On January 5, 2011, I walked into my office and expected 2011 to be one of the better years in my career. Rejuvenated from a mini-vacation to Chicago, and optimistic about reaping the benefits of 4 previous years of hard work, I expected good things to happen. After building Mirepoix from the ground up, I was looking forward to a year where Mirepoix would turn the corner from start-up to small business.
I had not even sat down at my desk yet when my phone rang and when I answered it, I had no idea how right I was about 2011 being one of the best years of my career. The phone call didn't bring good news. Well, not obvious good news. The phone call was actually really frustrating and stressful. Within 90 seconds, I realized that 2011 was not going to be great because I was going to continue to lead Mirepoix. It became almost immediately apparent that I never should have come back from vacation.
Outraged and appalled, I decided that my days at the company I had built had finally come to an end. I had at long last reached my saturation point. There was finally absolutely NO reason for me to continue on as the director. I made up my mind that I would leave my position and start my own business. The next few months were spent trying to bring people up to speed on the ins and outs of the business so that when I left, there would be at least a somewhat easy transition.
There were days when I was emotional. There were days when I was downright sad. There were days when I would feel flashes of terror when I imagined life without the company I had come to love as my own. When I finally moved out of my office and left my keys on the desk, I felt a sense of relief. I went about the business of starting my own business, and this little bird left the nest in May, ready for the triumphs and challenges of entrepreneurship.
9 out of 10 days, I noticed that I've been happier than I've ever been in my entire life, and, in fact, 2011 was the best year of my career, as well as my personal life. If you've been reading the blog, you know that there have been fits of frustration and fear, but, at the end of it all, nothing was as scary as the thought of staying where I had been.
Taking the risk had been worth it.
There are people who think I have it all figured out. I don't.
There are some who think that I am a successful business person who doesn't struggle with money issues, cash-flow problems, or lost business. I do.
From the outside, it might appear that I'm completely fearless and never worry. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's scary in here sometimes!
I'm not saying that my contented state of mind and outwardly relaxed appearance is a facade. I'm just saying that I've come to the realization that allowing fear to run your life is, for lack of a better word, stupid.
This is the thing - In my life, I've had moments of monumental unhappiness and epic fear. Because of some extreme life experiences, I've come to see that there are just some things you shouldn't do to yourself because life is just too short to be so afraid. I figured out that the things I valued before didn't bring me real happiness or confidence. They didn't enhance relationships or quality of life.
I realized that I had trophies and accomplishments because I fought bitterly and doggedly for them. Whatever I had, I earned through sheer tenacity and a desperate need to prove a point. While persistence and commitment (read "stubbornness") were qualities I considered noble, I enjoyed the victories alone. Hollow. Totally Hollow.
When I made this realization, I started changing.
On Monday morning, I had an appointment with the Michigan Department of Agriculture as I entered the final phase of licensing of Three Little Birds Granola. My mom drove me and waited in the parking lot, hoping to lend moral support as I had a lot on my mind and needed a friendly traveling companion as I made the trip to Holt where the granola is now made.
Three Little Birds was a dream that eventually became a reality, after several long months, obstacles, and small victories and set-backs. The licensing of this product has been one of the most complicated, time-consuming and overwhelming projects that I've ever undertaken.
Obtaining the license was a huge accomplishment; not because it's intellectually or physically difficult. It was an accomplishment because it was a triumph of patience and perseverance. More than that, though, it was a victory because it represented how much my life could change in 12 short months because I made the decision to let go of my fear and take a risk.
When I settled into bed on Monday night, the sense of accomplishment was not as strong as the sense of thankfulness that I had the benefit of support of friends and family along the way. It was also incredibly obvious that nothing worth talking about matters if you don't have people you love to talk about it with.
Thanks to all of you who have been there along the way. Every gesture, big and small have been appreciated more than you could ever know.
Stacy Sloan; Chef & Founder of Three Little Birds