Spoiler alert: owning your own business is hard.
Don't misunderstand - I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm absolutely in love with my life. But if you're under the impression that entrepreneurs are spending their afternoons at the nail salon or on the golfcourse, sipping cosmos or smoking cigars, without a care in the world, you're mistaken.
Things move slowly, almost at a snail's pace. I think that if there's any real struggle, it's that. For a chef, someone who's used to working at break-neck speed, moving rhythmically through your days and nights in a professional kitchen, dancing around several other cooks, sharing tight spaces and making the most of every. single. second. - this new life of paperwork-filing, on-hold-waiting, business-owning is a slow state of affairs.
You spend a lot of time waiting for a lof of other people to do things that you need for them to do so that you can take the next step in your process. And, the most interesting part - they're not, and most likely have never been, chefs. You find almost immediately that you see the world in very, very different ways and your sense of urgency is often not only unappreciated, but often misunderstood. Here's another spoiler: when you're a chef, dealing with non-chefs, be careful - lots of people will think your sense of urgency is sort of off-putting (read "rude") and sense of humor is not funny.
I'm in a very unique position because I'm a chef who no longer makes my product. I have a top-notch copacker who produces my product for me. So, I'm like a racehorse with no race to run. Imagine me, with all of that pent-up energy and drive and NOWHERE to go, just hanging out in my stall, READY to RUN, but most of the time, I WAIT.
Things go wrong, that's your third spoiler. But, that's OK, because I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so I was ready for that one. Things go wrong, horribly wrong, but you just have to shake it off, and keep going. Or in my case, shake it off, wait, and then hope that I'll get to make a move shortly.
I teach a class at Schoolcraft College for people who think that they might like to start a business in Michigan and I talk to them about all of these things. We talk about the ups, the downs, the pros and cons. I tell them about my experiences, the victories, the disappointments, the little foils that have happened along the way, and some of the outrageous things too.
One night, I was telling a story about a particularly hellish incident that I had with some paperwork that was required for a license that I needed for my business and the story was quite involved. Once I finished telling the story to the class, a woman in the back, who had been coming to class for several weeks said, "WHY do you still DO THIS?!" and I started laughing.
It was obvious that she thought that what I had just described was unacceptable. It was just too much of a pain in the ass to be a business owner if I or she was going to have to go through something like that. But I see things so differently - working for someone else who controls my future, decides my worth, and doesn't treat me with respect is too much of a pain in the ass for me! I already did that. I did that for a long time and I did that until the very minute that I didn't have to do that any longer.
In February, on the verge of something really important for my company, I got some very frustrating news - a project that I was working on for TLB was put on hold indefinitely and there was, on the surface, NOTHING I could do about it. I just had to wait. Someone else might have thrown in the towel and given up, but I decided to wait and to work while I waited.
My brother is a US Marine and I often think about one of his letters from Boot Camp at Parris Island. He wrote to us that a lot of his time was spent doing the usual, "hurry up and wait", and that's what owning a business is like, except you learn how to work while you wait because you can't afford to just sit still and let time go by with nothing to show for it.
Since I've always planned on developing other products, I have spent the "down time" on developing a chocolate chip cookie recipe. It's a fun distraction when I need something to look forward to, and a way to put my time to good use.
It doesn't matter if you own a business, are thinking of starting a business, or are just in a place where you feel "stuck" or "out of control" of your life. Like Pema Chodron says, "If you're invested in security and certainty, you're on the wrong planet". Everything will change and we have to learn to accept whatever is happening at this present moment.
We have to be open to the idea that we cannot control every single aspect of what's happening to us or around us, and spend each moment making the most of the space we occupy. Giving into our anger or frustration doesn't solve any of our problems or make our situation improve - it only separates us from our destiny and dishonors our true selves.
The next time something isn't going right for you, or you feel stuck in a place that you're not wanting to be, find a way to honor yourself while you wait. It might lead you to a better idea or a better place than where you were to begin with or ever imagined., or you might just have cookies - and who wouldn't like that?
Stacy Sloan; Chef & Founder of Three Little Birds