Editor’s Note: This post is a guest post from Hilary Catherall. Hilary Catherall is a co-founder and the president of technology startup DOMITECH, L.L.C., a revolutionary web development company. DOMITECH’s projects so far include www.city-dweller.com and www.saneliving.org. Hilary still holds down her day job for now, and just started seriously applying the principles from the 4HWW late last year in hopes of attaining a little Liberation. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more of her writing at hilarycat.blogspot.com.
As I recently posted in my hilarycat blog , I think I’ve wrapped my mind around what Tim Ferriss calls a “muse” in the 4-Hour Work Week. As Tim says, muses are automated vehicles for producing cash without requiring much time… but to put the complete explanation into a (densely packed) nutshell, they are automated & outsourced businesses that drop-ship quickly manufactured, moderately priced, substantially marked up, easily-understood specialty products with staying power to niche audiences we already understand.Whew. If you haven’t thoroughly read 4HWW, you may not grok that definition very quickly, but for those of us who are starting to internalize the system, I believe it’s a neat and tidy summary for easy reference.
But on to my point.
I finally understand now why Tim says that he always used to shrug off the “What do you do?” question by babbling about selling drugs. Because “I sell a weightlifting supplement over the internet and through magazine ads” is a little… well… cheesy. It’s not really something to write home about, or brag about. No wonder he was relieved to publish 4HWW so that he could start answering, “I’m a published author”! And after months of trying to think up muses of my own, I’m beginning to suspect that they’re all like that, sort of inherently.
I think that’s part of why I and probably other entrepreneurs like myself have had trouble redirecting our existing businesses towards creating muses. Our original business ideas had more inherent value… they had more depth and substance. We had goals like “Become the best-known technology consulting company in North America” or “Dominate the content management system market with the most useful and best-priced system.” We were, to use Guy Kawasaki’s phrase, “making meaning.” We were trying to create something BIG that other people would want to get on board to do, with ideals and dreams we could recruit with. And we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we have if we didn’t believe in what we were doing.
Muses, on the other hand, are just there to make some cash. They’re cotton-candy businesses, all artificial color and sugar and no nutritional value. They’re small by definition. If you’re an ambitious and idealistic person, it’s almost embarrassing to tell people what you’re doing. It feels like a big letdown from your original purpose. You don’t even want to recruit for it, and the goal is to be a one-man outfit with an outsourced army anyway.
So what’s the solution? What if your dream IS owning your own business… and it’s important to you to be contributing something of significant value to society? (Granted, I’m sure it isn’t impossible to create muses with inherent social value, depth, and substance… I just haven’t been able to think of any yet!)
Well, my theory is that even if you’re embracing 4HWW wholeheartedly, you can still end up being the president of your own company doing the exciting & worthwhile work you originally set out to do. Naturally, as president, you’ll make the executive-level decisions while other people do the hands-on work. But since you’re creating your own company culture, you can build in 4HWW values like freedom of time and location for everyone, including yourself. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
The trick is getting there. I think you can “DEAL” your way out of working on the business fulltime (assuming you’re working fulltime now) without reducing income, then use your spare time to build muses which generate cash you can then use to expand the company (by hiring, automating, and outsourcing, not by getting sucked back into working longer hours). Building your own one-man outfit into a “real” company is always a challenge, but you’ll have muses to carry you through the expansion, and even get you through outright failure if that should happen. And, with this in mind, building cheesy muses is a backburner activity… not something you even have to tell people about (unless you’re blogging about it – LOL).
If what you’re doing as an entrepreneur right now is pretty cheesy already, then you probably don’t really get what I’m talking about -grins-. You’ll just “DEAL” your way out of it, like you would a day job you dislike, while you’re building muses and picking out your dreamline activities – which also makes total sense.
Thoughts and opinions? I’ll pay attention to the comments here and respond.