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- Service In Stages
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In today’s post I am going to share one of the tougher realities that I have had to realize in my adult life.
Over the last 12 years, I have lived the progression from college, to internships, to entry level corporate life, to climbing the ladder, and finally to working with my wife to build an online business.
And through each of these phases, there have been incredible ups and downs. Promotions, projects, watching my wife become an incredible mom and blogger. And then there are always the frustrating nights, the confused thoughts of “is this what life is all about?” And the concern that I am not spending my time the way that I should.
Recently, there has been a drifting towards more of the downs than the ups, and I haven’t been able to identify the root cause of it. Until recently.
I finally discovered the common thread of my recent stint of depression, and realized the simple fix to bring balance back into my life.
And if you are on the journey of starting a side hustle, or pursuing financial independence in general, this is absolutely mandatory reading for you.
The common thread of servitude
Throughout our life, we are in a constant state of service. Every intentional act is performed to advance ourself or someone else towards a goal.
When we are going through school, we are serving our future self to get a good job with (hopefully) minimal debt. And we are also serving our parents who may have helped us fund our schooling or at least certainly some of our expenses growing up. Serving them so that they are proud of us and that we become capable of repaying the favor to them later in life.
As we move into our careers, we have a clear mission in mind – serve our boss’s vision, serve our team and customers, and serve our family with stability.
What happens when we misplace our service
As we begin to pursue financial independence through aggressive saving, investing, and side hustling, a strange feeling begins to emerge.
It’s a slight form of confusion… You know that the goal you have in mind is the right thing for you and your family, but something may begin to just tug at your subconscious over time.
Is it a sense of betrayal for your company? I have worked for 6 different companies, and I have developed a strong sense of belonging in my current company. Do you know the feeling?
As you begin to develop a sense of fulfillment from your job, you’ll start to feel like you are serving two masters.
One master of financial independence, and the other of faithful servitude to your corporate career.
You may feel like this would never happen to you – that you dream of the day of being able to hang it all up and burn all your bridges behind you. But that is likely because you simply haven’t found a good fit in your company, or due to some political or personal reasons.
Those come and go, but when you find the right groove – the right people, projects, and pay, a good bit of your self-worth comes from your ability to perform on the job – and be recognized from it.
But now that you are on the path to FI, you can start to feel restless inside.
Why are you continuing to work so hard, if you’re not going to have a long 40 year career here?
Should you be working on your side business during company hours to speed up your passive income?
Why do I still feel good inside when I get kudos from a work project? I’m trying to leave this place after all!
It definitely brings in a sense of imbalance. One that can be corrected.
How to serve in stages
If you have ever felt this way, here is a framework that you can put to use immediately.
The purpose of this framework is to help you identify and define the several masters you are trying to serve at this moment, bring clarity and boundaries to them, and create margin in your life to serve them appropriately.
By following this framework, you will be able to focus individually on each aspect of your life and not feel that tugging of serving two masters.
Identify your priorities
First, you need to recognize that you serve more than one master. We all do. So, make a quick list of the top 4 or 5 priorities for you to serve. For example:
- Financial Freedom
These don’t necessarily have to be in order of importance, but it’s good to allow yourself to focus on only a few for this exercise.
I like to put my top 4 into a 2×2 matrix like below:
Define with questions
With your priorities listed out, it’s time to bring clarity and boundaries to each. Once you have these boundaries, you will be able to respect each priority and give them the space they deserve.
And to bring this clarity, it’s best to stick to journalism 101 and ask yourself the 5 whys:
- Who – who are you serving in this area? List out the names
- What – what exactly is your focus here? For example, under my relationships, I have “Be the husband, father, and friend that loves, supports, uplifts, and inspires.” Call this your mission statement around this area. Something short and to the point that you can rally behind.
- Where – Create some boundaries here. Where is it that you work on your focus area? For example, I work on my side business at the home office, and out at coffee shops when my wife and I have work dates. It does NOT happen at the day job.
- When – In the same vein, I like to time block out my priorities. For example, I used to work on my day job all the time, after I came home from work, after the kids went to bed, etc. Once I defined my timeframe I am allowed to focus on my job, it has made me a more productive worker, as well as a more attentive family man when I get home.
- Why – You’ve named this a priority in your life – why exactly? Give a concrete example of why this priority is really in your top 4.
Be fully present
This one is the toughest. But now that you have defined your priorities and given them each a specified time and place to focus on them, it’s time to… focus!
Become more intentional around where you are spending your time and make sure that you schedule in time in the calendar to hit your top 4.
Make it to the gym if it’s important to you.
Schedule date nights with your wife.
Bust your butt at your day job so that when the day is over, you are done.
And set the alarm in the morning so that you can put your best efforts into your side hustle before anyone else is awake and distracting you.
Focus on service
When you are in the zone and focusing on an area, a key mantra to keep in the back of your mind is “how can I best serve in this moment?”
You know the old Zig Ziegler quote? Something to the tune of “You can get everything you want so long as you first help others get what they want.”
Be there for others and work to make their dreams a reality too.
When we are on the path to FI, we have to battle a little sense of selfishness that can creep in.
Do you feel the need to hoard and count your pennies constantly? Have you magnified the goal of financial independence to the point where it has over shadowed simple selfless service?
When you focus on pure service in the moment, you can snap back to reality and achieve incredible results.
It’s time to take action
I hope throughout this post you’ve had a look inside and asked the question if you are serving in the best way as you pursue your path to financial independence.
It’s a long road ahead, so it is extremely important that we enjoy the journey.
Keep your perspective, be intentional, and have some fun as we serve!