Pain as GPS

Short post, hard message: what’s your largest source of emotional pain or anxiety today?

Familial stress?  A close friend with cancer?  Fear surrounding a creative project?

I don’t care what it is.  Get after it.

That thing that pains you the most – that thing you’ve been avoiding – that’s the thing you need to address right now.  Pain is your internal GPS.  Physical pain points us to issues in our body that need attention.  An appendix doesn’t hurt unless it’s about to burst.  A torn muscle tells you all about it – because it needs rest to heal.  Your sources of emotional discomfort are exactly what need more attention.

What is one thing you could do to begin moving the needle?  If your relationship with a family member is stressed, take action.  Have a frank conversation.  State boundaries.  Be loving – but start with loving yourself.   You’ll find it extends to others if you’re loving yourself enough.

If you don’t know how to talk to someone, say that.  Get vulnerable.  Admit that you’re human.  “I haven’t reached out because I don’t know what to say, but I want to be there for you.  Avoiding you because I’m uncomfortable is unacceptable.  What can I do?”  Don’t keep letting your discomfort keep you from being a decent human being.

Have you always wanted to learn an instrument?  Paint a picture?  Write a novel?  Do the first thing today.  Commit to creating garbage.  Play – but play like a child.  It is serious business.  Decide to throw all of your creations away for a month.  They don’t matter.  Practice matters.  Doing matters.

Get out there.  Right now.  Do something.

Don’t be a candyass.

Get after it.

Pay Yourself First

You may be familiar with Robert Kiyosaki’s words:

“Pay yourself first.”

The author of Rich Dad Poor Dad was talking about money, of course – the concept of funding your future investments before you pay others what you owe them.  His instruction was to make 100% sure that your future is secure and you’re moving forward.

We can apply this to another resource – a resource far more precious than money: time.

Let’s look at my life before I embraced this idea.  It felt “busy,” which we know is synonymous with “out of control,” carries a victim mindset, and sometimes has a heavy dose of self-importance.  I was jumping out of bed in the morning, dashing through my morning routines, schlepping my son off to school, and running to work.  Everyone at the company I worked for was running around in reaction mode – there was always a fire to put out – and I didn’t do the work to avoid that in my own position.  I just joined them.  After a full day of reacting, I’d dash back home, collect my kiddo, throw something together for dinner, get him to bed, then waste a few hours “unwinding” before going to sleep.

This is the same dance the majority of the working class in our country does every day.  We go through the motions and we don’t ask why.  When we realize we’re in the same place as we were a year ago, it doesn’t feel good – but we didn’t do anything to change it.

When I say that I ‘pay myself first,’ I mean that I have reorganized my life.  I have taken ownership of my time.  As the fantastic Jocko Willink says,

Discipline = Freedom

These days I wake between 4 and 5 in the morning.  I’ve found that I do my best, most productive work when I’m fresh (and with a little coffee).  I get up, do something with my body – yoga, kettlebell swings, HIIT, even just rolling around on the floor with a couple tennis balls under my back.  The endorphins wake my brain up.  Then I settle in with a cup of coffee and write a page, or a blog post.  After I pay ‘future Veronica’ with this time spent on changing my life, I do a couple of odds and ends.  Research to help clients, website work, marketing, etc.

After that I get myself ready for my day job, get my munchkin off to school, and head to work.  I’ve spent enough time now taking ownership of my territory that I have time built in to my schedule to handle unforeseen circumstances.  I no longer function by ‘putting out fires’ all day long, because I’ve intentionally created a degree of separation – my buffer of time.  I can respond to my clients, management team, and co-workers when they need additional attention, but I no longer have to react to them and throw off my whole schedule.  I also have spent time figuring out how to make my hours even more productive by consuming information during every mentally-free moment.

The evening is just as important as the morning.  When I get home with my kiddo we each have a few jobs to do – he unpacks his backpack and puts away his school things, bringing me anything sent home from school.  I pack our lunches for the next day.  We both lay our clothes out.  I usually cook a few things on Sundays so we have easy and healthy dinners for the week.

Then it’s bedtime.  After my son goes to bed, I do too.  I know that I typically need 7-8 hours of sleep to feel my best, so I have made this a priority.  If I go to bed late I know I may not have the discipline to get up at 4:30.

My weekends are just as planned.  I fit my social engagements around my prime working hours.  I prioritize exercise and personal projects.

