What would you say if someone said that it must be nice to not work for anyone? To be your own boss?

When you own your own business, the quick answer to the question of who you work for is that you work for yourself. But when you really think about it, that’s not true. You work for your customers. Because if they’re not happy with your performance, they won’t come back.

I own my own freelance writing business. Many people have commented over the years that “it must be nice to not have a boss.” At first I went along and agreed.

Then, I started realizing that when I agreed with people that I didn’t have a boss, particularly when I was still working from my home, that seemed to devalue their opinion of my work. They thought I just worked from home when I felt like it, that I could take as many days off as I wanted to, or choose not to do the work if I didn’t like it.

When I started responding, “actually, I have several bosses,” they seemed to more fully understand that I wasn’t just sitting on the couch eating bonbons. The work needed to get done whether I felt like it or not. It was easier to explain that if I took days off I didn’t get paid. And I explained that I had to check in with the editors of all the websites, newspapers and magazines that I was working for to make sure I had more work coming down the pipe after the work I was doing currently was done. I was always looking for more work from the bosses I already had, and was always trying to find a new boss.

And if I didn’t give my “bosses” what they wanted, they wouldn’t hire me again. So . . . who do you work for?

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, when we all start to think more about gratitude and giving thanks. If you’re grateful for your many bosses (your customers), show them. Not just on Thanksgiving, but all the time. What would that look like for you?

While you, as the business owner, are off saving the day — also known as securing new clients, talking to the media, paying people, getting paid, keeping your promises — your team of heroes is back at the office.

They’re the ones answering the phone, filling orders, answering emails and generally hustling to get the day’s work done. Build a great team, first and foremost. And when you have built a great team, treat each member with respect.

What turns ordinary people into heroes? Feeling needed. Our team must feel needed in order to truly become heroes. So, first off, hire good people. And then, empower them to do the work you hired them to do.

Don’t fall into the trap of telling yourself that only you can do the work the right way. Your team of heroes wants to do the work the right way too. Empower them to say the right things to customers. Empower them to make decisions. Empower them to go the extra mile for a customer. Just like you would. Right?

Sometimes, let’s face it, there’s not a lot of great joy in being an employee. When we hire people to do the work and then don’t give them the tools to do the work, we steal from them the joy that it is possible to get from being an employee. Their job is to be the hero of our team, and our job is to let them be the heroes of our team.

When you started a business, you likely had a “purpose” in mind. That’s what motivated you to do what you do. It’s the thought behind your entire business plan. When you first started your business, you likely felt a rush of excitement each day, as you woke to begin preparations for your business.

Now that you’ve been in business a while, do you still feel that rush? Do you still wake up each morning with your “purpose” in mind? Not just your tasks for the day or your motivation (bills must be paid!) in mind. But your purpose.

Probably not. It’s easy to forget.

Your purpose is the bigger picture you’re working towards. If you started a non-profit, that may be to strengthen families or neighborhoods. If you’re a fitness or health consultant, that may be to help others optimize their health as you’ve found a way to optimize yours. Even if you feel like you have a mundane retail business, there’s something in the work that you do that’s close to your heart.

When you align your daily efforts with your purpose, you wake up motivated. (OK, if you’re like me you don’t truly get motivated until that second cup of coffee, but you know what I mean!) You love what you’re doing and you know exactly why you’re doing it.

Tomorrow when you wake up, try these steps:

Think about who you are trying to help and why. If you’re not sure what your purpose is, you may not have a lot of detail on this. It’s ok. Clarity will come the more you do this.

Call up the tools you need to do your day’s work. Focus. Patience. Courage. Flexibility. Whatever it is. If you believe in a higher power, ask that higher power for the tools. Go ahead and ask.

Visualize your purpose. Spend a minute holding a picture in your mind’s eye of what it means to actually work toward your purpose.

Encourage yourself throughout the day. Once you’ve gone through these steps, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back. Most people will never see the great efforts you put into the world.

Repeat daily.

The busier you are, the more you need to slow down. What? You don’t have time to slow down. I know. I understand how it is. But the busier you are, the more you need to get beyond the noise.

Here’s why. Producing quality work requires a sense of calm. Generating good ideas requires space to allow creativity to develop. Taking breaks helps restore the nervous system. Don’t just take my word for it, science shows it. Earlier this year, researchers from Duke Medical School found that that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory.

In my humble opinion, you don’t even need silence to get the benefits. Straighten your back and take a few deep breaths. Put your phone down first!

I know some people who are so busy, so frazzled, that they only half read texts and emails before firing off a response. Inevitably, they get something wrong because they didn’t answer the question the person actually posed. Or they give an ambiguous answer that the person has to follow up on. If this is an employer doing it (like, perhaps, you), you’re making more work for yourself. you could even be doubling the work you do. If you take a minute to slow down and throroughly read an email before responding to it, you only have to read that email once.

