For the longest time, I thought that the most successful business owners were those who had Energizer Bunny energy.
They woke up at 5 a.m., worked out like they were the lead instructor on a kickboxing DVD, meditated for an hour, ate a power breakfast, and dressed to the nines…. all before 9 a.m.
With this in mind, I figured I was doomed for failure.
Although I’m a morning person, I don’t wake up that early.
Although I like to meditate, I don’t sit for an hour every day.
My morning workouts were never a power hour (and since Lyme kicked in several years ago, I hardly exercise at all).
Failure—or at least only marginal success—seemed inevitable.
Except I knew better.
You see, around age 19, I came to realize something about myself: downtime, rest time, and sleeping in were my formula for success.
At least I thought this was the case…
You see, running our own businesses (heck, simply being an adult!) tests what we think we know about ourselves. And this has been very true for me over the last 8 years of self-employment.
But in case you’ve been thinking that you need to be superwoman to have a successful business, I want to clear things up right now.
Today I’m sharing a behind-the-curtain view of how I’ve found success by working less and what I’ve learned along the way.
The First Test: Corporate World to Self-Employment
If you tuned in to the Success On Your Terms podcast or joined my totally free six-week class on Success Without Sacrifice, you heard me share how my story began in college.
I learned that going to bed early, bypassing all-nighters, and taking care of myself (instead of trying to keep up a mega social life) was key to my mental and emotional well-being.
I took this formula into my corporate job, shunning the idea of working nights and weekends, employing mega-focus during my work day, and prioritizing my life outside of working hours.
My strategy worked well for that era of my life… but then I dove headfirst into the world of self-employment.
Which was the right way? Or more importantly, what was the right way for me?
Although I never caved in to working late nights and long weekends, I kept doubting my ability to “make it” as a coach in the online world (especially early on when I wasn’t making a lot of money!).
But as time passed and I kept working my 20-30 hours each week, sleeping a full night every night, and taking care of myself, the proof was in the pudding. My success formula worked for self-employment just like it had in college and in the corporate world.
Downtime, rest time, and sleep stayed at the top of the list.
The Second Test: Lyme Disease
In 2010, a year after quitting my job, I had this niggling feeling that something was wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on what was off, but I knew something was.
After being shamed by my doctor for “expecting too much from my body,” I stopped paying attention to all the signs and signals I had been noticing. I shut down that part of myself completely.
Then, in late 2012, after extreme exhaustion set in and a friend nagged me for months, I went to a different doctor to start figuring out why I felt so awful.
9 months of mis-diagnoses, countless tests, and thousands of dollars later, I found the cause of my rock-bottom health: Lyme disease.
At this point, I couldn’t work much. My body was drained of life force. My brain was constantly foggy. My spirit was lifeless.
As the breadwinner in our house, not working wasn’t really an option. I needed to keep money coming in the door. And to do that, I needed to keep working.
But therein was the problem.
I was already working fewer hours than the average successful entrepreneur, but it was still more than my body could handle. I knew I needed to work less, rest more, and sleep 11-12 hours each night.
Was this even possible? And how was I supposed to make this happen and still serve clients to my uncompromising standards?
During my sickest years, I honed my superpowers even further so I could maintain my multi-six figure business AND heal my body; so I could serve my clients well AND sleep long hours each night.
“Success on your terms” became the driving force behind how I ran my business.Click to Tweet“Success on your terms” is the driving force behind the way Jenny Shih runs her business. See how she does it.
I worked less while keeping a steady, healthy client load. I honed my systems, hired a bigger team, and further refined my secrets for working less without making less.
And that’s how I ran my business as I worked on getting healthier.
Of course, as I did, more tests presented themselves.
My Most Recent Test: After My Biggest Launch Ever
The most recent test showed up after my biggest Make It Work Online launch ever.
In strategizing the launch in “success on your terms” style, I planned to take a full month of downtime to recover. No creating new things. No writing new things, doing new things, trying new things.
Just time to decompress, re-energize, and reorient after the launch before I moved onto my next big thing (launching Make $10k).
After my short break, it came time to switch gears and focus on Make $10k but I felt heavy just thinking about it.
I tried to talk my way around it, out of it, through it, but the feeling wouldn’t budge. The program felt flat. Offering it felt forced. And I didn’t have an ounce of excitement for talking with potential clients. Talk about a huge red flag!
I toyed with the idea of not launching it, taking extended down time, and stepping back from work.
But I had made a plan! I’m the kind of woman who follows through! And I should follow the plan!
(Hahahahaha, the Universe laughs at our best laid plans!)
After internally battling for a few weeks, it hit me: Preparing for the launch (an intense 6+ months of learning, creating, planning, strategizing, videoing, writing, you-name-it-ing), I was tapped out.
Tapped out creatively. Tapped out energetically. Done.
Taking the launch to a new level like I had sucked every last drop of creative juice I had. No wonder why I was uninspired!
So I did what I tell my clients to do: I “ran the numbers.”
Based on my monthly burn rate (regular expenses, my salary, paying my team, paying taxes, etc.), could I keep the ship running even if I didn’t launch Make 10k?
The answer was yes.
Did postponing Make 10k still come with financial and other consequences? Of course.
Was I willing to live with them? My spirit chimed in with a resounding YES.
It was settled. I’d hold off and wait until it felt right.
Of course I could have kept going forward with the plan regardless of the red flag… but I’ve learned that lesson a few times before!
Afterall, if I dreaded having to do the work, the launch would fall flat.
If I tried to fake-it-to-make-it, it would also fall flat.
If I resented the clients who signed up, it would suck for all of us!
Then what’s the point?! (Exactly.)
So that’s what I’m doing.
Stepping back. Taking a break. Taking massive downtime. Taking massive rest time. Sleeping. Refilling my well. Tapping back in. Tuning in. Listening. Waiting.
Yes, it scares me. Yes, I feel guilty. Yes, it feels like another test.
To be honest, I don’t love waiting. I’m much more comfortable in action-taking mode than in “wait and see mode.”
But I also know it’s right (for now), and I’m honoring that.
Because I know I have only two choices:
1. Do what I planned and be miserable and probably not pull it off well.
2. Wait and be uncomfortable but come out the other side excited to offer whatever the next thing is and serve my people.
I choose #2. I choose to put good energy out into the world, to serve my people in the best way possible.
And to do that, I must choose to wait. (For now, anyway.)