AKA the joys and sorrows of the entrepreneurial journey, and other musings.
When I started out on this journey to start a new business a few months ago, I really thought I had something figured out. I had transformed my own life, with LOTS of help from others, going from depression, worry, and longing, to a much more peaceful, joyful existence. I felt great, and even thought I still have all the same human emotions and reactions as anyone, I felt like I carried some great secrets, things that were worth sharing, for how to work with all the messy human stuff that comes up. I knew I could transform lives.
As I’ve gone along these last few months, I’ve started to doubt myself. Maybe people really don’t want to feel peaceful and get past the overwhelm that living in this busy world can cause? Maybe they’re comfortable in their current lives and even though they complain, maybe they really don’t want to change? Maybe it’s too hard to trust themselves to take the steps they know they want and need to take?
Maybe I’m just “out there”, for wanting things to be different, for going out and figuring out how to make things different in my life, and for getting educated on how to work with others on their lives. It’s worrying to me (to a part of me, I should clarify), that maybe there is no real market for what I want to do. It’s not a quick fix, in our instant gratification world. It’s work, and it takes time.
I do have a few clients, got great feedback on a recent mini-book publication, and have had some amazing interactions with friends and colleagues over the last few months on subjects about which I am passionate. Tangible proof for the doubting parts of me, that some people are “getting” my message. And I know that it takes time to build a new business, more time than anyone ever thinks it will take. I’m in that great middle spot in the entrepreneurial journey so aptly dubbed the “pit of despair” (see graphic below, which calls it the “trough of sorrow”, but for some reason, I like “pit of despair” better, haha!), where you start figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
A part of me wonders what the hell I’m doing, getting out in the world, letting myself be vulnerable and real, and trying to help women trust their brilliance and change the way they start, build, and lead their businesses. It’s positively maddening, to sit in my own head and wonder if maybe I’ve made a huge mistake and I really do want to be a cog in a corporate machine.
Whew. It helps to say that out loud. I definitely do not want to be a cog in a corporate machine. Even in a machine of which I owned a big chunk. I loved a lot of what I did when I was a partner and operations VP in an engineering and environmental consulting company. Many aspects were great. I learned so much and have so much to offer the world as a result. For that I will be forever grateful.
But a lot was not great for me, and it took me many, many years of working really hard and trying hard to fit in before I finally admitted to myself that I would not, and could not, continue to work at it. I was no longer willing to try to change myself so that I felt better there. I was a square peg, as they say, and no amount of filing down the edges with personal development work was going to change that.
So, back to the question at hand. Who wants to do personal development work anyway, and how does it help in business? Why go through the discomfort of learning about yourself and diving into the mucky, messy areas of your psyche to harvest the pearls of wisdom that are hidden there and transform the way you feel about the world, yourself, life, your work? It’s so easy to stay in the comfortable discomfort of the familiar.
Well, why did I do it? Am I just a relentless seeker of new and better? Sometimes it’s seemed that way. I sure was a relentless seeker around my own life and purpose. And I was always looking at the way we did things at my company, and finding that there were better ways, processes to be improved, opportunities to think about things differently, things we weren’t yet doing.
At times, this must have looked a lot like dissatisfaction to other people, especially my partners, the frequent recipients of my ideas and “beneficiaries” of my relentless quest for improvement. It’s true that I was never one to be happy with the status quo, but it was not because I hated the place. What it really turned out to be was “vision” and bountiful creativity in a business setting. I could see possibilities, so many amazing possibilities. I came to realize, after many years of feeling like I was beating my head on a wall, that other people usually didn’t see what I saw.
I’ll admit, I was not always the most successful at communicating the “why”. I expected that everyone could see these glorious opportunities in technicolor, like I could. That they would understand intuitively why we would want to undertake change, even if it was hard. Because it would be so much BETTER! Easier for people to understand, more-streamlined, less error-prone, more enjoyable for the people who worked there, just…better.
I jumped right to the solution so many times, without taking people along with me for the ride regarding how I got there. In fact, sometimes I didn’t know how I’d gotten there myself, I just knew in my gut that this idea was a good one and we should GO FOR IT! There was sometimes conflict with my partners about this, because I couldn’t always walk them through how I knew what I knew. I just knew, and I felt committed to that truth.
Am I dealing with the same thing now in my new business, trouble articulating the vision? Seeing possibility, seeing a better way to live and work, but not quite being able to articulate that to the women I want to work with? Can I tell you the benefits of working with me in a way that makes you interested in knowing more? Have I asked enough questions of my potential client base, to make sure I’m offering something they really want? I have no idea yet; really, in the grand scheme of the entrepreneurial journey, I’ve barely started trying to answer these questions.
But I can still see the future. And it looks like you, being so damned competent and confident dealing with the ups and downs of your own life and work that you won’t believe how different it feels to live this way. It looks like having tools and skills, not of my making or teaching, but from your own deep inner resource, an ability to respond in the moment that bubbles up effortlessly. When you have this trust in yourself, you know deep down that you’ll always be just fine, even if sometimes the surface layers are choppy. It looks like going with the flow in a way that serves your health and happiness, and the health and happiness of the people around you.
The future looks like relentlessly eliminating things you’re tolerating in favor of things that serve your higher purpose, because really, who’s got time for anything else? It looks like being really IN your life in a new way. And it looks like trusting yourself, because you actually already know exactly what you need to do and why, and yet for whatever reason you haven’t been doing it. The hard work is getting you out of your own head and into your life, finding trust in yourself and in the brilliance of your own wisdom.
So anyway, why would this matter to you? I have no idea today, but I can tell you this work has got peaceful and introspective and “glad to be alive every day, serving my purpose in the world” at the end of it. If anyone actually wants that. 😊
If you’d like a copy of my mini-book “How Belly Dancing Ended My Engineering Career: Take the First Steps From Frazzled, Frustrated, and Unfulfilled to Your Joyful, Purpose-Filled Life” then drop me a message here and I’ll send it right over.