Have you ever joined a business network, taken on a client or a job to start regretting it almost straight away?

This is my usual pattern.

I get disillusioned with the things I say “yes” to – be they clients, jobs, or networking groups. Soon I start feeling like Neo in Matrix. Morpheus articulated that feeling:

“What you know, you can’t explain but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”

This feeling comes about from rushing into getting work or being involved with people who don’t prioritise having a good quality, functioning relationship with me. This happens because – and here’s the a-ha moment – I don’t take the proper time to qualify the people and the projects I should work on.

Here’s what happens to me in these business situations. I keep finding that the people – be they clients, network members, managers to be people like financial planners in debt themselves, technologists who haven’t built their own integrated tech systems, marketers spending the majority of their time on operational work and in general folks who don’t practice what they preach.

They appear to be sitting on a fragile house of cards.

What is wrong with these people that they can’t take care of their own problems? Here’s what I found and it’s simple.

They don’t value their time. And neither do I. If we did, we would take the time to build something of value for the people we aim to serve.

So we end up wasting time doing free stuff for people who don’t value their own time to have the awareness that others’ time is valuable.

At this particular moment in time, I couldn’t feel more out of sync with the world around me. I see the holes in people’s stories, breaches of professional integrity clearly and am unable to say anything because I don’t have authority. I haven’t built anything of value.

But I am open to reflection. Others are too busy running around like oompah loompahs with pants on fire.

“No time” they tell me.

Do you yourself ever get the feeling that people are operating out of sync with who they are? You have a clear idea of what they should be doing but no one will listen to you. You try being polite about it. You ask them if they’d like feedback and they say they don’t.

Maddening, right?

Especially if this is a person or a situation you yourself have said “yes” to. You’re paying or being paid to be listened to, heard, engaged with and like you matter. You took on these people as your clients, or you joined their network or agreed to contract to them.

What am I really paying for or getting paid for? you ask yourself repeatedly. If you’re like me, your aim is to only work with people who are generous, thoughtful and smart (HT Ashton Kutcher).

OK, before I point my fingers at them accusingly, let’s turn the line of questioning to myself.

Am I being as generous, thoughtful and smart as I can be with myself?

Am I valuing my own time?

My hair, my make up, how I carry myself, the words I choose to describe myself and others, the people I choose to engage with, the attitudes I bring, the projects I say “yes” to, my website, my home – these all define who I am as a person and a professional.

These are all the things that reflect how much I value my time and other professionals’ time.

If I’m doing work for free and undermining the value of my hourly rate, then I’m not valuing my time. If I’m putting myself in situations where people expect me to do work for free (and it’s not a non-profit organisation), I’m being taken advantage of. This also means I can’t engage other professionals (people who value their time) to help me out with my home, my website, my presentation, etc…

If I’m taking on clients who don’t value their own time, then I can bet my bottom dollar that they’re not gonna value my time.

Moral of the story?

Value your time and stay away from people who waste their own time.

So what’s the thing that’s driving me mad within the Matrix?

It’s associating with people who don’t put a value on their time. Time is the most valuable resource and if you’re not investing it wisely, you’re wasting it. You will always end up wasting your time with people who don’t value their own time.

Don’t ever do free work or barter with anyone who undermines the $ amount you put on your time.

I sure hope I learned my lesson this time.