Hindsight is Crazy-Making

I had a complete meltdown yesterday.  I took an all-day seminar at the SBA entitled, “Writing Effective Business Plans” and immediately began to feel that it was a mistake to start my business.  A horrible mistake.  It dawned on me that my job for the next year is going to consist solely of digging myself out of the hole I’m in. By the time our lunch break rolled around I was already having heart palpitations so I went outside for a walk.  In the window of Stacey’s bookstore, a book entitled, Get a Life That Doesn’t Suck caught my eye.  I headed straight for it, telling myself I was doing reconnaissance for my sister, not me.  The chapters had titles like “Start. Do it Now,” “Think Good Thoughts” and “Have Fun! Celebrate Life.”  Useless.  I put it down and went back to class, where I listened to the really smart and successful-sounding comments of my classmates.  One woman named Suzanne told me how lucky she felt that the business plan class was happening just a week after she quit her job to start a business.  She had four or five business ideas she liked, she said, and now she was going to plug in the numbers in order to decide which one was most likely to succeed, and therefore, which one she should start with.  I almost threw up.  Why didn’t I think of that a year ago before I got myself into this mess?

As soon as I got home I began a panicked rant around the living room, starting with a list of all the reasons why I was never going to get rid of my inventory in time, and quickly progressing to the declaration that my entire life is pointless, I contribute nothing to the world, and I am a complete waste of space.  I was seized with the immediate and overwhelming desire to recalibrate my life and develop a new long-term plan — now. It was already 10pm, but how could I sleep that night knowing that in the morning I would have to begin completely changing my life?

Whenever I find myself in a crisis and don’t know how to proceed, my first instinct is to educate myself.  I don’t like to make choices, especially life-changing choices, without feeling fully informed by the “experts” first.  So the place I turned last night was to a well-used copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. GTD is best used as an organizational and time-management system, but I remember reading a chapter (#3, it turns out) about forming plans of action, from small projects (the view from 10,000 feet), to major life goals (the view from 50,000 feet).  The chapter lays out a step-by-step plan for accomplishing a comprehensive life review, which made me feel better about not have a plan myself.  “You’ll notice that a natural organization [emerges],” it told me.  So, after getting a few things out of my head and down on paper, and after committing to also read The Now Habit and The Four-Hour Workweek, I went to bed.

And that’s where I am this morning, standing at the edge of a giant precipice, ready to take the leap.  I’ll let you know what I find at the bottom.

Back in Business

Well, it’s finally over. I’m a married lady, back from my honeymoon, carrying with me a ton of freckles and a little souvenir from Montezuma. The wedding was wonderful. I was terribly worried about everything, having DIYed most of it, but it turned out even better than I could have imagined. There were a ton of things that went “wrong” (the lawn games were canceled due to swarms of mosquitoes, all the decorations were completely different than planned, no one danced, the glass of wine for the ceremony was missing, dessert was so late that only half the guests got any, and both shuttles broke down, leaving many guests stranded for hours) but there was so much damned love in the place, we all had an amazing time and I will never forget it.

It’s been so long since I worked on anything other than this wedding, that my sister said to me yesterday: “I’m really sorry to ask you this, but it’s been so long, I forgot: what exactly do you do, again? I mean, for a job?” I answered: “I run my business. It’s just sort of been coasting along these last few months, but my priorities now are sending new prototypes to the manufacturer, putting up the new site, putting together a press kit for the holiday press blitz, catching up on my bookkeeping…” and then I heard myself trail off, because the list in my head was getting too long to say out loud and I was starting to have palpitations.

These last few months I had intended to comment insightfully on how I was balancing my business with my wedding, sprinkling in some witty commentary about traditional gender roles along the way. But the truth is, I didn’t balance anything. The wedding was a 70-hour-per-week job for a solid ten weeks and it simply took over. Eighty of our closest friends and family members were traveling between 2000-5000 miles to see us get married and by God, I was going to make it worth the trip. Originally, my husband (!) had said he wanted to split the wedding planning 50/50, but after the save-the-dates went out, that sort of went out the window. Sometimes I got him to help out by throwing minor tantrums, but since he was making more money than I was, it made the most sense financially for me to handle everything and let him keep working.

In the end, it was all worth it and I regret nothing. Though I was nervous about relegating such a new business to the back burner, it was good in some ways. For one thing, it gave me some distance. Since I wasn’t mired in stressful, time-sensitive details like following up with stores, or programming shopping carts, I was able to look at the bigger picture and re-prioritize my goals. I even signed up for a business plan class at the SBA, so I can learn to lay out my goals in a clear and productive way. It also allowed us to have a wedding that was deeply personal, relatively inexpensive, and extremely memorable (hey, how many couples seat their guests at the “mountain lion,” “mudslide,” or “highway 1” table?). As an added bonus, we got to include new items in our portfolios. My husband added the “California Perils” table sculptures to his art portfolio, and I added the invitations to my product design portfolio (their printing, naturally, was a “business expense”).

Sadly, I can offer very little advice to other betrothed Biz Misses. Just bear in mind the equation, “time equals money” and know that a wedding, not matter how small, will require a lot of one or the other. Get enough sleep, even if that requires half an Ambien, and when your loved ones say, “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” take them up on it.