A Primer to Live Free or DIY

There are plenty of reasons for that, and some are more obvious than others. For one, his time is better spent elsewhere: improving his free throw and filming endorsement commercials, for example. If you were to ask an economist why LeBron doesn’t mow his own lawn, that economist would wax poetic about how it would be irrational, since LeBron can earn lots of money doing other things in the same amount of time and then he can put a fraction of those earnings toward hiring a professional groundskeeper. But if you actually asked LeBron the reason, his answer might be a lot simpler:

One of the reasons LeBron is so great at the game of basketball is because he loves it. He’s loved it since he was a kid; there’s nothing that gets him more fired up than stepping out on the court and competing. Averaging nearly thirty points a game, he puts on a spectacular show for his fans. You can actually see his passion at work. Meanwhile, he thinks lawn mowing is boring.

And the fact that he finds it boring is actually an important emotional indicator. It’s a signal telling him how to allocate his time—that he shouldn’t use precious hours for lawn mowing. Meanwhile, his passion for basketball serves the same purpose: It’s directing him back onto the court, where he excels.

And it’s no surprise he excels, because when you’re fanatical about something in the way LeBron is about basketball, you think about it all the time. You think about how to do it better. You think about ways it’s never been done before. And you want to avoid or race through everything else on your schedule, just so you can get back to that one thing you’re passionate about. As Paul Graham, the cofounder of the Silicon Valley accelerator program Y Combinator has noted, “It’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.” You can bet LeBron thinks about basketball in the shower. But lawn care? Nope, he hires someone else to handle that.

You may not be a professional basketball player, but the same logic still applies. You’re passionate about what you do; you wouldn’t have started your own business if you weren’t. You’re an entrepreneur with a vision for turning your passion into a successful enterprise. Just as LeBron follows his passion, you’re following yours. (And if you’ve lost that passion over the years, keep reading. This primer is all about helping you find that passion once again and then unleashing it!)

But how about those account books you haven’t found time to balance?

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you find accounting boring as hell. The same goes for HR paperwork and setting up IT systems. And the fact that you find these things boring is an important signal. It’s a signal that spending your valuable time on those tasks is inefficient.

Because while passion engenders energy and innovation, boredom does the opposite. When you find something boring, you avoid thinking about it. You procrastinate. Then when it finally comes time to do it, you muddle through and do work that’s perhaps mediocre, if not worse. And that’s only natural: You’re unhappy doing it, so of course your output isn’t great. In other words, boring equals inefficient. And when it comes to running a business, inefficient equals less competitive, and less competitive means you’re on your way to obsolescence. That’s why the success of your business depends on whether or not you’re going to stop doing the boring stuff.

Like LeBron, you’ve got to find someone else to mow the lawn—or, in your case, balance the account books, or handle HR, or IT, or do the many other things you’ve attempted to DIY. (I know, I know: You think you can’t afford it. We’ll get to that in a second.)

Did you know there are serious researchers who devote their careers to understanding how boredom affects productivity at work? And according to their research, there’s a close relationship between boredom and inefficiency.

To combat the problem, economists have come up with strategies that companies can deploy to make their bored workforces more productive. One such strategy is to pay employees more. That’s an expensive technique, but apparently, money has a way of making things less boring. Another strategy is to set goals and then measure and report progress, which can turn tasks into a sort of game.

But if you’re a small-business owner with the freedom to design your own job description and workforce, a far better solution is to make sure no one is doing tasks he or she considers boring. It’s just too expensive.

Luckily, there are people in this world who are passionate about accounting. There are people in this world who are passionate about setting up great IT systems. There are even people in this world who are passionate about tax law. And all of these people will find better, faster, and more innovative ways of handling the seemingly boring parts of your business than you ever could. Meanwhile, there are people in this world who think whatever you’re passionate about is a snooze fest. And that’s why you should focus on doing what you do best—and enjoy the privilege of getting paid to do it—while also bringing in specialists to handle the other stuff for you.

Now it's time for the trillion-dollar question: How can you afford to hire the expertise you need, so that you can finally focus your own time and attention on the core of your business? Here's how.