After the great response to the interview I did for Jill on her Dreamers into Do-ers series, I think it’s high time I talk a bit more about the difficult and invaluable lessons I learned during the first six months of running Jess LC full-time.
I’ve hesitated to bring up this topic here on the blog for fear of reproach. This lesson was incredibly important for me, but is one that some people may disagree with or dislike. So I want to begin by saying this is my personal experience and is in no way meant to be shared as advice on how others should approach their businesses.
No “Plan B”
It all began about three months after I moved to Chicago and “set up shop” in my studio apartment. At that point in time I needed to sell $1,000 worth of jewelry to stores to make enough money to pay for all of my expenses. Each week I went shop to shop, showing and selling my jewelry. Some weeks I reached $1,000 by Wednesday. Other weeks took a bit longer. Some weeks I never got to a thousand.
The uncertainty of the business was beginning to drain me. Erwin had started his new job and he had a paycheck. He knew how much he would make each week. He didn’t have to “hunt” for it. And I wished I could create a budget, make a rational plan of action for my money. But that was impossible.
The discomfort of the business uncertainty culminated and eventually began to wear on me. On my brain. On my body. I started to get heart palpitations and a grinding feeling in my gut. My chest started to get tight and breathing became labored. Usually it lasted for just a few moments, but long enough to scare the crap out of me. I felt like a 55-year-old man about to have a heart attack. But I was 23, self-employed, and barely had health insurance.
Needless to say, it was a dark time.
I had a sudden realization. I was freaking out because this was it. This was what I was going to do. There was no “Plan B” that I wanted to fall back on. There was no fiber in my body that wanted to do any other career.
Eventually, after reflecting on my struggle and stress, I had a sudden realization. I was freaking out because this was it. This was what I was going to do. There was no “Plan B” that I wanted to fall back on. There was no fiber in my body that wanted to do any other career.** My soul wanted to make Jess LC work and then begin my “book” (which most of you know, is now in the form of MML).
This helped me recognize that I had the resolve to get through this difficult time and others to come in the future (hello, Recession of 2009). And in a strange roundabout way, this realization helped me to relax. Though the financial situation did not automatically improve, my outlook sure did. Eventually the anxiety attacks subsided. Other orders came in, and I carried on. All the while I knew that in the deepest parts of my body I wasn’t giving up. I was in this for the long-haul.
**The Back Story
It would be lovely to end the story here. It makes me look like I am an incredibly strong person who never wavers, never falls.
And that is certainly not the case.
In fact, at many points in my life I have failed or quit. And it took a toll on my self-esteem. I was a person of extremes. All or nothing. When I used to train for marathons in college, I thought that I would drop out of a race rather than slow down or walk. I would quit if I couldn’t get the pace exactly right.
So I half-expected myself to feel the same about the business. All or nothing. I thought I would quit after “trying to make it work.” Once business got hard, I would peace-out with a handful of excuses as to why it wasn’t meant to be. Why I gave it all I had, and then walked away.
But after getting past the point of physical discomfort, I proved to myself that I was strong. I was not the same person I used to be. My past failures didn’t predict this outcome in business. Quitting was simply not an option anymore.
Now in business and running, I slow down when I need to. I walk. A business is a lot like a marathon. They aren’t built in the first six miles. They are built step by step, over dozens of miles. The point isn’t to keep a “perfect” pace, the point is to cross the finish line and enjoy the scenery.