In this article, I'll share my take on calm businesses. What are those, and why should anyone care? Let's find out!
Most of the time, when I read about tech businesses/startups in the news and on various Websites, I feel sad. All I can see is "startup", "growth", "funding", "seed", "series A/B/C", etc. Money money money, popularity, fame, glory, ... As if that was the only possible path.
At some point in my life, I was almost lured in by the appeal of money and funding. I fancied building startups, raising tons of money, hiring people, and building large engineering teams. Unicorns! I was lucky enough to fail early enough. It was a tough pill to swallow at the time, but I'm now grateful to have avoided the worst. Even though I love team dynamics, leading projects, and creating cool things, I've come to realize that the "grow fast or die hard" model is simply not something I'm interested in. I'm not saying it's inherently bad or useless, but I'm not interested in playing that kind of game. I'm not interested in making millions, growing fast, building a billion-dollar company, or making "a dent in the universe". I'm simply not interested in sacrificing my lifestyle on the altar of status games. Money is only useful up until a certain point. And fame doesn't bring nearly as much joy as a simple smile on the face of my kids can.
I do want to build a business. I do want customers. I do want them to get value and be happy with my products. I want to offer them win-win deals and help them grow. I want to make the world a better place. The thing is that change, progress, and success don't have to be earth-shattering to be valuable and meaningful. Changing one life is enough. Having enough money not to worry too much about it is enough. Going slow is also fine.
Sometimes, less is more.
A calm business is one that supports your lifestyle
Have you noticed how quickly tunnel vision sets in and prevents you from enjoying the journey? If not, then try driving 500KM straight and tell me how much you enjoyed the view. Businesses work the same way. The faster you grow and the bigger you get, the less time and energy you have to actually enjoy the ride. I don't want that. I don't want to run a business that forces me to live a life I'm not interested in. I have a family, habits, and passions that bring me joy. I've experienced burnout more than once in my life, and now know what to avoid. I know how important balance is to live a sane and happy life.
I'm running a slow business, and couldn't be happier about it. It doesn't pay all the bills or my mortgage yet, but it helps me support my lifestyle and gives me the freedom to explore my creativity. I write books, articles, newsletters, create digital products, experiment with flywheels, and have enough ideas to keep me busy for a lifetime. For instance, I've decided to create a YouTube channel, and am now learning a ton about what matters, audio and video recording, editing, etc. Tons of fun for a lifelong learner like me! And I'm just getting started!
The coolest part is that this path doesn't force me to make choices I don't want to make. Instead of going all in, I can make small and riskless bets, and experiment my way to success. My progress is slow but steady. Ultimately, my goal is for this business to pay the bills and let me put all my energy into it, but that will take some more time. That's okay.
Meanwhile, I can be there for my kids. I can drive them to school in the morning, pick them up, drive them to their activities, etc. I can take breaks whenever I want, go for a walk or watch one more episode of The Office or Friends. I can take a nap if I feel tired, and stop working at noon if I don't feel productive. Of course, I can't do this all the time, otherwise, I'll lose hard-earned trust and momentum. It's not about building passive sources of income, but rather life-friendly ones.
Working hard is okay only if it doesn't prevent you from living your best life.
A calm business is one that adapts to let us live happily. It supports our lifestyle instead of forcing us to change. It simplifies our lives and removes constraints instead of adding new ones. A calm business is about passion and creativity rather than about hours and deliverables. A calm business is human-centered and respectful of personal well-being. A calm business is about flow, momentum and enjoying the small wins rather than about pressure, power games, and office politics. A calm business is about peace of mind rather than growth at all costs.
Once you start a calm business and enjoy it, there is no going back
I could double the money I make by going back to work full-time as an employee. I could make even more by working full-time as a freelancer. I could pitch some of my ideas to investors and raise crazy amounts of money. But to do any of that, I would have to sacrifice my most precious resource: my time. Instead, I choose to take the quiet and peaceful path. With a calm business, I earn less, but my life is richer. I trade stress for joy. I trade constraints for convenience. I trade speed for pleasure.
There's something to be said about slowing down, whether that is for the environment, relationships, or business.
I get to work on my own projects, my own dreams. And I get to do so my way, with full ownership of my successes and failures.
The coolest part is that a calm business can actually become very successful with minimal overhead, and thus better profit margins. It's not a simple path, nor an easy one. It's not passive. It's not magic. Like any other type of business, it takes hard work, dedication, and a lot of patience 🌱
What about you? How calm do you want your business to be?
That's it for today! ✨
Hello everyone! I'm Sébastien Dubois. I'm an author, founder, and CTO. I write books and articles about personal knowledge management (PKM), personal organization, software development & IT, and productivity. I also craft lovely digital products 🚀
If you've enjoyed this article and want to read more, then subscribe to my newsletter, check out my PKM Library, and the Obsidian Starter Kit 🔥.
You can follow me on Twitter 🐦
If you want to discuss, then don't hesitate to join the Personal Knowledge Management community