Many years ago, Michael Gerber, famously known for his book The E Myth, introduced a concept I had never heard before. Gerber’s ideas changed my life and career radically and permanently.
Some will not like what I have to say in this article, others will agree, and a few will welcome it as a wake-up call. One of Gerber’s pearls of wisdom was so unique and straightforward, how could it do anything other than change those who found it. To quote him:
“Most entrepreneurs fail because they are working IN their business rather than ON their business.” Michael Gerber (1936-present)
Making the concept personal
Gerber’s idea of working ON versus working IN the business greatly impacted the companies I was responsible for running and my consulting business. While he was applying his concept to the business world in his book, it is also wholly applicable in our personal and work lives.
For example, look at yourself as the head of your own company (your name incorporated). For me, it is Bill Abbate Incorporated. You are the president of this “company,” and hire your services to other people or companies in exchange for remuneration. In essence, you are an independent business and your own boss even when earning a salary in another company. Extending Gerber’s concept into our personal work-life means:
“Far too many people fail because they are working IN their lives rather than ON their lives.”
There is a strong element of truth in that statement. However, it does somewhat depend on how one defines failure and success. Let’s look at the definition of failure in the Oxford Languages dictionary:
failure (noun) - 1. Lack of success. 2. The omission of expected or required action. 3. The action or state of not functioning.
Success in the first definition is definable in many ways. The second and third definitions are more specific. People often fail because they neglect to take the expected or required action in their lives.
For example, look at retirement. Did you know a recent article on Yahoo Finance cited that 64 percent of Americans are not prepared for retirement, and 48% don’t care? This means that nearly two out of three Americans will retire broke (their words, not mine)!
Could it be that most of these people are so busy working IN their lives that they don’t take time to work ON their lives? As one of our founding fathers said more than two centuries ago:
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
It makes sense, doesn’t it? How much time do you spend working on your life? Most of us spend little, if any at all.
Think of it this way; if you were to start a business, you would develop a plan, including a strategy and tactics. A successful enterprise continues to update strategy and tactics so long as they are in business. Shouldn’t people do the same thing in their lives? Yet how many people do you know that do this type of life-planning and routinely update their plan?
What can you do?
Too many of us live on a wing and a prayer, with little or no planning. Otherwise, so many people would not be entering retirement broke.
You say, “but what can I do? I must do my work, and it takes up all my time!” Perhaps that is where your problem is – You have taken no time to plan. As one well-known author and trainer puts it:
“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!” Brian Tracy (1944-present)
If you never take time to plan, how will you ever have time to do anything else?
Gerber clarifies the difference between working in and on the business (or our life) in his book. So many entrepreneurs fail because they become technicians, working IN the business, doing it, doing it, doing it (the work) rather than being a real entrepreneur and working ON the business as well. This is why he titled his book the E-Myth (entrepreneur myth).
How much time should one spend working on their life? It depends. If Brian Tracey is correct, spending an hour planning on the weekend could save you 10 hours of working during the week. That sounds like a fair trade! Even if it saves half that amount, it is worth it!
Unless you work ON your life by doing some planning and developing a strategy, how will you ever know, and how can you ever realize your potential?
The Roman Philosopher Seneca stated millennia ago:
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Seneca (4BC-65AD)
Don’t you want to be “lucky”?
Unless you take the time to prepare by doing some planning, how will you ever find the opportunity to succeed?
If you are one of those caught up in doing it, doing it, doing it, STOP! Take time to plan and change the course of your life! Begin working ON your life instead of only in it! Do not let busyness and working in it rob you of your future.
You deserve the best possible outcome for your life. If you do not take the initiative, who will?
Take time to work ON your life. You are worth it!