September 25, 2015
If you ask anyone who owns a small business, they will tell you life is similar to one big roller coaster ride. The highs are highs, but when you tip over that edge, it’s hard not to lose your shit. Free-fall on a roller coaster is exhilarating in the face of controlled fear. You know where the bottom is, and you know you’re going to swoop back up, do a few more turns before coming to the end of the ride.
Free-fall in business is different. The sensation of having the rug pulled out from under you is the same as tipping over the edge. The sick feeling that makes you clench your abdominal muscles is the same, but in business, you have no assurance where the bottom of that fall is going to be. You also aren’t guaranteed an upward swoop. As a small business owner, once you tip over that edge, you hope to reach terminal velocity much sooner than later.
The last few months have been a bit tumultuous at our company. When we tipped over that edge, we didn’t see it coming. We didn’t have time to clench our abdominals and gird our loins. Instinct dictated we flail and try to find some purchase, but this time I chose to hold still. I had no idea what would happen, but I was tired of flailing. It felt like wasted effort. I knew that whether I flailed or held still, I was going to find the bottom, and it was going to suck. During times of intense stress whether I flail or not, I do two things. First, I play out the worst case scenario so I can wrap my mind around how bad it might be, and then I pray for the strength and perseverance to be able to endure whatever life has in store for us.
One morning last week while driving my kids to school, my monologue to God resembled a speeding train trying to stay on its tracks. The day had started out with emails of doom, and the company’s fate –and ours– seemed sealed. Breathing and getting the kids to school felt like insurmountable tasks, and I kept asking God to help me find a way out of the mess we were in. I begged for fifteen minutes more strength so I could get the kids to school before I cried, and I asked God to grant me the strength to face being broke, again. I thought about all of the things we might have to give up, where it was we might have to move, wondering if we could sell the minivan we just bought, when my son piped up from the back seat.
He said, “Mom, can we go shopping after school and get Daddy a present or a card or something? We should say thank you to him and let him know how much we appreciate how hard he’s been working.”
The tears I’d been trying to hold back found their way down my cheeks. In one sweet comment, my son put my life back into perspective. I was so busy worrying about what I might lose, I forgot to be thankful for everything I have. I have four amazing kids. I have four healthy kids. I have four kids who are succeeding in life, who work hard, take pride in themselves, and care about other people. I have a husband who holds me when times are tough and promises me we will get through it, together. When things are tough, we turn toward each other, never away. We don’t blame, we look for answers. We support and encourage each other and find our mistakes so we can learn from them, without censure. We have so many friends praying for us, believing in us, checking in, offering a shoulder and reassurance. There are so many good things in my life, so why was I worrying?
Perhaps it’s our culture that tells us if you have more stuff, you’re successful. Perhaps it’s my years of teaching and assigning a quantity to the quality of a student’s work. Maybe I remember what it feels like not to have enough and I want to avoid that. Whatever the reason, I’d been spending so much time worrying about money and ascribing to the idea that quantity equals quality, that I almost missed out on how rich I am. Life isn’t about how much you have, it’s about how much you love, and you can’t quantify that.
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