Two Years Without Pants

IMG_4646Two years ago on December 16, I took a pretty big risk: I stopped wearing pants to work.

That’s actually code for, “I quit my day job and started running my own company from home,” the idea being that pants were optional.

As it turns out, it was somewhat inaccurate for me to associate a lack of pants with working from home. I wear pants every day, but they’re usually pajama pants. Otherwise my legs get cold. I put real pants on when friends come over.

I actually didn’t mean for this entry to be so much about pants. It’s really more of a retrospective of two years working for myself at home and growing a tiny company into a slightly less tiny multi-million dollar company. I wrote something similar (but shorter) last year.

Here are a few random thoughts about what this has meant for me:

  • I work a lot. Probably 80-90 hours a week. I don’t think I fully understood the impact of being able to wake up, immediately start working, and not stop working until it’s time to go to bed.
  • Because of that amount of work, I’ve come to value breaks. I don’t work through meals, and I use humor breaks as rewards for completing tasks I’m not too enthused about. Like, if I finish the financials for the month, I take a 15-minute YouTube break. It’s great. And because I love the vast majority of the work I do, it doesn’t feel like my work-life balance is off. It’s different than other people, sure, but really, who has the exact same work-life balance as anyone else? That means something different to all of us.
  • I thought that working full time on Stonemaier Games would mean that I would design more games. Rather, I’ve found that I spend more time on the few games I design from start to finish (I start a lot of game designs, but few make it to the finish). I designed exactly one game from start to finish last year, but I was able to go deeper in that design than any other game that preceded it.
  • I think I underestimated the toll that sitting at a desk for 14 hours a day would have on my health. I guess it’s not too bad–a few pounds here and there–but I can tell it’s not good for me. Having the standing desk these past few months has been a HUGE improvement.
  • That said, I don’t think I’ve gotten sick at all over the past few years (except last Christmas thanks to bad cold my brother kindly gave to me), and I honestly think that might be attributed to not being around people too much. Not that I don’t see people–I host at least one game night every week, and I go to church a few times a month, among other social outings–but I’m not constantly around people.
  • For the most part, the home office is great. It’s so convenient, and it’s very easy to work without interruption when I need to (I simply put my computer to sleep). All of my food is right here in my kitchen, so I don’t have to plan ahead for lunches. I can shower in the morning or in the afternoon.
  • However, having a home office is a little weird for people who are expecting Stonemaier to have a “real” office. Case in point: The photo shoot last week. Or when I was interviewed the previous week (we went to a local coffee shop). Or when traveling fans ask if they can get a tour of the office. Or when I run my annual design day mini-convention (I hosted a game night before the convention at my house for about 25 strangers).
  • I’ll say it: I like being able to work around my cats. They’re good company.
  • Because of the lack of commute, I hardly ever have to fill up the tank of my car. Like, at most once a month.
  • This isn’t related to the home office, but I’ve found that making my company my top priority has meant that dating has not been a top priority. I’ve gone on a few dates, but I really haven’t missed being in a romantic relationship. I don’t know how I’d possibly find room for it.
  • More unfortunately, I haven’t found time for travel. It’s tough to travel when such a huge part of my job is customer service, but I miss it. I value the experience of going somewhere new for a few days. I think that’s important for me to do, and while I’d like to say that I’ll do that in 2016, I already know I have a beach family reunion and a probably trip to Germany in October, so those may have to be my travel adventures this year.

Overall, I’m very fortunate: The risk I made to quit a secure job and focus on Stonemaier Games has paid off, at least in that I’m able to sustain myself make some pretty cool stuff for a lot of people. I also hired our first part-time employee (in Denmark) and wrote a book along the way. I’m very happy, and I think the work I do makes other people happy as well. That seems like a pretty great combination to me.

Oh, I have one question for you: Sometimes I run into people who know about how I quit my day job to work for Stonemaier, but they don’t know anything else, and they ask, “How are things going?” I think many of them just want to know that I’m okay, and I appreciate that. But I don’t know how to answer the question. Usually I just say, “Things are going great!” But is there a better answer? For some reason I feel the need to substantiate that claim, but maybe that’s all people want to hear (unless they ask for more). What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Two Years Without Pants”

  1. Congrats on two very successful years (professionally, and because you love what you do, personally)! I had a thought on travel. I would’ve thought your lifestyle now would actually allow for more travel than before. Since you work from a home office, have you ever considered taking your work on the road? I know you like to experience what life is like in a place when you travel (settle in among the locals, not necessarily see all of the tourist areas). With a little planning, could you figure out what the highest priority 30 hours of work would be in a given week (a time when the flow of the business didn’t mandate anything urgent), take your computer, go to wherever you’d like to visit, and work among the people there. If you had some discipline, you could cut yourself off from work after 6 hours in any given day and spend the rest of the time walking around, sitting by firesides in cozy pubs, reading, etc. What do you think?

  2. Thanks Trev! That’s a good question about taking my work on the road. I think it’s possible to do a lot using a laptop (though I currently just have a desktop). I’ve fancied the idea of something like that, because it would be neat to travel the world to unique places and play games with many of the people who have supported my company over the years.

  3. I think Trev is onto something about combining work and travel. Decide on a location then plan your visit around a trade show or gaming event there – even if it is simply visiting a game cafe or local game night meetup. Plan your trip a few days extra so you can enjoy the sites, the people, the food.

    Speaking from someone who works from home, you need to set aside time for things outside of work. When someone asks how you are doing, tell them more than “great”. Give them SOMETHING of substance to start a conversation or have an insight into how you really are doing.

  4. Nicole: Thanks for the advice! Could you give a specific example for the second part? Anything I can think to say about why I use the word “great” seems immodest, so perhaps there’s something I’m not thinking of. What would you say if someone asked you right now how things are going?

  5. “Things are going great! My board game business is doing well and I’m happy with the direction it’s going. It ended up being the right decision to quit my day job.”

    If they want more, they can ask about your board game business. If not, they can be satisfied you’re doing well and don’t regret quitting your job. 🙂


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