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031: The Unfair Flow Advantages of Self-Employed Business Owners

podcast Apr 05, 2021

Today on High Flow Lifestyle we are going to talk about a few of what are I see as some of the unfair flow advantages of self-employed business owners. We actually have a leg up on accessing flow so I want to make sure you are aware of it and taking full advantage of it. 

As self-employed people, in most cases, we have chosen our profession or business for one reason or another. We naturally had an interest in something that pushed us to turn this into our business. Intrinsic motivation, personalities, and developed confidence have all contributed to what I consider an unfair flow advantage of self-employed business owners.  

We naturally have some kind of interest and focus that gets rid of the negative thoughts, this creates a positive and happier environment.  

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that, “If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble to pay attention to them” 

When we concentrate on something, we are interested in it. We find meaning in it and it becomes a positive thing in our lives. This rubs off on us and we become positive, we can’t even enter flow if we aren’t in a positive mood.  


How Does Being Positive Benefit a Self-Employed Person? 

Research shows that being positive is also a prerequisite for boosting creativity, problem-solving, and being more flexible.  

Being able to adapt to changing situations is sort of the lifeblood of all of our businesses. It’s another advantage we have over large companies if we can adapt and pivot to a changing trend, customer tastes, remote working styles etc. Then we have a leg up. When we are small or a company of one, there are inherently fewer costs involved in trying something new.  

Positive thinking allows us to have an attitude of less worry which helps us in problem solving. It’s not something we always think of as a strength, but it really is. Over the years my wife Satomi and I have had hundreds of employees at our businesses and we’ve really learned a lot about how people really are different. Some people are problem solvers, and others have other skills. It’s a soft skill but one we’ve found to be so important for people we put into managerial type positions.    


Focus and the Self-Employed Business Owner 

Success comes from working in a good state of mind. There are less distractions, less disturbances and less confusion. You are focused and you know what you’re doing. 

In a paper titled Life satisfaction and self-employment: a matching approach, Alex Coad and Martin Binder showed, that entrepreneurs (the self-employed) enjoyed significantly higher life satisfaction than people who were in wage employment. “In our analysis we found that individuals moving from regular employment into self-employment … experience a positive and significant increase in life satisfaction, that actually increases from the first year of self-employment to the second.” 

“Self-employment has advantages in providing autonomy as compared to paid employment. Self-employed individuals are in charge and therefore capable of (re)defining their work...” 

Control and Autonomy in Entrepreneurship 

Yet again some of the unfair advantages self-employed people have are more control over their environment and their circumstances. This autonomy, or freedom, plays a big part in accessing flow. But we can’t forget about the inner work that needs to go along with that. Csíkszentmihályi argues that flow is an optimal state of being that brings order to consciousness because “happiness depends on inner harmony, not on the control we exert over our environment or circumstances. 

Flow allows us to experience a sense of selflessness and we realize that we are able to naturally quiet that inner critic. That inner critic holds us back in so many ways. But during those peak moments when we are fully absorbed in something, we also withdraw from the external world and our anxiety dissolves too. Whatever we are doing in that moment feels effortless.  

One of the biggest benefits of flow is that it amplifies Skill acquisition and performance. According to Steven Kotler, the famous claim in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers that you need 10,000 hours to reach mastery of any skill, can be cut in half through cultivating flow. Skill acquisition, learning, and creativity are all boosted when we begin cultivating flow.   

As entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers, solopreneurs etc. we are in a position to cultivate flow and focus that concentration on the very aspects of our business that will take us to that next level. We have the freedom to double-down on our strengths and the things in our business that we intrinsically enjoy doing. And delegate or outsource the things we don’t like. Take advantage of this job perk that we’ve created for ourselves 

And create is what the self-employed do. We are creating new paths, taking calculated risks along the way, experiencing new environments as they come up, and overall enjoying the journey that we are on. We have the advantage of being able to cultivate micro-flow throughout our day, which I believe compounds over time.  

Deep Work and Flow State 

Cal Newport in his book Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World) guides us to achieving high-quality work.  
He says you get there by multiplying the time spent on something and the intensity of your focus. In his book, he references the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and says that "Deep work is an activity well suited to generate a flow state". 

As self-employed people, we have the opportunity to control our environment more and eliminate the common distractions of a corporate office. We can structure our days to block out times for us to fully concentrate on our work and get Deep Work done.  

We have the ability to turn off the notifications, slack, and bells and buzzers that usually rule our day. You can better take your time back than people who don’t have the opportunity to structure their day. Make use of your unfair advantage of not being tied to a large office or a demanding boss. You have the opportunity to engage in deep work, that leads to flow, and allows you the freedom to enjoy group flow through social interactions on your own terms and timeframe.  

Micro-Flow Activities 

Micro-flow activities may not be the big and bold flow activities that come with life and death consequences, like downhill skiing or being a sniper, but the smaller flow activities, like negotiating or designing a new website, are more sustainable over the long term. Consistent flow in our everyday life can compound to develop a life of happiness that affects you and those around you.  

In a study about flow, Moneta describes the differences of what he calls “Shallow” and “Deep” Flow. This is how they describe their experience: 

“Shallow” Flow: 

  • “My mind isn’t wandering. I am totally involved in what I am doing and I am not thinking of anything else. My body feels good… the world seems to be cut off from me… I am less aware of myself and my problems.” 
  • “My concentration is like breathing… I never think of it… When I start, I really do shut out the world.” 
  • “I am so involved in what I am doing… I don’t see myself as separate from what I am doing.” 

“Deep” Flow: 

  • “I am really quite oblivious to my surroundings after I really get going in this activity.” 
  • “I think that the phone could ring, and the doorbell could ring or the house burns down or something like that…” 
  • “Once I stop I can let it back in again (Moneta, 2004).” 

Deep Flow seems to be described in a much more dramatic way. For the self-employed business person or entrepreneur yet again, we have an advantage of flexibility on the job (or at home) where our internal clock yields better results. 


Flow-Prone Environment 

I hope you can make use of all of the unfair flow advantages that self-employed business owners have. Take advantage of the power of flow.  You may not realize it, but as business owners we already have an established flow-prone environment, now it’s time to give it more structure and develop that environment so we can access micro-flow every day.    

If you would like to surround yourself with other self-employed business owners who are structuring their day around creating a flow-prone environment and would like to join us for some fun group flow activities then I invite you to check out the High Flow Lifestyle Membership. You’ll have unlimited access to online video training, monthly live group coaching, a community of like-minded peers and a place to ask questions, get feedback and guidance on accessing flow regularly, and developing personal growth and business success.   

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