I had a mini break down last week. It was a throw back to early days at Brass Tacks when I used to wonder what I was doing and if was kidding myself by pursuing this business. I once promised myself that if work ever became all stress and no fun, then I needed to do something about it- either change the way I work, or take it as a sign that it’s time to quit. I had a few of those days last week- days when everything seemed overwhelming, nothing seemed to work, and I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.
At this point I just want to say a little something about the tone of this post. We live in world where we are encouraged to be positive all the time. Certainly, it’s what comes naturally to us at first until we’re faced with a stressful situation, but then we’re encouraged to plod on, to show an upbeat exterior and “get going” because that’s what tough people do during tough times. I’m not advocating negativity or pessimism, but I am taking honesty to another level here. I’ve been told before that my blog posts can be depressing and certainly it’s not a good marketing tactic to communicate everything that I go through as an entrepreneur. But I also feel it’s wrong to always sound upbeat and project an image of optimism, sharing nuggets of wisdom on how I jump over every hurdle when in fact there are times I get stuck in front of them. People find it acceptable to hear optimism based on nothing but emotion like, “I've got a feeling that this year’s going to be great”, but it’s just not cool to say, “I’m scared I might not be able to make this work, but I’ve invested so much in it emotionally that I can’t walk away either”.
But there, I just said it. I imagine that anyone who is passionate “feels” strongly- whether that emotion is happiness, sadness, frustration or love. So for all those euphoric hours I’ve spent pouring over fabrics, sketching designs late into the night, and waking up early and excited about working on those ideas, I think it’s okay to allow myself time to recover from a series of hurdles.
Last week I found myself getting upset at the Provident Fund (PF) office and feeling completely cynical about being honest in business. The whole PF episode I’ll save for a post after I get my PF code. I’ve written before about the struggle to find time to design when my entire day is taken up with billing, accounts, managing production and staff training/management at the store. That morning before my PF appointment I went to the store to chat with my staff. In my naïve optimism I spoke to them about how I’m struggling for time, and that the reason why I have 4 sales assistants in a shop less than 250 square feet is so that at least 2 of them show up on any given day to keep the shop open every day (leaving me to focus on design and production). I asked them for suggestions, saying that I was tired of shouting and repeating myself. Their suggestion: hire one more person or reduce the number of days the shop is open (to increase the probability that 2 people will show up for work every day). That same day there was a mess-up at the workshop, one that could have been prevented had my staff there followed a simple system I had put in place.
So what to do about stress or one’s threshold for stress? People usually start a business to gain happiness in some form or the other (career satisfaction, changing the industry in some way, or at the very least financial gain). But if you’re not getting any happier, then why not dump it all for a 9-6 job that you might not like, but least it gives you time to do other stuff? (It would pay you on time and would be a lot less stressful too).
I don’t know the answer to that question- I guess there is always the hope that things will change, and there’s time that helps people regain that positive energy. I feel much better about everything this week, but the whole experience has made me realize that more than the time to design, I need to fight for time to do all the fun things I’ve sacrificed for Brass Tacks. In the end, those are the things that will give me the energy to pull through bad days at work- much more so than good design ideas.