If you rush through it and miss key pieces of information because you’re in such a hurry you’re just focused on getting to the next email, you’re going to give a reply that doesn’t help. Then you’re going to get a follow up email, and you’re going to have to read that one too. Will you give it your attention the second time it crosses your desk?

At Aetna, an insurance company, the leaders have taken the forefront of giving their employees mindfulness training. After teaching employees to take short breaks to center themselves, and offering meditation and yoga, stress levels dropped by 28%, 20% of employees reported that their sleep quality improved, and their pain dropped by 19%.

Close the office door. Turn off the phone. Take a walk. Take a deep breath.

When you’re constantly fixed on the next action, making room for new ideas is truly difficult.

We’re always stepping into the unknown. Don’t we wake up each day and not know what the day holds? We can look at our agenda in our day planner, but we don’t truly know what will happen to us the next minute, the next hour, or the next day. We could get an email, phone call, or opportunity that will change our life. No one knows what the day holds, and yet we wake up and face the day anyway.

We’re vulnerable when we say to someone, “Here. I made this. Would you like to buy it?” It’s risky to tell the world what we’ve done. We doubt ourselves. We question whether we’ve done the right thing.

There’s no way to get rid of those feelings, no matter how successful you become. So what do you do?

Jump in and have fun with it.

We all know the Beatles song, “Can’t Buy Me Love.” And…we all know the t-shirts that say things like “Money can’t buy me happiness but it can buy me a boat/fancy clothes/expensive shoes (fill in the blank) and isn’t that the same thing?”

Well…those are funny, but the truth behind it is that money really can’t buy you the things that are important in business. The things you need are self-taught, learned, innate skills. These are things that you can cultivate with practice if they don’t come easily to you. These are things that if you don’t have them, you may possibly be successful in business if you’re also lucky. But if you do have them, you can most assuredly be successful in business.

Without even talking about love, let’s look at 10 things money can’t buy and see what I mean.

1.  Manners – Civility and decency go beyond just knowing what fork to use at the place setting. Manners is high-level kindness and caring in the form of how you treat your employees and neighbors. It’s also as simple as turning off your phone ringer when you’re in a face-to-face meeting with someone so they feel appreciated and heard.

2. Respect – When you’re young, you’re taught to respect your elders or your siblings, sometimes no matter what they do. As you got older, you likely figured out that respect should be earned. Now you know that people respect other people who keep their word. Those who are tolerant and accepting of various views and try to understand them. Those who present their authentic selves to the world. Those who have a value system and live by it. None of those things have anything to do with how munch money is in your wallet.

3. Knowledge – Your money can buy books, podcasts and e-courses, but it can’t buy experience. It can’t buy wisdom.

4. Compassion and Empathy – Caring about how others feel and the impact of the world on them is something no amount of money can buy.

5. Integrity – Whether you all if morals, or character, integrity is all about doing what you say you will do, delivering what your company promises. That boils down to honesty. If you look at the origin of the word, it means being one. In other words, being true to yourself and true to how you treat others, even when no one is watching.

6. Trust – Trust is an important part of being human, It’s a means of survival for those who must depend on others for help. In business, you only gain trust by showing someone over and over that they can depend on you. Again, this has nothing to do with how you’re bank account looks.

7. Loyalty – You can spend a million dollars on advertising, but it won’t matter if the customers don’t stick with you. What makes them stick with you? Everything else on this list.

8. Satisfaction – You’ll only feel personally satisfied if you get some sense of fulfillment out of what you’re doing everyday. Money is often a great motivating tool, but only personal satisfaction feeds your spirit.

9. Confidence – People want to do business with people who feel sure of themselves. don’t mumble, fumble or stumble when you’re talking to people. You can increase your confidence through practice and “faking it till you make it,” but you can’t buy confidence. Whatever temporary courage you feel because you have a stack of bills in your wallet is just that, temporary. And it’s not really confidence until you have it no matter what.

10. Forgiveness – You can’t buy or bribe someone to forgive you when you make a mistake. And you will make mistakes. But if you have enough of these other qualities on this list, your customers will forgive you if you make a mistake and they will give you another chance. If you don’t have the other qualities on this list, you’ll rarely get a chance to make it right with anyone, whether they’re a customer or a personal relationship.

This feeling sneaks up on everyone, doesn’t it? No matter how good we are at self-care, none of us are THAT good that we never feel this. I was inspired when I found this self-care printable to really try and get to the root of what was making me feel unhappy or stuck instead of just living with it. A list like this makes it easy to go through self-care steps when you might not have the energy to even think of one thing you could do to help yourself. If you’re feeling stuck in making a business decision or aren’t seeing how the future might play out, run through these steps.

