It’s easy to point the finger. But what makes us stronger is taking responsibility for our role in the success (or lack thereof).
If we’re stuck, how did we get here? And what is it going to take to get unstuck?
Chances are, we didn’t get here overnight, and we won’t get there overnight either.
The pivotal moment comes not just when we’re able to take an honest look at ourselves, but when we’re truly willing to take that step away from what is comfortable.
It’s going to be hard. The labor is going to be painful, uncomfortable, challenging.
Especially when we’re still holding on to the history, the good old days, the golden years. What got us here won’t get us there.
When we get to the point that we realize that there’s some undoing that needs to be done, some bridges that need to be built, and some forgiveness that needs to take place — that’s when the real work begins.
What do we want, going forward? And, if we want to get there, what are we going to need to do?
“Whatever it takes” isn’t a popular idea. But it might be the only way we turn the corner and change the trend away from the negativity toward a brighter, happier, more profitable future.
On my 30th birthday, I was still shadow-boxing, battling to discover the answer to the question, “Why am I here?” I thought I was born to be a mother, and yet that had yet to happen. I write about that in another post. I can recall the day of my birthday very clearly. It was very uneventful.
That’s what makes it stand out in my mind. I was angry. Bitter and frustrated that nothing seemed to be going the way I wanted it to go. But it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t what I wanted. It was empty — and I abhorred that emptiness.
I was angry at my ex-husband for not realizing that my 30th birthday was supposed to be a special day. I expected him to do something, and he didn’t. And it hurt me so much that I spent the day pretending to be happy, while inside I was anything but.
It’s ridiculous that we can get so angry at others for not meeting our expectations — even when we’ve never even shared that we have these certain desires.
So, I took control. A day before my birthday, when it occurred to me that nothing was going to happen on my birthday unless I did something, I started to call all of my friends, and family and planned my own party. It came together beautifully. Everyone was there to celebrate with me, and to love me. But it wasn’t enough. Because it wasn’t what I wanted. What I wanted was a surprise party. But the truth is, that would have been impossible – because I also wanted to control it all! 🙂
When I look back at that time of my life, I realize that what made me the angriest was that I had no control.
All I wanted was what I wanted. I thought I knew what my life should be. I was bitter that things weren’t going the way I had planned.
And the more I tried to control everything, the more out of control my life became.
Eventually, the bottom fell out. Except it didn’t happen all at once. My bitterness made it a slow, painful process. My anger was my cross to bear, and I played the victim like a champ, so the bottom didn’t come quickly. It came ever-so-slowly, like a gigantic bandaid being ripped off one day after another.
Until I was numb to the pain and just going through the motions — pretending to be alive.
I am so grateful for that painful journey.
Because, today, because of that painful journey, I know that I am not in control. I still struggle with this (every day). I still want to be in control. I want to be able to skip to the last page of the book so that I can make certain I will like how the story ends.
But, I realize today, that I am not driving.
I am in control of only two things — my thoughts, and how I react to those thoughts. How things turn out, is not within my control. And when I finally came to accept this, it allowed me to truly begin to enjoy the journey.
I just know that my job is to show up, do my best, give my love, and know that I have done my part. The rest is not up for me to decide. And, that’s ok, because I finally know why I am here: to help others find their purpose, by helping them see the goodness — no the GREATNESS that exists in the world when we realize we’re really not driving.
Why Emotional Labor isn’t Optional
We like the sidelines. The gray area. The safe zone. The periphery. I used to like all of those things too. But there was something about those places that kept me feeling empty. Maybe even a little bit isolated from everything that seemed important. Life, however, was relatively “easy.” I didn’t have to think too much. Because, I wasn’t invested in much — which, in the end, left me feeling unfulfilled, and in some cases, uninvited.
I looked on with detachment at the “movers and shakers,” wondering how I might be invited to their game. I really thought it required some kind of invitation. And, since I wasn’t invited, I didn’t think there was any way I could make a difference. Apathetic, disengaged, lacking purpose, and for the most part, going through the motions. And, wondering if this was all there was to life.
But, then I discovered my voice. And, I took a few risks. To my surprise, there wasn’t an echo. Someone listened. And I realized I wasn’t alone.
I soon began to learn that it’s not being invited that makes things happen — at least not anymore. Today, everyone is invited — as long as you’re willing to put in the emotional labor of caring about the people in the ring.
