11 Secrets to Self-employment Success

by | Jun 20, 2011


I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with lists. At their best, they are vivid, succinct, provocative instruments that promote learning. At their worst, they are glib statements of the obvious or trivial, tedious entries in the annals of serial self-improvement.

In a similar vein, I’ve grappled for years with how to offer my best thinking to readers without implying that it is the right thinking for all folks in all seasons. Presumably, you read this blog for whatever wisdom, insight, or solutions I have to offer, yet I hope you also get the subtext that there are no one-size-fits all remedies for the challenges that plague and bless us one and all in 2011.

All that said, I’ve been reflecting for several weeks on what I could say about life and self-employment success that would be generally true, widely applicable, largely useful. What, in short, do I know about being successful that might possibly hold still long enough for me to get it into words without deteriorating into self-help pablum?

The result is the following 11 Secrets to Self-employment Success. The title is tongue-in-cheek; the entries are not. Each secret is summed up in a single word, then briefly amplified. Take them for a spin. For a really good time, look them up in a good dictionary. Trace their roots. Explore their synonyms and antonyms. Yes, this takes time, but success is seldom instantaneous.

What else were you going to do while you’re wishing you were more successful?

1. Lightness

Lightness is, well, light. It is spacious enough that darkness can take shape (and we can distinguish its edges). Lightness gives levity, the ability to rise above. Lightness lets you see over and see through. Lightness brings clarity; dissolves obscurity.

2. Consecration

When you consecrate something, you choose to make it holy (sacred). That which you consecrate wholes and heals you. Being conscious about what you consecrate makes you accountable for collaborating in your wholeness and healing.

3. Practice

When I began to study singing, my voice teacher told me to drop my jaw and to let my tongue lie on the bottom of my mouth. Let my tongue what? I didn’t know about her tongue, but mine had no intention of lying down. It was perfectly content to hover right above my bottom teeth. For weeks I practiced without hope of ever attaining proper form. Then, one day, I saw that my tongue was lying in the bottom of my mouth, resting peacefully out of the way. (I still don’t know how that happened.)

4. Play

Playfulness is essential to creativity, flexibility, resilience, experimentation, discovery, learning. To play with something is to allow it to unfold in ways that you cannot anticipate. It is to invite surprise, wonder, ease. It risks failure and foolishness, too. Playing means setting up rules of the game and then forgetting that you wrote them. It means changing the rules, but only for the sake of the game (not for short term gains).

5. Curiosity

What? Why? Are you sure? How come? When? How much? Really? How do I know? How does that work? What would it look like in green? What am I pretending? Curiosity not only opens doors, but reveals doors where solid walls had been before. Closely related to (but not the same as): Irreverence. Oh yeah? I don’t think so! Give me a break. Says who? Who died and made you God? Who told you that? Irreverence uncovers (the Sanskrit root of revere meant to cover) the truth.

6. Action

Do it. Move. Get going. Start somewhere. Start here. Just do it. Choose. Do the first thing. Start at the bottom. Start at the top. However you do it, action is necessary. Without action there can be no course correction.

7. Surrender

Don’t just give in to reality, embrace it. Let go of your version of how things ought to be and see what is actually showing up today. Notice where you are pretending to be in charge, then give yourself a pink slip. (One of my favorite ways to practice surrender is to crawl up onto a massage table. Ahhhh… now that is letting go. And yes, it definitely counts.)

8. Believe

What would have to be true in order for you to thrive? What happens to your beliefs when you toss them in a blender with paradox? With surrender? With practice? (I wrote a whole column related to this one last week. If you missed it, drop me a line and we’ll send you a copy.)

9. Dreaming

Dreaming is not just about fantasizing bigger and better results. Dreaming is a collaborative process, a style of listening to the murmur of the Universe, catching a phrase here and there, and following the thread toward your destiny. Or is that “weaving each thread into the fabric of your destiny”?

10. Look it up

There is a way to learn almost anything you need to know. Have you looked it up? Have you looked up the word, checked out the Web site, read an article, gone to the library? Whatever it is that’s giving you fits, odds are there is a place you can learn answers.

11. Paradox

Did you notice? Some of these secrets seem to contradict each other. Hmmmm… What do you make of that? Who do you need to be to make sense of a paradoxical map? (What side is up?)

An invitation: Reflect on these 11 secrets. Test them. Wrestle with what relevance they might have for you. Notice what helps and wonder about why that might be so. Share your thoughts in the comments section below. ♥