8 Jedi Mind Tricks for Freelancers (and Star Wars Nerds)

By Yael Grauer August 4th, 2014

Anyone who’s ever worked a full-time job simply for a paycheck knows the drill. Show up at the office, linger at the water cooler, show up for some meetings, look busy, complete a few requisite tasks, and you’re done for the day. It’s not thrilling, but the pay is steady, and the benefits are nice. Your work is done when you clock out, and your mood has no real bearing on your paycheck. In fact, procrastination often goes entirely unnoticed.

Freelancing? It’s a whole different ball game. “I think our emotional tone impacts everything in very subtle ways, ways we may not even be aware of,” said writing coach Cynthia Morris, founder of Original Impulse. “It’s an enormous influence because it’s so much a part of the flavor of our writing and our voice.”

Putting everything off until you’re in the mood isn’t always possible. How can you will yourself into being upbeat and productive in the face of difficult clients, scope creep, unpaid invoices, and rejection? By using the Force.

1. Reframe

“Deliver more than you promise. The best way to be always certain of this is to deliver much, even when you promise nothing.” ―Master Tho-Mes Drei, Jedi Master and Jedi Temple instructor

Somewhere on your journey, you’ll hit a point where you have enough work coming in that walking away from a client doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. As a Jedi, you are sworn to protect the peace and justice of the Republic. Therefore, you would follow both the letter and the spirit of the law of any contract you sign, putting effort into each project that you’re obligated to complete. That means you may find yourself in a non-ideal engagement you’re committed to finishing, even though you’re dreading every minute of it.

This is where business coach Pam Slim, award-winning author of Escape From Cubicle Nation and Body of Work, recommends defining specific benefits to your plight. Maybe it’s realizing an assignment will look great in your portfolio, or perhaps the money from a project will pay your healthcare bill the month. “Sometimes making it super concrete can create a positive correlation for you in getting something done,” Slim said. Focusing on the direct reward of completing a project can take your mind away from the challenges.

2. Maintain professionalism

“There is no emotion, there is peace.” –Jedi Code

Grit goes beyond simply finishing a project. Slim points out learning how to deal with uncomfortable situations while maintaining professionalism is a skill that can be used in other emotionally-challenging situations.

In the meantime, make sure to pay attention to any signs you may have missed that a client or project may not be a good fit. “Break it down. Pay attention to what’s not working, what you would do differently next time, and if there were any signs before taking the project that the client was not a good fit,” Morris said.

3. Take a step back

“Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression, the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” –Master Yoda

It may be incredibly tempting to hit reply all and speak your mind, but that is not the way. I’ve been guilty of immediately reacting—and escalating—volatile situations, and I’ve regretted it every time. A young Jedi may ignite his lightsaber and immediately rush into battle, but a wizened one would practice a little restraint, avoiding unseen danger in the process.

4. Get Moving

“There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no chaos; there is harmony. There is no death; there is the Force.” –Jedi Code

A short walk or a quick handstand during a really bad day can immediately change your mindset. According to Morris, “If you don’t have a physical practice, you’re pretty much sunk.”

And simply venting in your journal can improve your mood. Still don’t feel like working once you’re done? Sometimes you just need to suck it up. “A lot of times we don’t feel great and don’t feel like doing our work. Sometimes it’s good to sit down and do it anyway and not be too attached to how we’re feeling,” Morris added.

5. Reject rejection

“Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.” –Master Yoda

Maintaining a sense of your own value amidst a constant stream of rejections is a huge challenge for contract workers. Slim recommends hitting the reset button each morning. Start by reminding yourself of previous successes and your bigger purpose. “That is a practice. That becomes the tipping point that separates people who survive from those who don’t,” Slim said, one that she saw illustrated through her husband, who spent two years working through rejection.

“When you get that pattern of rejections and get more and more desperate because you need cash flow, you think less and less about the true value that you are providing to the client. You become less strategic about looking for the right fit and become more focused on just looking for someone who will pay you, and that’s when you become the desperate person,” she explained. A negative mindset can blind you to possibilities right in front of you, so focusing on your strengths and potential opportunities is crucial.

Don’t be like Anakin, clinging to bad memories from the past. Instead, look to the future.

6. Conquer overconfidence

“Overconfident thinking is flawed because the Jedi does not take all possibilities into account…” ―Vodo-Siosk Baas, Jedi Master

Overconfidence can be just as bad as defeatism, and it’s very important to guard against hubris. Sometimes, if you find yourself frustrated with decision-makers on a project, it can take weeks or months to acknowledge the possibility that a project manager or client was right. And by then, it’s probably too late to remedy a bad relationship.

7. Set goals you can control

“Ready are you?” –Master Yoda

Although most freelancers have monetary goals they’re striving towards, the feast or famine cycle can easily waylay the most carefully thought-out plans. Instead of focusing solely on how much income you need, try to set goals you have control over. For example, deciding to send out ten pitches and LOIs and three follow-ups each week is entirely within your control. Landing a certain amount of assignments is not.

Slim also advises to recognize successes you can control each evening. If you’re proud of the way you conducted yourself, and know you gave it your best shot given the resources available to you, celebrate that.

8. Tap into those around you.

“…fear not. You are in the hands of something much greater and much better than you can imagine.” –Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi Master

“I have been able to succeed as a business person and stay in business this long because I’ve been really fortunate to be surrounded by really smart, positive people,” Morris said. “Whether they’re my mentors or people who just inspire me, tapping into their wisdom or remembering things they’ve said has always helped me a lot.”

There may only be one Yoda, but there are plenty wise people out there who can help. Confide in them, listen to them, and most importantly, geek out about Star Wars with them.

Image by JD Hancock
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