I recently heard a story about a friend-of-a-friend who had a decent consulting career. Instead of leveraging his skills to make as much money as possible, he took a different approach.
Each year he would accept consulting projects starting in January. His skills were in demand and so he was able to work extended contracts charging over $100 per hour, nearly 40 hours per week. Up until this point he seemed to have a normal consulting career.
But then every May or June something unique would happen. He stopped working.
A magic number
You see, he had a number in mind. A number that to him was enough money for the year. Once he hit that number he stopped working. He wrapped up his existing projects, said “no” to all new clients, and stopped working entirely.
For the rest of the year he traveled, worked on fun projects, did volunteer work, and practiced his hobbies.
Instead of trying to make as much money as possible, growing his business, and doubling revenue each year, he decided how much money was enough, and stopped once he reached his goal.
I have a lot of respect for that.
For the first three months of this year I’ve worked really hard. I’ve done great revenue on all of my ebooks, launched Photoshop for Interface Design and Mastering Product Launches, and grown ConvertKit. It was a really busy time, but I was paid well for it.
If I continue on this path I think I could more than double last year’s revenue.
But for now, I have enough.
I worked hard for three months, now I plan to take two months off. My next son is due in about a month (May 8th!) and my older son will turn three this year. I want to be around more, be thinking about work less, and generally have more time for everything else.
With a caveat
As I write this I’m about a week into my new found freedom of not having any goals or deadlines. At first I was working very little, but then something terrible happened: I got bored. I spent more time reading, drawing, exercising, and playing with my son, but I missed work. I missed spending the majority of my day creating.
Trying to take too much time off is a problem. I enjoy my work—so why stop? That’s when I realized I need to take a break from the crazy deadlines and hard work, but not from work entirely.
The new plan is to make slow, consistent progress towards my goals and continue hiring and training a team to do even more work on my behalf. This new plan will give me plenty of time for things besides work, allow me to work on my goals without immediate revenue being the focus, and keep me from getting bored.
It’s time for a (temporary) change of pace.
52 Responses to “Enough”
You have to be pretty bold to get to the place where you have “enough.” Maybe the experiment made you realize what parts of your business you truly love and couldn’t live without doing.
Great insight Donnie. “Enough” is something that’s hard to recognize because I feel like as humans we are designed to always want more. I guess we all just have to decide what we want more of… $$ vs personal/emotional gains.
That’s great Nathan. It’s so nice to hear you have such an affinity towards your work. Not many people truly love what they do so much they would choose to work even if they didn’t have to. Congrats on everything :)
Great insight. Depression is very common amongst entrepreneurs, and it makes sense if you think about it. You have this constant feeling that you need to create and change things to be happy. But you have to remember life is about the journey, not the end game. Quite the paradox for goal oriented people.
Nathan, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think it’s wise for people to come up with the “enough” figure before they achieve it, as it can be very tempting to never stop, never slow down. You aren’t going to get to the end of your life and look back and say that you spent too much time with you kids or your family. A healthy family is much harder to achieve than a healthy business, and if you get the one right, it often really helps achieve the other.
I’m actually finishing up a blog post going up later today about reasons for keeping a business small. One of them hits on exactly what you are talking about here. The freedom to be able to say enough and take a step back or take a season off.
Keep it up. I’ve learned a lot from you.
Same holds true for folks trying to bootstrap side projects while holding down the typical 9 to 5. There may be a season where it makes sense to shut down the midnight project, get more rest and enjoy friends/family/hobbies more.
As the good book says, “…contentment is great gain.”
I know several folks who have adapted this concept to their charitable giving… living on no more than the previously-determined dollars and giving the rest away. Your plan is a benefit to your family, and I like that!
This reminds me of Stefan Sagmeister’s TED talk “The Power of Time Off” about how he takes a year long sabbatical every seven years. He mentions that the first time he tried he struggled because he went into it without goals or structure thinking that this was what was needed to truly break free.
It’s certainly a good problem to have though! Whenever I’ve been able to step back from the day to day grind I’ve found my creativity really sparks – especially if I combine it with a different location or some other change in perspective.
Enough is a beautiful concept. This is fantastic.
Amber Leigh Turner
I’ve always felt like you should get yourself to a point where you can work less. Not necessarily work half the year then quit the other half, but work some every day, maybe only 5-6 hours a day instead of the usual 8-10 hours. At least, that is my goal in life. Make enough money to support myself and my family and reach my financial goals, but have a good balance between work and life.
Working 8 hours a day, every day, just doesn’t fit anymore with peoples’ lives. Working when you can works with peoples’ lives.
I agree Amber. Loving what you do doesn’t mean you have to work endlessly and neglect other important things in life. Work like balance is key!
So many people just accept the 9-5 routine and don’t question that there might be something better. I bet we are going to see this changing over the next 5 or 10 years.
Common sense masked as insight. Typical from the wealthy and cloistered.
Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Say you are in your early 20s without kids/marriage, do you think this still applies?
Big fan of your approach on this, Nathan. Enjoy the break – and everything that will come with it.
Have you seen the cost of sending your kids to college?
Wow. Such a simple idea that has never crossed my mind before. I’m currently in a transition from full time job to a freelance as well, and is something that will definitely help me live a much healthier life on ward.