In the one page of this list is a whole galaxy of advice that fits the vibe that we try to put out there through this site to help you with your business: Your mindset matters. Re-imagining things is a powerful skill that you can develop. And a sense of wonder will go a long way to getting you through.

This self-care printable is licensed under Creative Commons, and its creator encourages people to customize the document for their own needs, abilities and resources, and to share it widely. I’m including it here in its entirety, but it is available at that link and at the end of the post is a link to download the PDF. Today, Memorial Day, is a day that can be hard for people with family members in the armed forces and people who have lost family members. So if you’re feeling rough, this post’s message of self-care will hopefully help. If not, tuck it away until you need it, or share it with someone you know who does.

Everything Is Awful and I’m Not OK!

Questions to ask yourself before giving up. 

  • Are you hydrated?  If not, have a glass of water.
  • Have you eaten in the past three hours?  If not, get some food — something with protein, not just simple carbs.  Perhaps some nuts or hummus?
  • Have you showered in the past day?  If not, take a shower right now.
  • If daytime: are you dressed?  If not, put on clean clothes that aren’t pajamas.  Give yourself permission to wear something special, whether it’s a funny t-shirt or a pretty dress.
  • If nighttime: are you sleepy and fatigued but resisting going to sleep?  Put on pajamas, make yourself cozy in bed with a teddy bear and the sound of falling rain, and close your eyes for fifteen minutes — no electronic screens allowed.  If you’re still awake after that, you can get up again; no pressure.
  • Have you stretched your legs in the past day?  If not, do so right now.  If you don’t have the spoons for a run or trip to the gym, just walk around the block, then keep walking as long as you please.  If the weather’s crap, drive to a big box store (e.g. Target) and go on a brisk walk through the aisles you normally skip.
  • Have you said something nice to someone in the past day?  Do so, whether online or in person.  Make it genuine; wait until you see something really wonderful about someone, and tell them about it.
  • Have you moved your body to music in the past day?  If not, do so — jog for the length of an EDM song at your favorite BPM, or just dance around the room for the length of an upbeat song.
  • Have you cuddled a living being in the past two days?  If not, do so.  Don’t be afraid to ask for hugs from friends or friends’ pets.  Most of them will enjoy the cuddles too; you’re not imposing on them.
  • Do you feel ineffective?  Pause right now and get something small completed, whether it’s responding to an e-mail, loading up the dishwasher, or packing your gym bag for your next trip.  Good job!
  • Do you feel unattractive?  Take a goddamn selfie.  Your friends will remind you how great you look, and you’ll fight society’s restrictions on what beauty can look like.
  • Do you feel paralyzed by indecision?  Give yourself ten minutes to sit back and figure out a game plan for the day.  If a particular decision or problem is still being a roadblock, simply set it aside for now, and pick something else that seems doable.  Right now, the important part is to break through that stasis, even if it means doing something trivial.
  • Have you seen a therapist in the past few days?  If not, hang on until your next therapy visit and talk through things then.
  • Have you been over-exerting yourself lately — physically, emotionally, socially, or intellectually?  That can take a toll that lingers for days. Give yourself a break in that area, whether it’s physical rest, taking time alone, or relaxing with some silly entertainment.
  • Have you changed any of your medications in the past couple of weeks, including skipped doses or a change in generic prescription brand?  That may be screwing with your head.  Give things a few days, then talk to your doctor if it doesn’t settle down.
  • Have you waited a week?  Sometimes our perception of life is skewed, and we can’t even tell that we’re not thinking clearly, and there’s no obvious external cause.  It happens.  Keep yourself going for a full week, whatever it takes, and see if you still feel the same way then.
  • You’ve made it this far, and you will make it through.  You are stronger than you think.

What? Email marketing and a healthy and growing email list has long been seen as the holy grail of marketing. Email is still important. I’m definitely not denying the importance of keeping in touch with people that way. But I’m here to tell you unsubscribes aren’t something to stress over.

Your own expectations for your growing email list can make any unsubscribe–especially if it’s from someone you know–feel as bad as a romantic breakup. Marketers, and myself included, have told people to closely monitor your email unsubscribes to see if the message you’re producing is reaching people the way you hope it will. I still recommend paying attention to your statistics. But at some point you will realize that you can’t make everyone happy. And trying to make everyone happy and avoid those unsubscribes will bring you down.

You might even consider removing inactive subscribers yourself. If someone hasn’t, say, opened any of your emails for the last 4 months, you can remove them. In the “olden days” many businesses sent out print catalogs. They welcomed having their recipients call to cancel their catalogs, because it meant that they were no longer paying mailing costs to send a catalog to someone who didn’t want it.

