When I first decided to open my own business, I had a glorious vision of complete schedule freedom and working remotely while I traveled often to visit family and friends. I am also a practical person, so my vision included the reasonable expectation that I would face challenges and meet opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. I even made sure to expect the unexpected. I did not expect the journey to be so deeply personal. I thought I would learn how to run a business, but I am actually learning a little more about how to be a human.
Three and half years into this journey, I have learned about imposter syndrome, website management, how to fire a client, and many other practical and personal lessons. I have processed through deep-seeded self-doubt narratives all the way from childhood that I didn't even know were there until they rose up out of the shadows to stare me full in the face. And while this experience has been life-changing in many ways, the most profound lesson I have learned so far is: the process is what’s important.
In my earlier years I moved through the world from goal to goal, counting each final achievement as success. I devoted little attention to the process itself, working diligently and ceaselessly until reaching my aim. This served me well initially in several areas of my life. When I was a teenager I escaped a chaotic home life through legal emancipation. Then I graduated high-school at age 16 while working and living independently. In my 20's I earned my bachelor's degree while also working my full-time government job. I built a career, I bought a house, I served on non-profit boards, and did a lot of really great and responsible things.
Naturally, I followed the same methodology to start my business. I went on information interviews. Check. I tested for certifications. Check. I wrote a business plan. Check. Then I set up the legal and tax structure and got to work networking and marketing. Check and check.
Toward the end of my first year, the networking seeds began to blossom into clients who engaged my firm to solve their various financial mysteries. I worked long days on projects while also trying to keep up with all the admin tasks critical to running a business. No one told me before I started my business that the words “new business owner” are actually from an ancient dead language that translates to “human with twelve full-time jobs.” And after a year, I was completely exhausted. I was nearly burned out and I was getting desperate, so I called my mentor.
While sitting in her cozy living room, sipping coffee and describing what my life had become, it suddenly hit me: I am never going to be done running this business; there will always be another task that needs to be completed. I thought about the long list of my achievements to-date and imagined my 80 year old self taking a similar inventory over an even longer list with decades more goals accomplished. And nothing on that list seemed to matter. In that moment I realized the value of great achievements is not their mere completion - it is the culmination of life experience gained while working to achieve them.
And that's when my head exploded.
Suddenly I could see a whole new world of possibilities. I could imagine running my business differently, with more intention, and in a sustainable way. At the same time my perspective also shifted on everything else: my martial arts practice, my service on non-profit boards, even my relationships. I wanted to fully participate in every aspect of my life and enjoy it as it was happening instead of unconsciously moving from milestone to milestone.
It is important to note that I did not suddenly become a master of being present for my life at the moment I made my great discovery. Being in-process is a practice. Just like mindfulness, martial arts, and being a good communicator. I often forget it is my intention to participate in life as it is occurring and slip back into my well-worn patterns of doing. Fortunately I can remember again any time, as many times, and as often as I need to.
The truth is we’re all in-process all of the time. At first this might seem daunting, and I can understand feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of work that is guaranteed to go on forever. But I actually find it exciting because that also means you will never run out of life to experience. It’s the same reason I love martial arts so much: you will never be done discovering yourself and the world around you. Each time you climb to the top of a mountain, you get to see just how many more peaks there are left to climb and how many valleys left to explore.
- Jaydra Perfetti (she/her/hers)
Information and Inspiration:
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.