I wrote the below excerpt at 2 AM in late 2013 when trying to set up an Etsy page. The setup wizard simply said "tell us about your shop"and for some reason, I launched into 5 paragraphs about the meaningful root causes of tardiness and why they shouldn't be so easily written off as symptoms of disrespect. I remember staying up all night to write this in desperate hopes that someone would identify with it and maybe buy a mat.
Fast forward three years, and somehow these paragraphs I wrote in the middle of the night turned into a hobby, then a company, and then a career. These simple doormats have exceeded my wildest expectations and continue to have legs where I never thought possible. But honestly, I've been struggling to find the words to commemorate Be There in Five's third birthday. As badly as I wanted to write an anniversary post about how far I've come, all I could think about is how I don't feel like I'm far enough along. In my 'finding your passion' blog post, I talked about what I perceive to be the self-sabotaging cycle of the ambitious. You think you know your definition of success only to raise your own bar and bring about seasons of self-doubt when you aren't meeting your own expectations. Even though the business is completely fine as it is, some days I really doubt my ability to take it to the next level. Some days I do not want to make major decisions, some days I wish I could defer to someone else. Some days I want to drink chocolate milk in bed and watch The Office reruns, but that has less to do with my job and more about me as a person. Anyway, I thought about not writing anything altogether, but upon revisiting what I wrote about my shop before it even existed, I changed my mind. I read about how I [at the time] was feeling like the internet was leaving me feeling more inadequate than inspired, and that I wanted Be There in Five to be the exception. I didn't want my customers to pretend like they had it all together, and frankly I shouldn't either. I'm so often in the position of giving other people advice, but most days I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of what I should know by now.
Being somewhat of an accidental entrepreneur is definitely something I've struggled with the past three years. Spending longer on my 'about' page than a go-to-market plan should have been the first sign that this role may be a little challenging for someone like me. I take daily stock of my shortcomings; all the things I know I should do but never get around to. I read about real 'game changers' and 'disrupters' that seem to be fundraising, networking, writing business plans and financial forecasts in between their many press releases, while I'm sitting here sorting through fresh tendrils of shipping labels and playing a never-ending game of hopscotch with drying rugs. How can I never have enough time, but feel like time is standing still?
The truth is, this is the hardest job I've ever had. You think self-employment is an escape from a boss who is hard on you until you realize that there is no harsher critic than yourself. Nagging middle management has nothing on this brain of mine, I'll tell you that much. I read articles about all the keys to growth and the qualities of successful entrepreneurs and have moments where I fear I've got it all wrong. And then I wonder if the universe will figure me out; that I'll be dubbed undeserving of this position and I'll have to go find a way to make all the tiny morsels of information I've collected in the past 3 years into something that resembles a mainstream career.
But whenever I have these passing moments of uncertainty, I try to remember that my high expectations and critical nature may be the exact reason I found myself in this role. Being an entrepreneur isn't a job for the self-satisfied and complacent. This isn't a job for people who think they already know everything. This isn't a job for those on the straight and narrow or for people who can't view the unknown as a canvas. Perhaps it would be a bigger problem if I did not have all of these thoughts. You have to be a little crazy to weather the difficulties and still keep coming back for more. The best way I can explain it is that the hard days don't make me want to quit; I have hard days because I never want to have to quit.
I'm telling you all of this because I don't want to be one of those articles that I previously mentioned; the ones that appear to only show the highlight reel. I want anyone else who is in the thick of it to know I'm right there with you. And most of all, I want to encourage anyone who is pursuing something to lean in to the hard days. (Lean In! What an original thought! Thank God I wrote this blog post!) The hard days help you reach a level of self-awareness that isn't possible when you can redirect blame onto a company, management or a client. The hard days can be powerful catalysts if you let them. They help you recommit, they help you practice gratitude, and most of all, they take you back to the hopeful place where it started, sitting on your computer at 2 AM, writing something you don't know if anyone will ever read. Just like I'm doing now.
So for today I'll toast to my little company that I love so dearly; thank you for introducing me to myself and for providing me with the greatest adventure of my life thus far. Cheers to 3 years and many more.
We'll be here in 5 years, we swear :)