The Downside of Being Your Own Boss? You’re a Hardass
One of my favorite truisms is “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
I see the truth of that statement reflected in the way I drive.
I drive with my foot on the gas. I try to be reasonable with my speed and am not always able to do so. I don’t get a thrill from speeding, but I do get a thrill by getting places quickly.
My goal is to get the places I am going with as much efficiency and directness as is humanly possible.
I am hard on myself about this.
I pretty much always think I can make up time on the road. I tell myself it only takes 15 minutes to get anywhere I want in my town (not true). While I’m constantly gauging dangers as I drive, my foot is near to the brake. I remain focused and present as I pilot the vehicle — rapidly.
I go hard, foot on the gas. I expect to get there.
I recently realized that’s basically how I behave in my work too.
I have this drive. It’s been there since I was a child. It is an essential part of who I am. But it was also nurtured by living in a male-dominated family that required a level of toughness and commitment to hanging to stay a part of the tribe. And the tribe was everything to me.
I felt I needed to drive myself hard to get the results I wanted.
I was driving me.
Being a dreamer, the results I have aspired to in my life have been lofty. So the drive to achieve them has been significant.
When in late 2015 I co-founded my own company, I felt ready to apply my impressive work ethic to the cultivation of my company. I was done with applying it to the companies of others and getting returns that did not interest me nor completely motivate me.
I knew, I thought, how to make this company happen, because I knew how to work hard.
So I placed my nude pump on the gas pedal of my endeavor and took off. Luckily, so did the business. And we worked at a furious pace, keeping up with clients who wanted results tomorrow and ROI starting Monday to justify an investment we were so grateful to have.
There were detours, speed zones and construction zones to be sure, but since late 2015, I have been speeding to get “there.”
After slowing my roll over the holidays, the first six months of this year presented some of the greatest opportunities our young company has had yet. So it made perfect sense to mash down on the accelerator again.
It took me until the end of the first quarter to realize what I was doing.
Taking a pedal-to-the-metal approach to being a hands-on mother, wife, entrepreneur, friend, daughter, sister, mentor, community member, artist and contributing member of society was going to result in one reality — a fiery crash.
Having endured self-imposed fiery crashes of the past (thankfully), I had no desire to repeat history.
A mentor called me out for being out of spiritual alignment and questioned if I believed in a higher power — I was stunned. Always a deeply spiritual person, I was shocked he could not see my spirituality in me. It frightened me.
My hairdresser told me my hair was going through a stress-induced shedding cycle.
Another friend referred to my situation as “living on the hamster wheel.”
I took a couple days off and festered, struggling to make the transition to not having some part of my delicate toes clenched and crushing the rubber of the accelerator. I got a pedicure and admonished myself to think about something other than my latest strategy for building a thriving business.
That’s when I had this thought, “You need foot off the gas days, Emily.”
For every week I spent pushing the upper limits of a right-hand turn or a wide-open highway stretch, I needed days that I would provide for my right foot to rest gently, flatly on the ground.
To do that, I had to give myself permission to stop. I needed permission to let it go. And I needed to plan for these days and times, so they would actually happen. I needed to prepare myself to rest, once I got there.
And probably my least favorite: I needed to tell my tribe what I needed. Vulnerability. Sarcastic hurray.
I also needed permission to believe in the value we had already brought — basically I needed to know I could coast a bit down the road.
I began to think about these at Foot Off the Gas — FOG — days, and then I began to take them, in small increments of time first and then more regularly.
Once I did that, the deeper need (there’s always a deeper need) presented itself.
I needed, more than anything else, to give myself back my joy. I needed permission to have fun doing what I was doing.
I realized I had stolen that enjoyment clean out of my own little hands in all my commitment to work hard.
Here’s my takeaway, sports fans: Fun is a very easy sacrifice to make on the road to prosperity.
And it’s super easy to do when you are the exacting, bullish boss of you.
But surrendering fun for all-out, all-the-time hard work, will also steal your joy, snatch your energy for what you do, and it will erode your forward momentum.
So as a business investment, this hard-assery is completely not worth it.
The boss be damned.