THOUGHTS FROM OUR ALPHA: The busy badge.
*Every now and then, Jordan, our Alpha, feels the extra push to get real. Pour yourself a glass of whiskey, coffee, or wine and enjoy.
THOUGHTS FROM OUR ALPHA
rants and real talk.
Raise your hand if you were a girl scout.
You better believe I was. And we didn’t just do arts and crafts. We camped, we built fires, we scrubbed floors when we were bad, we put on performances, we built things, we learned things, we traveled, and we earned badges.
I was a bit of a trouble-maker in girl scouts.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and the winters were nasty. Slushy, wet snow, not the pretty feathery snow like out west. We camped in a cabin one winter with our troop. Surrounded by frosted trees, this little cabin was simple, one large empty loft to accomodate all of us, where and we all laid our sleeping bags out side by side. On one end, the staircase leading to the loft, and on the other, a fire escape leading out to adventure. My two best friends and I just had to explore, so early one morning, we snuck out the door and down the escape, venturing out to slide across the frozen river that was just a stone’s throw away. We knew our troop leaders wouldn’t be fond of this idea, for obvious reasons, but we did it anyway and when we were done having our fun, we decided to sneak back up the fire escape. We thought we had the perfect plan. We would send the signal and our friends would let us in, since the door locked automatically and could only be opened from the inside. With no coats and wet socks, we were starting to get impatient. I bent down to see if I could look through the keyhole to see inside for any indication of movement, to see if our friends were coming. Right as I bent down and closed one eye and squinted the other to focus…SMACK. The door opened and the rusty hardware hit me right on the hairline of my forehead. I blinked my eyes a few times trying to shake off the initial sting, and then I felt a warmth flowing down my face. My friends turned white and stared at me in horror. My face was covered in blood (The cut itself wasn’t all that bad, but if you have ever cut your face, you know it bleeds a lot). An urgent care visit, a few stitches, and a mother with a damn-near heart attack later - I was scolded and celebrated upon my return to the cabin, and I have the battle scar to prove it. Most upsetting - The girl scouts don’t give out badges for sneaking out of your perfectly warm cabin into the frozen tundra without notifying an adult. I’m actually surprised they didn’t take some of my badges away, you know..like the ones for safety or common sense.
I was always really proud of my badges. If any of you were scouts, you were likely really proud too. Each new badge led to sitting at the table with mom to sew the new accomplishment onto an empty space of my sash or vest, and I aimed to have every inch covered.
Fast forward to today: Most of the women I know fill up empty space with badges of some kind. There are badges we know we wear, and proudly, and then there are some we have adopted like some of our other bad habits.
For the last 5 years, I have worn the badge of BUSY. I wasn’t always sure which category this fell into, good or bad, but it felt good to say and it was addictive in nature. “I’m so busy…business is so good and busy…busy is the best problem to have.” I even heard it from others, “wow, are you ever ‘off’?…you are KILLIN it…girl, you are hustling…from the looks of social media - you are really doing amazing.” I could talk about the fluffy side of social media, but I’ll save that for the next rant.
I have recently had a few conversations with friends about what success means, and how most of us think the only way we can accomplish our goals is by being busy. Most of my friends who work remotely or are building startups have mentioned that they feel GUILTY when they don’t wake up early and start working, or if they quit earlier than 5 pm. Waking up at 4 am with new ideas is a nearly-every-night occurrence. They are juggling all the things, browsing all the windows, constantly putting out fires and improving processes. We live in a time where we can’t keep up with notifications, and we are slaves to email, to social, to our phones, and to our work. Whether you work for yourself or not, busy seems to be the indicator that things are going really well.
HONESTY ALERT: I promise to get real on these rants, so here I go.
I’m exhausted and I’m not “KILLIN IT.” Most days, it actually feels more like I’m killing myself burning the candle at both ends. I’ve definitely always been a high-achiever, studying all hours of the night, aiming for high GPA’s and praise. In design school my freshman year of college, we were challenged with using fabrics and textiles to portray ourselves. I embroidered my self-portrait by hand, yup - that’s right…embroidered it. I think I stayed awake for 72 hours trying to finish my eyeball before the project was due. On presentation day, I was shaking from all of the energy drinks and I barely got words out to explain my artistic vision and reasoning for picking something so meticulous. Most jobs I have had have resulted in me taking on extra responsibility, volunteering to lead new projects, or aim to better the existing systems or websites (most of the time without extra pay). And then I started my own business, which is when I think this hurricane of a perfect storm really started to rip through my life in ways I never imagined.
With two new businesses in tow, my husband and I moved from the Gulf Coast in Destin, Florida to Bozeman, Montana. Immediately - I joined everything. I volunteered for women’s events, I reached out to total strangers for coffee, I joined leads groups and memberships. I even got a part-time job at the women’s business center in addition to running two businesses to “meet people.” My husband’s new dream job was less than we expected (in more ways than one), which resulted in us selling our new home and moving back across the country to Greensboro, NC just one year later. Thinking about the chaoe, I don’t think I can attribute the burnout solely to all of the moves and packing and unpacking and networking and starting over. I think the cause of the burnout is ME. It’s my tendency to be independent and do it myself, to take it all on and keep pushing with no breaks. If I don’t stop to breathe, I won’t know how tired I am, so I just keep going and I push harder and harder. Burnout comes from my inability to say no, and at the end of the day, it is because of my comfort level in BUSYNESS.
It took two really big blows to my business in Q1 this year for me to be forced to slow down and take a break. These unexpected losses forced me to eliminate my plush, beautiful office downtown, my tools and subscriptions, my extra, unnecessary spending, and my dinners out or late nights at the office. There I was, at my quiet house, in a home office, with no one else around (minus my great dane, Lucy), for me to realize that I have needed this all along. I have been so busy pushing, I have been so wrapped up in my ego, that on this uphill journey, I lost myself.
I started to define myself by how busy I was. At social girls’ nights, I would talk about work. I started to feel like I didn’t have anything in common with non-entrepreneurs. I neglected my spouse, my house, my pups. Even worse, I totally neglected myself. I would skip lunch, stare at my computer for 14 hours a day and never take off on weekends. I was constantly connected and I didn’t take time to exercise or breathe or read something other than a business book. I was obsessed with success and to me, the only way to get there was to WORK MY ASS OFF.
Here’s the thing: starting a business does require you to work your ass off. It does require long work days and sacrifices, but there has to be a means to an end, and busyness - it’s a slippery slope. My realization lately has been that most of my “goals” actually don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. While being on the cover of Forbes would be amazing, it doesn’t define who I am. I realized that building my “empire” might not totally fulfill me in the end, that even if I was successful (whatever that means), I wouldn’t want to do it alone, without my friends and family in the picture. I have learned that being busy does not guarantee my success, and sometimes it even inhibits success by distracting me from the BIG picture and what’s really important.
Question for you:
How busy are you? Is it getting you where you want to go?