Chapter Five: The Power of Peers - Staying Connected
Human connection is one of the most basic and fundamental needs. It is the key fuel in our self-actualization, happiness and level of achievement. We don’t often think about how important who we surround ourselves with really is. Famed author of Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, championed the power of peers and wrote about it extensively. Similarly, engaging with peers holds a lead place in Jack Canfield’s best-selling book, The Success Principles.
Such inventors and captains of industry as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone were devout believers as well, and participated in a mastermind group together – often hosted at one of their winter mansions in Florida. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey takes it up a notch and frequently hosts the world’s most accomplished women at her Montecito estate.
Staying connected as a solo entrepreneur is not a bonus or a trivial, tertiary goal. It is essential to our well-being and success. It is essential to our mental health. It is essential to love what we do and ultimately share it with others. There is, after all, only so much we can grow by ourselves, and I say this as an extremely independent person who loves to recharge on my own.
How can we increase our connection to peers and industry knowledge for greater personal and career success? What are the must-haves or minimum quotas for connection? How can we leverage our connections to assist in the collective growth of ourselves and our peers?
1. Speed-dial colleagues
2. Family/friends on-call
3. Creative community outlet (online connection)
Ways to Connect:
· Peers (mastermind groups, coffee dates, lunches/social hour, social media)
· Professional mentor/coach (in-person, group coaching, events, Zoom/Skype meetings)
· Extracurricular activities (sports, arts, classes, volunteer activities & other special interests)
· Friends and family (calls, Skype, dinners, weekend activities, vacations)
· Industry events (virtual and in-person)
· Spiritual or faith-based groups/events
OPTIMIZING YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT FOR GREATER CONNECTION
When it comes to community, the first and probably toughest choice we must make is where and how to work. For many creatives starting out, a home office is the only financially viable choice. But once that initial stage has passed, the desire to get a more distinguished workspace outside of the home, or at least very separate within the home, becomes very real. For those of us living in urban areas, the home office is all-consuming, because it's right in the middle of your house – or if you live in New York, it’s also your bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.
Isolation can lead to downward-spiral thinking and make challenging tasks seem all the more overwhelming. Being in community and connection with other people will help distract you during those times into a more positive outlook. It will also provide emergency on-call support for those difficult client calls or acute midlife crises that will prevent you from going further down the rabbit hole.
As someone who has worked in both environments – surrounded by a studio manager and interns and completely alone – I can unequivocally say that there are advantages and disadvantages to each working situation. Working with others in a studio environment is awesome. However, paying the monthly lease and keeping the studio fully stocked, cleaned, and everything else you have to do with your house is not. The general task of having to go somewhere every day seems a bit of reversal from leaving a corporate job. Why would you go somewhere every day if you didn't have to? Why force yourself into a 9-to-5 role when you can work any hours you damn well please?
Managing and financing a workspace can also be a challenge and a burden. It's a large fixed-overhead expense that could be put toward things like traveling, branding, or other unique forms of business development. The space is unlikely to make money for you, and even if you can swing it by subleasing parts of it, it means taking on another role – leasing agent. The stress of having to earn that extra income during slower months can also take its toll and make you feel like you are a prisoner of your own space. It also can be taxing to work in your pajamas, drink coffee and shove chocolate in your face all day. I'm just saying.
Being able to pack up at the end of the day and go home to relax is also rewarding. You don't have to take your work with you or be bombarded by thoughts of work whenever you glimpse at your desk. It reminds you to have a life or get one.
I find that separation between work and home is a mentally healthier way of living. You get to turn off your “work brain,” which helps keep perspective on the rest of your life. Whenever I work from home, my head is always in my business, unless I physically leave the house. A home office can sometimes leave you with the feeling of living in an office that happens to have a full kitchen. In other words, you are either homeless or officeless on one level or another.
Even given those major advantages, it can still be hard to justify paying beaucoup bucks for a space that you don't technically need to have. I'm still figuring out the perfect solution for myself. Living on the west side of Los Angeles, commercial spaces are at an all-time crazy high. Do I take the plunge again to get outside space, knowing that I will have to cut my travel budget or make a sh*t-ton more money? I know I desperately crave greater social interaction and Taco Tuesdays, which spaces like WeWork have cleverly developed.
Contemplate your own situation. Are you happy where you are working? It's making up at least a third of your waking life. You deserve to be an environment that supports you and allows you to fully actualize your business and creative prowess. Is your current space adding or subtracting from your ultimate success? Where there's a will there's a way, and everything is negotiable. If you really want to leave your home environment, it is possible and there are solutions for all budgets. It may take a little work to find them, but they are definitely out there and sometimes it requires leaping before you look.