02/260 - Growth for its own sake is cancer

So why is growth important? Let's find out.

This week has been revelatory for a number of reasons. Before I get into that, however, I want to tell you that my current goal (on a personal level) is to get out of my own way.

I'm a high achiever, whose pressure is mostly self-created. Getting out of my own way means accepting that life flows around me, and letting it happen instead of trying to control everything. Exercising my 'letting go' muscle is the most important thing I do in my own life on a daily basis.

Why? Well, flow makes everything easier, simpler, and more enjoyable.

I am sure you have heard of the Flow State. It was popularised in recent years by Csikzentmihalyi in his book Flow, and I encourage you to read it if you haven't. To me, however, the state of flow isn't so much about a state of perfect concentration and presence - 'right concentration', if you're a Buddhist - as it is about allowing life to flow around you.

Paradoxically, allowing life to flow is what relieves pressure on you. Also paradoxically, letting go of your need to control everything around you is what gets everything done when it needs to be done. I say, paradoxically because controlling and not-controlling can't exist at the same time; there is an uneasy tension between them. Yet it is the not-controlling that gives you the power you need to control things more effectively. Flow is about getting out of the way.

This week I let myself enjoy the weird little twists and turns that life threw at me. Amazingly, everything I needed to get done did get done. Everything happened in the right timing. I felt good about it all. And I am even excited.

This is despite the fact that 97% of the business is me right now.

The shocking results of the Active Time Analysis

Last week I wrote about running an Active Time Analysis to work out the Doing:Design ratio. Here are the results.

I am doing 97% of the work in the business. More to the point:

  • 99.9% of that work is doing the work

  • 0.1% of that work is deciding about the work

  • < 0.1% is delegating the work

  • < 0.1% is designing the business

Is it any wonder growth is slug-like? Far out.

No wonder I have this weirdo sense of being a faker. This brings me to the 21st-century, remote-team-of-freelancers sense of being a team, and its impact on the system.

Growth is uncertain when you rely on subcontractors

I decided when I saw the results of the Active Time Analysis that I'm not enough of a risk-taker. Relying on subcontractors is fantastic for not committing.

When you don't commit you aren't in a position where you have to put your money where your mouth is, as a founder. It's really hedging your bets. It's like saying to the universe, 'well, I don't have to be serious about working to grow the business, because money is fluid man, just like my team'.

It means that you can't control the conditions. If you can't create the right conditions, nothing will grow. Nature proves this to us every single day. Growth doesn't exist unless it is given the right conditions; in a business sense, one of those conditions is certainty of delivery. And that comes back to Clockwork: What's the Queen Bee Role in Brutal Pixie?

But first: Why is growth even important? I've been doing nicely for myself up to now, right?

This is where power comes in

We shy away from these discussions, but in the past week I have had a series of articles 'fall into my lap' about the importance of power. It happened since digesting On Power by Gene Simmons.

The truth is, I really do want to make big changes in the world. I want to be able to contribute to a shift in agriculture and environment; to support the growth of permaculture as a system; to work to reverse waterlessness through effective landscape design.

The problem isn't that we have 'too much carbon in the air'. The problem is monoculture, ownership of most of the seed that controls our food chain by 2 or 3 companies - companies! - chemical use, and mindless, boofhead, caveman-like, industrial-era thinking about the environment. Permaculture solves it. It creates beautiful, self-sustaining environments that create water, grow food with very little human intervention, and require zero chemical input. It also changes economic patterns for the better.

You read that right, boys and girls and variations thereof.

Now. I can't contribute to the increased uptake of this stuff unless I have the power to do it. I don't need to be the permaculturalist working on a hyperlocal scale to do that (even though I would love to do that, too. Maybe in my next venture). I can eventually use my skills as a publisher to enable visibility and growth of that system, for increased impact. I say 'eventually' because it's in the journey; it isn't right now.

Changing the world requires power. (It isn't influence, it's the power to create influence.) Power requires money. Money requires growth.

Booyah. That's why I'm here.

Action steps

The first action I took when I realised this was to send a WhatsApp message to my Money House Designer (as I call my new accountant) to tell her I want to bring on people as direct employees.

The second action I took was go and do some research about what the most influential people in my industry (and related industries) look like.

Giving the founder story the right place in the business

In the past week, I have spent time considering what we actually do. What is my actual skill-set that enables it all to happen? How do we actually impact the world?

I worked out that I am a publisher, and that publishing skills is what I can be best in the world at. Before you think about the act of publishing, I want you to understand that publishing isn't just the act itself, just like there is more to sex than the act of penetration.

Publishing is the meta category for bringing together the reasons for it, the market need for the product, the positioning of the product. It is the meta category for the systems, the workflow, the measures. It includes the platforms, the revenue models, the distribution, the content, and so on. Bringing these together is what I'm great at, and I have demonstrated it over and over again.

The skills I bring as a founder are not unimportant in a business that can be best in the world at designing publications for impact. In this business, it's critical.

However, one of the things I had not been clear enough about in the past is that what I do and what the business does are two different things. Knowing that what I do and what the business does as two separate things shouldn't be a revelation. It isn't, intellectually. But when it hits you, it is emotionally.

Discovering the most important thing that we do

After the Active Time Analysis, I sat down and worked out what it is that is the most important thing that Brutal Pixie does.

It isn't just the production. It's the combination of the production with the client experience.

Therefore, the most critical thing to Brutal Pixie's existence is Creating and delivering high quality content, while giving our clients the best customer experience available in the market.

It's the quality at both ends - the production and the experience - that makes us desirable. It's what drives all those comments about us being people's 'secret weapon'. It's the experience that bonds people to us, keeps us in the same tribe over a long period of time.

Knowing this, I went back and reworked the Hedgehog Concept.

Now, I know that bringing on people as employees really is a critical step. To create the best experience in the market, we require certainty about two things (a) quality, (b) timing. You can achieve certainty with contractors for point (a); but you can't for point (b). It just isn't possible.

The very next day, I got a LinkedIn message from a local woman who wanted to know if there is any scope for her to work in my business, now or in the future. It turns out that she never sends messages like that, didn't know why she did.

What could I say to her? Well, the only reasonable thing after this week's adventures was, 'that's definitely possible in the next 12-18 months'.