One of the lowest points in my business career was when things actually starting working for me. After a few years of learning and scrambling and changing service offerings and business models, I set out to make my third iteration of the business a success. And it actually worked. Worked pretty quickly too.
Before I knew it I had a small but fully fledged subscription-based web design agency on my hands. It was exciting getting it going and seeing the clients sign up. The business gurus around me at the time were talking about the importance of ‘continuity’. You have to build continuity into your products and services, you gotta have a way to get paid again and again and again. That had always seemed out of reach to me but we had figured it out and now we had clients giving us money every month.
But once the initial rush of excitement and sense of achievement had passed a tiny voice would visit me in the night. “You don’t want this,” it would whisper as I hurried it along. “This is a millstone round your neck. Now you have to spend your days running a business you never actually wanted in the first place.” I went through all the stages of grief.
Denial. I pretended not to hear that voice. I took opportunities to point out how the business was perfect for me.
Anger. I cursed the ‘experts’ that sold me the idea that this model was the only smart way forward.
Bargaining. I convinced myself that for now the web design business would fund the development of my real work (if I could just get more clarity around what that was exactly). And it somehow wouldn’t sap my energy in the meantime.
Depression. I decided to disengage and deal with the problem later.
Acceptance. Finally I realised that this was a curse. I had figured out how to build a business that makes money but I couldn’t bring myself to keep doing it.
Sometimes getting what you want is the worst thing that can happen to you. When you reach your goal or taste your dream and find it not quite what you were looking for there’s a complex set of emotions to work through. It took me longer than it could have to change my trajectory. It usually takes time to figure out how to be gentle enough with yourself to step away from what you thought your dream was without judgment. Without beating yourself up. Sometimes it’s simply time to put down your bags and walk in another direction.
Many of us live with that tiny voice in our heads. The one that says, “This is not quite it. There’s something more for you.” It’s easy to ignore that voice or put it off. Dealing with it doesn’t seem as pressing as answering emails and paying bills and booking flights. But we ignore that voice at our peril.
One of the reasons we push it away is we don’t know what to do with the information it’s giving us. “Ok, maybe this isn’t quite it. Maybe there is something more for me… but what the hell is this mysterious something?” We don’t have the answer so we bury the question.
But those kinds of questions can’t be buried. They’re always there, like a stone in your shoe. Their sharp edges digging into your skin and jolting you upright just when you think it’s safe to relax.