As a translator, I owe a huge debt to more experienced colleagues who have taken the time to give those behind them some pointers for the road ahead. If it wasn’t for your blogs, articles, forum posts, webinars and consultation sessions I might still be under the impression that bidding for 100,000-word jobs at miniscule rates is the only option for translators these days. I’m not sorry it took me a while to learn these things; it’s been a pretty colorful journey so far and I figure it’s when you start thinking that you’re too old to learn that it’s time to retire.
What did surprise me, though, was the realization the other day that I also owe a lot in terms of my business to someone who is not even remotely in the same field, namely my trainer. I started working with Nick a few years ago when it became evident that I needed to do something to counteract all the hours sitting at my desk. I expected that the activity and accountability would keep me healthier, which happily has been the case, but here are some of the unexpected bonus lessons I learned:
- You can do a lot more than you think you can
I am not a stand-in-line-at-midnight technophile, so when I committed to my very first project using Trados a couple of years ago, I was not exactly feeling confident. Then I remembered that I didn’t think I could run to the end of the block, either, and yet the first time out, my trainer made me run 4 miles. Okay, I’m using “run” in the broadest possible sense of the word here, but the point is I kept trudging in a forward direction until I reached the finish line. The bigger point is that I was convinced it was far beyond my capabilities but it wasn’t. And neither, it turned out, was using that software.
- Don’t be a stress-monkey
Especially in the early days, my stress level would spike when I’d receive an email with the dreaded message that there were some questions about my translation. Naturally, this would always happen right when I was about to leave for an appointment or in the middle of another rush job. I would be hunched over the computer trying to type my reply as fast as possible, thus making more mistakes and becoming increasingly stressed as a result. Over the years, though, I had noticed that Nick and many others in the world of professional sports do the opposite. The more stressful the situation, the calmer they get. It’s almost like a detachment that allows them to navigate the situation. So on a whim one day I thought what the heck, I should try that, too. The next time I was in a high-stress situation I intentionally set up straight, slowed down my typing and told myself to chill out. And to my surprise, it actually worked. My heart rate dropped, my stress level subsided, and those angst-inducing issues turned out to be no more than the regular give and take of working on a project with others.
- Don’t make excuses
Like most people, I sometimes revert to the childhood conviction that the world revolves around me. My trainer never seems to buy it, though. Late? Not interested in the sad details. Had a bacon cheeseburger and chocolate cake? That’s not your husband’s fault for taking you out; you could have ordered something healthier. Yes you could have done three more reps; you just gave up for no reason. It’s not that he is an uncaring person; far from it. Over the years he and his wife have become good friends. But his job is not to be a shoulder to cry on; his job is to get me stronger and healthier. In the same way, no matter how wonderful my clients are, our relationship is based on a job that needs to get done, not on my personal needs. If I have internet issues I go to Starbucks. If my laptop breaks down I borrow another one or go to the library. If a project takes longer than expected I work through the night. Communication with clients is an excellent thing, but it’s not their job to hold my hand and listen to my tales of woe.
Now I know that none of this will be shocking news to any of you who’ve been doing this for a while. I just think it’s interesting how practical wisdom can come from unexpected sources, and I’m curious if any of you have had experiences in other areas of your life that you could apply to your business?