The Hamster Wheel



Sometimes successful strategies come from places you would never have thought to look for them. My eight year old niece got a pet hamster for Christmas. He’s a funny little creature and she is currently quite enthralled with him. His name is, appropriately, Mr. Nibbles, as he basically just eats, sleeps, poops…and runs endlessly on his little wheel. The running is an essential partner to the eating of course. But it is fascinating that he seems absolutely tireless – every time I see him, there he is, pattering away endlessly on his little wheel.

Busy, Busy Busy

The past year was a tough one. The buzz word was BUSY. And when you’re in business for yourself, BUSY is a blessing. But more often than not I felt like Mr. Nibbles, constantly running in circles, but getting nowhere. I was able to take a breather just before the holidays and went on vacation to Tahiti. It was a trip like none I have ever taken, filled with warm ocean breezes, clear blue skies, and absolutely no agenda. I even cleared my work schedule, so my laptop stayed closed virtually the whole time. I realized that I was actually so stressed that I didn’t even know it. I had to keep reminding myself that there was nothing to do. Returning to “reality” (so to speak), I started to see how passé the concept of “Busy” is. I saw how much time I wasted “doing”. Frantically attending to things according to other’s agendas, piling an already full plate to overspill, and constantly pushing aside my own needs. I took a step back and asked myself why? Is it the need for client approval that drives me? Does my being overwhelmingly busy actually increase my business? From the hamster wheel perspective, the answer is yes – the more you do, the more business you get, right?

The Power of Positive Relationships

But when you really think about it, effective, successful business is actually about building strong, honest, positive relationships. In fact, let’s not even call it “business” (read: “busy-ness”). Maybe a better word is “relatedness”. Getting to know your clients, their goals, visions and of course, budgets, and setting realistic goals with them that take into account the time/money factors sets a solid foundation to create something with longevity and meaning. Telling someone what they want to hear and then being unable to deliver, or delivering a substandard product because the deadline was more important than the quality of the work never ends up satisfying anyone. So my new buzzword is “SIMPLIFY”. Some words of advice I got from my long-time mentor, Barbara Nessim have always stayed with me, and I am reminded of them now: “Simple” is not “Easy”. The two words often are mistakenly equated, but in truth, to simplify can take a great deal of effort. Not effort of the hamster wheel kind, but stemming from mental clarity. Coming to terms with the fact that you must give something up in order to gain something better. You’ll have to give up telling clients only what they want to hear. You may even have to give up some business. But those who are willing to hear what you have to say and stick with you will reap the rewards of careful, well-planned projects that have a solid foundation and are built for success. I hope this article inspires you to have the courage and clarity to hold your ground, be uncompromising in your pursuit of excellence and quality, and take the straight road to gratifying success.