Someone once quipped that things will often get worse before they start to get better. Someone else stated that it’s darkest before dawn. I am no stranger to either of these sayings and my rather dramatic past had always more or less followed similar patterns.
It still took me by surprise, for some strange reason, when things went from bad to worse during my little self-discovery rabbit hole. I mean, I was supposed to be figuring shit out, right? Wrong. I was making a fervent attempt alright. But since I had no clue in what direction to go, it was more of random shots in the dark, hoping to find the light in the very dark tunnel.
So one of the things I did (very randomly) was to cut off my long beautiful locks. Apparently when a woman cuts off her hair it signals the beginning of great change in her life. Well that was certainly very accurate in my case. That change triggered a number of decisions in my life, some great, most not great at all and some, just outright mistakes.
One of the first decisions I made, rather haphazardly I may add, was to quit my job. My very cushy, solid with lots of benefits management job. To be honest I had mulled over quitting for a long time, but my actual resignation was pretty rushed and almost impulsive. Since I was pretty determined to leave though, I looked around and got myself a decent offer at a startup where I convinced myself that I would get a fresh start. Sounds good right? Wrong again. Within two weeks of starting there I was miserable and figured I had nothing to lose since I was already a quitter (lol); one of my friends commented that I had just set the record for quitting two jobs in under two months.
In retrospect it was a huge mistake to take the latter job since I was quite done with employment at that point. However, I was terrified of the financial implications of being unemployed so I needed the false comfort of a monthly paycheck.
This was only the start of several decisions that I would make where finances controlled my choices. Needless to say, my advice to you in this regard, don’t be in a rush to make decisions especially on the basis of finances or pressure from external parties. Take your time, weigh the pros and cons and do things because you actually want to do them.
Now convinced that I was done and dusted being an employee, I ventured into the murky waters of entrepreneurship. Without going too much into the messy details, let’s just say that things went from bad to worse and then got really ugly.
My greatest challenge here was immersing myself into other people’s business ideas (yes, I still had the employee mindset) and helping them build their dreams. I’m the type of person who throws all her energy into something and this is exactly what I did. Until I woke up one day, bitter, angry and resentful and having no clue why I was so demotivated. By this time, I was running on empty and the battle scars of an election year had taken their toll on both me and the business.
Just as I was coming up for air, my family suffered a painful tragic loss and I literally put my discovery journey on hold to deal with the fallout. The most painful lesson during this time was realizing that people I thought were my close friends were actually just colleagues who had moved on the second I quit my job.
Not only was I battling immense pain and agonizing over life’s decisions; I was also doing it in a state of isolation which was not very familiar for me having been surrounded by people for most of my life. I ended up auditing all my so called friendships and came up with a painfully short list. This was easily the toughest lesson which I will talk more about in a later post.
Wading back into business, I ventured into yet another enterprise hoping to get it right. This time though, despite basing my decision on financial pressures, I was able to realize my greatest strengths and leverage myself towards what was slowly mapping out as my ultimate direction. This time, the scars were not too painful as I shut the door on yet another chapter in my rabbit hole. Interestingly though, this particular door has led to many other windows being flung open which I view as a sign that I am finally headed in the right direction.
What have I learnt, you may ask? Sometimes you can learn from another’s experience but some lessons just have to be learnt firsthand. And often you may not even know the difference.
As much as possible avoid making decisions solely for money. It’s easy to be motivated by money; change jobs for a salary increase, go into a business deal for the money and so on. It may seem logical at first but money is very fickle. When making tough life decisions, seek for a deeper meaning within you. That will serve as your true anchor even when the money is not forthcoming.
Be careful who you go into business with. Partnerships are tricky and can quickly deteriorate if you haven’t covered all the bases. Business with family or friends can quickly create some very blurry lines and potentially cost you relationships with your relatives. Business also brings out the ugliest sides of people (myself included) so be prepared to deal with a lot of side shows. Not everyone is cut out for business and you need to have very honest conversations with yourself and also come clean with your partners for seamless transitions.
Learn how to keep your personal life separate from the business side. This can be hard especially if you’re very close with your partners so again, have tough conversations and create the rules early on to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Most importantly, understand what your value is and what you are bringing to the table. Believe in yourself and what you are capable of delivering and don’t be shy about charging what you are worth. Create value for your clients and let your work speak for itself. It also really helps to have someone who can be objective with you and always call you out and keep you straight. A sounding board that isn’t afraid to talk back.
My personal best lesson – you never stop learning. Always seek to improve yourself, which means keeping an open mind and accepting that there could always be a better opinion or a better way than yours. I’ve learnt how to be humble and to forgive myself often. This helps me learn from the experience without focusing too long on the mistake. Dust yourself off, learn the lesson, get up and try again. And again. And again.
The last eighteen months since I quit have honestly been the toughest in my life. They have also been the greatest teachers in my life so far and I know the lessons will keep coming.
See you on the next post!