reduce the noise

Jill of all trades
Honestly, I never really understood why people thought being a jill-of-all-trades was a bad thing. Why not be an editor, a teacher, and a hand lettering artist all wrapped into one? This has worked well for me in the past, especially since all these things are closely related, the common denominator being letters and language. Lately, however, I have felt very scattered, and it took me a while to figure out why. I failed to see that I had taken up something new, a project unrelated to my others, and this was one project too many. This addition caused me to scramble through my days, never really focusing on one thing, just running from one thing to the next. Apart from causing stress, this has led me to feel like I have lost my expertise in each project. I have decided to reduce the noise, if you will, and concentrate on two of these four projects—editing and lettering. This happened, in part, because of a book I read.

The Dip
A couple weeks ago, I read Seth Godin’s “The Dip”, a short book which is basically about knowing when to quit. When you’re self-employed, you constantly ask yourself whether the things you are working on will pan out and are worth your time or whether you should concentrate on other things.
True, the job might not pay well, but maybe the client is very easy-going and great to work with, something you would like to keep going in the future. Or maybe your client is new and you don’t yet know whether they are on your wavelength, but the project sounds exciting. Or maybe it would be necessary to invest some money in a project to get it off its feet and you don’t yet know at all whether it will pan out. Maybe the project is well-paid but it bores you, or your clients are difficult.
Unlike in a job, where you have simpler factors that let you know when to quit (like not getting enough salary, your boss is an ass etc.), when you run your own business, there are numerous factors that usually influence each other, making the decision to either pursue or drop a line of work or a client that much harder.

The short book takes entrepreneurs into account, and without really going into too much detail and writing an actual review on it, let me just say it is full of wisdom concerning these difficult decisions. Basically, Godin says you should quit if you can’t see yourself getting out of the Dip that inevitably will come in a project. But you should quit before you invest too much—quitting while in the Dip is the worst decision you can make. Those who stick it out are usually those who succeed, not necessarily because they made it out of the Dip, but simply due to the fact that not a lot of people do—and scarcity creates value.

All in all, the book is very inspiring and insightful, especially for entrepreneurs who may have more than one area of focus, like me. Sooner or later you ask yourself the question of what to focus on, and this book can help with that. It soon becomes clear that if you decide to focus on something and stick to the projects that matter to you, you will make it through the most difficult Dips and be successful. I’d like to leave you with some of the most powerful words in the book: ‘You’re astonishing. How dare you waste it. […] How dare you settle for mediocre just because you’re busy coping with too many things on your agenda, racing against the clock to get it all done.’