✅ What if you could build a small business that satisfies customers and promotes the lifestyle you want?
✅ What if you could work from home and earn a living without employees?
✅ What if measures of success included happiness, health, and free time, along with income?
In 2007, my wife and I set out to build a business like the one described above. We have achieved that goal and today, I’m sharing how we did it. It’s a decade-long story of hard work, ingenuity, and trusting relationships.
This 30-minute event is based on the lessons in my book, BIG ENOUGH, which tells the story of transforming our two-person company, Common Craft, into a successful business that’s built around the lives we want to lead.
It’s a story of calculated risks, business experiments, and an absolute belief that a business can be designed to promote the long-term health and happiness of its owners.
Join me in this FREE 30-minute event and I’ll walk through ten lessons we learned along the way.
What you’ll get:
30-minute presentation by Lee
A free chapter of Big Enough (digital)
The chance to win a signed copy of Big Enough, plus 3 stickers, and a pair of Big Enough Socks!
Storytime is a series of videos that are usually brief and focused on a single idea relating to my work and/or personal life. This episode is about how our video “Twitter in Plain English” ended up on the front page of Twitter.com for over a year. The full version of this story in my book Big Enough.
Storytime is a series of videos that are usually brief and focused on a single idea relating to my work and/or personal life. This episode of storytime is about how we worked with our competition to grow the market for our services while remaining a two-person. I share a full version of this story in my book Big Enough.
It was such a pleasure to connect with Terry and talk about Common Craft and Big Enough. She read the book and has serious experience in online business and marketing. In my experience, that is a great combination for fun and interesting interview. She is eight seasons into her podcast and has a voice made more audio.
This was such an interesting and fun interview. Part of the reason is Rodney’s smooth and confident demeanor. He’s composed and understated, but speaks with great confidence. By the end of the interview, I felt like we were friends. I hope you’ll give the show a listen. You can also read the interview on his blog.
When historians look back on the transformation of 2020, the dominant stories will involve politics and public health. And rightly so. But there is another transformation that is happening on a smaller, more personal scale. It’s happening in living rooms, home offices and in the minds of people whose lives have been changed by circumstance. That transformation is based on the concept of time and specifically, the emergence of time as a form of wealth and an ingredient in our quality of life.
I recently had a phone conversation with a colleague. Our business discussion veered into the personal and she said something that stuck with me regarding being quarantined. She said, despite all the horrible things that are happening, that she’s never been happier. She doesn’t want to go back to the way things were.
A friend described a similar situation regarding his move in 2018. He and his family moved from California to an island off the coast of Washington State for his work at a non-profit organization. He said that it was a relief for them because their lives had become so cluttered with obligations that they were constantly busy and weren’t happy. Moving was a clean break from their busy-ness and they didn’t want that version of their lives to happen again.
I, too, felt this way. Despite having worked from home since 2003, I felt liberated by the mandate to stay home and enjoyed not having so many plans. Whether it’s via a pandemic or an interstate move, we felt the burden of being busy and were relieved to see it wash away. We became richer with time.
Busy-ness and Quality of Life
In the era before COVID, a lack of time was a strange badge of honor for some people. They could never be spontaneous because their lives were scheduled weeks ahead with meetings, soccer practice, and dinners. They rushed from one event to another and watching them, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this version of life what they want?
For some, it can be. A strong work ethic and a feeling of responsibility to others is healthy and productive. Others are driven by the need to attain wealth that provides them the quality of life they desire. Again, not a bad thing. If a person chooses a lifestyle that matches their values, I applaud them.
The problem, from my perspective, is when people who are fortunate to have a choice don’t realize it or haven’t considered how time factors into their quality of life. Because financial wealth is commonly connected to success, time can seem trivial, or expendable. Why would anyone focus on time when money is how success is measured?
Today, as we hopefully look toward the end of the pandemic, I believe that a new perspective is emerging. By disrupting our lives, COVID-19 created an opportunity to re-think what matters and how time relates to our own versions of success.
