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Living the Dream with Purpose and Priorities


business mission

How can you retrain your thinking to do more of what fuels your purpose, while also having the time to spend doing what makes you happy?

We would all like to say we are living the dream, but most people think it’s impossible. Small business owners start businesses with the hope that eventually they will be able to live the dream. But often the responsibilities of running a business tends to take over one’s mind, and focus is directed at reacting to the tasks and issues involved, instead of seeing the bigger picture.   

Earlier this week, I was invited to speak at Scaling New Heights®, the nation’s largest Inuit® conference for small business QuickBooks ProAdvisors.  Woodard exists to empower small business advisors to radically impact the way small businesses operate. It was a great opportunity to learn and network with other small business owners and advisors. 

At the conference, I spoke about the importance of living the dream - To always have a purpose in life, and be passionate about what you do - and how to get to that way of thinking. It all begins with believing that there is a better way, and I will share a quick personal story of how I realized what living the dream means to me.

Don’t look back unless you learn something

I started a company called Virtual Growth in New York City when I was newly married and always knew that eventually we would start a family. I knew that with a family of my own, I would not want to be the one to miss any events, big or small, in my family’s life. I wanted to be the one to coach my kid’s sports teams, so I could be there throughout their experiences.

Well that was the intention, but a few years down the line I had raised $43 million in venture capital and a schedule so busy that I didn’t even make time for myself. I would fly out on Monday morning, and catch the red eye to return Thursday night. Meetings kept me busy on Fridays, and Saturday was my day to catch up and respond to emails. Sunday only meant one thing, SLEEP! I was doing the exact opposite of what I intended was when I first started out; I was stuck running on the hamster wheel.

Starting GrowthForce in 2004 became my do-over in life, and since those don’t come very often, I find myself very grateful every day. I changed my perspective, re-arranged my priorities and got out of the rat race. I am finally in charge of my life.

Life is not a Dry Run

Running a business is very hard work and it often starts to take over your entire life. When this happens you need to stop and think. Understand how important it is to put yourself and your family first. 

Everybody has 24 hours each day - You have 8 hours to sleep, plus 2 hours to cover the rest: shower, shave, shampoo and grab a shirt (preferably clean!), which only leaves you with 14 hours a day. The trick is trying to juggle your priorities and manage it all. How can I be there for  my family? Where does work fit in? What am I doing for my health? Who do I want to be?

There are only two decisions that you really need to make:

  • What are your priorities in life?
  • How many hours do you want to work each week?

Most people arrange their priorities with Work taking the spot right at the top, followed by Family, Health and Community. What if you were to restructure this and make a change that works to your benefit where your Health was right at the top, followed by Family, Work and then Community?

  1. Health

Schedule the time for YOU. 

Putting yourself first actually helps you to be more productive and enthusiastic about the work you do. Being proactive about your health will allow you to more easily take charge of everything else in your life. Block some time on your calendar for physical activity and just get moving in whatever way that motivates you. Find time to pray, meditate and just be grateful, spiritual health is just as important as your mental and physical health. Take the time to schedule your health into your day.

  1. Family

Your number one priority (after your health).

Spending time with my family and being a part of my kid’s lives was very important to me. I volunteered to coach their sports teams, and organized practices for soccer and football, which always went on my calendar BEFORE work. It was never an afterthought. I would be on the bus for football games every Friday night and it was such a pleasure to be involved in my sons life. Since my daughter began dancing, I have never missed a single dance recital and I never will, not if I can help it. I also decided to be home for dinner everyday!

Once I schedule these top priorities in my calendar, I am better able to  plan my work.

  1. Work 
Work to Live NOT Live to Work

Planning my work means preparing and ranking my work priorities. Prepare yourself mentally for a set number of work hours each week. 20% of my work time is spent on planning for the 80% of work that needs to get done. You might get away with 15%, but you have to plan the work.  I spend about 7.5 – 10 hours of my week planning, and it’s mainly comprised of:

  • One-to-One meetings, Traction Meetings, and Manager meetings.
  • I build in a workweek start and end - to plan the week, and end the week in alignment.
  • We review the calendar every week on a Thursday to look ahead at the next week.

The other 80% might be spent looking at your marketing/business development strategies, sales initiatives, billable work, and your products and services.

The key takeaway here is to focus only on the things that you need to do, with the rest being delegated or outsourced. Getting into the right mindset takes times at first, but it ends up saving you time in the long run. 

Work on the billable tasks that have the highest value and set up realistic goals that can be accomplished.

Hire the right people and put them in the right seats to make sure they are working your strategic plan. As your business evolves, so should your staff. Always hire for the right behaviors and then train/polish the skills that your business needs. I often refer back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs with a strong emphasis on employee rewards/recognition and training - Read more on How Recognition and Rewards Impact Employee Engagement and Performance.

  1. Volunteering

Only a life lived for others is worth living.” — Albert Einstein

I am very active in the Village Learning Center and the Houston CPA Society. It gives me the opportunity to do more for my community and it doesn’t take too much of my time. This goes on my calendar as well since I feel my purpose is not complete without it. Volunteering and participating in your community seems like a low priority for most people, but once you start doing it, you will feel the positive effect it has on your life.  

When I focus on those 4 important areas of my life, I am confident that I am making my following week as much of a success as possible to keep on living the dream.

It’s been 14 years since I started GrowthForce - I am the CEO, not just the boss.  I enjoy what I do, I value those I work with and spend as much time as possible with my family. To me, that’s living the dream. What does your “dream” look like?

Are you willing to make changes to your life and priorities to live it?

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