The first step is to invite yourself.
I can say that now, that I have spent some time doing the emotional labor, because I realize how incredible the reward of doing work that matters is. I didn’t set out to be here, writing, sharing, guiding, and coaching. But I learned by doing and inviting myself — something I wish was easier so that more people might join the good fight.
But, then again, if it was easy… everyone would be doing it — and that would… make it challenging, harder…?
Wait. What’s wrong with that?
A world filled with people who take it upon themselves to lean in, make a difference, care? Wow, I think that would be wonderful. And yet, you’ll hear things that make it sound like that wouldn’t be such a great thing.
Nice guys finish last. Why bother? Who cares? The ends justify the means, right? It’s quantity, not quality.
What if all of that is a fallacy? What if we bought that from someone who didn’t really know what it took to live life in pursuit of purpose?
This goes with anything, and the question I am emboldened to ask now, more than ever is: Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years?
Sure, you can choose not to do the emotional labor. You can take the easy way.
But at what point will taking the easy way get you where you want to be? At what point do you decide to pursue your purpose?
Great advice from a local restaurant owner
We (my local business network) had a meeting of the minds a few years ago. We had a lively discussion about how local business owners can work better together, and ultimately drive more awareness and foot traffic to the stores that are, historically called the “backbone of our community.”
Our host, a local restaurateur participated in the conversation and helped re-ignite my passion for small business, which for the last decade has been at the core of everything I do.
Owning a small business is hard. In the initial stages of building and growing, it seems there’s little time for rest. We’re pulled in hundreds of different directions, and that’s not even counting the direction of “home.”
As big box brands have strengthened their grip in our small towns and made it more and more difficult for the mom and pop to survive, friends and loved ones are warning new entrepreneurs against starting a new business.
And yet, here we are, in the trenches. Believing not only in ourselves but also in the communities we choose to build our business, that we can make it happen. And, it creates a contradiction – We know, in order to succeed, we must compete, but not at the risk of isolation.
Most of the time, my involvement in these conversations circles around what we can do as consumers to raise awareness. But today, the conversation was packed with wisdom that we can all apply to ourselves. We have to remember that we’re not in this alone.
The message he shared caught me off guard and yet struck a chord deep inside:
“Get over yourself”
It wasn’t said in anger, or frustration, but out of love. The tough love that we’re not so used to these days. We’re soft. But there’s no room for soft in the small business trenches.
I have paraphrased what this wise, young entrepreneur shared:
“We, as business owners have a duty to bring our best. We can’t keep thinking it’s the customers’ job to “shop small.” We have to make the shopping local experience BETTER. We need to work together, share and talk about what makes us choose Lakeland. We also need to support other small businesses — outwardly. We might not like everything about them, but we ALL have a duty to SUPPORT LOCAL and encourage others to do the same. We need to get over ourselves. We chose this for ourselves. We choose it every day. So, the only way to improve our situation, is to make it possible for all of us to thrive.” — Marcos Fernandez, Owner 1961
To apply this to anyone, regardless of their chosen profession, it might read like this:
“We, as human beings have a duty to bring our best. We can’t keep thinking it’s someone else’s job to support our efforts. We have to make what we do BETTER. We need to work together, share and talk about what makes us choose to do what we do. We also need to support other human beings — outwardly. We might not like everything about them, but we ALL have a duty to SUPPORT HUMANS and encourage others to do the same. We need to get over ourselves. We chose this for ourselves. We choose it every day. So, the only way to improve our situation, is to make it possible for all of us to thrive.” — Awesome Human
If we want others to support us, we have to commit to supporting others.
Because I work with and live the life of a small business owner, when I look another micro-business owner in the eye, I can see my reflection. I know they know. And that is all it takes for me to charge my batteries and ignite the passion to carry the flag of my brothers in arms.
We, as human beings are all fighting the same challenges. We’re not alone, we’re in this together.
We don’t need to explain the challenges, but we do need to stop blaming and resenting the big box (or whatever our personal challenges might be) and focus our energy on uniting on the one thing we all believe — that the lifeblood of our work is being awesome!
If small businesses are the backbone of a community, an alliance among all of us, arms locked in unison, becomes the arms that embrace and connect the community together. It’s not their job — it’s ours.