It May Be Your BABY, But Is It Your THING?

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It May Be Your BABY, But Is It Your THING?

I’ve seen this happen so many times.

Entrepreneurs breath life into a business because (1) they see an opportunity and (2) they’ve got mad skills or knowledge in the area of need.

The business grows mightily, then one day, the entrepreneur wakes up and says, “what the hell am I doing? And why don’t I want to go to work anymore?”

Just because you brought it into the world and spent all your time, money and energy getting it to where it is, doesn’t mean you should keep investing in keeping it alive. At least, not under your watch.

You change over time. What you thought your business would be evolves to what the market will sustain.

Sometimes this remains well-aligned with who you are, how you want to live your life and what you want to build. Other times, not.

There’s no shame in saying “things have changed,” then taking the actions necessary to allow you the space to redirect your energy toward something better aligned with who you are, what you want out of life, and how you wish to contribute to the world.

The last brick and mortar company I founded was a flourishing yoga center and teacher training institute in New York City. We had a vibrant community with thousands of students from all over the world. We were strongly profitable and I had a great management staff that allowed me to work only about 5-10 hours a week.

But there came a time where I stopped wanting to go into work. Where I felt increasingly disconnected from the community I’d built. Where the original plan for the business had evolved and enough of the assumptions that drew me to it had been proved wrong that it wasn’t the venture or adventure I thought it would be.

Equally important, this beautiful community needed a steward who was more invested than me. They deserved that much.

So I sold the company. Taught my last class, trained my last group of teachers, turned over the keys and walked out the door. It was time. And it was the right call. Both for me and for them.

Question is…what about you?

We get so wrapped up in finishing what we started, we forget to ask if the thing that led us to start still exists.

Maybe the need has evolved. We’ve evolved. Assumptions that drew us to a market or solution were proven wrong. And even though we’ve adapted to create a successful venture, that adaptation stripped what drew us to the quest in the first place.

So, yes, maybe you gave birth to something powerful, something that matters to others.

But does it still matter to you?

Is your BABY still your THING?

Ask the question. At least once a year.

And if the answer isn’t a resounding, visceral yes. Explore why.

Then do what you need to do to get back to yes.

As always, curious what you think…

With gratitude,

Jonathan

P.S. – We’re not talking about “real” babies, here! Whole different set of rules there. lol.

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37 responses

37 Responses to “It May Be Your BABY, But Is It Your THING?”

  1. I love this, so much. I’ve been a long-time believer that finishing what you start is overrated, and I bail on things all the time… and sometimes I STILL find myself pushing through when something just isn’t working.

    I’ve also noticed a lot with my clients that very often, it’s not the whole business or project that they have to scrap, it often just needs tweaking to better line up with where they are now (versus where they were when they started). A realignment with their values and purpose. A boost of energy.

    Sometimes not all is lost :)

  2. Otiti says:

    I think it’s super important to stay aware of why you’re doing what you do.

    Sometimes I don’t write on my blog when I’m “supposed to” because it just feels wrong and forced, and I don’t need to add to the crap in the world.

    Other times I start applying to a business scholarship programme, and I realise that just because I’m in need and could do with a boost doesn’t mean I need THAT particular boost.

    Somehow I manage to keep what my gut tells me front and centre most of the time. If it’s not a “resounding, visceral yes” as you so eloquently put it, then it’s a fuck no.

    It’s working out pretty well for me so far. :)

  3. Jodi Murphy says:

    I left a business that I had put my heart and soul into. It was successful and on the verge of great exponential growth but I hated it and couldn’t do it anymore. At the time, I struggled because I felt like a quitter but when I asked myself is this what I wanted to spend my precious time doing over the next decade? And when the answer was a resounding, “no” I let it go and not once have I regretted the decision.

  4. Dumebi says:

    This is spot on.. I can completely relate. Infact I was feeling this way about certain projects I have started recently.

    It’s good to give a start up project your all but there comes a time when it can sail on its own or under the direction of a new person who may have a different perspective and propel it to a much higher level.

  5. Lynn says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to work with a business owner and through some simple values exercises they quickly realize that what they’ve been doing isn’t working for them either in it’s evolution or as a whole.

    It is both freeing and sometimes a bit overwhelming, but what comes next is usually magnificent. Seeing them relax and lean into what they really love is a gift every time.
    Thanks for the reminder that there is more than one way to find your path.

  6. Every business goes through stages. For me, the individual stages aren’t equally interesting or fun. I’ve found that it’s good to explore why this is — and develop a broader perspective on myself and on my business life.

