Engineering the Evolution of Your Business

| 12-min read Stay updated

For my New Year message. (and Episode #463 of the Marketing Mentor Podcast), I’m sharing the opening of a brand new presentation I gave on how I’ve been engineering the evolution of my business (instead of letting it happen by itself).

So listen here and below and learn. 


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Read the transcript here: 

Hi there. This is Ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor, and this is the podcast for you, if and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind. And I mean for good.

Happy 2023 y'all. It's a new year, which means a fresh start, which means it's time to shake things up a bit and try some new things in this laboratory that is my business. More on that idea in today's episode. 

For 2023, I will of course continue to do interviews with creatives who are practicing what I preach. But I will also alternate those interviews with monologues in which I will share what I'm reading, thinking about, and how I'm connecting the dots of my own business to make it what I want it to be. So I hope you will listen and learn.

All right, this is Ilise benun, and we're doing something a little bit different. I'm going to share the opening of a presentation that I'll be giving later this week for the new year. It's called Engineering the Evolution of Your Business. And I'm going to be talking about how I have been engineering the evolution of my business. 

It starts with a basic idea, that I've been talking about for a while, which is that your business is a laboratory for your personal growth as well as your professional growth. And so that means you practice, and you test things out, and you try things out and you learn from everything, and then you keep implementing and improving as you go. And the idea is to keep the stakes very low.

The thing about the new year is that you have a fresh start; an opportunity for a fresh start. And according to my favorite book at the moment, which is called How to Change by Katy Milkman, she talks about these magical moments when you have to seize it, and that's the best opportunity to actually make change. And of course, the new year is one of those moments. 

So that's why I think now is the best time to try to implement some new things and to get rid of some old habits and replace them with new, better ones. 

So then back to the idea of engineering the evolution of your business: When I told a good friend of mine that that was the title of my presentation, he said, "Engineering evolution. That sounds like a contradiction. And those two things don't go together." 

And I said, "Well, maybe. Maybe not." So I thought I would articulate a little bit how I think about them coming together.

So engineering … I'm not an engineer, but the way I think about engineering, the definition I give it is: you're thinking strategically. And actually, this is informed also by Katy Milkman who studied to be an engineer, and so she comes to neuroscience and behavioral economics from an engineering perspective. And that was one of the kind of lightning moments that helped her frame her thinking and come up with her excellent ideas. 

So engineering is thinking strategically and understanding the oppositional forces—those are the obstacles that are going to get in your way, and finding workarounds. And she calls some of the workarounds ‘commitment devices,’ which I'll talk a little bit about. 

And actually, one of these obstacles is one of the cognitive biases. She calls it ‘present bias,’ also known as impulsivity. And present bias is when you're biased toward the present, which we all often talk about as favoring instant gratification over long-term rewards. So for me that would be the glass of wine tonight versus the bad night of sleep later on.

So maybe think about what are the choices that you make, and what does your present you choose versus your future you? And this is actually an idea related to podcast number 460 when I spoke to Mori Taheripour about her book, Bring Yourself. And she talked a lot in that book about negotiating with yourself. And so I think this negotiation between the present you and the future you is one element of that. So, should I have the glass of wine tonight or the two glasses of wine tonight knowing that I will not sleep well? Which will I choose? Which would you choose? 

And the point that Katy Milkman makes is that doing the right thing isn't really satisfying in the short term, and so you have to make a decision. Are you choosing the short term or the long term? And present bias is basically choosing the short term.

But another point she makes is that engineers solve problems. And one way to see running a business is that it's really nothing but a series of problems to solve. And I am not an engineer, but I do love solving problems. So, if we combine the idea of engineering with evolution … what is evolution? 

I think of it as gradual change—sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but always gradual—which happens organically and through natural selection. 

So there isn't any engineering of it per se. But to me the goal of engineering the evolution of my business is the idea of marrying these two ideas, which means letting things evolve organically, not trying to force it, not trying to push it, but also engineering the direction that it's going in. And I do think it's a very fine balance to walk and it requires constant attentiveness.

So then the next idea is about something I've mentioned already, which is the present you versus the future you. And it really is sometimes a battle, much more than a negotiation, it's a battle. 

And so present bias is all about present you, but we definitely need a workaround. And to me, the antidote to present bias—because this is something that we're wired to have a bias toward the present, which doesn't mean we can't change it or do anything different, but it has to be very conscious—so the antidote to present bias is visualizing the future. Basically, bringing your future and the details about it into your mind so it maybe isn't such a faraway future. 