Email marketing is so much more cost-effective than that. It may be tempting to think that you’re better off keeping anyone on the list. Not so. Trim the deadwood. Make room for people who really want to hear your message. And email those people. If you are constantly re-evaluating your content and adjusting your messages to try to reach the people who unsubscribe or don’t open your emails, you’re not focusing on the people who really do want your messages.

With all this in mind, everyone on your email list is not the same. Each person who subscribes is at a different point in the “journey” to purchasing your products and services. (Learn more about that here: “The 6 Levels in the Customer Awareness Spectrum) Treat them differently. Mail services are robust enough now that you can easily send a separate message to the people who haven’t bought in six months, or bought yesterday. If you want to try a softer approach before you manually remove someone, you might try a separate re-engagement tactic just for those unresponsive emails. Do that, and don’t sweat the unsubscribes.

People always ask what you do. If your company was Disney, let’s just say, it might be easy to say that you make movies, you run theme parks, and you manage merchandising. But what is the REAL thing you do, if your company is Disney?

You make people happy. All those movies, theme parks, and merchandising deals are designed for just one purpose….to lead people to visit Disneyworld, a place they call “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Why? So you’re happy. If you can’t visit Disneyworld or Disneyland, their merchandise and movies is designed to give people a piece of that happiness. That’s really what it is about.

If your company cleans carpets, what is the REAL thing you do? Can you put your carpet-cleaning mission into human terms and figure out what you REALLY do? How can you turn your stated purpose of building a profitable business keeping people’s carpet grime-free into something that people will get excited about?

99% of the world’s mission statements have long, dense-sounding language that the company’s legal team approved probably after five pages of footnotes. Chances are, the mission statements include the words “visionary,” “connecting,” or “integrity.” While you naturally strive to run your company with integrity, shouldn’t that be part of the experience people get from working with you? Shouldn’t your customers know you have integrity by the time they’re done working with you? Does it need to be in your mission statement? If it’s in your mission statement but people don’t leave your office believing it, it really doesn’t matter if it’s stated in your mission or not.

We stay loyal to brands because of their values, not their mission statement. We stay loyal because of the way the company treats us and the way the company makes us feel.

Remove the musty language from your mission statement. Write something that gives us a picture of what you do and why it’s worth doing. That’s how you write a mission statement that doesn’t suck.

The building where I work is getting a new roof. It’s been needed for a while. It’s an old building, and when leaks developed in the original roof, the building owners didn’t patch the roof. They put a new roof over that one. They’ve put four roofs on over the original one. So over the years when leaks developed, they would trickle down through the layers of roofing and the leak would come out nowhere near the actual hole.

I was talking with a graphic designer and web developer friend of mine recently, the day after the roofing work started. She said she had a client who created a website several years ago with a sentence containing a date. It’s one of those situations we try to avoid when we’re writing web text. It says something like, “We started this site 5 years ago…” and each year it’s wrong, because another year has gone by. (Say, “We started this site in 2010…” Problem solved.)

This client also used a non-web-based font for this text. So they had to add this text to their website as an image. Even if the designer sent them a file that they could edit, they wouldn’t be able to because they wouldn’t have the fonts.

The result? Every year they have to ask the designer to update the image and put it on their site. They’re paying her hourly fee to do this. She’s suggested that they replace the text with a different font that they can edit themselves. They keep saying no to this because paying her to replace the text costs a little bit more than paying her to fix the image each year.

Seth Godin said there are three ways to deal with a problem:

Lean into it.

Lean away from it.

Run away.

When you lean into a problem, you can solve it. Our roofers now are pulling up 5 layers of roofing material to get to the original roof so that they can finally, after decades, give it a proper fix. My friend’s client is going to pay a lot more for the website updating over the life of the site because they are running away from the solution of being able to update it themselves. Each year they pay $50 to have her fix this, when one year they could pay $100 to have her fix it permanently.

If you feel like you’re constantly butting up against something that you have to keep dealing with in an unpleasant way, give a little thought to how you can fix it. Not patch it. Fix it.

Are you constantly deleting unwanted emails? Decide that for one week you’re going to take the extra few seconds to unsubscribe from the unwanted emails. I’ve done this, and it’s amazing at what a lighter feeling I get now looking at my inbox.

Are you constantly paying someone for something that is on ongoing or recurring issue on your website? Maybe your inventory isn’t tracking very efficiently. Maybe you send out emails and they don’t get read. Maybe you’re meeting with people, but they don’t call you back.

Lean into the problem until you can find a way to fix it. Leaning away from a problem and running away from a problem are never going to pay off in your favor.