  7. Am I really in to this? Does it really excite me? Do I rip the sheets off each morning, feeling like I cannot wait to start? It is good to ask – I agree! So many things we can be brilliant at, yet they might not fuel our passion. Not to mention, so many people wanting us to do the thing we are brilliant at, but this is not a good enough reason!
    Great post today Jonathan, thank you.

  8. Keri says:

    Love this post! I’m going through this right now. It can be hard and leave you with feelings of regret or uncertainty, but then you go back to what is your why. When I did that, I realized what I was doing was great but it wasn’t exactly my thing at this point in my life. My dad has always said life is about adjustments. It truly is and that’s what makes me change my direction every so often. In the end, it’s all about being happy and sticking to your why. Thank you Jonathan for your great insights and videos. I just recently found you and truly enjoy your content.

  9. Kevin Riedel says:

    Woah. Insanely timely. This has just happened to me. For the second time.

    I’ve been trying to side-hustle and escape the cube life for years.

    My first venture was a gift business that was a great idea. I hustled like hell and built a functioning business. But once it was up and running… I clearly remember the exact moment when it all hit me like a ton of bricks…. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

    So I sold it. It was a great business idea. Just not for me.

    I moved on to something else. A quarky, unique social media marketing company. I got it up and running. And for bonus points, I lost my day job while running it. Now I had all the time in the world to put into my new venture.

    Shockingly, I lost interest and passion for it when I started to work on it full time. So I’ve given up. Again.

    I’ve got business idea #3 in my head right now. I’m doing market research. I think I’m on to something great. But I thought the same thing with the other two ideas that I have abandoned.

    I refuse to give up. I’m telling myself that what I’m doing is evolving into the perfect business for me. The perfect business for the life I’m living and want to live.

    But there’s a little negative voice in the dark corners of my brain that’s telling me I just like the thrill of starting a new venture and then I get bored once it’s up and running. Or that I give up too easily. I’m choosing to ignore this voice.

    But what if I shouldn’t….

  10. Cathy Wilke says:

    I think it’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day of building a business that you forget to stop and ask yourself “if the thing that led you to start the business still exists.” What I find is that it does still exist a lot of the time but we lose our connection to it. Or things have shifted in our business and we’ve lost sight of our original “why.” But either way, you raise a great point–it’s crucial to keep asking ourselves the question–”does this still matter to me?”

  11. TomC says:

    I am the poster child for this. The love of the idea trumps everything else. And usually the motivator is money. For me, it simply isn’t enough. I’ve done it for 20 years and made a living but never taking any of the ideas past “just paying the bills”. There’s just so little energy behind “just paying the bills”. The anxiety over doing things you don’t enjoy, over and over again, and the anxiety caused by procrastination decreases energy too.

    Donald Trump once said “Without passion you don’t have energy, without energy you have nothing.” No matter what my stance is on the Donald, I am all in with him on this one.

    I hope I am finally getting this concept. I’ve heard it but I think it’s obscured by the excitement of the new idea. It parades as passion. I work so hard getting the business started and I love every minute of the planning stage. Then the work begins and I am motivated to see it through. But then the work continues and my energy levels decrease rapidly.

    The “problem” is the ideas never stop. They’re always super motivating but they’re never my thing. But of course, I have an idea for that.

    • RachelP says:

      TomC, your words could’ve been mine. I have pages of [awesome] ideas, each of which would fill a market gap I’ve identified and would make money with the right person at the helm. I can see exactly the skills required and how the idea could flourish into reality…but if I have to choose just one idea (or, let’s be realistic, a few ideas!) to be “My Thing(s)”, how to choose? How to find something that will engage me in the longer term?

      Perhaps our passion is for start-ups?

      Jonathan, how can we build a business around that?!

      • TomC says:

        I’m ready to figure this out.

        The latest idea is to just create a website and “give” the world every idea I have. And if someone found enough motivation behind one of them, perhaps they could make something of it. Matching ideas with the right people.

        At least my ideas won’t just sit in a notebook waiting to become irrelevant.

        I understand that this is an uncomfortable thought. Honestly, its brought about by desperation.

        • LaurieV says:

          TomC, as I read your responses, I was thinking in my head, “Gee, share some of those ideas with me–I can make ‘em go!” So maybe your idea of sharing is a good one. :-)

          I want to do my own thing so badly, but I can’t settle on exactly what “it” is … I have some product ideas, some service biz ideas, a little of this and a little of that. But I’d love to hear some of your ideas.

