Got your own business?
Then networking and getting out there is a non-negotiable part of your agenda. Knowing this, a few years ago I set out to a women’s entrepreneur event – super casual at a pub in midtown Toronto. I was all excited to get inspired. “I’m gonna put myself out there and it’s gonna be awesome!” I told myself. I didn’t know anybody in the group, just the one woman who invited me. I figured sometimes that is when you actually have the best time at an event - no expectations, no preconceived notions, just a willingness to connect with others.
At the time, I went to this event I really didn’t know what to do with my design business. I didn’t want to continue just being a graphic designer/art director, and I had already pursued some other entrepreneurial ideas that just fell flat. I was definitely lost and looking for ideas, motivation – anything, really, that would get me into a positive headspace.
I sat down with about twelve other female business owners and after just a few minutes, I wanted to barf. I was honestly not confident my pinot grigio would stay down.
Here I was in a room of super-talented, visionary ladies and all I kept thinking was “omg, get me outta here!”
I was nauseous not because I felt like an outsider, or couldn’t relate to what these smart women were talking about. No, I could relate really well. Too well.
I was surrounded by women addicted to struggle. They jumped at the chance to talk about how HARD it was to run their business, how they had no life, how they never slept, and were always exhausted. How they ran around like mad dogs for crazy clients and could never find enough time to get everything done. And sadly, from the sounds of it, most women were barely making ends meet.
I, too, had lived the life of owning a business and working 24/7. As well as running my design company, I also once owned a greeting card company and did all the schlepping around town that came with craft shows and retail sales. There were many all-nighters. I also owned an Etsy shop that consumed more hours of my life than I care to admit. I have gone through phases of working full-time, freelancing, teaching night school and selling skin care – all at the same time. While I thought I was just doing what I had to do to make income and satisfy my multipassionate personality, in retrospect I was devoted to struggle and living a hard life. I was choosing to live in chaos. I felt happy knowing I was working myself to the bone.
It was at this event that I first became truly conscious that I no longer to suffer and struggle in my business.
I love to work hard, I do. And I know we have to make sacrifices at times to run our own business. There will be days that are so tiring you can’t even brush your teeth at night. Yes, those moments will test you. But should we stay in a constant state of struggle and hardship? I do not believe so. The trick is discerning the difference, and this has been one of my biggest lessons in life.
For me, hard work leaves you feeling tired but satisfied, challenged but proud. In contrast, struggle leaves you feeling angry and resentful, depleted and invisible.
That evening I walked away from the event feeling very grateful. I knew more of what I DIDN’T want in my life. There was an energy to that group that I just did not want to be a part of. And recognizing that made me feel like I was stepping into my own. I may not have gotten what I thought I would out of that event, but wow, I am so glad I showed up.
CURIOUS SIDEBAR :: One woman from that event has since become a massively successful jewelry designer with an international following. I noticed she was the only person not relishing in stories of woe and anguish. She had an ease and elegance about her that was captivating and oh-so impressive. Yay, her.