Death by Opportunity

I have two competing impulses. They fight with each other like siblings that are close enough in age that they should theoretically get along…but they just don’t.

One impulse is to slow down. That part of me is the part of me that wants to stay sane. It’s the part of me that wants to savor. As a person who identifies as being a sensitive person, I rather like being able to breathe and take my time with things. I like how it feels after a meditation session or a workout class. This part of me insists that I need 8 – 10 hours of sleep. This part of me insists that I need alone time. It’s the reason I left the bay area to come to Salem, OR. I didn’t need to go from 60 miles per hour to a straight up stand-still…but I definitely wanted off the freeway. I mean that literally and metaphorically. If you have ever dealt with traffic in the bay area, you would understand.

The other impulse is to move faster. THAT part of me is ambitious. Curious. Drawn to novelty. Forever wanting to grow and change. That is the part of me that wants to create multiple income streams and launch a new offering in my business, write a book, record a podcast, teach a cooking class, travel to a new country…and so on and so fourth.

Part of the reason for these warring impulses has to do with how I’m wired. As it turns out, I’m not only a highly sensitive person. I’m also a sensation seeker. If you’re curious about what that is…I wrote a separate blog about that, here

Perhaps that is why, right when I was feeling like I had a handle on things, I noticed a streamline of opportunities pop up. I was offered full time status at my hospital job (ummm….yeah baby!!!) Then, I stumbled on a new platform I could use to facilitate an online community for my fellow HSP’s. Done and done! Then, a friend of mine told me about a new company that sells supplements and CBD oil (an MLM company…yes yes yes….go ahead and judge. Safe space). I mean…I’m a health educator. I need to get better at selling stuff. An MLM might be a good opportunity to flex that muscle group. I mean…right?

I keep saying yes to all these things, in part because I’m always open to try new things, and in part because I am always a little nervous when I only have one income stream or one project going on. There is a kind of peace that comes with all that chaos. There is stability that comes with diversification of my work.

I mean…isn’t there?

But…if that is true, why am I starting to feel uneasy?

I spoke to a mentor about this, recently, and he had some excellent insights.

First – he admitted that all creatives…or at least most creatives…need to have a diversified portfolio of work. I know plenty of entrepreneurs say that if you really want to turn your passion into a business, you have to go all in and ONLY focus on the business or craft. I’m sure there is a lot of truth to that. But I simply don’t like putting that kind of pressure on my creative enterprise. I don’t want people who might be on the fence about coming into my community to feel like they are getting manipulated because I’m just needy. I want people to feel enthusiastically welcomed…not boo-boo’d into showing up. That’s just gross.

A number of writers that I know have expressed something similar to that sentiment as it relates to their work. Many writers have day jobs. They do that because they don’t want to burden their craft with the need to bring home the bacon. Creative projects, especially in their early stages, are fragile. They require a gentle ecosystem to thrive in. New crops don’t grow well in hurricane weather. So in many respects, my desire to perpetually have more than one thing going on makes a lot of sense.

He also had a word of caution for me, though.

“Beware of death by opportunity.”

Obviously, I HAD to know what THAT was about.

He explained that, yes…sometimes we say “yes” to too many things because we have poor boundaries and/or are codependent and/or don’t feel like we CAN say “no.” But sometimes? It’s just because we don’t want to say no. Sometimes, we are offered a speaking opportunity (which sounds awesome), and are offered a full time job opportunity (yes please!) and are offered a book deal (in my dreams, that totally happens), and, and, and….

They all sounds fantastic! We cannot IMAGINE saying NO.

Suddenly we are buckling under the strain of all our enthusiasm. We forget that we are humans who evolved with circadian rhythms that require 6 – 9 hours of sleep each night. Like poor city planners, we are so busy trying to build something on every available space to accommodate the needs of residents and businesses alike, that we forget to design a city that businesses and residents would actually want to come to. Human lives, just like cities, need green zones. They need spaces that are strategically designed with areas that have nothing built on them. Try and imagine San Francisco without Golden Gate Park. Or imagine New York City without Central Park.

Yuck.

Put another way…if you never say “no”…your “yes” means nothing.

Or, put in the way Warren Buffet prefers: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Well FML …that’s inconvenient news.

I’m realizing that I’m going to have to say no to something. I’m going to have to get really clear on what my priorities are. I have to go back and figure out how to strike a balance between doing and being.

There is just one problem.

I don’t wanna.

Because that shit is HARD.

But if I’m being honest? It’s probably the most important work I can do – not just for myself, but for those I claim I want to help. How can I call myself a coach for highly sensitive people without being willing to walk my talk?

So…in my effort to brainstorm where to go from here….Here are some of the things I have figured out.

I love to facilitate the space for people to connect and learn from each other. I love teaching and providing resources for people. Part of the reason I am so in love with metaphors and analogies is because I find them to be incredibly helpful in explaining otherwise deeply complex concepts. My love of metaphors also bleeds into my love of writing. I absolutely LOVE to write. I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember. I think my earliest entry was when I was 8 years old. Clearly…writing is a part of whatever it is I’m trying to create.

The trick for me, at this stage (I think), is to find a way to do all that in a way that is also financially sustainable.

Because if I’m being completely honest? Another part of the reason I keep saying yes to shit I really ought to say no to is because I’m terrified of charging people too much money for what I already do. It takes work to create content (blogs, podcasts, community groups). It requires financial resources. Most business coaches or life coaches have basically said to me: “Leah…you have all the degrees and certifications and tools you need. Now you need to charge people what you are worth for the work you do.”

Yeah. I really should. I’ll totally get around to that. Eventually.

So rather than end today’s emotional vomit with a period…I think I’ll end it with a few question marks.

Are there any folks out there who have figured out how to balance doing with being? I have periods of it. Sometimes I have long cycles of that balance. But I keep drifting off course. If you have, what strategies did you use to strike that balance? And are there highly sensitive entrepreneurs out there who have gotten comfortable charging an amount of money that allows you to live off of your business (it, in other words, pays you a livable wage)? What helped you get there? I selfishly want to know for myself…and I want to share it with my fellow HSP’s who are perpetually asking these questions of me (and to which I often respond “I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it all out. I promise.”

How have you managed to avoid the “death by opportunity” trap?

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