It’s been 43 days since I released the pressure valve. It feels like 6 months, perhaps that’s because in typical “start-up years” that’s what it’s been.
In that time, I finally turned the big 4–0. I celebrated with a 12-day stint in Bali, cruising the streets, soaking up the sunsets, consuming as many 50c avocados as I could, drinking my weight in Pina Colada’s, playing chicken with other motorbike riders, you know, the usual Canggu vibes. I didn’t get a tattoo, adopt a rescue dog, grow a beard, get dreads or wear a bikini thong…so maybe I didn’t really “do” Bali. But heck maybe next time. I have come to feel like it’s another home, even after only a few visits, it’s such a balm. And whilst it’s crazy-busy and everyone is driving at you in all of the directions at the same time, including the footpaths, I find so much peace there. Auckland feels so sedate in comparison, yet when I’m in Bali (in spite of the crazy motoring) I can feel my mind slowing down, my body re-tuning and I sleep better.
I also noticed how content people seemed. Even out in the non-touristy places it felt like everyone we met conducted themselves with a sort of peace and serenity. Could it be that better weather is good for us? Or is it just a reality of a bigger country, poorer people finding enlightenment in ways that some of us could dearly benefit from? It’s got me asking a bunch of questions I never considered before, and I’ll keep pondering them for a while yet. Answers on the back of a postcard please (or tweet will be just fine @jenene).
I ran into the lovely Ina from East Day / Spring Spa (we had the privilege of enjoying her lovely Villa Camilla whilst we were there) and she said to me, “you know, I was just commenting yesterday how you look like a different person, you’re so relaxed!”
And you know what? I feel like a different person. Even after arriving home and fighting off jet lag (oh the irony), I haven’t had any post-holiday blues, I haven’t felt like the holiday glow has kowtowed to the mountainous volume of email neglect, it hasn’t been at all “go go, catch up, catch up!”.
I walked into a completely under control office, who whilst pleased to see me, didn’t really have anything pressing to talk to me about. And it’s not like I checked in regularly, I opened my computer once in 12 days. I really, honest to god, stepped the fuck away from it all. And this was on the back of a fairly significant restructure and strategic change, including two massive technology releases. But nope, they had it all in hand. They didn’t seem particularly stressed or worried, they were all very calm too. And sales were pretty good! We had 21% growth in the same period this month to last, so it’s not like the accelerator was released.
There have been other things too. Like I rode my bike to work today. I’ve slept in most days this week (I used to be a 5.30am every day girl, now it’s more like 7.30am…okay, even an 8am one!) What I’ve noticed about taking the pressure off me, and creating space, is that I’ve changed what’s important and the timelines for doing them in. I still value being stimulated and desire achieving business goals, but I’ve entirely reframed in my head where they fit into the overall picture. Me first, get stuff done second. But also, I decide whatstuff should get done as the priority and have unapologetically become dogmatic in discarding the unimportant or unnecessary. For instance, I stopped the team doing a bunch of things that we’ve just done for ages, because someone ages ago said they should (probably me, like inane reporting). I’ve got single-minded in my focuses and so has the team. The priorities and plans are the simplest they’ve ever been. The communication has become more honest, straight forward and collaborative.
When I told people that I was going to be taking pressure off, they automatically assumed that meant I was going to be less interested or engaged in Flossie. “But what about the business?” they cried. And to be fair, before my burn out had I heard another founder state they were slowing down as I did, I would have assumed that it was going to be bad news for the business. But you know what? It’s actually probably the healthiest thing I could ever have done for the business too. We have a weird fascination / obsession with the formula of 100% of our time and focus = success. We must be DRIVEN.
Actually, being driven is what has cost me the most personally. I’ve driven myself almost bonkers (okay, entirely bonkers, but let’s not split hairs). The very definition is of being someone who is relentlessly compelled by the need to accomplish a goal, very hard-working. We see these as critical elements to an outcome. In part, I don’t disagree. Work ethic is incredibly important to me. But does it mean you must commit super humanly to the cause, or should it in fact mean that our attitude is one of “can do” and “we’ll find away”. Because there’s a very big, fundamental difference. In my experience where people often fall down in getting traction on a project is not knowing where to start, or how to keep going through critical junctures. We talk about the idea of being resilient through tough times, yes, that’s important too, but those tough times aren’t exclusive to funding. They’re also about finding solutions to deeply complex problems. Things that might automatically stop some folk in their tracks, “well, guess we can’t do that then” — perhaps would be the norm response, but the true entrepreneurial skill is in being able to find a way around the road block and forge a new path previously unconsidered (and doing it anyhow, without proof of it being fail-free.) That doesn’t mean staying awake for three days straight and never having a weekend off. That doesn’t mean not paying yourself and demonstrating sufficient self-flagellation so the world can see how deep your commitment is. What it means is demonstrating how capable you are of thinking and acting differently (and creatively) in order to get unlikely solutions that most people wouldn’t consider. That’s what gets results. That’s true entrepreneurship.
Let’s start measuring that as our success gauge of founders and CEO’s.
By “taking the pressure off” I’m creating space for my mind to calm and recalibrate and enabling what I do best to shine through. This wasn’t easy to achieve. It got pretty bloody raw there for a while and I had to make some tough decisions that weren’t pretty. But the net result feels inherently worth it.
Perhaps this seems incredibly obvious, of course it will from an outsider’s point of view. But when you’re in the machine, be it one of your own making or a spinning one you jumped on, it’s hard to get a grip on the simplicity of not feeling the guilt that goes with not being “always on”. If someone puts money in you, you can’t help but feel you owe them 100% of your time. We live in a world that’s always on, that feeds on instant gratification, it is the simplest thing to mistake “doing” as giving it 100%, as opposed to considering that maybe it’s our 0.5% that makes us special.