lesson learned: no “plan b”

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.

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  1. Jill

    you know me already… I am endlessly inspired by the “no plan b” idea. Think about it, if you are doing something that you DO have a plan-b for… should you be doing that thing? Having no plan b allows you to go full force in the direction you desire to go. If you have a plan b, it could be an indicator that you aren’t following your ultimate dream or your best life path.

    It’s so amazing that you stuck it out and lived to tell the story. It’s very commendable!

  2. I completely agree with you here. The most successful businesses are built when there’s no Plan B.

    I think middle ground is good as you run your business, knowing that things are not always going to be super successful, but, by not having a Plan B, you are forced to live those times, rather than defaulting back to your safe Day Job. I’ve been thinking so much about this lately and I’m encouraged by what you say here.

  3. By the way, I hopped over to Jess LC for the first time and got SUCKED IN. OMG, your stuff is beautiful.

    I ended up buying two things, which, by the way, I never do. I rarely buy jewelry. But, come on! Your aesthetic is just so simple and beautiful.

    Good for you and not having a Plan B. This venture is going to go big!

  4. Lisa

    I’m loving the new direction your blog is taking and how you are sharing more of your inspirational story. Jill’s comment above – that having no plan b gives a person the freedom and drive to pursue her best life path – is so insightful and it makes me wonder how things would be for me if I had no plan b. Great post, thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Ajay

    Great post. I appreciate your honesty at the end 🙂

    I think we all go through those ups and downs, so its refreshing to see someone that has traveled through her own “trough of sorrow” and did not quit.

  6. Cathy

    Thanks for sharing! I love that you’re filling us in on how you got to where you are today. And of course I appreciate the marathon analogy 🙂 If you look at a marathon as 26.2 miles it can get overwhelming. But if you take it a mile at a time, it’s more manageable.

    Another way to think about it is, “How do you eat an elephant?”

    “One bite at a time.”

  7. Andrea

    Great article. I think this subject applies to many things in the modern world.

    I am also an all-or-nothing type and I work in the world of politics where there is always a new project or deadline, but the constant go-go-go burns you out (or gives you panic attacks) in no time unless you learn to breathe and slow down.

  8. Hurray for the honesty. I love your blog but have found many times it too “fluffy”. Here was a great young gal who knew what she wanted, achieved it and didn’t have worries or strife. I often couldn’t relate because my journey seemed so different. I thought it unfair that someone could be so happy and have it so easy. Your struggles and the journey make it more real and meaningful. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Jess

    @ Christina:

    Hi Christina,

    Thank you so much for your comment! I apologize for the site coming off too “fluffy.” My story and beginning full-time is certainly not fluffy, but over the course of making under, I have grown a lot and learned to trust in the process- which has helped me get through difficulties with less strife than before. That said, part of me has kept certain difficulties from the blog for the following reasons:

    – When difficulties arise that have to do with my biracial relationship, personal conflicts with friends or family, or with people in business, I do not find integrity in airing those complaints. There are a lot of things I wish could be different in relationships, but since no one asked to be mentioned on the blog, let alone discussed in a negative light, I refrain from mentioning the situations.

    – When difficulties arise in my current business, I feel it is unproductive to dwell (too much) on hardships personally or on the blog. I prefer to learn the lesson that comes from the situation and then share that meaning on MML. In addition, I personally am working to truly take the quote I shared by Godin today, “Stuff happens. We dance with it. The better and happier you dance, the better you do.” seriously.

    – And lastly, I’ve hesitated to share some harsh realities of the past when starting the business, because I though some readers might get angry because their situations are not the same. The No Plan B is a great example. This was a huge lesson for me when I was 23, and helped me become successful today. I think many people can benefit from hearing it. But I also know a lot of readers are mothers with kids (aka: more responsibility), mortgages, and a million reasons on why they can’t take a “No Plan B” course of action. So I have in the past stayed away from these topics. However, I am encouraged by your comment and others, to be able to honestly share my story without fear of reproach.

    I hope this gives you a better idea of my life and perspective and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Have a great day,

    @ All: Of course as you know, I usually send personal emails, so check your inboxes! I did feel that Christina’s comment warranted discussion here on MML, so I shared my response above.

  10. Dayka

    I love your willingness to be open & honest while sharing your experiences about starting your business. One day I hope to be an interior designer, and it serves as a reminder that whatever road I choose, it’s not always going to be easy, but it should be worth the struggle. Great article.

  11. reproach? no way! thanks for sharing such a personal & scary part of your experience–it’s invaluable to hear about experiences from people i admire like you, jess!

  12. I really like the topics you talk about and don’t think anything on MML is fluffy. And, I totally understand why you talk about the things you do, and why you may wait until the future to talk about current struggles, because what good does that do? Keep up the great posts, Jess!

  13. Jess, I always enjoy your authenticity! Creating your life by design will certainly have moments of heart palpitations and times we second guess ourselves momentarily, but that contrast is the beauty of life! It makes our successes all the more sweet.

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