For the beautiful Ali Luke, who requested a post about unschooling while running a business.
If we’ve never met, and you got here because some lovely unschooler forwarded this to you, hello, and welcome! I’m Naomi. I’ve been running IttyBiz since 2006, and we’re unschoolers. The boys – Jack and Michael – are 7 and 15. (Edit: They’re now 10 and 17. Whoa.)
So. Unschooling and business. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
In our summer business planning class, we ask people to select an Area of Devotion – like lead generation, or building up a back catalog, or improving conversion rates – and then set a goal for that area. Then we ask, “What does success look like for this goal at the end of six months?”
The reason we ask this question is because we want them to come up with a specific goalpost that will feel satisfying to reach.
It’s like when you’re cleaning up for company to come over – if you don’t know what “success” looks like, then you’ll never feel like you can stop cleaning. You’ll always feel pressure to do more, or stress about what’s left undone. And we’re kind of shooting for neither, here. Specific goalposts are necessary for closure.
The specific goalpost also helps you choose what kinds of actions to take. If “success” is taking your current train wreck of a website and making it into something that you can show people without embarrassment, then you’re going to choose things that clean things up visually and make it easier to navigate. You are not going to prioritize things like analytics, SEO, or internal cross-linking.
But – if you were just shooting for “making your website better”, you might. And that’s a recipe for angst. So we ask, “What does success look like for you at the end of 6 months?”
Here’s why we ask that.
I was in a conversation on Facebook recently with a woman I’ve known for a long time.
This lovely lady has a new venture she’s working very hard on, and she’s wondering if she can send it over to get my feedback.
(Incidentally, IttyBiz is on Facebook! Please come and click Like and validate our existence! Ahem. This was done for many reasons, most prominent among them that my mother and my kids have been nagging me for years. You’ll be happy to know that now IttyBiz is on Facebook, they have moved on to nagging me about Pinterest and YouTube, respectively. I believe this has been the plan all along.)
If you are involved in any type of creative or innovative enterprise, you undoubtedly find yourself in a similar position. We’re all desperate for feedback.
We ask our friends and family but they’re non-commital. Or their answer is so pathetically simpering that it wasn’t worth asking. Or, upon hearing their answer, you realize they were the wrong person to ask because they’re utterly unqualified to even have an opinion.
Or the last time we asked, one of those things happened, and we’re not going to do THAT again, and now we’re in an echo chamber.
We ask critique partners, and colleagues, and mentors, and consistently, we don’t get what we’re looking for, or sometimes, we don’t get anything at all.
In my chat with the lovely lady, I was able to put words to something I’ve been trying to articulate for a long time, and I thought I’d use the power of push button publishing to share it here today. Perhaps it will be useful to you.