The great internet source known as Wikipedia describes it as “an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance.” In military speak; you can’t treat your home like a battlefield, especially if you’re planning on starting a business on the side. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom I found when starting my business Pillar Games as a PreVeteran.
Unique Work Environment –
The definition refers to an unconscious pattern, but I could find nothing else close to what had to be done once I started my business, let alone a family. As you well know, military life is demanding. All parties involved feel some measure of extra stress due to the nature of a warfighting organization, but we as PreVeteran’s know that stress can distract from our entrepreneurial goals. So we mitigate!
As a junior Sailor stationed in Okinawa Japan, I commuted 30-40 minutes to and from work every day. I took that time for granted. It wasn’t until I PCS’d to a 7-minute commute did I realize the value of that time to prepare my mind, from navy work to entrepreneurial work. It may have started out as an unconscious pattern, but now that I have a 7-minute commute, it must be conscious or it doesn’t happen.
The value gained from my long drive can be gained in many different ways. Some are inclined to workout; others may tuck themselves in their home offices to avoid passing stress on to their families. Whatever works for you should be done regularly and with intent, but compartmentalization is not just about stress. It also relates to the ability to separate what makes you a good soldier (all-encompassing term) from what makes you successful in business.
Talk Business, Not War –
I once heard someone say “Business is like war!” While that was inspiring, my initial thought was “You must never have been to war…” Those types of colloquial missteps can be perpetrated by PreVeterans as well. Since we are currently serving, there is a very real need to differentiate the way we talk in service from the way we talk in business.
A few months ago I had the privilege of meeting many CEOs from America’s fastest growing companies. Most were very appreciative of my service, but I noted that without exception, it was my business acumen that kept a conversation going. Nobody wanted to hear my unique stories of sailing the South Pacific with Marines or Mountain Warfare Training on the side of Mount Fuji. They wanted to hear about my success with the Hooked Model (Nir Eyal) and my search for the right programmer.
Compartmentalization is the art of managing your life as a service member, an entrepreneur, a spouse, and a parent, among other titles you may hold. It is essential to maintaining the kind of focus needed to succeed in business, and must be done intentionally. Give your business the attention it deserves, and you may not have need of a “side-job.”