The other night, my long-suffering husband decided that he’d had enough, bless his cotton socks. He took me out and poured wine down my throat till I chilled out, opened up and started talking. I’d spent the previous few days in an orgy of self-recrimination, guilt and shame. It’s a very familiar place and I find myself in it with reasonable regularity, though fortunately, less often now than a few years ago. It’s not a pleasant place to live and I can’t even blame it on my Catholic upbringing, because I wasn’t raised Catholic. I’m Anglican and we feel guilt about NOTHING.
What brought on the whole guilt trip is the fact that I’ve decided that I’m not going to run an online business. I’m just going to build my website, blog, write, connect people, find funny memes & cartoons and do whatever I want to do at that particular moment including pick up all those things that I haven’t had time to do because I’ve been too busy working on building the online business. In other words, I’m going to – shocked intake of breath from the online business community here - ENJOY myself and do things that I LIKE doing, things that make me feel HAPPY and that list of Things That Make Me Feel Happy And Fulfilled does not include all the stuff that goes with running an online business and it DEFINITELY doesn’t include ‘HUSTLING’. A huge part of the online business community harp on about ‘doing the hustle’ and “you need to hustle” or “I’ve hustled my a** off this week and look at what I’ve achieved!” Well, good for you, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself but for me, ‘hustle’ is just ‘work’ dressed up in a showy outfit, high heels, loads of makeup and fake jewellery. It’s still WORK, it’s just ‘work’s’ smarmier, flasher, smooth-talking, used-car-salesman, younger sibling. In case you haven’t guessed, I don’t like ‘hustle’ at all.
To me, building an online business is Motherhood #2. It’s daily grind, doing the same things over and over again, always trying to keep up: get posts up, send emails, interact, run programs, do opt-ins, do the next thing and the next, hustle, hustle, hustle. Let’s put it this way: all of this stuff that I’ve been doing so far does not make me want to leap out of bed in the mornings, filled with joie de vivre and excitement about the coming day. It’s boring, it’s tedious and I find it completely, totally, utterly boring as all hell and exhausting.
Judging from the reaction (and the comments) that I’ve had when I’ve told people about my decision to stop building an online business, I’m now a social media pariah. I’m also selfish, a quitter, can’t stay the course and I’m being ridiculous and behaving irrationally. I also need to get my act together and sort myself out. One person, when I didn’t explain my reasons to her satisfaction, made several of the, let’s call them ‘observations’, above, then continued on with “I couldn’t do that to my family: spend all that money, put in all that time and effort and then just drop it like that. My commitment to my family is bigger than that. I see all these women just giving up and I’m never going to do that because I'm committed to making a success of this for my family.” Right. No judgement there, then. Is it any wonder I’ve spent a fair bit of time feeling like I’m a total loser?
I haven’t even mentioned how I feel about ‘hustle’ to anyone until now; my self-preservation instinct – or maybe just plain old cowardice - has kept me quiet. The reaction to how I feel about ‘hustling’ will be similar to the one you’d get if you asked for a medium rare steak in a Vegan restaurant.
When I’ve finally managed to convince people that I am indeed serious, and I am actually stopping coaching/running a business, obviously still trying to get their heads around what’s going on, their next reaction is “So, how are you going to monetize it?”, which is where I have another meltdown (my stress levels have been through the roof the last couple of weeks) because I’m not going to monetize it. I have no intention of monetizing it and I’m not going into this with the outcome being that I make money from it because it changes the whole feel of everything, not just for the people reading my posts or going to the website but also for me. Hello? If I go into this thinking about how I’m going to monetize it, isn’t that just another business? I don’t want a business, I just told you that. But the problem is that I’m totally unable to come up with a ‘justified’, ‘reasonable’, ‘understandable’ answer as to why I’m not going to monetize it. Nobody – and I mean, nobody – can get their head around this. They all know that I’ve spent a fortune, both financially and in terms of time and effort, on learning how to run an online business. I’ve done some very expensive programs, and lots of not so expensive ones, I’ve had one-on-one mentoring, I’ve signed up for video courses, marketing courses, mailing list opt-ins, ‘engaging your audience’ opt-ins, I’ve bought books and attended workshops and intensive days. I am now highly educated in how to run an online business, so educated in fact, that I could run programs on how to build an online business including all the technical stuff that goes with it. No one can understand it or believe that I just don’t want to. It's really simple: I don’t enjoy it. If I had a choice between running an online business for the next however long and eating a bowl of carefully prepared chocolate-dipped, sprinkle coated cockroaches, I’d choose the cockroaches. Okay, maybe not, but it would be a close thing.
I was on the phone to a friend talking about all this and she was trying, very kindly and non-judgementally, to get her head round this decision. As we’re talking, I had this awful realisation that I’ve never actually wanted to build an online business. Never. I got into all this entirely by accident: I signed up for an online coaching program, completely unaware that it involved having an online business. I just wanted to reboot my coaching skills. Then, because the woman who was running the program is really, really awesome, I took her on as my mentor, so I carried on building the business because that was what I thought I needed to do; she’s a business coach, so obviously, I needed a business. And I just kept going, getting sucked further and further into all this while never really wanting to do any of it other than learn how to do stuff, because I like learning how to do stuff. And I feel so guilty for spending all that money and putting in all that effort, and for what? Nothing. And the thing is, I’ve known all along that I didn’t actually want to do it and I just kept going, being dragged further and further away from doing things that I enjoy.
I could feel my friend’s pain, “But you’re so good at it all!”, she wailed. And I am. I’m good at business. I’m good at coaching. I’m good at writing programs and articles. I’m good at all the technical stuff. I don’t like it, though. And I don’t want to do it. And I feel selfish and shallow. I’ve known all this the whole time and I still carried on, I didn’t have the courage or strength of character to stop. Until now. Now I’ve stopped but I felt really guilty about it, like I’ve wasted all that time and effort. And this was what John wanted to get to the bottom of when he poured the wine down my throat: it’s his money and I feel guilty for 1) spending his money (notice that if I feel like I’ve wasted money, it’s ‘his’ money. Normally, it’s ‘our’ money) and 2) not contributing financially.
John said “I don’t look at it like that. I look at it like you’re doing a degree course in finding out how to be yourself and all this stuff you’re doing is just part of it. It’s not wasted in any way. And as to how to justify not monetizing what you’re doing, you don’t have to monetize it. You’re in a position where you don’t have to do that; you can do something purely for the pleasure it gives you. Just accept that and stop feeling that you need to justify or explain yourself to anyone.”
Yes, I know: my husband is pretty damned amazing and I’m very, very happy to be married to him. #smug
PS It was so difficult not to add a moral to the end of this story. Old habits die hard, lol.
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...