Cushioning Your Business Life Changes More Than You Can Imagine

What if you had enough of everything in your practice to minimize worries and problems, disappointments and resentments?

In my mind, I’m always pushing at the edges. The next thing. The internal, external, overlooked, and conceptual boundaries. I can’t help it; my brain just goes to those outer colonies. The next frontier. Must be the wiring.

Here’s the thing. I used to live somewhat the way my brain worked. Too often on the edge. Emotionally. Physically. Financially.

For example, I’d spend down my savings account then mosey over to my credit cards and company line of credit to publish other people’s books — I was a book publisher — that may or may not have made back that investment, much less pay me a living, or, imagine, a profit.

Calculated risks always, extra smidge on the risk. My inner experience matched my lived experience. There seemed to be a harmonious rationale to it all.

But then my mind encountered a fascinating new idea.

And a bit after that, my single self met the engineer I now spend my life with.

A powerful idea, edgy in its own way, followed up with a mighty love who came with the quirky notions of his profession and his proclivities: fault tolerance, redundancies, reserves.

That all translates into cushions. Cushions for ease. For tranquility. For safety. For security.

For peace of mind. For options. For thinking better. For living well.

Perhaps it’s never occurred to you that cushioning your life is a thing? Or, just how powerful, protective, comforting, and liberating those cushions are? What could that do for you and your business?

A Superreserve: The big picture Allow yourself, create for yourself and your business what coaching pioneer Thomas Leonard calls in his book The Portable Coach a “superreserve” in all areas of your life. “You don’t want to be greedy, and you don’t want to be needy,” he instructs, but you need enough cushion to keep “fear from being an overwhelming, personality-distorting presence in your life.” Reserves “far enough beyond the reach of scarcity” are required to eliminate worries and problems, disappointments and resentments.


Let’s look at different types of cushions…

Insurance, savings, investments As I wrote in my plea for all to seriously consider defensive entrepreneurship:

For security and unexpected situations, nothing beats the classics of money in the bank and insurance. Savings. Emergency funds. Investments. Equity in a home. Retirement accounts you shouldn’t dig into unless you have to. Gold in the backyard (or whatever). Insurance for all the things. The fact that this type of cushion can be harder and harder for people to put into place is also a demonstration of why defensive entrepreneurship is so critical. A cushion is cushy.

Today, do something to better cushion yourself financially. However small. Commit to paying off your debts, living below your means, saving at least x% of your income, buying the insurance you need, understanding defensive entrepreneurship, bolstering your business for resiliency and sustainability.

Time Reducing the pace of everything and building cushions of time into your work life bring the counterintuitive byproduct of getting more done, with less effort, in less time. You not only get more things done by decelerating, you get more of the most important things done. You make better decisions and choose more in alignment with your priorities and goals, which leads to fewer regrets, fewer wrong turns. Your senses of gratitude and satisfaction increase, and so does the grace and graciousness with which you pull things off.

Consider what all is possible in the cushion of just a few extra moments or minutes — if you stop rushing and pad some time around your decisions, tasks, and interactions with others: You can gather your thoughts, mull things over, hear yourself think, clear your head, find clarity on a topic, gauge your emotional temperature, recognize what you actually want, decide who you want to be, take some deep breaths, stretch, cherish the moment, appreciate the company you’re in, switch gears, focus, plan, organize, idealize, visualize, go blank, detach, do nothing, smile, center yourself, bring yourself back to the present, show up appropriately for what’s next.

Move on to the extended time cushions of slowing down with an afternoon off, a day off, a free weekend, or a week’s vacation.

Business and personal contacts Without social capital — strong and weak ties, and a range of relationships business and personal — our businesses will never be properly cushioned. Relationships of all stripes can keep us emotionally supported and mentally on track; provide us connections and referrals as needed; and be sources of information, inspiration, validation, and mutual support. A good friend or a simpatico colleague can be the thoughtful sounding board that helps put our worries, problems, disappointments and resentments in perspective. The conscious cultivation of a cushion of relationships is central for a sustainable business you love. Here are 50 ways to do that.

