What John Lennon can teach you about a lifestyle business

John LennonWhen I say that I’m OK, they look at me kind of strange…

Surely you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game

- John Lennon, Watching The Wheels

I recently watched a television show about John Lennon’s career trajectory. For years, he lived the hard partying, rock-and-roll lifestyle. Then, after a life-changing trip, he released Double Fantasy in 1980. People say that Double Fantasy reflected his new-found happiness and stability living the “family life.”

I totally understand where he’s coming from.

Once upon a time, I lived “the game.” I’ve discussed before how I would travel three weeks out of every month, mess up my body with multiple time zone changes and generally trash my life at the expense of my career. Was it fun? Hell yeah. Did it take a toll? Yes.

Can I work that pace anymore? Nope. Not because I can’t. It’s because I choose to have a lifestyle business.

Want flexibility and freedom? A lifestyle business may work for you…

What’s a lifestyle business? I’ve read a few definitions that say, “The entrepreneur sustains her income at X, so she can enjoy a certain lifestyle.” For me, I see a lifestyle business being synonymous with flexibility and freedom.  You may choose to forgo a six-figure job – but you do it because you’d rather spend time with your kids. You may miss out on cool travel opportunities – but you happily do it because you’d rather stay home with your partner.

Does having a lifestyle business means that you’ll never make (big) money? Not at all. I know quite a few “hardly working” people who are raking in a huge income. I know others who work like crazy a few months of every year so they can play for three months at a time.

(For a first-hand account of a lifestyle business and life, check out Jennifer Cario’s blog A Flexible Life. Jen is also the owner of Sugar Spun Marketing, the author of Pinterest Marketing: An Hour A Day and makes killer cinnamon rolls.)

For me, a lifestyle business means I can work out in the morning, work a few hours when I’m feeling highly productive, and spend my evenings reading and relaxing. I don’t feel compelled to hit every conference anymore, or be away from home more than a week a month. Or build a huge team of writers.

Could I make more money if I worked more hours and built a bigger business (or even worked for someone else?) Quite possibly. But I don’t think I’d be as happy.

Will you still work your butt off with a lifestyle business? Sure – especially at the beginning. Choosing a lifestyle business doesn’t mean it’s all bon bons and soap opera reruns. It means you make different choices about how you spend your time.

You define your success

It’s funny, though, how some people feel compelled to apologize for their business choice. “I have a ‘lifestyle business,”’ they’ll say. “It’s not like a big agency or anything.”

Here’s the thing: You are the one who defines your success – not society, not your family – YOU. If your lifestyle business makes you happy and makes you money, rock on.

It’s much better than the alternative. I know many entrepreneurs who feel like they built their own prison – they started an agency because they thought they were “supposed to,” and now they’re suffering.

I used to be that way myself.

(I love this post by A.J. Kohn that discusses not comparing his “entrepreneurial journey” with others. I highly recommend checking it out.)

If you think that you HAVE to build a big agency – or you HAVE to work 20 hours a day, know this: You are the architect of your life. You can build a business around the things you love to do. There are many people loving their lifestyle business – and you can love yours, too.

If that’s what you choose to do.

Do I “miss the game” (as Lennon mentions in his song?) Sometimes. I’ll have moments when I’ll think, “I would love to be on a plane right now.”

And then I think about my life. I have a wonderful husband. I have wonderful friends. I am the healthiest I’ve ever been. Things are calm and happy and fulfilling.

I’m just watching the wheels go ’round and ’round. I really love to watch them roll.