          • TomC says:

            Hey LaurieV,

            I just read something interesting a few days ago on http://www.bigideagroup.net. In the blog section the writer said, paraphrased, “Great ideas are actually common and practically valueless.”. And of course, that struck me. The Big Idea Group is a site that you can pitch your idea and they will tell you if it has legs and also help you get it started and get your idea licensed or whatever you need. So my guess is that there are millions of people that have great ideas and only a handful that have what it takes to get it done. Or perhaps there are only a handful of people who get their ideas to match something they are passionate about and then are also brave, or careless, enough to doggedly pursue it. So, I am not sure an idea site would even be worth anything to anyone.

            It’s very possible that I lack a bit of reality in my view of the world as well. My ideas may be no better than anyone else’s. But they never stop and I still think they are solid. I am going to do a site for people who want to make their own job. I am giving a list of 5 or 6 very small business plans, that I have had success with, despite loathing almost every minute of it. My thought is that if I can do it then anyone who likes it could really excel. If some one can’t find a job then maybe they could make their own with from what I have done. They can download the plans, sales kits and almost anything else they need to get started. I’m not taking any of these businesses national, so I am not losing anything. I will use a message board to help where I can. It would be nice if I found a friendly way to make a living from it. It seems to allow me to be creative and help people so maybe I would enjoy it and stick with it. Plus I could add other ideas in there. I can’t possibly do all of them… and I wouldn’t want to.

  12. Kim says:

    This is the right question at the right time for me. (Actually, a few months earlier might have been nice – but never mind!)

    I taught elementary school for 30 years. I loved it for many of those years, but the changes in the politics of education made it impossible for me to do what I knew how to do, and I didn’t want to do what they wanted done. So, while teaching had been my “thing”, it no longer was. When it was possible to retire, I took the early out. 54!

    I had visions of what I thought I would do, but while they nurtured me while I slaved away trying to make students pass tests (shudder!) I have found that I don’t want to follow those dreams any more.

    Right now, I am caring for my 85-year-old father who is having some health problems. I am relishing the opportunity to be of service to him. When this time passes, I will be open to other dreams and aspirations

  13. Patty Gordon says:

    Great post! Sometimes when you are the creator and it truly is your brainchild, it’s so hard to walk away, even when it’s best for all concerned. What I loved about your post, Jonathan, is that you talk about taking care of both: the baby, by passing it along to someone who feels passionate about it’s growth and development, and yourself, in order to keep your own growth and passion alive. It’s not about “quitting,” it’s about moving on. There are so many great ideas/businesses waiting to be born…maybe we are meant to be midwives sometimes, and not always parents. Thank you!

  14. Andrea Simonson says:

    A super good post and, while relevant for successful businesses, I think it’s also relevant for businesses that are struggling. Maybe you’ve got a business that, by all accounts, SHOULD be insanely profitable but, for some dumb reason, just isn’t. Sometimes I think it’s actually easier to keep trudging along trying to make it work. After all, no one likes a quitter, right? But maybe it’s not profitable because it really isn’t your thing. Perhaps a course correction is necessary; perhaps it’s better just to wrap it up. I think your “Is it still my thing” question is pertinent here, as well.

    Another great, thought provoking read, Jonathan!

  15. Paula says:

    Wow, how did you know? Who told you to write this for me?? :)

    My boyfriend was actually a karma yogi at your NY studio, and he has talked to me about learning from the model he saw working so well. He has so many stories about the work he did, and about how much more he got out of his time there. But I’ve been finding myself saying very very quietly, when no one’s around, not even a mirror, “But I don’t want to anymore. What’s wrong with me?”

    Your line, “Then do what you need to do to get back to yes,” has sparked a whole new way of thinking for me. What parts ARE my thing? What would it take to evolve again? What DOES matter to me?

    Thank you so much for this.

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  17. Alexis Neely says:

    I get asked by a lot of lawyers why I am no longer practicing law. My business trains lawyers on a new law business model I created while in my own private practice so it’s a reasonable question. And up until now, I’ve had a very logical, comprehensive explanation, but now I realize that it’s far simpler and perhaps I’ll just send your blog post in reply. :)

  18. Kathy says:

    Thank you Jonathan, It never ceases to amaze me that when a question arises, the answer soon follows. I am also struck by how the answer comes in ways I never would have imagined. I am grateful to you for sharing your thoughts. They provoke mine.:->

  19. Jess says:

    This! It has happened to me, and making the decision to let go was the best thing I could have done.

    I started my little magazine (bespoke zine) with high hopes, and learnt so much about publishing, marketing, editing etc, but there came a point where I just didn’t have the passion to keep pushing it along any more – it was already a side project, and my main business was growing and taking up more and more of my time and energy.

