“In this economy?!” my wife and I thought to ourselves as we debated whether or not to open her new business in 2008.
After having our second child, my wife wanted to go back to work. But not to just another job. She wanted work that allowed her to have time with our kids and contribute her skills of being an Optometrist while building some equity. We also wanted a Plan B…in case my career would encounter chaos.
Weighing all the pros and cons of starting a new business, we were stuck for a while, over thinking, over analyzing, writing a business plan in between sleepless nights with the kids and my travel schedule at work.
Then one day, she just did it! She signed the lease to open her new business, an Optometry Eye Care practice with an Optical. Six months of over thinking vanished just like that…poof!
That was the summer of 2008. Despite having a newborn in our lap, we moved forward with starting a new business in an uncertain economy. Construction in Oct. 2008 and opened the doors in February 2009.
After 4 years, I realized that starting a new business in an uncertain economy has taught us both a lot about life…not just about how to start a new business but how to move forward in life despite not knowing how things will turn out especially when things look gloomy.
Here are 4 life lessons I learned helping my wife in starting a new business in an uncertain economy:
1. Having a clear reason WHY you do something helps to pull you forward through anything
Our initial reason to start the business was to be able to use my wife’s skills as an eye doctor in a way that would build something for the longer term. It was also a Plan B for me as a way to hedge my bets in my own career.
But as we got going, we learned that those reasons weren’t enough to pull us through some really difficult times, which all of us encounter.
What I discovered was that sometimes the reason you embrace starting a new business or moving forward in anything in life may not be fully revealed until later and so often it is connected to the contribution you make to someone else.
“I do it because someone will be a little bit better off because of me”, is one powerful reason my wife gives me when I ask her what makes her get up in the morning to work as hard as she does each day.
Too often, we look to money as a primary motive for action. While it helps to pay expenses, it just isn’t enough to move you forward because money rarely provides comfort during really difficult times, which all of us go through.
But a good reason…that’s priceless…and always inspiring. It fuels you out of bed in the morning. It inspires you to take action. And it doesn’t have to be that grand.
What’s your reason to move forward? Is it to solve a problem? Is it to contribute your skills, your passion, your energy and effort to a cause that you deem really worthy? Is it because you’re willing to trade your effort for seeing someone be better off? Or is it simply because you see the possibility of making something out of nothing? To simply create and bring a new gift to someone who needs it? Who is better off with your effort with your hard work at your craft?
2. Starting a new business is hard, just like life…but you get used to it.
Going through the chaos of starting a new business in an uncertain economy with two young children was brutal. With long hours during the week and longer hours on the weekends with no break for the first 2 years, it was really hard. But you know what? Over time, we got used to it. And it kind of became fun to see what challenge we would encounter next.
We learned to steal moments of happiness in between all the chaos because it forced us to be grateful for what we had and kept us so focused on the present. Who has time to worry about the future when you’re so engrossed in the present?
You also adapt, you learn from mistakes, you adjust, you stumble, you have great days and you have terrible ones. It’s all part of the ride. But once you take the ride, you kind of get used to all the ups and downs because you have experience under your belt making you ultimately Accept the ups and downs.
3. It’s OK to learn on the job
So much of our over thinking about moving forward in life is based on self-doubt.
“I’m not smart enough.” “I don’t have the right qualifications.” “I don’t know enough.” “I’m not as smart as she is.” These are all the thoughts my wife and I had almost incessantly over the last four years.
Everyone has self doubt. But you can choose to listen to those nagging voices or to keep walking forward.
While my wife had plenty of experience giving patients’ an eye exam, she had no idea about managing employees, negotiating with vendors, navigating health insurances and so on. And while I grew up in business, I was working full time and only could provide advice and help to her on the weekends.
But we figured it out as we went. Made mistakes and improvised a great deal on the way.
I realize only now that the best way to learn is to DO.
Sure, past experience or higher education may help but the tools you need to succeed in anything in life are within you…your ability to learn from mistakes and to keep going. And it’s perfectly fine to learn on the job because no matter how hard you try to train yourself, you can never predict what obstacles you will encounter and so you’ll need to have the resolve to keep going. And that’s what matters most.
4. Having someone along for the trip is very helpful
Much of what we encountered in starting a new business in a bad economy was just maddening. There were days filled with pain, suffering, tears and frustrations as well as days filled with great triumphs, pride, rewards and satisfaction.
Sometimes through unreasonable and tired voices tinged with frustration, we managed to communicate with each other in a way that provided support, comfort and a bit of positive encouragement.
On the bad days, it was really important to have someone to talk to who could just listen. Since my wife was the one running the business, I became a good listener. She didn’t need advice per se. Just someone to listen patiently, understand and nod in agreement.
Having a feeling that you’re not alone in this world full of chaos is vital to reinforcing the forward minded spirit that lies within all of us. Whether it’s friends, family members or the people you work with, having someone who you can talk can do wonders for lighten your heavy load in life.
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While I didn’t intend on learning valuable LIFE lessons when my wife and I started her small business four years ago, I do believe I have gained some valuable nuggets, the most important of which is this:
It isn’t about who you know, what you know or how much money you are able to raise in funding your new business. It isn’t about having a Harvard MBA or the best experience in the world.
It is about how well you use your MIND. How you perceive things, learn by doing, train your mind with good habits and ultimately use what you learn to go ahead and embrace the chaos.
#Get unstuck and move forward in life by learning to Embrace the Chaos | Bob Miglani, Author