This brings me back to the transformation. The happiness many of us felt while quarantined came from finally being free from busy-ness and obligations. Instead of spending our time according to someone else’s calendar, we could be in more control. And that control is addictive. We don’t want to go back to our pre-pandemic lifestyles because it means less autonomy. Money still matters, but time has new value and relevance.
Now more than ever, I believe that time is the new wealth, and in the future, it will be more valuable than money to many. It will be the element that people strive to control and design into their lives because it’s a source of real satisfaction and freedom. Unlike money, time can’t be piled up and spent later. Every day it slips through your fingers. Further, time can be acquired by making up your mind. You can decide to have more time and that means consciously designing it into your daily life.
But it’s not that easy. Seeking to be wealthy with time requires dedication, willpower, and acceptance of the trade-offs that are necessary. If you’ve found that time has more value than you expected, and you want more of it, you have to choose it with intention.
Seven Tips for Becoming Rich With Time
In 2008, when my company, Common Craft, had a variety of opportunities to grow, we committed ourselves to staying small and testing ways the business could earn a profit and contribute to our quality of life. For us, that meant remaining in control of our time. The list below summarizes the personal lessons were learned in that period.
Design time into your life through constraints. This means setting limits on your obligations and designating free time on the calendar. For example, no meetings on Tuesdays. No social engagements on Thursdays. You are just not available then. That time is taken. How you use it is up to you.
Become comfortable saying “no”. This is not easy. We don’t want to disappoint others or lose an opportunity. It takes practice, but once you feel the power of “no”, it will become a strength that you can wield to great effect. You’re sorry, but your schedule doesn’t allow for that right now.
Adjust your expectations. You have been transformed. Money matters and you want to be financially successful, but the real goal is having time to live the life that makes you happy. Unlike a new car that outwardly shows success, an abundance of time leads to a kind of satisfaction that’s personal and intrinsic.
Forget the Joneses. You have something they don’t. You have a wealth of time that relates to the freedom to do what you want, when you want. That’s what matters.
Understand the trade-offs. If you value time, consider what you’re willing to trade to have more of it. Would you accept lower pay if a new job had better hours and a shorter commute? Would you be okay with fewer social engagements if it meant being more autonomous?
Become an evangelist. You’ve discovered something new and interesting. Share it. Talk to people about what you’ve learned about yourself and how you’re changing. They might be inspired to join you, or at least understand your perspective.
Revel in your freedom. Do something interesting or, do nothing at all. That’s the secret. You are in control and have a choice. That’s the new wealth of time.
Big Enough, is a book about building a business that makes time and quality of life a shareholder value. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or career-changer, it will be a breath of fresh air.
In book publishing and promotion, few things matter more than ratings and reviews. They are used by customers to evaluate the book, by industry pros considering distribution, and more. A high number of positive reviews help to validate the book and author.
Recently BIG ENOUGH reached the 50 review mark on Amazon, which was a goal that I’m excited to cross off my list.
Part of earning reviews is understanding Amazon’s review system and what it rewards. or punishes. The problem they face is making sure that the reviews are genuine and not someone (or an organization) gaming the system. It’s an arms race and, to their credit, the system (or more directly, it’s algorithm) is constantly evolving to stay a step ahead.
In promoting my book, I learned a few big lessons regarding the review system. You can learn more in this Wired article.
Verified Purchases – Amazon knows if a reviewer purchased the book. This is an indication of authenticity and reviews from verified purchasers are rewarded as such.
Ratings Instead of Reviews – Reviews, where someone writes a message about the book are helpful. However, they can be misleading and gamed. For this reason, Amazon is making their 5-star rating system more prominent. Today, a customer doesn’t need to write anything. They can simply select 1-5 stars and their rating counts like a review.
Time – Reviews and Ratings don’t happen quickly. It may take a few days for a review to appear. This is apparently due to Amazon’s validation process.
