A Lesson From Goats About Laurels

by Sarah on June 9, 2013


“You know, I learned an important lesson today from the goats,” my husband remarked as we sat on the steps near the kitchen.

I turned to him, wondering what wisdom these stony-eyed, cud-chewing critters had mustered up.

I learned that you just can’t rest on your laurels. As soon as one thing seems fixed, you’ve got another one coming.”

I knew immediately what he was referring to.

We were so excited when we came home after visiting the goat breeder we were thinking of purchasing from this spring. “Did you notice,” my husband asked me, “That they didn’t make much noise at all?” He said this cautiously as if he might jinx things by declaring this observation too loudly.

See, all last year we crept around the yard. Whenever the goats spied us they would let out a loud caterwauling that on all accounts sounded like a spoiled child bawling for a lollipop. “WWAAAA”

Sundays we had to keep them locked in so we wouldn’t create a rift with our neighbors over our noisy goats.

So this revelation was truly exciting. And lo an behold, when we brought our three goats home with us they kept their monklike silence. Only blinking at us as we watched them back.

But of course – this peace was shortlived. Within a few days my son came racing out of the barn yelling that the goat had escaped.  First we blamed it on his carelessness – he must have left the gate open. But, as we soon discovered, we had a group of jumpers. These goats were escape artists beyond what we’d seen before. I watched dumbstruck as one of them effortlessly leaped over a 4 1/2 foot fence and leaped back over.

As my husband pointed out, this was a solid reminder to not take things for granted. You lick one problem only to be hit by another!

And certainly something I’ve learned to keep conscious of in my copywriting business . . .

At the end of last year, I got a little complacent. I had more work than I could manage and prospective clients  contacting me right and left. I was booked ahead several months. I got a little overly confident, thinking I had gotten to a level of mastery and that I would be able to just plow through assignments even more speedily than before.

For years leading up to this point, I had always put more emphasis on taking my time than finishing quickly. I wanted to give myself time to learn and work through assignments deliberately.

However, now I saw that if I pushed through assignments faster I could pile on more and earn more each month.

I pushed myself to focus on productivity and pushed to the side much of the time I had spent in updating my learning and simply thinking.

Perhaps it was the absence of stimulating learning opportunities . . . Perhaps it was the pressure I put on myself to deliver without accounting for the time I needed to think and mull . . . But I ended up hitting horrible writer’s block and struggling to keep up with my workload.

Even worse, everything seemed to feed into a vicious cycle – more pressure, more writer’s block, more pressure, more writer’s block – AARGH!

Thankfully, by relying heavily on the productivity techniques I’ve developed I got myself through this challenging time with copy that I can still be proud off.

But I learned few valuable lessons about running my business . . .

  1. Don’t ever get complacent about your skills or knowledge. I’ve built my business on offer premium copywriting and marketing strategy advice. And to continue to offer this, I need to keep a sense of humility and always focus on learning new things as well as refining the old.
  2. Learning and thinking time fuels productivity and creativity. When I cut out some of my learning and thinking time to focus on production, production actually became more difficult.  Whether it’s giving myself permission to spend an hour working outside while mulling over stuff or taking some time each day to review great copywriting courses and read e-newsletters, it’s time that translates into more productivity when I get back to work.
  3. Challenge yourself to work in ways you’re not used to. Certainly I don’t want to go back to the push push push season I just went through. I realized I don’t want to work at that level all the time and cannot produce quality copy when working like that for an extended period of time. That being said, I developed better skills at focusing, being productive and overcoming my challenges I’d never encountered before – like writer’s block.

Complacency is a killer. Whether it’s because you decide you know what your customers want . . . or you decide you’re a master in your skillset . . . it’s like pulling the plug on your business. Complacency is the first step to losing your vitality as a business owner.

  • Step back and try to look at how you work, what you’re delivering, what your customers are complaining about with new eyes. Turn the annoying problems into challenges that will help you grow and become stronger.
  • Leave yourself time to let these observations swish around in your brain so you can develop solutions and build your skills.
  • Exercise humility. Being in business takes chutzpah, given all the risks you’re taking on. But it also requires being humble. Your success depends on serving your customers/clients well and always questioning yourself on how you can do better.

I’ll probably be spending some time this summer chasing down these escape artist goats and working with my husband to develop better fencing. By the end of the summer, I’ll have a whole new goat farming badge to add to my collection. Just like the new developments in my copywriting business that arrived after falling into the trap of complacency only to be rudely awakened with the alarm bells that soon followed.

Have you rested (or nibbled as goats will) on your laurels and recovered from the experience? Please share your insights by commenting!


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