I’ll have to try this out myself and see how it goes. All I need to do now us find that right number. :)
That is quite inspiring Nathan! I am at a similar point in time when I am starting to believe that being a slave to work is really not the way. I am starting to declutter and remove all non-essential expenses so that I don’t have to earn that much!
you mention that you miss spending the majority of your day creating things. but the way i see it, spending time with your son is a form of creation. it’s creating important and memorable experiences for him. as someone who grew up without a father and no good male role model, i can’t stress the importance of this enough.
Francisco Aguilera G.
Hey, this is a great plan. You got all my respect and admiration.
Nice move, you did a great this year so far, and you deserve a vacation to let your mind and body reset, enjoy your time.
As good as cyclical “no-work” periods sound good, I think I’d rather work out a system that would allow me to work less per day but continue working, rather then coming to a full stop.
I’ve burned out twice over the past 4 years due to not being able to balance my work/life loads.
This year one of my goals is to find a good balance to avoid those types of situations in the future.
I hope your consulting friend at least forwards those leads on and collects a referral fee, or has developed some automated way of doing so. I totally get not wanting to work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make money while not working :)
And congrats on the new outlook! I hope I can get to a similar point sometime soon.
Talk about missing the point.
John Bogle (one of the great investment minds) has a book titled: Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life. Mr. Money Mustache also talks a lot about this issue and is a good blog to read for anyone interested in being financially independent and not needing to work.
Glad to hear! Enjoy your next step of career/business evolution.
I love this. It makes my mini-jaunts where I turn off all digital communication for a week of the year, pale in comparison. Thanks for the inspiration!
Haha!! I did some thing very similar in Oct last year and stopped consulting. It freaked me out though as getting back to groove takes time. I am experiencing that now. But I spent lot more time with family and I really enjoyed it.
Haha:) The due date of my first baby will be on May 8th too!!! Enjoy your life, Nathan.
You have found the secret of a happy life. Congrulations. Don’t doubt yourself, you have earned your wisdom.
Nathan, I have found that I cannot separate create from life. And what if the things you create are the kind that classificates as “job”? I think we must face we like them and enjoy them (without those crazy deadlines, of course)!
Brilliant, I love it! Enjoy the time with your family….and thank you for being a shining example of how we can all design our own lives, define our own success and prosper on our own terms.
A bold move and I respect that. I love the concept but I like the idea of delegating the work instead of completely stopping so that I can divide my time more efficinelty. So far, me and my business partner both fail at this but this is something to struggle for.
Congratulations Nathan on an upcoming addition to the family. Stay blessed!
Great post, Nathan!
It’s a reminder to us that work is not everything. Sadly, majority of us work because we have to fulfill our basic needs everyday. And as a result we are accustomed to working 8 hours a day just because everyone does it… and forget what true happiness and the reason to live is.
Striving for financial freedom should be in everyone’s mind because there’s just so many enjoyable things that have meaning for ourselves, more so than money itself.
Good luck on your new path!
I’ve been doing the exact same thing for the last couple of years.
My priorities simply change as I got kids.
Now I’m doing consulting 3-5 months each year, spend months with my family in our house in Thailand and generally have time for a lot of exciting and crazy ass projects.
I can’t really figure out why more people don’t do something similar :)
Good luck with your journey!
I actually read about this person in a book “Everything I Know” by Paul Jarvis just the other day. I loved the idea, and man I would definitely love to do the same thing!
Great to hear Nathan. Not many designers today have found the right work / family / rest balance. I appreciate all the things you share about the business of entrepreneurship that you are learning, rather than all just about design.
Keep up the great work!
– Caleb Mellas
Thanks Nathan, this is a great idea. Life is so precious and time spent with family is the best. Congrats on your second son. Enjoy.
I’m a freelance software developer and i often thought of stop accepting new clients and projects during the year when i reach my “enough”, but there is something that scares me a little: my clients will usually need new developments during the year so if i refuse, they will be forced to ask somebody else which may be counterproductive for me, because the next time they’ll need developments, they will rely on the new developers instead of me (except if they will have a bad experience with the new developer). I think this is especially true for software design and development, because switching software developer(s) have greater costs for a client instead of asking the same developer to develop new features, because new developers have to “get into the project”, study it and learn how it is made before starting being productive and this “training cost” is charged on the client (which also have to lose time explaining the whole project to a new developer). This is a plus for a freelancer because it is a sort of client-fidelization, but a problem if you stop accepting new features requests from your clients!
Dennis J. Smith
I always enjoy reading what you have to say Nathan. You’ve built an impressive following the last few years.
I love that you wrote about this Nathan. I know this one of the biggest things I learned while I was in the Peace Corps for 3 years. I actually wrote a book titled Enough because of it. It’s available here: http://www.travishellstrom.com/enough.
I’d love to send you a paperback version of it if you’d like it, I have really appreciate the great things you have given away for free. It’s the least I could do. :)
Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d love to send one to you.
The pace at which technology is racing ahead, won’t your friend’s friend but outdated in the 9 months of break he plans to take? For all you know he might not even be employable.
I love this! When I lived in Spain I often heard the phrase “In Spain we work to live, in America you live to work.” It was always said in a fun way, but it has a deep impact.
I agree with you Nathan, that when I completely stop working, I feel that something is missing because I enjoy what I do. and that’s my goal – to do work I enjoy and have passion for.
Nathan, I have never liked my job, I always find myself in the wrong field. However, I never stopped working, it is not an option for me.
After reading your blog, I have decided to start writing 500 words a day. I think it is a great idea and may help me come up with a good book later.
Thanks for the inspiration.
I read a book called “Buddha Standard Time” that say something like you wrote. Sabbath time it’s important for living a quality life.