043: The Business of Busyness: A Chronic Creator’s Struggle

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 – 1 hour, 14 minutes

Download: MP3 (71.4 MB) | Lo-Fi MP3 (35.7 MB)


As a self-described chronic creator, I find myself producing incessantly. Last year I phased out of client work (after taking on way too many commissioned projects) only to load myself up with even more self-initiated ones. I’ve been working overtime towards a certain goal I have in mind for the past 6 months with the full intent to take it easy after I achieve it. However, a friend asked me a question the other week that gave me pause. He said, “Do you think you’re even capable of taking it easy?”

The profundity struck me. Was I really able to scale back? Am I really psyching myself out to think I could slow down? Or am I addicted to the busyness?

Show Notes
  • The Predicament of Busyness.
  • 03:14 My busyness story.
  • 03:36 When I was doing client work, I found myself in a place where I was taking on too much work. I had a rush job come up and I was already totally booked. Instead of saying no, I charged them 60% more than their budget, expecting them to walk away. They still said yes so I was even more slammed. Moral: If the client agrees to your price right away, you’re not asking for enough money.
  • 04:50 I told myself I would phase out of client work and start taking it easier. As soon as I did though, I completely filled the time. In the next 2 months, I:
    • Took on a book illustration project
    • Created a Skillshare class
    • Started a twice-a-week-podcast
    • Began launching Learn Lettering
  • 06:45 At this point (and for the last 6 months) I’ve been working MORE than I was when I decided to stop doing client work “because I was so busy.”
  • 07:10 Today’s topic came from when I was talking to my friend about all of this. I was telling him everything I was working on, how much I was working, and all that I had going on. He asked me: “What’s your end goal? What is this all for?”
  • 07:25 I told him I’d like to be at a point where my residual income entirely supports the comfortable quality of life I currently maintain. That’s not to say I wouldn’t continue to work; it would just be on top of that residual baseline.
  • 08:49 To give a bit of background: I have a “no debt” mentality. I saved up and bought my first car cash. It’s a red mustang with a performance clutch. I like it a lot. The only thing is my wife wasn’t able to drive it. This meant I had to drive her to and from work, on errands, etc. for the first 3 years of our marriage. Throughout this entire time I was saving. I worked hard and saved up enough cash to buy a relatively new car outright in the summer of last year.
  • 10:37 I say this because I believe it allows me to say with confidence that even if I make more money, I don’t think it will change my quality of life, or my work ethic for that matter. We’re used to putting money away and living simply.
  • 12:34 So I told my friend that my plan for after I launch Learn Lettering and the Community is to “take it a bit easier”—which to me means still producing two podcasts a week, but focusing exclusively on providing value to the Community members, and continuing to put out new courses.
  • The Question:
  • 13:03 After hearing my story, here’s the question my friend asked me that stopped me in my tracks:
  • “Do you think you’re even capable of taking it easy?”

  • Dissecting Busyness
  • 13:56 “Is your current busyness your default mode?”
  • 16:47 The cultural attitude toward busyness.
  • 17:09 There is a danger of equating or associating busyness with success.
  • 20:04 I just have an insatiable drive. It’s not about being busy for busy’s sake or to show other people that I’m busy, but I compete with myself.
  • 20:51 Everyone has a different threshold for the amount of effort they can put forth in a given amount of time and still produce their best work.
  • 22:39 If you have a really high threshold and a lot of energy for what you’re working on to the point where other “fun” things feel like a distraction instead of rest, you should capitalize on that momentum. Just be mindful of the fact that everything you do comes at the expense of something else. You have to find that balance.
  • 23:42 You don’t get a medal of honor for being the person who has the highest threshold and can get the most quality work done.
  • 24:03 You may do your best work when you put forth 4 hours of concentrated time a week and spend the rest of your time vegging out. If you’re able to produce you’re best work that way, there’s nothing wrong with that.
  • 25:25 I find that when I’m relaxing and doing what other people would call “fun,” I’m not as fulfilled as when I’m making stuff.
  • 26:16 I had texted Ben this (what I call) “brain dump” I had written. I don’t really know what it was or what for, but it was something I just had to get out:
    • If I’m awake, I write.
    • If I’ve written, I’m making.
    • If I’m making, I’m listening.
    • If I’m listening, I’m listening to learn.
    • If I’m learning, I share my knowledge.
    • If I’ve done all of the above, I read.
    • If I’m reading, it’s to understand.
    • If I’m growing my understanding, I’m using it to solve problems.
    • If I’m able to solve a problem, I market the solution.
    • If I marketed the solution, I sell the answer.
    • If I sold the answer, I look for the next problem.
    • If I’ve identified a problem, I write about it.

    And writing is what I will do the next day.

  • 31:36 Regardless of how you feel about your activity and whether it’s what you want to be doing or don’t want to be doing, you always maintain some level of control over how busy you are.
  • 32:08 “I don’t have the time.”
  • 33:20 At the end of the day, I can’t say I’m stuck in the position I’m in. It’s a lot healthier to say I’ve chosen this position and I can choose something else if I like.
  • 34:37 Those who are doing things that you admire aren’t blessed with 25 hours in a day. They sacrifice. They make time.
  • 36:35 I think I say I’ll slow down because I’m worried about what other people will think if I don’t—not because I want to.
  • If I made hundreds of thousand of dollars from some product, it wouldn’t change anything. Im going to make the next thing. I’m going to start from zero again and build something up just for the pure love of doing it.

  • 37:27 The mindset you want is not living for the future, but living for now. That’s all you have anyway. If everything you live for is wrapped up in some retirement that is years away, just remember that you’re not guaranteed those years.
  • 40:14 My ideal “retirement” is setting myself up to be in a position where I can create without hinderance.
  • 41:57 Turn a hinderance into a goal.
  • 48:44 Feeling trapped.
  • 50:22 Knowing your limits. “Is my attitude towards busyness going to lead to a healthy business in the future?”
  • 52:49 Even when you’re doing the things that you don’t love, look for problems to solve.
  • 56:03 The experiences you have now are going to lend themselves towards what you do in the future—even if you don’t see it and even if what you’re doing now isn’t what you love to do.
  • 56:49 Changes in busyness have a long fuse.
  • 57:42 Allowing for margin. My optimizing mindset automatically wants to fill in the gaps rather than allow for margin. This can potentially stunt effectiveness.
  • 59:17 Often our busyness and tendency to overcommit is simply overcompensating for the fact that we have an inclination to procrastinate. We’re trying to create constraints.
  • After Talk
  • 01:06:00 Answering: “How do I become a chronic creator?” (Reference: e009 The 3 Groups of People and How Learning Can Set You Apart)

By Sean McCabe

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Sean McCabe
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