The fight I want to be fighting.

Earlier this week I was talking with Donna, the Diva of Design, who does interior design for our print books among other graphic design work for Empty Set and many other lucky clients. We are friends and colleagues, and were catching up on all sort of things.  During our discussion she said “It’s just not the fight I want to be fighting, you know?”

I know. It’s a corollary to a question my friend Brent taught me that guides my business practices every single day: What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

I use the “problem” question every day to keep focused on the task I need to complete. As it changes, so does the problem I’m trying to solve, until there are no more problems and the task is done. As an example, I can cite the paperback printing saga that was the focus of my last post: almost eighteen months from start to finish, each time a new issue came up I adjusted the problem solving to eventually, hopefully, angle myself to the completed task of having paperbacks printed and available. Please note: sometimes the problem I’m trying to solve is my excerbation, and sometimes only beer will help. Turns out, that totally works sometimes as long as the end goal doesn’t change.Me during the ROOKIE Hell Week.

The “fight I want to be fighting” is much the same. As a two-person business, we have a division of labor that is roughly this: Scott does the creative stuff, and the branding stuff, and I do pretty much everything else. Often there’s no time in the day to get our basic work done, so we have to make hard decisions on what else we spend our time doing. Scott gets regular requests for blurbs or writing advice. Also requests for podcast or blog interviews. I get requests for information about how someone else can hire someone like me, or how to build an audience or requests for introductions to agents, printers, etc. And as much as we want to help everyone, if we did that, we couldn’t sustain our own business.

It makes me feel terrible that we can’t do all the things for all the folks, but we can’t. And feeling terrible about it isn’t the fight I want to be fighting. It doesn’t make me more productive or make more time for helping other folks. Instead I focus on the fight I *do* want to fight, which is to make cool stuff that sustains and grows our business.

I’m pretty fortunate, I know. This is the best job in the world for me, and I love the business we’re in and the work we do every day. I’ll keep fighting.

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  1. scottsigler

    I hate to say “no.” While this should make me the most popular boy at the prom, it does cause problems in the workplace. But cool stuff’s gotta get made, and that takes time (as well as focus, something I lose if I’m getting distracted with All The Things).

  2. occupy_my_rocktopi

    Over time, I figure Empty will grow to where you are forced to hire more people to sustain your work, much like the Diva of Design. Do you have your fantasy lineup of roles for Empty Set? Editor, Web Designer, Graphic Designer, Inventory/Shipping Manager, and so on?

    1. AB Kovacs

      @occupy_my_rocktopi We have a dream team already! We have editors we love, BigJohn is our continuity czar which is more helpful than you can possibly imagine. Pondy is our go-to graphic designer already. And Filament72 does our web design. We’re far luckier than any small business should be, honestly.

  3. BigJohn

    You are so incredibly accommodating, people are probably taking you for granted. I don’t mean Scott – you guys are partners, and have a different dynamic. But your relationship to the Junkies in the past makes it hard not to see you as the superheroic person you can be. It’s got to be hard to dial back that energy and passion when it needs to be focused on things that need to be done in order to sustain the business.

    We all appreciate what you do, and how much you give of yourself to the business. As a diehard Junkie, I just want to say thank you for all that you do and continue to do. You are gemtastic.

    1. AB Kovacs

      @BigJohn, you are so good to me. Thanks!

      But honestly, it’s not anybody asking for anything outrageous at all. All the request are wildly appropriate. We just run out of time in the day to add things in.

      I’ve heard from a few folks who are in the same spot I discussed above. Seems to be fairly common to react how I do.

      I feel like if I’m working hard, the best I can do it what I can give. I’m always happy to hear it’s appreciated too. Thanks!

  4. Arioch Morningstar

    This is only a “problem” because you’re a good person who cares about others. If you didn’t it wouldn’t be an issue. As things stand, you have to balance your time between working for yourself and spending your time doing things for others. Nice people *like* to help their friends by definition. Working for yourself enables you to continue making other people happy some of the time. If you didn’t you’d go bankrupt and not be able to help anyone. So, in a way, working to help yourself is helping out others too, right?

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