Same, Simon, same. (follow him on IG @simoncholland)
“These unprecedented times” is the descriptor du jour in the news, social media, company Zoom calls, emails from vendors, heck, everyday conversation. It’s accurate for sure. Every once in a while, do you find yourself daydreaming of 2019 and the run-of-the-mill challenges you had back then? Those were the days.
We are all figuring out how to navigate these global and national occurrences, on top of our usual daily life. And then owning your own small business brings with it additional worry, especially if you have employees or rent or investors. We understood when we chose the entrepreneurial path that we were choosing a (generally) more vulnerable path, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But there are limits to everything.
There was a day recently that I spent most of the day in bed. It was a weekday, a work day. I wish I could tell you it was a relaxing, “self-care” day but it was more of burn out. It felt as if all the happenings of late weighed down every part of my body, especially my heart. I checked my email late in the afternoon and there was nothing urgent, so right back into bed I went. Easy to speak lightly of it now, on the other side, but it felt impossible to feel motivated, or to care much about anything when there was so much pain in the world. I just wanted to be in a cave.
What do we do when we have a day like this, and also have the responsibility of delivering to our customers? A screeching halt won’t always occur on a slow work day, like it did for me this time. A solopreneur does not have anyone to fill in for her, and a biz owner with employees has staff to lead. Well, we’re in unprecedented times – let’s consider some unprecedented ideas.
The first one being, the Grind is not a sustainable business model. Yes, work hard. As the head of your own business, yes, there will be some late nights and tough weeks and risks taken. But we’ve been sold a bad batch of advice that promotes constant work, never turning off, eschewing vacation – heck, weekends – and pushing general health (mental, emotional and physical) aside for as long as it takes. No. We cannot be good citizens of the world when we are burnt out. We cannot make good decisions about the environment, our leaders, our communities, when we are stuck in the grind.
Whether you agree with the statement above or not, I appreciate the idea of critically thinking about the system we are in. Tricia Hersey-Patrick, the founder of The Nap Ministry (follow her on IG @TheNapMinistry), posits we cannot heal without rest and care. Yes. How can we envision a different, better, kinder way to do things if we don’t give ourselves space for grief and reflection and creativity and dreaming?
Another radical idea is to focus on service to our fellow humans. That can be within our businesses, and as a result of our businesses. Within our business is how we serve our clients – whether you make a product or provide a service, how are you making a positive change in the world? And then, for bonus points, we can ask how can we take the by-products of our businesses and use them for good? Whether it be donating money, offering skills, supporting your local community, recycling scraps, choosing green options, using your platform for change… This is not about giving what you do not have – it’s not a plea to donate all your income, or say yes to every volunteer opportunity. It’s a mindset shift away from the bottom line and raising our heads from our desks to see the world around us and understand how we can participate.
Usually this is where people say, but I have to make money! I have a family to support! My dog must eat organic! Of course. It’s important to cover the basic needs of food and shelter, no denying that. But what if – hear me out! – you can make money AND serve others. We equate service with nonprofit when really, the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not making money OR being of service. And a more important point that I believe we’ve all become acutely aware of this year: the world is in dire need of our help. If each of us made one change, no matter how big or small, to serve each other, we are on our way to breaking down the destructive parts of this capitalistic system we find ourselves in.
(Please note: I am not anticapitalism. I am antibullshit and against living a greedy life in a thoughtless system).
This next one I was going to present as a third idea, but in thinking on it, it seems it actually is a pathway to move into the first two ideas. If you’re stuck in the Grind, what do you do? If you like the idea of being in deeper service, what do you do? Raise your consciousness.
An accountant talking about consciousness? C’mon now.
When we are conscious in a situation, we are able to view what is going on with objectivity and clarity. By being conscious in a situation, I mean like being present, fully present. You are able to register how you feel, and you are able to understand your relation to yourself and/or the other person(s) involved. A lot of society wants us to remain unconscious, because we’re easier to sell to in that state and easier to manipulate into keeping the machine running (it preys on our fears). When we are working from a more conscious place, we choose how we spend our time, money and other resources in a much more intentional way.
Because we are, above all things, human. No matter how much money you make, how many locations you have, how long you’ve been in business, or how many followers you have, you are a person at the end of the day. A person requires care. YOU require care. And you are the only one who can give it to yourself.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is, business is about people. Not even the biggest conglomerates are machines – they still rely on people. We seem to have forgotten this. But we can remember again. If each individual starts to shift behavior towards a more human approach, the systems will need to change with it. It’s going to be a long, slow shift, but if the best time to start was yesterday, then the next best time to start is today.