From the start of COVID in 2020 I’ve been through one of the most challenging times in my career.
The challenge was not the economic uncertainty, health risks, global pandemic or the stuff you would think.
I went through my toughest emotional cycle of change yet.
And got kicked out the other side in the most exciting place I’ve ever been.
The journey took me from being a die-hard independent freelancer to taking up my first full-time job in twenty years.
Even writing that sentence feels a bit nuts.
What happened and this blog
I made this WordPress website in 2008 and ever since then it has been a never-ending attempt to attract clients.
But I posted my first blog post in 2006 and, well blogging is what I am really in love with.
I am great at helping people work out their ‘business development’ but a bit crap at my own.
So what happened was I took a year to get my head around that I was now employed and did not have to go out in the wild every day hunting for food.
Instead, my attention turned to what I’ll call ‘making ideas happen’ – see more below about finally looking up what my job title needs me to do.
Documenting the process
For over a decade I’ve been sending a weekly newsletter you can join it here.
It has had a few sabbaticals but has been coming out with an update every week, I’ve kind of written myself into existence and at the end of last year, I really got into it again.
That will come out every week, and on this blog/website whatever you want to call it I’m going to post every week.
Overall I’ve had to develop an ability to prioritise and focus as I never had before, it has been painful and confusing.
Right now it is going great, I am still learning and working it out.
I’m reading a couple of books a week and asking more questions than ever, best of all everything I’ve learnt in the last decade is paying off at a hundred miles an hour every day.
About saying no
There are a million things to update you on, but this week I want to share about saying no in 2022.
The headline is we are not there yet, but every hour of every day our team is building the Velvet Platform Helicarrier more and more.
We’re only three weeks into 2022, and already we’re in the best groove we’ve had yet.
For the holidays we made a ‘no work and radio silence’ rule, of course, we messaged each other to say hello, but no sneaky work.
When we got back my therapist did point out that I’d written 750 words every day.
And mostly those words were goals and work-related, so I am not sure how well I did in the end.
But this unplugging broke the ‘busy and urgent’ loop.
I took on way too much at the end of last year and got stressed out from pulling in too many directions.
Saying no would have saved me stress at that moment in time and given me this level of clarity earlier on.
I took a few paid gigs, so I could make ends meet for the holidays.
We’re a bootstrapped start-up not taking any money yet, so no one is flying first-class or crashing Lamborghinis in Dubai for fun.
BTW being ‘bootstrapped’ is wildly important to me, I’ve watched so many people burn through investment money and fuck it all up in a year.
But the end of last year got me plugged in hard to what focus means to me right now at this moment and why saying no is critical.
Since I got back and said no to everything, the more real stuff is happening, and my focus is growing like a superpower.
To get that focus, I need space and time to think, so things like swimming give me space and time.
No one is going to WhatsApp me in the swimming pool.
Walking and listening to books is where all my best ideas come from, so I require more of that.
When I got back I ruthlessly blocked out all my morning and now only do calls and podcasts from 12 pm to 3 pm, then on Wednesdays, I’m not talking to anyone.
In fact, Wednesdays we made a company-wide “deep work radio silence day” for everyone, so people have ‘permission’ not to be interrupted.
Somehow I’m now even more available and having better conversations!
Why is it not easy saying no?
I am such a wimpy people pleaser.
It has been like stopping an oil tanker at sea, but the end result, even just three weeks into 2022, is I can see more clearly where we are and what we need to do than ever before.
Am I a Chief Operating Officer?
Which led me to look up what a Chief Operating Officer does.
Back in 2020, when I was “told” I was going to work at Velvet Platform, I was given the job title of Chief Operating Officer.
It was on our Velvet Community WhatsApp and I watched Jeannine and Alex have a chat about it.
I’m very anti-job titles, status symbols and all this shit, so I completely ignored the title,
When I read the Mary Portas book, I took on Chief Creative Officer, but I did not connect with that.
When I added COO to my LinkedIn, the number of pitches for business I got went through the roof.
So this week I decided to look up the role rather than the title.
Podcasts come up with the goods again
This is where podcasting comes into its own, finding a super niche topic where you can listen to people geeking out and getting meta on a topic.
For me at this moment in time, this is an amazingly helpful podcast, way more helpful than all the top ten podcasts.
Scott wrote “A Year Without Pants” back in 2014 one of the best books I’ve learnt from about running a remote team.
I’ve followed WordPress and automatic for years, the community around WordPress, especially because of London Bloggers Meet Up.
I’ve been listening to COO’s talk about their role, growing a team, fucking up and how they communicate.
The best part for me was that most COO’s have degrees in Philosophy, English Lit and psychology and thrive on people and strategy.
The overall role of a COO
Overall their role is to be the right-hand person to the CEO and enable the team to execute the CEO’s vision.
Also, the role of a COO in a start-up vs an enterprise-level firm, in a Start-up you need to be a ‘Swiss army knife’ when you are COO, of course, I love that idea.
And there was me thinking it was all about spreadsheets and MBA’s, which I find very intimidating and confusing.
Listening to Michael’s podcasts has shown me that I’m already doing what a lot of COO’s do which made my never-ending impostor syndrome evaporate in a day.
I find it so fucking exhausting to automatically second guess myself all the time.
So hearing other COO’s talk about the short and long term, strategy, taking care of the team, always connecting with people, making ideas happen – things I’m naturally obsessed with I was, quite frankly over the fucking moon.
Why do I need to keep saying no?
So, I’ve found more time – which is getting instantly filled with stuff from thinking to connecting.
The less I have in my schedule the deeper and clearer I get to see everything we are building and working on.
I have the headspace to work on skills like listening, the quieter my head is the better I can listen.
Also, I have to make sure we are doing one or two things properly, rather than trying to ship everything at the same time.
So I can’t turn up in our team meeting and bring a new thing, it breaks their trust and, one thing I know for sure is that execution – not new ideas and shiny things – is the number one killer app for building a profitable business.
And that is how saying no will make 2022 the best year yet.