Options and choices Give yourself options. Create them. Find them. You need a cushion of possibilities and cushions that permit choices. Author Grace Bonney in In the Company of Women quotes interior designer Danielle Colding on the ultimate luxury:

“Quality of life is having the freedom to make choices that are not fear based. Whether it’s the ability to choose the kinds of projects I want to take on and can learn from, or the ability to take a month off to travel. Freedom to choose is the ultimate luxury.”

While many business pros champion the value of focus (not a bad value at all), I like to add to that the importance of trying all the things as a way of multiplying options and choices.

Plans Having a Plan B is a nice backup. Having a Plan B, C, and D gets you closer to superreserve status. Plans go steps beyond having more options and choices. Plans strategically build possible pathways you can hop on if needed or desired. Here are the components of structuring these alternate plans.

Things Thomas Leonard mentions toilet paper as a baby-step place to build a superreserve. Stock up on something easy like TP to demonstrate to yourself the value of cushions. For me, proof of concept came through shoes.

For a time in my 20s, I had three pairs of shoes. Athletic shoes, winter boots, and brown shoes. Wow it was hard with this selection to find the right pair of shoes for a wedding. Or most work outfits. It seemed sensible, frugal, and properly not materialistic at the time, but it was dumb to have kept my options so limited and created regular unneeded stress just from attempting to get properly dressed for an occasion. Did I think if I bought more shoes I would suddenly become Carrie Bradshaw or Mariah Carey?

Now that I have enough shoe options for me and my lifestyle — to stick with this one rather superficial example — I recognize that, as with all things, I have my own upper limits. Too much of anything is clutter, a burden. Enough is a cushion that makes my life better, easier, more enjoyable. Enough is a buffer against issues of scarcity.

What material objects, things, does your business need in the cushioning department?

Mindset supports Denise Duffield-Thomas in Chillpreneur: The New Rules for Creating Success, Freedom, and Abundance on Your Terms says that mindset is the only difficult aspect of business and requires ongoing attention. For her, the rest is details and easy-to-follow rules. Google and YouTube can tell you everything you need to know. It may be a slight exaggeration, but I lean her way. We need all the mindset hacks we can find and let them pull their weight. Here are a few of my favorites:


“With every act of self-care your authentic self gets stronger, and the critical, fearful mind gets weaker. Every act of self-care is a powerful declaration: I am on my side, I am on my side, each day I am more and more on my own side.”— Susan Weiss Berry

Self-care is not just eating well and getting enough sleep and exercise. It is being a loving and assiduous guardian of our personal needs. It’s tending to the whole gamut of our physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social needs in a way that keeps us fresh, inspired, recharged…at our best. Author and coach Susan Hyatt takes the cushion of more-than-adequate self-care to another level. In her podcast episode with Rachel Rodgers (We Should All Be Millionaires), she discusses self-care as a million-dollar business model. That is, a model in which more pleasure, ease, and rewards leads to being less dependent on will-power, struggle, and hard work. Sounds cushy.

Environmental protections and sustainable practices While we’re at it, let’s build cushions for the planet and future generations into our business models. Let’s follow the scout motto of not just leaving a place as we found it, but better than we found it. Eknath Easwaran in Your Life Is Your Message introduces the Indian concept of agridharma, the divine order of fields. It is a transgenerational concept of agriculture that goes beyond simply respecting life and the needs of the ecosystems of which we’re apart. It involves improving things with each generation. Instead of destroying the environment, plundering nature beyond the replenishment point, it is a model of cushioning. Building resiliency and restorative layers of protection with each generation. How can your enterprise do its share for those who come after us?


“Necessitous [people] are not free [people],” said FDR in a 1944 State of the Union address, an outstanding and historical reminder of the fundamental value of cushioning our lives and businesses, of keeping ourselves out of states of neediness and scarcity: freedom.