    So I sold it. And now it’s flourishing under the stewardship of its new editors. Best of all, when it arrives in the mail I can read it and enjoy it, rather than never wanting to see a copy of it EVER AGAIN after publication ;)

  20. Rick Lugash says:

    Asking yourself “what the heck am I doing” and “why don’t I want to go to work anymore” has happened to me, but mostly as a function of what role I was serving in the business at the time. The entrepreneur with the $1,000/hour skill set can easily become disengaged doing $10 or $100/hour activities. Sometimes, the right path is to replace yourself and move on to serve the business in a different way.

  21. Tracy Hall says:

    It’s a pretty powerful question to ask ourselves about so many of our decisions and actions in life. We invest so much of ourselves in something that we forget to simply check in with whether it still resonates with our purpose. Another win for mindfulness!

    I enjoyed reading the comments to see how many also face this decision.

    Great article, Jonathan!

  22. Rob says:

    Perfect timing for me. I just resigned my Director-level position at a small startup yesterday. I loved the challenge of getting it up and running, but then pretty quickly everything I enjoyed about it disappeared. My business partner and I tried to find ways to continue my involvement but only focussing on the parts I liked, but we couldn’t reach agreement. So, the only path left was to leave.

    Definitely the right decision and I actually feel relieved now, if mildly anxious about how I’m going to earn money!

  23. Steve Hayes says:

    I got your point. I know that sometimes we start doing something we thought we were passionate about but as time goes by that passion starts to fade out and then nothing seems to make sense any more. And that is unfortunate because at least to me it takes a lot of time and effort to create a good project or baby, if you wish.
    Great analysis!

  24. What a refreshing post. And to see that so many people struggle with this dilema is also helpful, as I think this is an instance we often feel alone in handling.

    I wonder if this sort of situation is a characteristic of Founders syndrome. I have a strong sense of personal responsibility that urges me to continue with something even after my heart has moved on. And I struggled with that for an endeavor I started a few years ago. But persevering like that is actually not the responsible thing to do and learning to let go, while difficult, is powerful. When you can accept that what you’re working on is bigger than you, you create space for other’s that possess the passion to take on more leadership. And therefore you can transition with a peace of mind.

  25. Carthage says:

    Many people fail to see that success and happiness do not go hand in hand. There are many things at which we could be successful but if your heart is not in it then it will never allow you to be happy.

    Not every project is meant to last a life time. It’s great to take on new challenges but you should only stick with the project as long as it is fulfilling you and making you happy. When your happiness walks out the door it should be dragging your backside with it.

  26. Hi Jonathan,

    Yes, yes, yes! I just handed in my “resignation” as the host of an incredibly popular productivity podcast for this exact reason. I’d known for months that it was my baby but not my “thing.” It took so much courage to finally tell the world that it was time for me to move on. But now that I have, I feel so much freedom and have so much more energy!

    Thanks,
    Tara

  27. This is a fantastic post and reminder! In the past, I started and quit (3) businesses. I would begin incredibly passionate and fired up and shortly after, would not be interested in the business at all and would “pull the plug”. Every single one of them. For a long time, it made me feel like a failure. Like I couldn’t start something and see it through to completion. It took me awhile to be okay with letting things go and I am now so thankful I did, as they made me grow and step into what my true life calling is/was meant to be!! Great post, Jonathan!

  28. This is a very timely post, Jonathan! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. What first drew me to my business isn’t what I love about it now. I’m not yet ready to walk away, but I am paying attention to what I really love and what doesn’t make me excited anymore.

  29. Olga says:

    As a start up I really appreciate such open discussions and ideas, things to consider when getting into entrepreneurial world. Thank you Jonathan as always :)
    What really helped me to gain confidence in building a long lasting business is the legacy and purpose of my existence and setting my goals broad so I have room for variety of projects that can give me variety to try and test myself in what feels right. Almost like a number of income projects. Having a bigger meaningful vision that will most likely stay the same I can adapt to my changing interests and passions.
    I’ll tell you in 20 years LOL how it went

  30. [...] Read it in full here. [...]

  31. [...] love and which new projects to begin. Jonathan Fields has a great post about this called It May Be your BABY, But Is It Your THING? We really do have more amazing things to be enthusiastic about that we know and all of them will [...]

  32. Paul Leslie says:

    Great post. If a cake you are mixing is not turning out how you want why would you continue to take the time to bake it as it is? Why not add more sugar or extra milk? I think life and business are similar.

  33. nysha says:

    OMG. Perfect timing. I looked at my little startup yesterday and said “I am just not that ‘into you’ anymore” I felt guilty…like I was betraying this adorable baby…but truth is, I have moved on–and now the business is suffering due to my lack of fire and passion. So now, I get quiet, and I look for the next thing that juices me up. Thank you for this reminder today…