The dog did it.
Michael O'Neal had a dog called Jake. Each morning Michael would leave his dog to go to his job as a Web designer in Boulder, CO. He'd set out when it was dark, and he'd come back when it was dark. And when Michael came home and turned on the lights, Jake would look up at Michael with his big, dark eyes as if to say, "I thought we were going to play Frisbee today."
And Michael understood that he was losing all his daylight hours doing something that he didn't love, something that for him just wasn't fun.
He doesn't do that any more. After 15 years in Web design, Michael decided that he was "unemployable" and set out to employ himself. He now runs the Solopreneur Hour, delivering podcasts, talks and coaching for entrepreneurs.
Michael has been pretty successful. He's talked at events across the country and is well paid for his coaching sessions, but he could be doing a lot more. "A very prominent business coach told me that I was leaving $150,000 to $200,000 a year on the table by not doing X," Michael recalled. "I told him that X takes me away from waking up when my body wakes up, walking down to my favorite coffee shop, going to get some work done, scheduling the things I love."
And there are lots of things that Michael loves to do. He studied music at college and still plays semi-professional drums. He bought a vintage Porsche which he renovates himself and occasionally takes out to a track. He plays racquetball four times a week.
But while lots of people have hobbies, for Michael, those activities are the first things that go into his schedule. "I write this in: 45 minutes, I'm on my drums. This is when I play racquetball... When I do my podcast interviews, they're around my racquetball schedules.
"When someone asks if I have stress in my life," says Michael, "the answer is not really. It's pretty rare for me to have stress in my life."
That's not the result of good luck or careful planning. It's the result of a decision, a conscious choice to move on from the hustle and grind, and emphasize enjoyment over work that doesn't deliver a sense of satisfaction.
But while Michael might be reducing his income in his preference for fun, he's not leaving the entrepreneurial world entirely behind when he walks out of the office and picks up his drumsticks. All of those fun activities deliver valuable lessons not just in the reason for doing work he enjoys but in how to achieve success at those tasks. We always enjoy activities that we're good at, but we only become good at an activity after a long period of not being very good at it at all.
Recently, Michael pulled down the old BMX he had ridden when he was a teenager, built it up again and took it out freestyling. "You fall and fall and you get a whack on the shins from a pedal, and you fall again," Michael said. "And then eventually you do the trick and it was all worth it. If there's a closer parallel to entrepreneurship I don't know what it is."
Choosing to put fun into and alongside your work doesn't have to replace work. It can also show you how to work better... and still have time to throw a Frisbee for your dog.
Enjoy the full interview with Michael O'Neal below on the FUN podcast.