I stopped prioritising my health. Prior to being my own boss, I worked at an MNC. Five days a week, I worked out with crazy dedication. I invested in the right proteins, an appropriate gym and the right trainer. For me it wasn’t an expense, it was an investment.
The first year of being out on your own can hit you hard, financially, psychologically. You no longer make as much as you used to earlier, so in the beginning you constantly work at trimming the excesses. Sadly, I sacrificed my health routine to that. All the while thinking that when I got my finances back on track, I would invest more in my fitness. That never happens and the unhealthy lifestyle just creeps in on you.
I placed just too much importance on money. It was the first thing that went missing from my assets. I said yes to clients and projects spontaneously. I didn’t wait to think if it fit in with the direction of my business. That meant a year later, I was dealing with projects that I had lost interest with and did nothing for my creative potential. And if that wasn’t bad enough, my relationships with these clients began to get strained. At the end of the year, we let go off some clients who weren’t working well for our vision and us for them.
I didn’t have a plan “plan”. I mean I did have a plan. Sell what you love doing, make tons of money, have fun while doing it. But a plan means factoring in ground realities like business development, sales, prospect follow up, constantly evaluating what you are offering, consistently upgrading as per business environment, fixed costs and intangibles (health, wealth, happiness, relationships, family). Over time that plan has come into place. It is not wildly optimistic. But it has been built through reading the signs, the markets, innovative marketing strategies and just some really great people we work with.
I stopped reading. I used to be a voracious reader. My earlier job as a learning professional meant that I absolutely had to be on my toes about whatever was being said about self development, growth, adult learning, org culture and organisation design. Now that I had to keep myself motivated enough to read while I was working insane hours, it dropped off my list. In the first year, I managed to read only about 10 or 12 books. The lesser I read, the more drawn in I got into the “logistics” of running a business. Reading takes you out of yourself and gives you a better view of where you are at. I was close to losing that edge.
I didn’t carve out enough “mindful” me time. Since being an entrepreneur, the concept of weekends vanished for me. There were no off days. So the days that I hit a low, I Netflixed the whole day. Or I slept in. I ate unhealthy. I stopped talking to my closest friends citing “time” issues. To their credit, they understood and came right back to back me when I got my shit together. And despite all this unhealthy “me” time, when I restarted work, I still felt exhausted. I didn’t charge my creative batteries enough to be fully present for the real work.
Now more than 18 months into our start up, we are doing well. We are focused on what we want to do. We know our “why” of why we exist. We are aware of the pain points that we solve for people and also those that we don’t solve. We have also realised that the beauty of being by yourself is that you are flexible enough to work according to what you want. And that is kind of the bane too. It means self governance, self accountability- all of that rests on you.
It’s a great place to be in. Having gone through that time, now when I look back, I know I am better off for having experienced all that. And it makes me aware of how much farther I still have to go.