2017 was a rough year for my business. I had just moved across the country which meant the loss of some local clients. My wife started working from home and we were sharing an 11’ x 11’ office. Each day, we had to coordinate phone calls and meetings – who would get the office and who would work from the living room. Most days she just went to a coffee shop. We were both feeling unproductive and uncreative which resulted in unfulfilling days and weeks. Not good.
Our house is rather small, but our garage is nearly as big as the house. We decided to turn a portion of the garage into two offices, one for each of us. However, we disagreed about the execution and how to make that happened.
I wanted to do the construction myself. I’ve always loved home construction projects and wanted to see if I could tackle something this big. I didn’t want to hire a contractor or a dozen subcontractors. I wanted to learn how to frame walls, lay floor, install windows & doors, and manage the process. I’m pretty handy around the house and can easily watch a few YouTube videos and apply what I learned. Up until then I had replaced a toilet, replaced the innards of another toilet, build a railing on our porch, laid flooring, installed a bathroom door, and painted dozens of rooms. It wasn’t exactly carpentry training, but I was confident I could do this. Unfortunately, the main people in my life didn’t feel the same way.
My wife was sure I was going to get in over my head and cost us lots of money.
My dad thought I was nuts. He kept telling me I couldn’t do it because I wasn’t a carpenter. There was no way I could hang a door. He was freaked out about me using a nail gun.
When I shared the idea with my business coach he just asked, “Why?” Why would I waste my time on this project when I could just sell a couple programs, work a few extra days, and pay for the whole thing. It would be so much less time and energy.
I started doubting myself and I could feel myself getting a bit depressed about the whole thing. I finally talked with my neighbor Jeremy. He’s a contractor and renovated our kitchen a few months prior. Nearly every day for two months he walked through his backyard into our house to work on our kitchen. I paid close attention to his process, the progression, how he worked, and once in a while got to help. I worked with him and his wife to pour our concrete counter tops, which I loved.
I told Jeremy about my idea to build two offices in the garage. I said I wanted to do it myself. He immediately told me I could absolutely do it. I felt my breath release and said, “Really? You think so?” He was sure of it. I was grinning ear to ear.
The irony of it was not lost on me. The only person who was confident in my abilities was the only person who actually knew what the job required. That said a lot.
However, the person who I needed on board was my wife. We sat down and had a heart-to-heart about it. She finally agreed to support me if I agreed to hire professionals when I needed to. Deal. I started planning.
With moral support from my wife and technical advice from my neighbor, I borrowed my Dad’s old Ford pick-up truck and bought lots of 2x4s. (Even though my Dad was doubtful, he was still supportive, which I appreciated.)
I took advantage of the 3-day Memorial Day weekend in May 2018 and got the project started. Then, for most weekends and many evenings I spent the summer and fall working in the garage. I made many mistakes. The most frustrating mistake was when my wife and I put up an interior wall, realized it wasn’t square, we took the entire wall down, rebuilt it, realized it was actually right the first time, and had to rebuild it a third time. That was not a good day.
The most physically painful day was removing and installing fiberglass insulation. In case you are wondering, wearing a Tyvek suit in 90F degree heat will lead to nauseousness. At one point I thought I might faint, but some fresh air and water kept it at bay.
The rest of the project was just a series of small successes and mistakes. I started with an empty garage with a concrete floor.
I added framing, insulation, HVAC, flooring, drywall, lights, time, windows and doors, and more. We hired out the drywall, electrical, and plumbing. All in all, it was slow going, but by the first week of December I moved in. There were still a few finishing touches to do, but I was eager to get started in the new space and didn’t care about the floor trim or switch plates.
That first week in the office might have been the most productive week of 2018. It was followed by another productive and creative week. By Jan 1, 2019 the office was done and my creativity started to soar. I’ll get into those details in another post.
The process taught me a lot about creative projects. Here’s are a few things I learned:
- If you really want to try something, try it.
- Be careful who you share your dreams with. They might shut them down due to their own fears and beliefs. Their responses have nothing to do with your own capabilities.
- Find someone who believes in you and listen to them. It’s even more powerful if they have expertise in the area you are working in.
- Space matters. (more on that in the next post)
Don’t let the naysayers win. Believe in yourself. Figure it out. Step by step or in my case nail by nail.
I’d love to hear your stories about a creative project. What challenges did you have and how did you get through them? What did you learn from the process?
Over the years I’ve gained inspiration and guidance from many sources, but here are two books I recommend if you are trying to tackle a creative project and getting stuck.
War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Pressfield just says it like it is. He understands how creative practice works. He writes about struggling through the day to day act of being creative, whether it’s writing, making art, inventing, acting, or launching a business. There are a zillion barriers to being creative and the solution is to do the work. Pressfield writes about how to get past those barriers and he does it in a matter-of-fact, approachable style. The section on resistance is particularly invaluable. Pressfield wrote three other books that follows this one and they are great as well.
The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron
This is the book that launched me into understanding and exploring my own creativity. I stumbled upon this book in 1998 while perusing the shelves of a small bookstore in Colorado. It was the first book I ever bought about creativity (and little did I know there would be many more to follow). One word of caution about this book – it is divided into 12 weeks worth of chapters with the premise that you would read one chapter each week and do the corresponding exercises. I recommend this approach. However, I know countless people who own this book and have only read through Week 2 because they didn’t finish the exercises. Just keep reading. Even if you can’t do the exercises, read the whole book. An even better approach is join up with some friends and do it together. Julia Cameron’s other books are great as well.
Coaching for Solopreneurs and Thought Leaders
I’ve gained so much from having a coach to help me build my business. If you are a solopreneur or thought leader interested in building your business to a six-figure income, I offer 1:1 coaching to help you reach your goals. Feel free to reach out to learn more about the 90-day coaching program.