Anagnorisis & Peripeteia

This TED Talk (I know, it’s totally cliche to talk about TED talks, but I’ll do it anyways) is a talk from Mike Rowe – who is the host of “Dirty Jobs” – one of my favorite shows. In it, he talks about the war we have declared on work and about the concepts of Anagnorsis and Peripeteia. These are the latin terms:

Anagnorisis is a moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery.

Peripeteia is a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances, especially in reference to fictional narrative.

What in the HECK does this have to do with business and/or freelancers? It has to do with it in two ways. Let’s do the Latin words first.

I live for the moment when my clients really start to understand how messed up this world of taxes, accounting and business are. People leaving the comfort of a W-2 job (or those that never left) really never understand it. In fact, the VAST majority of the world never has this understanding. Only the few that go on their own, and stick with it AND are successful ever truly have that anagnorisis and realize a few misconceptions about this world.

I think about these a lot when Mike tells the story of the sheep and how he did everything right. He did exactly what all those agencies told him to do and was still wrong.

“There is a correct way to run a business”

B.S., everyone has their own way.

“The government regulations lay out rules, and if you follow them exactly everything will be fine.”

Bogus, there is almost never a sense of complacency. Sometimes you do it all right and you still have problems. Sometimes one agency tells you to do something that gets you in trouble with another agency. Sometimes THEY don’t even know what they’re doing.

Every government agency, taxing authority and professional consultant is just a person like you, trying to figure it all out.

“Every part of the infrastructure (legal, accounting, operations) must be done the “right” way or I’ll fail.”

False, most of the decisions you make will actually have no impact on your business. Even if you are “wrong”.

“There is a correct way of doing things (a higher power or standard) that I must follow.”

Totally wrong – in so many cases you can make various decisions all of which will turn out just fine.

This points leads us to the next. Because what you learn about business is that the success comes from making a decision and moving it forward. Not making the right decision. Because even if you make the wrong one, you can usually work your way out of it. But therein lies the issue:

“We’ve declared war on work”

While Mike talks about this in the context of manual labor, or blue collar jobs, the same is true in our high-tech freelancer and start-up world. So often, people think that they need to make the right decisions and do things the right way because they are afraid to create more work for themselves. They want to do all the research and only make decisions, choices, or do things when they know it is right.

We have glorified being self employed and being freelance or owning your own business to the point that if you aren’t doing it in an easy breezy way, you must be a chump. The same problems that Mike points out with how holiday portrays the plumber we have done with the freelance designer. If you aren’t hanging out in coffee shops and traveling around and taking lots of cool pictures you must not be successful. Or you somehow made bad choices.

It makes people afraid to work. And that is the Peripeteia of being a freelancers. It is, fundamentally, more work than just being an employee somewhere. Period. Full Stop.

You do the best you can, you grind out the accounting, you find the customers, you do the work, you redo the work, you bill, you figure out why the bill didn’t go through, you try to figure out why your website isn’t working all of a sudden, then you try to figure out why your client emails are going to spam. Then you try to do more work, then you figure out how to pay taxes and then you respond to a notice that one of the seven government agencies that somehow have an opinion about how you do work sent you.

Then you do it all over again.

If you are working hard, it isn’t because you chose the wrong app for accounting, or picked the wrong web host for your site or because you picked an LLC when it should have been an INC. You are working hard because THAT’S HOW THINGS GET DONE.

Things happen when you do work. Our tools look different, but it is still work. When I created my newest company, Accrual Empire I picked Dickies work shirts for the “uniform”. Yes, my business consulting company uses work shirts with embroidery as the uniform. When you think of business consulting, I’m betting that guys in suits come to mind. Because just like with freelancer the business world has made believe that with a few catch phrases, some catchy ideas and a dash of brilliance you, too can be making millions. So why did I go the other direction? Is it because of some style thing? Maybe. Is it because I like the shirts? Partly, sure. But primarily it is because I want people to know that building companies is WORK.

(Side note, look for a CFOAndrew/Accrual Empire store, hopefully coming soon where you can buy the fancy Dickies shirts for yourself, along with other cool schwag!)

Somewhere along the lines, we forgot that building wealth is work. It isn’t glamorous, it isn’t fancy, it is simply work. You sit down and grind it out. And, to bring it back full circle, the people who do the dirty jobs on Mike Rowe’s show are some of the happiest that he knows.

Is it because they followed their passion? Please. Happiness comes from doing good work. (See Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You for more on this).