Asking for Reviews
I put a lot of effort into getting BIG ENOUGH into the hands of people I thought would enjoy it. That involved a pre-order campaign, launch promotion, and a request for authentic reviews. The review request took the form of an email I sent to people who ordered or pre-ordered the book.
The message was short, casual, and focused on ratings versus reviews, because they’re so much more efficient. I think Bootsy helped too.
2020 will be a year students read about in history books for generations. The COVID-19 pandemic, the end of the Trump presidency and a long list of mostly terrible news will add up to a year that people will remember as being particularly bad. And it was bad. As of today, 338,000 Americans have died of the virus. But even within the scary headlines, there has been joy and hope.
I don’t usually publish year-in-review posts, but I feel the need to assess my own 2020 and try to extricate it from the macro version that we see on the news. Like many people, my 2020 has been mixed and yesterday (Christmas Day, 2020) provides a handy backdrop for thinking the year through.
A Look Back
Long before the virus became an issue, 2020 got off to a terrible start for my family. My mother, after years of poor health, passed away on January 5th at the age of 80. The last time I saw her was Christmas Day 2019. When I left home that afternoon for the airport, I had no idea she would be gone so soon. But yesterday, and probably on Christmas Days going forward, I will think of her and feel grateful that I was able to be there for her last Christmas along with the rest of my family. We had no idea how special it was to be safe in the same room together.
A few weeks after I returned to Orcas Island, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Washington State. We were concerned, but it wasn’t yet a public health issue. Our friend, Tony, was leaving Seattle and had a going-away party we attended at the end of February. The next day, the first death in the US occurred, again in Washington, and we found ourselves in Costco, fighting huge crowds for toilet paper among other things. That afternoon, Sachi left for Hawaii for about a week and I returned to Orcas. It was the last time either of us stepped foot in Seattle in 2020 or attended an indoor event of any size.
By the time Sachi returned to Orcas Island, lockdowns were going into place around the country. Within a week, we were ordered to stay at home by the governor. Businesses closed, events were cancelled, and uncertainty reigned.
From the beginning, Sachi and I became dedicated to treating the virus with great care, as we do today. Starting in March, we assumed we’d spend most of 2020 alone and in the guesthouse with our two dogs, Maybe and Piper, and try to make the best of it.
In the spring, watching the virus provided a slightly macabre form of entertainment. We were both fascinated with the science of it, how it spreads, and how governments react. It felt like every day history was being written, both good and bad.
Sachi and I both welcomed the lockdown and felt a real sense of security being holed-up in the little guesthouse on an island. Having worked together from home for so many years, it wasn’t a big change. Our spending went down and we adjusted to a low-intensity lifestyle with fewer interactions. We felt a sense of relief in not having engagements or travel.
I might even say that, outside of the public health issues at large, we were happier being stuck at home and I don’t think we were alone. Sometimes mandated change has a way of revealing new opportunities and perspectives.
As the economic reality of the virus became clear, I started to see a direct line between that uncertainty and a big project: writing and publishing my second book: BIG ENOUGH. The book was scheduled to publish on May 5, 2020. That spring, the projections of COVID deaths were expected to peak at that time and we decided to move the publish date to September. I had to adjust my expectations for the reality of publishing and promoting a book during a pandemic and near a presidential election. What happens to the book market when bookstores are closed?
The House Project
The defining factor of our personal 2020 was a house project, which started in the summer of 2019. We’re building our forever home on Orcas Island. It is, by far, our largest and most complex project.
I often say that happiness lives in anticipation and that sense of anticipation has grown stronger as the house has come together. Big projects like this are stressful and time consuming, and that’s expected. In fact, it now feels normal and makes me wonder how it will feel not to have the stress or anticipation in my life.
