Ruha Ratnam

The Designist Studio

Two Questions to Simultaneously Consider the Immediate Future & Big-Picture

Person walking in fog down a path lined with bare trees

This song encapsulates how I feel as I write this: Nature by HEBE

It’s cold and foggy and rainy in St. John’s. The near-freezing temperatures outdoors and cozy indoors here have been conducive to the sort of deep reflection that normally comes with winter, and I’ve been exploring two big questions. 

The first – if I didn’t wake up again on Jan 1, 2024 what would I do with the time I have left (i.e. six months, give or take)?

The second – if I had a billion dollars, how would I use it, assuming I couldn’t use it to make more money?

I was inspired to consider the first question after hearing Kevin Kelly, long before he became an editor at Wired magazine, share his experience on This American Life. He found himself in a church in Jerusalem grappling with the feeling that he had six months left to live and had to do something with that time. I’ve heard it a few times now and it still makes me emotional. You can hear his story here

A caution of sorts: This question got me in a real mood and I’d recommend checking in with yourself to see if you are up for exploring it deeply.

I’ve tackled the second question with my partner because it matters to me that we have shared dreams, even billion-dollar ones. After we got a stack of post-its and cleared off the coffee table, we started putting down all the things we want to do with our hypothetical mega-money. It’s surprisingly hard to spend a billion dollars.

The two questions, considered over the same period of time, have a strange push-pull effect. On the one hand, I’m dreaming as big as I possibly can and stretching beyond the bounds of my comfort zone. On the other hand, I’m asking myself what’s important to me right now, and what of my lifestyle is unnecessary. 

I’m pruning and planting seeds at the same time. 

Taking time for myself to be in nature, paying attention to the beautiful and the awe-inspiring in both the mundane and the profound, reading poetry, listening to good music, having deep conversations with my partner, telling the people I love that I do, in fact, love them, these things are taking up so much space in my life and my heart.

As for my billion-dollars worth of ideas…some of them we discarded. Some we decided we can make a reality, and others we’ve realised don’t necessarily require $$$$$ to happen.

What does any of this have to do with business or branding?

It doesn’t have to, necessarily. However, when you have a personal brand, your life at large is going to influence how you show up in your business. It’ll impact your values and priorities, your goals, your schedule and client process and decision-making. 

And the summer months, when many are slowing down and taking time for themselves, can be an opportunity for us to think about how we want to spend our time going forward, what we want to prioritise, and what the big dreams are that matter to us.

Okay, for real though, here’s what it has to do with your business.

Here’s where I am after having spent some time with these questions. 

Looking through a very narrow lens at the next six months of my life, and then a vast lens with an explosive vision of my potential long-term decades-long future, I remembered the stages we go through in business. Generally, we think of it as:

Startup > Growth > Scale

I like to break it down a little more:

  1. Start up and build foundations
  2. Create reliable cash flow
  3. Become profitable in both finances and time 
  4. Increase impact 
  5. Build legacy


My clients tend to be in stages 2-4 and the problems particular to those stages are the ones I help solve. 

My own business is somewhere between stages 2-3 but I have been getting distracted by my ideas for stage 4 and even 5. Does this sound familiar – getting excited by the things that come down the road when we don’t have our foundations nice and strong? 

I could, presumably, continue with all my exciting ideas. Or, I could focus on creating reliable cash flow and streamlining my processes so that my business becomes profitable. 

At which point, I’d have more capacity and better access to resources so that I can more easily increase my impact, and eventually build a legacy. 

Recognising where I am in life and business, and considering what’s important to me right now, what’s enough, and what’s possible, help me make strong decisions about how to grow my business so that I achieve my goals.

So, what about you?

What’s important to you right now, and what do you want to build for the future? How do you hold both of those perspectives in your mind at the same time and make decisions accordingly, for yourself, your business, and your beautiful life?

Do you need deeper 1:1 advice for your stage of business?

If you need clarity around what to prioritise based on where your business is, you can book a 60-minute consultation with Ruha here.