And so this is really a nice argument for why it makes sense to take time at the beginning of the year especially, when there’s some magical moments happening, to visualize the future you want—which isn't to say that it will just happen; there's effort required obviously.

But I do think that if you start to visualize it and think about it, brings it closer and makes it more possible. You can see it. You can feel it. 

So as it relates to me, basically I asked myself a few questions. And those questions are looking toward the future: Who do I want to become? Who is the future ilise? Who do I want the future ilise to be? And because learning is important to me, what do I want to learn? What does the future ilise want to learn and to know and to be learning about?

And then another question I'm asking is, what impact do I want to have on the world, on my circle—the people in my circle, on anyone I happen to come into contact with? I can't really control the impact I have, but I can certainly guide it.

And then more practically, what do I want more and less of in my life as I evolve and as I grow, because if I just leave it up to chance, then it's very likely I will not have more of what I want or less of what I want.

So I'll share with you a few of the things I want more and less of. 

The main thing I want more of is more time. And I realize, of course, that everyone has the exact same amount of time, although we don't know how much time we have. 

But the kind of time I want is empty time, open time. I think about it as time to spare, or more slack in my schedule, or more cushion in my schedule, because I want time to read, and to follow my curiosity, and follow the links, and learn as I go, and not feel like I have to hurry up and get to the end of the chapter because I don't have much time. I hate that feeling and that's not how I want to use my time. 

So I want time to read and to follow my curiosity. And I also want time in between things, interstitial time, to process and reflect and remember.

So for example, I went to a gathering yesterday for New Year's, and then I came home and jumped right into the next thing. And today I'm taking time to reflect and remember moments or conversations or snippets of conversations or the look on someone's face that hadn't exactly registered in the moment or that went by too fast because there was a lot happening. 

But I love having the time in between things to just remember, and almost relive if you will, or rethink about or connect what someone said to something I already know about them. But again, if I didn't take that time or make that time to reflect, then I wouldn't make those connections. So I want more time to do all of those things.

I also want more quality, and I feel like that's a little bit vague, but here's how I think about it. 

I want higher quality: higher quality clients at higher rates. I want more time, again, to do my best work, so higher quality work, and that will take more time for sure. I don't do my best when I'm in a hurry. 

And I just want a general better quality of life, whatever that means to me. And it kind of changes every day, but I keep getting more and more details about what that could be, the more I think about it.

What do I want less of? I want less pressure. I want no more rushing. I did actually make a resolution last year to never rush again. And so far it's been pretty good. I think there have been a few little rushing moments, but in general, no more rushing, no more cramming, trying to cram things into a small amount of time. I don't do my best work, that links back to the idea of quality, low quality versus high quality. And no more dreading. I don't want to dread anything ever again, either.

So just wrapping up here, a few more thoughts. 

The idea that going back actually to the idea of your business is a laboratory for your personal growth, for your professional growth. And what that means also is that experiments beget other experiments, which beget other experiments on and on and on, not just a one-time thing, until something sticks. And that's what I've been experimenting with in my laboratory, which is my business. 

And so I think I will just leave it there. That's one of the things I'm thinking about, a few of the things I'm thinking about as we begin 2023. And there will be more of these, let's call them ‘monologues,’ on the podcast. As some people have said, "We love your interviews, but we want more of you and what you're thinking." So I'm trying to listen to the market, as I often do, and give the market what it is asking for.

So if you like this, please do let me know. Reach out to me at 

If you have questions or other ideas you want me to think about or talk about or reflect on, I am open to them. So thanks so much and Happy New Year.

I enjoyed that. I riffed and improvised a bit on this new presentation. I hope it was helpful and gave you some things to think about. 

As for a baby step, I would suggest thinking about and making a list of what you want more of and what you want less of in your life and in your business. Articulating and visualizing it just might move you a little closer to making it happen. So try it. 

So did you learn a little something? I hope so, because that's how this works, one baby step at a time. Before you know it, you'll not only eliminate feast or famine, you'll also have better clients with bigger budgets.

Speaking of better clients, they're probably not going to fall in your lap. That's why I am so thrilled to share the brand new and totally revamped 2023 Simplest Marketing Plan which outlines the three most effective marketing tools. If you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, this lays out the path. All you have to do is follow. 

Plus, you'll be invited to my monthly Office Hours gathering where you can meet, network with, and learn from like-minded, self-employed creatives who are practicing what I preach and taking control over their business and their life. Some are calling it ‘my tribe,’ and you are welcome to join. Find it all in the Marketing Mentor Shop at I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are doing what it takes to ditch the feast or famine syndrome. See you next time.


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