I say no.  A lot.

Discipline doesn’t have to be boring, though!  As T. Harv Eker says, “Rich people choose both.”  Interpret this – he’s talking about money, I’m talking about EVERYTHING.  Get creative.  Having a hard time maintaining friendships and getting a workout in?  Invite friends to work out with you.  Need to do yard work and read a book to move yourself forward mentally?  Get an audiobook and bluetooth headset.

Don’t try to multitask in the wrong way, though – pick one physical activity and one mental activity to combine.  You can’t be effective if you spread yourself too thin.

Just remember: to find your version of success, you must pay yourself first.  Make this non-negotiable.

Figure out your prime hours for productivity.  Decide where you want to take your life.  Find the path.  Hold the line.

Pay yourself first.

The Professional Devaluer

Hey, quick question:

What are you worth?

Chances are, that gets your irrational brain going into a tailspin – especially if you’re a freelancer, creative, or some other small business owner who is doing tricky work that involves selling a piece of their heart every day.

Are you overcharging?  Are your clients judging you?  What about your friends – are you the running joke in your group?  “He thinks he can bill clients $100 an hour for that?  Give me a break…”

You already know what I’m going to say.

Fuck your feelings.

Decide on a product.  Build your craft.  Put the hours in, and do the work.  Don’t “get comfortable with selling.”  START selling.

Decide on your price and hold the line.

If your clients are undervaluing your work, it’s because you let them.

This brings to mind a situation I had with a client (shared with his permission).  Because he started as a friend, I had agreed to a series of coaching sessions at a cut rate – half price initially, and then I remained at that price point for him even after I raised my rates.  It was fair on both ends, as he wasn’t asking for much.  It was a very hands-off situation; just providing him the bare necessities.  I would typically go a bit beyond what we’d originally agreed on, but I reminded him that if he wanted the full level of support, he’d need to pay the full fee.

This went on for a number of months, with great results.  Then, prior to a session, he asked me to give additional time and energy to another area of his life – something not in our original deal.

Á la Extreme Ownership, this is 100% my fault.  I’d built the boundaries, but I didn’t communicate them to him clearly enough.  If I had, he wouldn’t have even asked – or he would have come to me to purchase more coaching.

Just before we began our work that day I sat down with him and explained the boundary, taking full responsibility for the error in my communication.  He was quick to take responsibility for his actions, but I maintain that the error was my own because I could have prevented it.

My message here is threefold.

First, if you undervalue yourself or leave any space for others to do so, you will get walked all over.  This will make you resentful, which will drive away business both due to your attitude and your quality of work.

Second, you are fully responsible for correcting every misstep you make in your pricing and your communication surrounding pricing.

Third, and the best, biggest, most important part…

Don’t use your emotions as a calculator.

When you sit down to determine your rates, use actual math.  Your figures will vary – you may include time spent with the client, project time, materials, travel expenses.  You will also work in supporting expenses – overhead, equipment, education or supplies necessary for you to do your job, costs of certifications, etc.  If half of your garage is taken over by your wood shop, you need to charge enough to cover the space, heat, etc.  Figure in at least 25% taxes, the cost of your health insurance, and your savings goals.

Whatever you do, do NOT fall into the trap of charging based on the amount you feel people want to pay.

Your emotions are the worst calculator known to man.

Once you get to a number, set it in stone.  If this is the minimum you need to keep your business afloat and provide a decent income for yourself, go ahead and raise it 10% right now.  Or just double it.  What, you don’t think people will pay?


Here, let me say it again: It’s now your job to get that good.

Get that good and people will pay – but they’ll only pay if you keep holding the line.  That number you came up with?  You might as well tattoo it on your forehead*, because it’s not going down for anyone.  You don’t feel like you can charge that much?

Fuck your feelings.  They’re not in charge of negotiations here.  YOU ARE.

Hell, make “fuck my feelings” your mantra when you’re having a discussion on pricing with a new client.  When they see that you respect yourself, they will too.  If you apologize, they’ll smell your fear.

People are sharks, and if you apologize for your prices in any way you might as well just stab a fork into your jugular* and jump in the ocean – it’ll be that effective.

Remember: Set your price.  Get that good.  Hold the line.

The clients will come.


*The author does not recommend impulsive tattoos or self-inflicted injury of any kind.