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Startup life in the time of Corona, Lesson 8: Life and Happiness

In this series, I share with you some of the key learnings I have had from my first 6 months of launching my first startup (Shiageto Consulting) and how those lessons are applicable for the challenges my business is facing during this pandemic crisis (and any business at any time in fact)

The initial challenge

I often talk about my startup journey using the analogy of like being on a roller coaster. There are lots of ups and downs that make it super scary but ultimately it's one of the most exhilarating and amazing things you can do.

In an attempt to bring this to life, I drew a little pictorial above but this barely does it justice (plus I reckon you need to really zoom in to read all my incredibly witty milestones).

One of the key components of startup life is the impact it has on your personal life. If, like me, you've come from working in large professional services firms leading a lifestyle of mostly working on projects that are dictated to you, in places you have no say about, with clients you haven't chosen, over timescales agreed by someone else; then you're very used to someone else effectively mapping out your personal life.

You might not acknowledge it but your freedoms are not quite your own; your ability to see your friends and family during the week slowly evaporates (so much so that they just stop inviting you to things), you get used to living in hotels and you think it's normal to cut back on sleep to meet the deadlines of pieces of work or to catch early morning flights/trains.

Stepping away from this was so liberating, but almost crippling (it's like having been exposed to Stockholm syndrome and when finally being released not quite knowing what you should do with your freedom). This was me when I set off on my startup journey.

My first few weeks I felt guilt that, even though I was throwing myself into building the business, I was sleeping more, I was eating more healthily, I was doing more exercise and I was seeing more of my friends. It took me quite a bit of time to realise that my overall happiness was increasing (interspersed with the panic attacks of "what have I done, I should be doing what someone else tells me").

My quality of life was made so much better as I wasn't spending all week in obscure, far-flung places and in addition the internal admin time/bureaucracy associated with working in a large organisation had just evaporated overnight. It was a total revelation!!!

Not only could I work on building a business that I was proud of (one that focused on the kind of work I am passionate about, with clients I adore, a community that inspire me and a culture others would admire) but I could also work on rebuilding my personal life that I had sadly sacrificed along the way.

This would be the age of Shiageto and of Faris Aranki; as such, I began very nervously reclaiming all my key personal life decisions - a process I like to refer to as life in-sourcing.

How has the pandemic amplified my challenge?

Of all my learnings this was the one least amplified by the pandemic. In fact, if anything, having had a few months of life in-sourcing practice, when the pandemic came along and even more time was freed up, I was perfectly positioned to thoroughly enjoy my life once again.

I continued on the arc of my decisions, getting closer to friends and family, getting even healthier and learning to enjoy the smallest of things.

Now, I appreciate everyone has had a completely different experience of the pandemic so far but I do hope that you all got the chance to reclaim some of your own personal lives. It may be scary but oh so liberating.

So, what are my takeaways from this learning?

I'm not sure I'd call them learnings but 6 months in, the way I go about my life in-sourcing is based around three main principles:

  1. Do what makes you happy - if the clients Shiageto work with aren't my thing or the compromises we have to make are too much then life is too short. Instead I savour the small things and make the most of everything. It's the same with deciding how much time to spend and what to do away from work

  2. We're only limited by our imaginations - these are the only boundaries; if you've always thought of doing something give it a go, find a way, don't be held back by the constraints of others in life or work

  3. Keep balance - I don't go overboard anymore, I've worked out what is important to me and I make the most out of it all rather than over-indexing as I may have done in the past

I'm so glad to have this chapter in my life and wouldn't have anticipated the positive knock-on effects to my personal life from starting a new company but that is exactly what has happened so far.

Now, I'm not encouraging you all to leap across to the startup world but I do encourage you to have a go at a little more life in-sourcing. If you need a hand or want to know where to start then I'd love to help :)

That also feels like an amazing place to wrap up this series on my learnings from the first 6 months of Shiageto. Don't you worry, there's plenty more wisdom to come on other topics so enjoy this one; Stay Safe, Stay Sane and Stay Awesome until I'm back with more.

Faris :)

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