As I look back on the last 10+ years in business, I can say with certainty - it has not gone at all as I planned. Some days that simple data point, reality not matching my plans, feels like a cause for defeat. Most days I recognize it as a fact of life.
After all, Steinbeck said (adapting a quote by Robert Burns), "the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
In this, I am not alone.
And so, I keep on carrying on. Plans blow up in my face and I adapt. Unexpected opportunities arise and I accept the challenge. Things go better than I ever anticipated and I revel in it. My efforts don't pan out as I had intended and I grieve the loss while looking for a glimmer of hope to usher me forward.
I keep carrying on because my work serves a deeper sense of purpose. Simon Sinek famously calls this, "start with why."
If there's one positive in all my mishaps it's that I have developed a strong why over the years. I strive to model and guide leaders to embrace the gifts of our shared humanity so we may show up with integrity, and intention to co-create the positive impact we so desire.
So each time things don't go as planned, I come back to my why and ask myself, “how am I measuring up to fulfill my purpose?”
Answering such a question is largely subjective. My profit and loss statement does not, alone, indicate if I'm fulfilling my purpose. Unsolicited comments from clients about the ways I've impacted their lives does.
What this all means is that living my ‘why’ requires reframing what success means to me. The most common measure of success our society evaluates us on is what we've acquired, not the impact we've had or the quality of life we've enjoyed or how aligned we are in living our values.
And so, as I’ve taken to course-correcting over the last 10+ years, I’ve consciously shifted how I evaluate my progress. Instead of judging myself based on what I bought or how much money I made, I ponder these questions:
Are my needs being met? Why or why not?
Am I reaching my highest potential? Why or why not?
Is this work sustainable? Why or why not?
These are rather subjective yardsticks. While they are posed as yes or no questions, the reality is my answers typically fall within the shades of grey. I am both measuring up and have room for improvement. And that’s okay.
As a misfit entrepreneur, I am resigned to the fact I will never “arrive” because I will always be a work in progress, as will my business. So yardsticks that don’t have a definitive end-point allow for that nuanced give and take. The real juicy bit comes from reflecting on why I am or am not measuring up.
Reflecting on these questions invites me to be radically honest with myself. While I might want that stand-up paddleboard that converts into a kayak, I don’t need it. I am privileged in that my needs are met, so if I’m being honest with myself, the things I covet as a precursor to success are wants, not needs. That awareness takes the pressure off and shifts me to a mindset of gratitude.
As I continue to be radically honest with myself, I must acknowledge - I could stretch myself more. The benefit of having 10+ years in business under my belt is I’ve learned a lot by doing and failing. The downside is that I can let myself be complacent, making excuses for why things are the way they are and not taking the risks that allow me to reach closer to my potential.
It is because of such radical self-honesty I have spent the last three months working diligently to launch something new next week. A project that marries my why with my passions while also challenging me to step outside of my comfort zone. It’s got me all nexcited (mostly excited and a bit nervous).
Stretching myself in this way requires me to consider the last question with care, "is this work sustainable?" I love my flexible work schedule. I love having ample time with my family and for self-care. Which means I have to prioritize what I commit to.
If I am saying yes to this new and different opportunity, I must say no to something else. Otherwise, my work will no longer be sustainable. You may have noticed, I have not been publishing journaling prompt videos weekly for the last few months.
While I have way more ideas for videos than I’ve made so far, my bandwidth to produce these is limited. So I’m pushing the pause button for the time being and I’ll re-evaluate at the end of the year (if you’re bummed about this announcement, please let me know, I will take that into consideration).
So there you have it - I’m getting ready to launch something completely different (ok maybe not COMPLETELY different) and I promise you will be the first to know, so keep an eye out for it next week!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear how things are measuring up in your world.