When Your Dream Job Becomes A Nightmare

dreams nightmares

I’m Back!

So I had to take a summer sabbatical from this blog. It was not the typical, “it’s summer and I want to hang out with my kids and go to the pool” sabbatical. – I kind of wished it was.

Instead it was more of the “Oh my word, what I am doing with my life, it’s a mess, and what could I possible offer to any other potential entrepreneur because I would just be a hypocrite!”

As with most things in life, the past few months were not nearly as bad as they felt at the time and I’m in the process of getting a grip on it all. So in keeping with my promise to be open and honest with all of you let me share with you what I’ve learned, because this journey of entrepreneurship and being a Naptime CEO is not always sunshine and rainbows. 😉

Let me start by explaining that my business is doing great! Revenues are up, we are landing larger projects, and clients are very happy.

Yet, that’s part of why I was miserable. I was so consumed with doing the work for my clients, business development, client management, and so on that I was just overwhelmed. It felt like all I did was travel, work, and think about work. I was rarely in my office and when I was, it seemed all I could accomplish was to address the most urgent issues of the day. Even when I was traveling, I would be up late at night trying to get caught up on emails and other project work. At one point, half way through a trip, I called my husband and said “I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore, I’m done.” I felt like I was caught in a whirlpool and I was going under. My dream business had turned into a life-sucking nightmare.

It took about a month to really dig in and understand – with some perspective – what was happening, what my options were, and where I wanted to go.

1. Assess Your Work: The first thing I did was take a good hard look at all the different activities that were involved in running my firm. Once I had them all identified – and there were a LOT of them – I grouped them into activities only I could do and activities someone else could do. If you try this, be careful! Our natural inclination is to say we are the only ones who can do that activity. Challenge that assumption and ask yourself what would have to happen for someone else to take on that activity.

Once I grouped all my activities, I then started asking: which activities do I really enjoy? What parts of my business excite me? How can I maximize my time doing those things? For me, I love being up in front of a group of people. I love helping people connect the dots and get really excited when they have those “light bulb” moments.

The flip side was determining what I was hating about my work. What changed from before? Is there a way to reduce or eliminate these areas? I discovered I was really burnt out from all the travel. As much as I love training and speaking, the travel was just too much. Additionally, many of our administrative activities were piling up because no one was in the office to do them and this was creating a lot of stress for me.

2. Identify Your Options: After completing the first step, I started thinking about all my options, and I do mean ALL. I thought about what my best case scenario looked like as well and my worst case scenario. Then I figured out what was my most likely scenario. I contemplated everything from shutting down my firm and just being a stay-at-home mom to hiring three more people and working towards being a national firm to everything in between. In the end, I decided I needed to step back and take on a more executive role, let my team members take on more responsibility, and develop a strategy to find some good solid contractors.

3. Develop and Execute Your Plan: Now that I knew where I was going to go with my business, we could develop our plan. My team and I held our strategic planning session and laid out our goals and devised a plan to get us there. We have our quarterly follow-up session already planned so we can make adjustments and corrections as we work out the plan. (Side note: for our strategic planning session I used Conquering the Entrepreneur’s Kryptonite by James Woosley as our frame work. James is a good friend of mine and he is excellent at developing a simple strategic plan that actually gets executed. My team loved this process and I highly recommend his book.)

So in the end, I would tell you we are not all sunshine and rainbows yet, but we have a plan and are moving in that direction. My team feels more engaged in what they are doing and where we are going. I’m still adjusting to taking a couple steps back and carving out time to document processes so I’m not the only one who can perform an activity. But we are getting there and that has made a huge difference.

Have you ever had a dream situation turn into a nightmare? What strategies worked for you?

6 thoughts on “When Your Dream Job Becomes A Nightmare

  1. I appreciate your transparency and honesty, Megan. I’m inspired by your refusal to compromise and accept a crazy, frenzied lifestyle as the norm. For a season… yes. For a lifetime… no. It sounds as though your shift in perspective and strategic planning was really effective. James’ book came out at just the right time for both of us.

    As for your question about a dream situation turning into a nightmare… yes, we’ve experienced that. My dream situation was a lucrative tutoring contract that quickly ended for reasons beyond my control. While we knew that it could end at any time due to the family’s needs, we got used to that income, and it comprised about 2/3 of our large mortgage. Steve cut back to working just two days/week as a PT. When the house of cards collapsed, we had tough decisions to make. Like most disasters, it led to better things. We were able to show financial hardship and the bank agreed to a short sale of the house that had lost 50% of its value. This opened the door for a chain reaction of changes that led where we are today. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re a lot closer and wiser for having endured the nightmare.

    • Thank you Jody. I appreciate you sharing your experience here as well. When you’re going through those dark, scary, hard times, it can really be helpful to hear how others have gone through challenges and come out the other side. I absolutely love this journey as an entrepreneur, but the road can be bumpy sometimes, which is why I surround myself with others who can encourage me, cheer me on, and share their wisdom with me. You are doing that too! Keep moving forward and sharing your wisdom, you and Steve are doing great things!

  2. Thanks for the shout out, Megan! As we’ve discussed, I’m honored that you would use the SSP process as I outlined in Conquer the Entrepreneur’s Kryptonite. But more importantly, I’m excited that it’s working so well for your organization. You have my number if you need anything along the way!

    I think it’s easy for our dreams to become out of control nightmares. Often we didn’t have proper perspective when we dived in, so we missed the nightmares due to the shiny dream. But we also grow and change over time, and the dream we build does’t always grow and change in the same direction. It’s critical to take the time to reassess things on a regular basis.

    Bravo on taking the steps required to find the sunshine and rainbows!

    • Thanks James! You’re right, dreams do change as we grow. Over the last seven plus years, I’ve had to make a few course corrections in my business. Sometimes, it was because of how I’ve changed, sometimes, it because of how the business was changing – and they don’t always change together the same way! Having a reliable process to be able to go back and reassess on a regular basis has really been significant. Thank you!

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