I’ve been a little quiet lately, stewing in glorious overwhelm. While all seems quiet as we have no websites launched, it’s a madhouse behind the scenes. Almost every day some brand new thing happens that makes things even more powerful, fascinating, or solves a problem. The number of people I am to “follow up with in a couple weeks” makes me want to take a nap. To say I’m over my “ew, I don’t like the phone” is quite an understatement. My networking skills and “Rolodex” are on fire!
Life never quite goes in a straight line and yet I wouldn’t change anything that happened to get to this point.
But today I want to talk about the roller coaster. I’d say the “bipolar” nature of it all, but that is offensive to people actually struggling with bipolar, where they have to manage anger flashes, and extreme behavior, medication, spouses who don’t get them, kids who are afraid sometimes.
Yet there is an entrepreneur version of the extreme highs and lows that we know about, but not everyone will admit. I call it a “ping pong” feeling, where you can be lower than low, then in one call, or email, or meeting, you can be higher than high. Then another call, or thought, or conversation can crash you back down. I do not believe this has anything to do with strength of character (I’m actually not a moody person by nature and never have been) but with the intense power we hold on to our vision AND our egos.
This is why, I really believe, people who just chase the money, never quite get there because they aren’t in the stew of emotions and may not listen closely to customers, or extend themselves further than they thought humanly possible. They are the excuse makers of the world. It makes sense because if you want to do as little work as possible, you do what marketer Jeff Walker calls “hope marketing.” You don’t act like your pants are on fire and moving fast and furious is going to get you where you want to be. Seriously, there are ways to make good money without this much extreme emotion!
The nature of entrepreneurism is not taught in therapy schools. The faculty have stability, though a few are adjunct and do have mostly busy lives outside the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the daughter of an academic who has proven you can do unbelievably amazing things outside the office. My father is probably more grounded in complex reality than most people outside academia, due to the work he’s done and the innovation he continues to do.
But, there is something about creating our future that only WE control that takes an emotional toll. The vision some of us carry is breathtaking, for a better world…for our role in that betterment. We fight stereotypes people have about us, or about our vision, or about the road to get there. We fight the “shoulds” and we fight our own instincts. We fight the oppressive nature of some therapists interpretations of what we can do, what insurance allows us to do, and what HIPPA mandates.
We fight trusting that we are in fact the most awesome version of ourselves the world has ever seen and that nobody can be us and nobody can share our unique gifts with our unique life lens.
Here are a few things that keep me sane and moving forward:
I trust my instincts and vision. I hold it with great energy so that when I’m feeling beaten down, I go back to that bubble inside me and get all excited again. If I didn’t have good instincts and a vision, I wouldn’t survive. In fact, my vision takes my breath away sometimes because it seems so gloriously large and far reaching.
Really amazing friends and acquaintances. Some of them are so beyond hilariously awesome that they touch not just the “rah rah” cheerleader voice I need to hear, but they’re own awesome ego’s rub up against mine, and remind us we’re all human weeble wobbles, trying to stay standing and walk into our vision.
Here is an example that had me laughing out loud.
The friend: Woman, never doubt your power. You have already made a huge contribution to the field and your ideas are OVER THE TOP GREAT!!!
Me: awww thanks i may copy that and print it out.
The friend: Do it! Some day my quotes will be famous!!!
Keep testimonials and positive quotes people say about you so that you can reread them for a boost. Or simply ask for a pick me up from a loved one or friend to remind you how awesome you are. When we realize, truly, how little we know about anything, it can shred our confidence. These folks keep us afloat.
Know that there is no easy road and “excuses”, whether very real, or simply felt to be real, will always slow you down. The goal is to manage those excuses and keep on keeping on. There will always be illness, a crisis, time management struggles, and things outside our control. But for those with a big vision, you have to continue. While I put in 50 hour weeks in 4 days in grad school, I was still doing work emails all day long to serve customers, I was still learning 5-10 hours of marketing (usually audio so I multitasked with playing Solitaire as I learned… and yes, that is relaxing and energizing to me.) Did I have to give up a lot, absolutely. But I knew I couldn’t just “coast” for two years if I wanted to reach my vision. Truth be told, it’s also honestly really fun stuff and it felt out of balance for me to not pay attention to this important part of me.
Find inspiration elsewhere. For me, I have a vision for the therapy field that is quite big and very far from what it is today. This past weekend I watched the moving Spinning Plates, a documentary about three restaurant owners. One of them had me in tears with his creativity, vision and self-expression about what food and restaurant life mean to him. That man inspires me for who he is and what he has to do to fight his industry’s standard practices and beliefs.
