Working for yourself isn’t easy. So what’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me as an entrepreneur?
Some will say it’s a random act, but I call it divine intervention. Here’s the story:
I was working 60 hour weeks, trying so very hard to get my business off the ground. I was answering every email and phone call, saying yes to every opportunity, reading new books and articles, making new plans, working every angle I could think of.
There were days when I just ached from the feelings of disappointment.
First of all, I had thought that working for myself was going to be this grand adventure! with explosions of inspiration! and passionate excitement! It was, but with far more work involved than I had ever imagined.
Also, I wanted so badly to do work I loved and combine that with being of service, but I was met with what I perceived to be a deafening silence. Actually, that was not true–no one was silent. In fact, the praise and gratitude came in. However, at the end of the day, I was paying my rent and not much else.
My credit card bills were slowly rising, and then my self-loathing would spike upwards as well, requiring quite a few talks with myself to Calm the Fuck Down (and then reminders to practice what I preach, with gentleness).
So here’s what happened, the life-changing event: A tooth filling fell out. My tongue ran over a little grooved divet on a back molar, and I immediately knew that a filling had come out.
My very first thought, before anything else, was this: “I’m done with this.”
As in, I’m done with struggling this hard, for this long.
Wanting stability? That’s okay.
It was not just a bad day.
It was a realization that working for myself required girding my loins for stress in a way that I had hung with for the better part of a year, doing the credit card juggle and getting up close and personal with the word sacrifice, mostly because that’s what I believed the first three years of working for yourself had to be all about. And at the risk of…
…sounding like I didn’t “have what it takes”…
…not being one of those slick-talkin social media “I made $100k my first year!” hipsters…
…not “following my dreams” in the right way…
…at the risk of all that, this. just. simply. was. not. what. I. wanted. anymore.
Perhaps in the face of that inner critic voice,you are much like I was, and you respond by buying another Seth Godin book or reading the websites of people who have “made the leap” and are now working for themselves, cashing those fat checks, happy to dispense advice about how you can do it, too (and, uh, P.S.? Comparing yourself and hating yourself).
But in that moment when the filling was out and I was staring at my teeth in the mirror, I knew that I was done reading articles on personal branding do’s and don’ts.
That very day, I emailed my former boss and got back on the payroll, part-time.
But not THAT kind of “done”
But wait! I was not done with working for myself.
I was done with adding the extra hurdle of trying to figure out how to pay rent while I was building my business. I was done with uncertain finances. I just wanted some stability to take the pressure off, while I built what I was doing.
It was the best decision, ever. All the drama I’d put into this question of whether or not to work for myself was reduced to this simple series of events: I had tried quitting my job, but hated working entirely for myself and the pressure it demanded of me, and so I went back to working for someone else, part-time, while I continued to develop my business.
So, sure. It’s un-hip and un-cool because I didn’t do this all renegade, and sometimes when my job was sucking, I would think to myself, jokingly, that I really ought to look up the symptoms of a nervous breakdown, just so I know them should I be in the midst of having one.
But at the end of the day, which is to say most of the time, it’s more like this:
Honey, there’s just no shame in having health insurance.
Or paying rent. Or being debt free. Or working a salaried job while you build up your passion project. Or just working your salaried job and always having your passion reserved as a side hobby.
I know that it’s not… sexy to talk about health insurance and rent and debt and jobs.
But it is courageous.
How’s that? you say.
I’ll tell you: there is something really juicy and rich, I’ve found, about working with the what-is-ness of my life.
The what-is-ness of my life was that I was not the next internet cool kid. The what-is-ness of my life was that I needed to work part-time, and that sometimes I didn’t like it. Then I worked with that, and tried to get into the what-is-ness of that.
Working with what-is was how I worked through my critical fears and the voices that said: You’re a sell-out. You’re working for the man. You’re short-changing your dreams.
When you’re working with what-is, that’s truly living.
I used salaried employment to create stability while I build my business. Along the way, I was living my life. I was coaching, writing books, leading retreats–yes, on the side, and yes, after my salaried work was taken care of, but nonetheless I had the honor and privilege of building a business while being gainfully employed along the way.
Not so very cool? Sure. But definitely less stress.
Yep, there’s just no shame in having health insurance.
The great moral of the story, of course, is that as soon as I surrendered and let go and created some space for myself by doing the thing that I had been so afraid would mark me was a failure–get part-time work–that’s when my business really took off. I gave it room to breathe. I also began to enjoy it in a new, fresh, exciting way.
So I just want to say, for all the people out there whose inner critics are telling them that they should have “flown the coop” already, and “taken the leap” and “trusted that the net will appear” and “risked everything for what they believe in” and all of that?
You’re fine. Really. It’s all happening in exactly the way it needs to. Let the drama of “it’s not happening the way it should” die down enough for you to get present, and quiet, and still–and when the moment comes for you to make a change?
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