When I was playing Little League Baseball, I was the smallest kid on the team, and was relegated to right field most of the time. I really wanted to play infield, but I didn’t have the reach of the other kids and I had a tendency to throw a bit wild under pressure.
One day the coach decided to start grooming me for 2nd base during practice. With drill after drill, I got used to ground balls on the dirt instead of grass and the ball got to our tall first baseman every time, so (finally) in my 3rd year of baseball, I started a home game at 2nd base. To everyone’s surprise, including my own, things went okay and I was able to hold the position for consecutive weeks.
Then all of my hard work came undone.
During one game, the other team had runners on multiple bases quite often. I felt unnerved concentrating on where to go, where to look, where to throw, and “dear God, don’t screw up” with everyone watching. Out of nowhere, a blazing ground ball came bouncing off the left side of the pitcher’s mound my direction and, as it was deciding if it was going to bounce one more time in front of me or not, I glanced to my left and my right to remind myself where the runners were.
I took my eye off the ball.
That’s when the ball hit me in the mouth and broke a tooth I’d knocked out the year before. I was dazed. I was embarrassed. I don’t remember who rescued the ball, but it wasn’t me. I sat out the rest of the game with a busted mouth.
Something changed at practices and the next game. I was afraid of every grounder and started to let down my friends and teammates. Soon, I was back in right field, backing up someone who never let the ball get past him unless it went over or around him.
I lost everything I’d worked for to get out of the outfield.
fast-forward thirty years
After almost six years of growing my business, I was tired of wearing 30 hats but hungry for more (mostly better) work. With more work than I knew what to do with, my biggest stressor was trying to find enough hours to meet everyone’s expectations and my obligations set forth upon receipt of project deposits.
I gained access to a team. While I worked on a project, someone else did development on another, and another. The earning potential was great. We had worked out an arrangement that, if things fell together as I saw it happening, I’d double my income with little more work, if not less work.
Life didn’t work as planned. Over the course of the year working on a team made me more distracted. At home, we had newborn foster after newborn foster, and I was thus sleep deprived and missing meetings and deadlines. In the past, I was always able to work these things out under my own label, but things were different now. I was failing friends and clients and friends’ clients.
Everything became too much after over two months with a newborn we brought home from the hospital (the one we are in the process of adopting now). We resumed our separate ways over missed deadlines affecting others and just days later I had a heart episode that put me in the ER Trauma 1 and a hospital room for 3 days right before Christmas… and heart surgery right after New Year’s. It turned out that I had a heart defect that had likely been affecting my energy and oxygen levels for quite a while.
Something had to change.
My frustrated wife sat me down to talk about why I was insane in the membrane. We finally figured out that I had inadvertently trained my brain to expect to be interrupted. Chats, emails, text messages, tweets, Slack, and tiny people in the house all burst my thought bubbles constantly. I didn’t start tasks (let alone projects) for fear of getting interrupted. I rarely finished anything I started.
With lots of effort, I sorted that out, but there were no projects now. For a year, I had focused on someone else’s business. I stopped writing articles, developing new products, and promoting my primary skills.
I had taken my eye off the ball. Again.
My network thought I was busy with “my job” though we still have no idea why site contacts slowed to a drip and were almost instantly turned off with one email.
what turned it around
Well, I started talking about new ideas and new projects again. The world saw me busy and shaking trees. With that as the only quantifiable change, contacts picked up, the contacts started signing up, and I’m nearly back to having too much work.
It has been a full 4-month process of a humongous pivot to new business. I fall asleep most nights by 8pm, mentally exhausted, but very satisfied in my work once again. With new things coming out, the spark is there and people are excited and talking about them:
- GenesisThe.me is nearing launch. With just desktop viewport remaining for coding, the only major building blocks unbuilt are documentation, support, and the shop with a demo. I’ve sold 4 limited-edition lifetime updates and support licenses and those people are my early adopters.
- WordPress learning is in full swing with my Bootstrap Your WordPress Business video series. 5 of the 16 videos are posted, and at a $78 early-bird price, people are taking advantage of the discount before it’s done. I got 4 major sponsors for the series: StudioPress, WP Engine, Gravity Forms, and DesktopServer.
- Related to my last article on Impostor Syndrome, I’m releasing a premium plugin that will be sold in the theme shop. It’s under tight wraps, but I’ve connected with a Genesis core developer to make sure it’s solid code.
- Still doing full-site and mini projects, both custom and customized. I’m still one of the few who use mobile-first stylesheets and have positioned myself pretty solidly as a mobile-first advocate for Genesis themes.
- I’ve taken on several support contracts to supplement projects and add residual income while product sales ramp up. I don’t want very many so I can keep my standards of communication and quality high, so that’s just about at full capacity already.
There you have it. I almost killed my business last year. Have you done something similar and had to start over or did you recover with a reboot?