Along with other minor duties, we have been the painters and stainers and that is a much bigger job than I imagined. We stained over 3000 sq/ft of cedar ceiling boards that required three coats each. We sanded and painted the fascia around the roof multiple times, and we dusted, masked, painted, sanded, repaired, and cleaned the entire interior of the house. We saved money, learned a lot, and became a small part of the construction crew.
There have been minor hiccups and delays, like any large project, but overall it has gone smoothly. We visited the site on most days in 2020 and continue to be constantly engaged with decision-making. We are thankful to have great relationships with both our contractor, Drew Reed, and architect, John Stoeck. We feel like we’re working with the best people possible.
As summer arrived, it became crabbing season and we found that boating was the perfect pandemic activity. Our old 90s boat motor started to fail and we invested in a little 60hp Honda that made being on the water quieter, cleaner, and more worry-free. We crabbed almost every day we could and brought home over 150 Dungeness crab. On a few occasions we met friends with boats on the water and tied up on-anchor for across-the-bow socializing.
BIG ENOUGH launched on September 15th. It’s hard to know if the change of publish date made any difference, but it was a relief to get it behind me. I love seeing it out in the world and hearing from readers for whom it was helpful.
In 2019 I started a newsletter called Ready for Rain that has become one of my favorite personal projects through 2020. I usually publish every Tuesday and share a story along with recommendations for media and products I like. It takes time, but has become a way for me to practice writing and connect with people.
The year ended much like it began, with a new round of lock-downs and restrictions. We knew it was coming and met it with mostly open arms.
Christmas Day 2020
On Christmas Day 2020, we saw no friends or family in person and that is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of the year. Instead, we made delicious food and connected with our loved ones via the internet.
The pandemic news was all about the winter wave of infections, hospitals being overrun, and the huge (and disappointing) number of people traveling for the holidays. I believe that history will show that America failed this test by not listening to the guidelines of scientists and turning away from facts. I hope that’s the real lesson from all of this. It didn’t have to be this way.
But there is also hope in the news. Two vaccines have been approved and are currently being administered to those most in need. Our friend, Nicole, a nurse in Seattle, is the first person I know who received a dose. Being in good health, working from home, and living in an isolated location means we’re likely to be near the back of the line and that’s fine. After a year, we know how to stay safe and can certainly do it for a few more months.
BIG ENOUGH is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook and has 4.9 stars with nearly 50 ratings. Given the circumstances, I’m proud of the book and where it is right now. It’s not a bestseller, but it was never destined to be one. I’ve spoken on dozens of podcasts and put untold hours into promoting it. As hope returns to our collective psyche, I believe the book will be even more relevant. It gives me joy to imagine people opening gifts this morning and finding my book.
The house is very close to completion. It has heat, electricity and running water. The roof and 95% of the exterior is complete. Tile is being installed and along with wood floors, the countertops will go in within a week. Next month, the fiber internet connection will be in place and appliances will be delivered. There’s a chance we’ll be sleeping there by the Superbowl.
We spent a couple of hours on Christmas Day doing something that has become normal for us: working on the house project. Like so many others, our work is impacted by the pandemic. We prefer to work on the house while others are not there, which means working on weekends and holidays. On Christmas Day, Sachi rolled the first coat of paint on a bedroom accent wall and I cleaned overspray off of window sills.
Sachi and I don’t often exchange gifts and this year was no different. Our work and dedication to the house is plenty. But there will be a moment when a gift arrives that means we’ve actually moved in. That gift is a steel container full of furniture, garden tools, boxes and more that has been in a warehouse for nearly two years. Someday in late January or early February, the container will arrive and it will feel like Christmas.
Looking back, I feel grateful and fortunate for the people and events of 2020. We stayed healthy, our big projects went well and above all, our relationship remains strong. I feel so fortunate to be stuck in our tiny home with Sachi, who makes everything better.
Looking forward, I’m feeling hopeful that we’ll all start to see the path to recovery more clearly. Surely 2021 will be better than 2020, right?
I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.