Driving in the Red Zone

I was talking with a group of studio owners recently and the subject of “drive” came up, as in:

“Is it OK to work all the time, to constantly drive your business?  Where do you draw the line at too much work?”

This made me really stop and think.  First of all, because I LOVE my work.  Going all-in at a fast pace is my jam! But that’s only because I CHOOSE it to be that way.

Driving at a fast pace can easily slip into the “red zone” (you know that place on your car’s speedometer?) when it’s born out of compulsion or necessity.  You FEEL like you must go faster or you feel compelled to take on that project. Other times, a lack of financial or human capital might make it so that you actually have no choice but to drive in the red zone.

My fast pace these days is out of pure enjoyment and passion for what I do and I stay out of the red zone for the most part.  But, I have been in that unhealthy place before. And so my advice to this group of studio owners was to recognize what an “unhealthy drive” can look like.

Unhealthy can look like having no choice because no one else can do the work.  This version of the red zone happens because the work NEEDS to get done, and the only way it is going to get done is if YOU do it.  And so you do, driving faster and faster … but not because you want to.

Unhealthy can also look like addiction, being pulled like a magnet to work (but not necessarily the RIGHT work).  You walk into the studio and answer the phone, respond to emails, check the inventory …. all things you didn’t actually need to do but felt compelled to do anyway.  Working when you don’t NEED to, you find yourself unwittingly stepping on your employees’ toes and missing dinners with your family.

I have personally experienced both of these types of unhealthy work, of driving in the red zone not on purpose, but through necessity or compulsion.  If I’m not careful, I can easily start to see myself sliding into unhealthy compulsion territory … but I’m much more aware of that tendency nowadays and can squash it pretty quickly. (And, if I don’t recognize it, my husband is quick to call it out. 🙂

In my answer to this group of studio owners, I said something to the effect of:

“Working hard or working a lot does not mean that you’re doing anything wrong.  BUT, if either of those unhealthy pictures looks like you, it’s time to push pause and come up with a better way to drive.”

So what does a better way look like for you?  Maybe it’s:

  • getting the right people on your team and equipping them with the right tools
  • freeing yourself from the expectation that only you can do a job the right way
  • stepping out of the way so your team can do their best work
  • understanding that however intertwined you are with your business, you are not actually one and the same
  • recognizing where your strengths are … and staying in that lane

OR

  • knowing that your success does not come solely from your drive; it also comes from your heart, your mind, and your choices

Do the work you love and are passionate about …but do it without crossing over into an unhealthy place of necessity or compulsion.  Driving in the red zone is only possible for so long because it’s unhealthy.  You risk burnout. You risk missing time with your family.  And, honestly, you risk creating more problems for your studio!

My encouragement to you is this: Your pace and your drive will be different from mine, or from your other studio owner friends, or from anyone else.  So find what healthy work looks like to YOU and commit to that lane. Just like with our dance students, practice makes progress!

Love, Misty