I get asked a lot, “How do you do it?!?!” And by a lot, I mean multiple times a day. Sometimes this is in reference to my energy level in a meeting, other times in response to a deliverable we have produced for a client, and other times it’s in response to an idea or insight that I blurt out in the moment during a client conversation. Usually, I respond with “I have no idea!” to make the other person laugh or to deflect the conversation back to the client. But to be honest, I do have an answer. Several answers. I want to share with you exactly “How I do it.” This is my first ever attempt to categorize my answers in a blog series called “Oly’s Work Hacks.” In this series, I focus on how I purposely pursue choices that make work less work.
I have to admit that the first answer to this question is that I quit my high-level job four years ago to go out on my own. I had no idea what would come next except I knew that it would not be another job where I worked for someone else. My search for the best boss ever was over. In a moment of insight, I had realized that my best boss ever would be me. I had a client within a week of leaving. Two years flew by before I decided to name and brand the firm. I found a great branding expert (insert shameless plug here for the amazing Dawn Camner), polled my mentors on what I should name myself, and The Olympia Collective was born. I even announced my new firm’s name on LinkedIn as well as on this blog, using this same story about the search for my dream boss (see that original post called Who’s the Boss here).
I have always found excitement and joy in my work, but have never been so satisfied at my job until I started my company. In fact, the move to go on my own was a result of wise decisions I made in response to self-directed inquiries about who? where? when? what? why? and how? I work. I took time to ask myself, “What makes my work less work?” I encourage you to think about these same questions for yourself. And as for the answers I discovered, I’ll tackle the “who” hacks first.
Oly’s Work Hacks: Who Do You Want To Work With?
The Who Starts with YOU.
To make work less work, a great place for you to start is to ask, “Who am I working with?” No matter what job you have or where you work, it’s easy to forget that the first person you work with is yourself! Even Dr. Seuss agrees: “All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot.”
It may take years before you like yourself enough to actually want to be with yourself, either alone or working. I am grateful to a former therapist, who suggested I look into insight meditation in response to my work struggles. Insight meditation allowed me to observe my thoughts, emotional reactions, and physical responses to stimuli, including stress, other people, and my inner voice. This awareness now guides me in both work and life decisions. When you love yourself and give yourself compassion and kindness, you immediately become a great person to work with, alone or in a group. We all run into people in this category. Can you think of a person with whom you interacted recently, when after you met them, you thought, “That person loves what they do!”? SPOILER ALERT: They might know the first hack: they may love themselves and treat themselves with the same kindness they would their best friend.
Engage Your Family in Your Work.
I was deep into my own meditation practice when I started The Olympia Collective four years ago. I knew that working from home would give my family a different view of what work is like and how I earn money. I recruited my life partner to be my first advisor so he could share his finance and operations expertise with me in a structured way. Then I recruited all three of my kids to help with various work projects. When my two oldest ones were old enough to be contractors, I paid them to help my clients and me as their first jobs (some of my readers may own one of Macy’s famous crocheted bees she made to match client Pantone colors, for example). Just as I always did with former employees, I played to each of their strengths when engaging them in my work. I assigned them tasks I knew they would love to work on rather than prioritizing the most pressing items.
My family enjoyed hearing about what was happening with clients and often provided great solutions to issues. I also started taking them as much as possible to client events and trips. My prior jobs included me out of the house in office attire, then coming home to play mom. But this new world enabled me to show my family that high-level, impactful work can also be done while making breakfast, driving to school, in an airplane, or alongside them at night cramming for exams. Yes, it took a little extra time, money, and attention, but I am proud that all three of my kids have a totally original view of what a CEO looks like, what she does, who she works with, and what she wears, thanks to engaging them in my new firm. I could have easily rented a workspace nearby, and they (or I) would have never been able to experience this.
The next level of engaging my family was accidental (or it seemed at the time). Four years ago, my sister Nicole found herself unexpectedly out of work. She and I had lived in different states since I left for college at age 17. We used to see each other maybe every three years for decades. Nicole is an animal lover and adventurer. I am, as our favorite comedian, Jim Gaffigan, would say, “indoorsy.” Nicole and I had never worked alongside each other, and I had no idea if she would like taking in a completely new industry with her sassy and much more chatty big sister. Again, my insight meditation practice kicked in. I felt empathy and compassion for my sister’s situation and asked if she might want to help me for a few weeks while she looked for something else. The rest is history.
Many of you reading this blog have met Nicole. She is my firm’s MVP. Although we both worked in completely opposite industries, she had the vast systems and administrative expertise I needed as I started adding new clients. Again, I gave her the tasks that she loved to work on and would allow her to keep her desired lifestyle and work schedule. I had no idea that starting my own business would allow me to create a bond with her that is now unbreakable. Even if my business had failed, surrounding myself with people I love (including myself) is a huge win.
(As a side note, I am now training to be a mindful self-compassion teacher so that I may share the practice with others. Teaching is the ultimate form of compassion in my book.)
Fully engaging yourself and your family in your work will create a very strong foundation for experiencing joy, gratitude, and compassion for yourself and others on a daily basis. So will working on things that play off your strengths and doing the same for others. As I tallied what my family and I were fully able to do on our own, it was also clear there were things that none of us knew how to do or even wanted to learn. And as we worked toward our strengths, the tasks that none of us wanted piled up. That is where my last “Who” hack comes in.
Pay Others to do What You Can’t Do
Strength, not weakness, will cause a self-compassionate person to reach out for help when they need it. Thankfully I learned the art of delegation early in my management career. Letting assignments, credit, and kudos go to others became second nature (by the way, it also makes for a great consultant!). Finding others who love to do what you can’t do was fun and easy. I already had some connections, and a quick inquiry to my mentors, network, clients, and LinkedIn community yielded more wonderful humans. In some months, the money I pay out to these experts is more than I pay myself. This is thrilling for me. It activates my core value of generosity and allows me to focus on my client relationships, strategy, and building my business. I will be highlighting a select few on social media and will mention them here. These are examples of people who love their work as much as I love nonprofit fundraising:
* For my branding and logo: the aforementioned amazing Dawn Camner
* For meditation sessions for myself, my team, Advisory Board, and clients: Trudy Goodman, Ann Friedman, and Celeste Young
* For a mindful movement class for my clients, Advisory Board, and team: Travis Goyeneche
* For my website: Ray Clark
* For my social media: Cinthia Aguilar
* For my Chief of Staff needs: Carissa Holsted
* Among many other work-related projects, helping me create new travel kits for client trips so I wasn’t using shampoo samples from the 1990s: Kiki Walker (this is actually a Life Hack not a Work Hack since I paid her personally, but I just had to mention since it made such a huge difference to my work and would have never gotten done without Kiki!)
And I can’t NOT mention that I also surround myself for physical work with the ultimate, 6+ million member family of Peloton. The Olympia Collective has its own hashtag, and clients, team members, and Advisory Council members with Peloton membership are all following it. This is a tangible and creative way we can build our family using our core values of connection, teamwork, health, and growth. (If you’re a member, you are invited to add our family to yours and join our hashtag now at #theolympiacollective)
The Bottom Line: Work That You Love Results from Who You Love
My “Who” hack boils down to this: if you seek meaningful work, start with yourself. The rest will follow.
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Founded and led by nonprofit fundraiser Olympia Ammon, The Olympia Collective specializes in nonprofit revenue generation, board & staff support, and data & insights. We empower our clients to deliver maximum impact to the communities they serve. We are women-owned and value-driven, headquartered in Los Angeles, but serving the world!