You CAN change your life
Gary Vaynerchuk tells great leaders, “Macro patience and micro speed are the only things that matter.” Once I started to truly understand this idea, I decided to work for myself, which has been one of the (if not THE) best decisions of my life. In fact, it may have saved my life.
How does my job dictate my day?
Like a lot of people, I bounced around between several jobs through college, most of them in the service industry. At that time, waiting tables or working as a bartender were the most convenient side gigs. After school, I moved to Boston and started working in promotions, which gave me access to events and all the clubs and bars. This was a fantastic way to meet people, and soon I knew representatives from large liquor companies and began working alcohol promos. I was getting paid to hang out in the club and hand out samples — sounds like the best thing that could have happened to a single 20-something, right?
From the beginning, that world felt like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. I knew I couldn’t stay for too long, or I’d fall in too deep. Having an addictive personality, coupled with the dangers of knowing all the bouncers on a first name basis, having access to lots of alcohol, and hanging out with the late-night crowd… it was a formula for failure. My day-to-day felt like crap (going to bed at 3 or 4 am, sleeping until 10 am, usually waking up hungover), and that told me it was time to change things up. I realized that I was allowing my environment to dictate what my life looked like and that it wasn’t very pretty.
Small steps lead to significant change
So, what next? I knew I didn’t want to stay in the late-night scene, but Boston is wicked expensive, and I didn’t have the time or money to think it through there. So, my best option was to move home for a while. I couldn’t just snap my fingers and be living my ideal life (if anyone ever figures that out, let me know.) I left the nighttime bar scene six years ago, and know now more than ever that creating the life I want has taken time. In addition to time, change has required intentional awareness of my own wants and needs. I’m thankful for my time in the bar scene — it gave me service industry chops and taught me what I didn’t want my life to look like.
Here are some questions I asked myself and forced myself to answer honestly that lead me to where I am today:
- What has felt best for me? What have been my favorite, most enjoyable aspects of the jobs I’ve held?
- What do I want my regular days/weeks to look like now? Answer in concrete terms. Use your imagination.
- What’s getting in the way of having my ideal days right now? How can I avoid or change these roadblocks?
- What am I willing to sacrifice in the short-term for my long-term happiness?
Embracing my new normal
I live a very different life here in Phoenix, running a coffee business, and it certainly didn’t all happen overnight. From night owl to early bird, I often laugh at the fact that I now (happily) wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning. The process that brought me to entrepreneurship included self-reflection, personality testing, unicorn brainstorming, and more. Honest self-reflection based awareness helped me see that for me, I felt purposeful, happy, and fulfilled by getting a jump on the day and helping others to do the same.
Reminder of humanity
I love finding the positivity in things, and I don’t want to mislead you: You and I can do ALL the work to set ourselves up for success, and there will still be hard days and moments of failure and burnout. Last fall, when things were starting to pick up for my business, this proved itself true. A family situation caused a storm of emotions for me, and my stress level peaked rather quickly. During that time, I was especially grateful for the flexibility I had built into my business and forced myself to practice what I preach: I asked for help, leaned on my support system, and took everything in small steps. As much as I wish there were quick fixes to the challenges we deal with, the solutions I’ve found are gentle, sometimes slow-moving, and definitely not magic — but they work. Over a year later, my business is growing, and I’m growing. Most of the time I look forward to my days, and I know that whatever challenges come up I’ll — we’ll — be able to handle.
Real talk about finding purpose
Using the word purpose unnerves me because it’s as if society has created a new kind of rat-race around “finding” yours. Yes, a purpose-driven life IS terrific, and I am so thankful to be living it. But that’s not how I found it. If I had sat down in my dark times and asked myself repeatedly, “What is my purpose?” I’d have driven myself mad and probably never have progressed to where I am now. Instead, I took into account all the things I knew about myself, my short and long term wants and needs, and mapped out what I wanted my days to look like right away, not sometime in the future. That’s how I got myself to today, not by blindly picking a purpose. My purpose is to enjoy this life I have. This is how I’m doing it, and I think you can, too.