Obnoxious people are going to be in your path. It takes a lot of energy to deal with frustrating people and not let them zap you. I put people who don’t listen in this category. I’ve been given some of the most amazingly bizarre advice from people who have no idea what I’m doing, or what I already know. It’s fascinating and a bit disturbing, really. I always use these opportunities to check in with myself and my vision, and often I’m reminded of how far I’ve come when their advice is very dated to myself 5+ years ago when I was not in the same spot as I am today. It helps me remember why I’m doing what I’m doing and helps me remember my unique gifts. (Hint: if you are looking to pay a consultant and they give advice that you find out pretty quickly is not at all related to your business, run. This happened with someone I wanted to hire for a system I use and I just felt bad for the guy who was fantastic with instant follow up with me, throughout a few week period, but missed the ball entirely by not asking me about my business but instead yaking about his success.)
There are many paths, and you get to chose yours! This is a bit similar to above, but successful people take many paths, with many micro decisions on what they’re going to do, how they’re going to express themselves, and where they are going to put their energy. The glorious thing is you get to define your own path!! I am never going to be a schmoozy person, licking the behinds of big wigs, writing sales copy to fluff myself up, act like my customers are dumb and just greedy, or make my organization appear more powerful than it is. You’d be amazed how many small businesses have consultants on hand or for contract work who list those people on their team to make it seem like there is a lot more business and work than there is! I’ve literally seen 9+ people on a page, and it turns out there are just two people working, and the rest get an occasional gig.
Bring others along for the ride. The collaboration and amazingly diverse group of people I’m working with “this go around” on this new Doherty Relationship Institute is so freakin’ fun and awesome. I felt like I was in a silo before, self induced obviously, because these same people have always been around. Being around the right people in the right business context brings out more in you and makes finding those win-win scenario easier. We’re working with schools, divisions, big famous therapists, researchers, associations, non-profits, and much more. I can go into my bravery because I’m exactly where I’m meant to be and walking into my vision. If others don’t share the vision or turn into obnoxious people, their loss and I move on!
Context matters. What I mean here is sanity may ebb and flow in this work, but the bigger context can keep you strong or can zap you. The tricky thing before the last business wasn’t my vision but the context of the organizational structure. I was about 7 months pregnant when my father said, “hey, I have this idea with a colleague but neither of us have the time to do the daily grunt work. No pressure, but if you wanted to do the work, I’ll pursue this idea, otherwise I won’t.” I was going to be a stay at home mom and make a few dollars on the side. I bought into the business more recently, but hadn’t done all the leg work to chose all aspects of the business.
Similar to buying into an existing business, be aware that you are buying into a lot of strong assumptions, perceptions and historical memories and other people’s visions. That is hardly the same thing as I’m creating now! I built INTO a vision, for sure, that I carry and will execute into my next therapy directory, but I was torn in many directions. Some of my father and my work belonged to us, some to just him, some to just me, and some to the business. It gets very complicated and makes vision work harder when there are permissions to ask different people to do things that impact them. If you find yourself in the wrong context everything may go wrong. If you change where you are, everything may flow. For me now, it’s a glorious flow. Everything sits inside DRI and every benefit from one piece of work can flow organically around. I can be the vision and the operations person and that is exactly how I like it.
Everyone fails and has dirty closets (literal or figurative.) At the end of the day there is not a single person who ever stepped easily into their vision. This helps keep me going!! Those who move more quickly are likely to have even dirtier homes because they dedicated more time and energy to their vision. I am far from perfect and my house would probably make Martha Stewart shriek in horror. But ya know I am fine with that. All values compete with each other, and the time spent cleaning is time not spent decompressing, or visioning, or getting work done. My house is clean enough. Everything takes longer to launch, with more effort and stamina that we could ever imagine. Things we believe are solid fall apart and throw away ideas become the linchpin of a new business. It’s all complicated and a knot of rope that we yank on one end of and see what happens.
Laughter and humility are the best medicine. I took Saturday as a rare “me day” and was leaving a coffee shop, didn’t turn where I was supposed to, and got LOST. Not just a little lost, but I had no idea what direction I was going and couldn’t figure out how SIRI works on my IPhone 5 and there was never quite a place to pull over for directions. All I could do is laugh at my extreme incompetence in some areas of my life. I also extra enjoy those silly animal videos, clever comedy bits, and anything that gets me out of the seriousness and stress of starting a big, bold new business. A sweet entrepreneur friend, for example, sent me a care package. Wouldn’t you know, the care package was kid-proof by way of bubble wrap they liked, but it wasn’t cat-proof by way of the COOKIES hiding inside. The cats ate then upchucked the care package. (It’s the thought that counts, B, if you’re reading this!) :-)
I actually feel closer to other entrepreneurs and small business owners lately. We’re all secretly freaking out or freaking up (a new term I just made up whereby we have blasts of extreme joy and energy that keep us going, psychically, for the mad spiral down.)
In my happy place, we’re all able to be honest in our successes, failures, freak outs, and freak ups.
In this space we are allowed to cry, scream, nap, and feel every roller coaster move into our bravery.
This is tough stuff folks. The more you don’t fit “the mold” of doing “what you should be doing” as a therapist, the less support you get, the more people shun you, question you, or feel insecure and inferior around you.
Graduate school was a huge self help program. Entrepreneurship is like grad school on crack.
But if you don’t fill your vision….who will?