe you have side projects that keep you busy when work drops off. For me, all of the above seem like bandaids, not really dealing with the root problem.
The root problem from my point of view is this, and it's mainly a Buddhist thing: there is only change. Attachment to things that must by their nature do nothing other than change will create suffering. It’s as true in business as it in all other parts of life.
Now, this is not to say that I have this issue sorted, or even that I’ve achieved any peace with it, but whenever I notice that my worrying has been triggered I also notice that I was really attached to something that changed on me. There are palliatives that I can use to sort of ease the blow, but the root issue is that I attach myself to something and it moves, and I’m always upset about it.
I’m lucky enough to have a healthy business, and most months we see a steady rhythm of work. It even gets kind of tranquilizing with its consistency. But in the summer and around the holidays, stuff drops off, sometimes precipitously. Yes we can plan ahead and be ready for it, but somehow that never alters the suffering that comes about from the pain of change. So the thing to do here I think is to learn how to live with more flexibility and grace in the face of change.
But what to do when the change is sudden, unexpected, and big? And your team is looking to you for reassurance? There was a time not too long ago when three of our biggest client engagements, for reasons totally unrelated to our relationships or the quality of our work, dropped off a cliff. Boom. No amount of preparation could have gotten us ready for such a change. We were naked in the face of it. The only possible thing to do was to try and remain centered and composed and then steadily work our way through the problem. At that moment I was deeply and urgently regretting that I had not worked more diligently on internalizing some of the truths I’ve found in Buddhism and other religions. Certainly I could have been better prepared, equipped with some sort of inner calm, greater flexibility and a greater sense of humor and resilience. In fact, the situation was quite useful insofar as it was so extreme that it was ridiculous, almost hilarious. It was absurd how bad things got and how quickly they got there. But in that absurdity was a gift. A lesser challenge might have been met by more palliative approaches, more bandaids. But when you get your legs lopped off, there's really no bandaid. There is only your internal fortitude, flexibility and patience to rely on. And hopefully a vision of how different things could be if you embrace the situation instead of struggling against it.
So I’m taking this summer as an opportunity to reflect on my attachments in my business and in my life, and how they only bring suffering. I hope you’ll do the same. Think on how you can remove or reduce these attachments, but at the same time think on how you might increase your internal flexibility and capacity for change. The technology business is nothing if not constantly changing, and the better we can get at calmly and maybe even happily accepting that fact, the better things will be for us, our teams, and our companies. And once you make some progress with this, please give me a holler and tell me how you did it. Because I'm not there yet!