Confession time: a few months ago I was stopped for speeding. I’ve been driving for over 20 years and this is the first time I’ve ever been pulled over. The officer told me that I was going 9 mph over the speed limit, and let me go with a warning. I took it gratefully, and sheepishly crawled off.

When I got home (on jelly legs…wow, is that intimidating or what?), I realized I had been really preoccupied that day. I was driving on autopilot, traveling a familiar road, following a safe distance behind another car. Unfortunately, I allowed that other car to set the pace rather than carefully monitoring my own speed. Of course that’s no excuse, but I made a note of that tendency so I wouldn’t let it happen again.

Some time ago I decided to embrace “social media” so most days I spend a bit of time on Twitter and Facebook. The good thing about this is that I can see all of the exciting things that other business owners are doing–opening retail stores, branching out to new wholesale accounts, writing books. The bad thing about it is that I start to wonder if I should be doing these kinds of things, too. I made a decision not to sell wholesale, but should I reconsider? I don’t have a retail presence apart from my website–is that wise? It’s tempting to throw away my own game plan and step on the gas. Gotta power up to keep up with these other businesses, right?

The thing is, following these other business owners at their pace is just as likely to get me pulled over. Maybe I’ll be lucky and just get another “warning”, but every time I’ve ever followed someone else’s direction at their speed, I’ve gotten into trouble.

So I’m going to keep trying to set the pace myself. Maybe this sounds crazy, but I’m not interested in getting the whole world to use my lip balm, lotion, or other product. I really enjoy working directly with folks to make custom, personalized gifts that are just right for their events. If I offered things wholesale, I would become a factory and all of this conversation and collaboration would be gone. Working this way is almost the complete opposite of other companies, who make their products and then sell them. We’re making to order specifically for one special person. It’s part of what makes us different, but I’m not doing it just to be different. I’m doing it because I like it, and it means something to me. I think it means something to my customers, too. So as hard as it can be to set my own course and keep my own pace, I try to stay off “autopilot” and remain mindful of what makes my work so interesting and fun.

What do you think? Do you set your own pace, or do you let other people choose your direction or speed? How do you feel about setting your own pace? I’d love to know what you think!