Since the news of my social media agency’s acquisition was made public, and I told you why I made that move, there are two words I keep hearing: What’s next?
Everyone I meet or bump into wants to know. I’ve never heard the question more. Even LinkedIn is itching to find out:
It’s awesome that so many people are keen to hear what I’m planning. But the truth is at the moment I don’t really know, and I intentionally don’t really know. And I’m okay with that. Here’s what I know for sure about what’s next, and what I’ve been doing since my last day at JC Social Media back in March.
As humans we’re always nexting. Eating lunch whilst talking about the evening’s plans. Ticking off milestones and defining new ones. Daydreaming about tomorrow, or next month, or next year. Nexting can mean missing the magic of the moment, but being present and patient doesn’t come naturally to us.
Patience is a skill I’ve been practising since Christmas. Patience during acquisition negotiations, patience during due diligence. Patience whilst the sale went through and whilst working through my handover actions. Being patient until JC Social Media’s new home was ready to be announced. Getting comfortable in the uncomfortableness of waiting.
The world as we know it is not how it will always be. Travel is still hugely restricted and freedom is to some degree. Many people living in the UK, including me, have never spent this long here without going abroad. Before March 2020 I travelled for one month in every three, but now I’m only travelling within the UK. Life now is not reflective of how life will always be, so the waiting continues.
I know it would be a huge mistake to make any permanent decisions based on this temporary situation, so I’m not. Travel is too important to me to have dependency on one place, an inflexible routine or high-maintenance commitments. So it’s no big purchases, no big decisions, no big moves forward. I’m patiently waiting for (real) travel to be back on the cards whilst enjoying the time in between.
Whilst running my agency my mission was clear. Look after the team, look after the clients, grow the business. Simple. Now those things are, ultimately, not my responsibility, there are some gaps.
Rather than trying to fill the gaps, I’m trying to notice them. When I feel unsure or confused, when I feel joyful; I’m journaling. Writing everything down and working out what it’s telling me. What do I want, how do I feel, what do I know for sure? Daily journaling and reading books outside my normal sphere are bringing new questions, and with them new answers.
The Art of Impossible and a Million Things to Ask a Neuroscientist are two of the best so far. This is the notebook I use as my journal.
No one can metaphorically tap me on the shoulder like they could before, which (as I learned from the neuroscience book) means I’m spending more time with slower brain waves; alpha and theta rather than beta, our normal, attentive state. Hanging out in beta makes it difficult to join dots or have lightbulb moments. It’s where most working days are spent thanks to notifications and interruptions. Alpha, however, is a state of non-arousal. It’s characteristic of someone who is meditating, reflecting, or has just completed a task. Alpha brain waves explain why you have new ideas or solutions when on a walk or in the shower.
When opportunities come my way, I’m writing them down without moving forward. Partnerships, consultancy, media, keynotes; it’s all a no for now. Clearing the space and not being booked is taking me out of beta and bringing business ideas. New ones every day. Some of them are rubbish and some of them are interesting.
Old me would have begun to research, bought a domain name and jumped into action for each one. Patient me is writing them down and leaving them be. Entertaining them in my head but making no moves. At some point, there will be one I can’t stop thinking about.
During this phase with no definite end, I’m testing new ways of living, working and being.
Although the word “addiction” conjures up imagery we don’t relate to, the signs of technology addiction are there in most of us; compulsion, dependency and withdrawal symptoms. I’m experimenting with not using my phone until lunch, using social media only one day per week and not checking email until mid-morning. There will soon be an article on Forbes with my findings.
I’m experimenting with training and trying to be a better powerlifter. Until now I have been guilty of turning up to the gym and going through the motions. Outsourcing the thinking to my coach. Now there are goals, debriefs and a training journal. I’m working on being a more intentional athlete and taking sport as seriously as I once took business before I compete in autumn.
I’m experimenting with projects. During May I said yes to podcasts and recorded fifteen of them, including this one for Mindhack. On various shows I talked about entrepreneurship, lifestyle design, acquisition, powerlifting and writing. Now podcasts are on hold until some point in the future. Invitations arrive in my inbox and are safely stored in a folder with the title “not yet”. During June I said yes to teaching. I ran three workshops with 50 brilliant startup entrepreneurs and worked with them on building their businesses. Now teaching is on hold until some point in the future.
As Tolkien beautifully put it, “Not all those who wander are lost.”
I once read about the law of least effort, where in order to produce regular content with ease, you find what feels effortless and then ramp up production. You stick to one medium. You serve your audience consistently by being in flow. Some people find it effortless to make videos, for others it’s tweets, articles, podcasts or books. It means that your effort leads to prolific output. It leads to you losing track of time and feeling like you could do it forever.
It never feels like work, so I’m writing a lot. Articles for Forbes, mini blogs on Hey World, and a book that’s out at the end of the year. When I sold my agency I thought I would run out of material. I write about entrepreneurship. I write about how to run a business without it running you. Now I wasn’t doing that, would ideas dry up? Turns out they didn’t. The more I write the more clarity comes. The more I write the more conversations start. The more ideas arrive. The more my readers share their thoughts.
Not moving until I see it
There is a 1993 Steven Zaillian film called Searching for Bobby Fischer (or Innocent Moves in the UK), based on the life of chess grand master and child prodigy Josh Waitzkin, whose chess tutor was Bruce Pandolfini. In the movie it’s the final of a chess tournament, where Josh is playing. He’s staring at the chess board. It’s his turn and he’s channelling Bruce’s coaching as he decides on his move.
The film dramatically overlays Bruce’s voice as saying, “Don’t move until you see it.”
Don’t move until you see it. Don’t act impulsively. Don’t say yes unless you’re sure it’s right. If Josh made the wrong move, he couldn’t go back and make the right move. Bruce knew Josh had the capacity to make the right move. All he had to do was wait until he realised what it was.
Don’t move until you see it. Keep staring, keep analysing, there’s a way forward here, you could win here. The right move is there, it’s right in front of you, but do not move until you see it.
So the answer to “what’s next” is that I don’t know, but I’m having fun figuring it out. I’m enjoying this post-acquisition phase; experimenting, writing and training, with no pressure on the future but a feeling that there’s something big in store. I will not be moving until I see it.
I hope that answers the question. 😊