Last week I shared my regret of having a severe case of Mission Creep and the week before I shared my learnings (read: warning) about taking on debt as a small business owner. This is all part of a three part series based on a hypothetical letter that I would write to my 17 year old self…before I’d thought of The Dandelion Patch and before I became a small business owner. This concept grew from the popular Brad Paisley song, “A letter to me.”
I have received numerous emails and private messages that my experiences are resonating with a few of you, and more importantly the warnings are accepted by even more. So today’s story will be the final and most important message to highlight, because it’s about finding true joy.
When I started TDP in 2005, I was coming off a three year position of leading 600+ women volunteers at the Junior League of Northern Virginia. Quite frankly, I had successful tenure and left a sizable impact on the organization, the volunteers and the community at large. My peers complimented me, my mentors commended me, and my community embraced my leadership. Honestly, I was feeling quite full of myself.
I purchased TDP because I was writing 600+ thank you notes annually and would purchase my notes from a local stationer in Vienna, Virginia. I thought to myself, “ I can do this better” (than the lovely person that was running/owning Dandelion Patch at the time.) I made an offer, she accepted, and I moved into a world of retail and events with little more than a few dollars and an ego bigger than should be acceptable.
After the first year and an impressive 400% growth behind me, my ego increased and my tolerance for outside criticism grew smaller. After year three- with three consecutive years of 400%+ growth – I found that I was personally defined by the business. When things got rough around the edges, I worked harder and longer. Determined that I would be more committed and thus, more successful.
At some point, I sacrificed birthdays, holidays, days off and vacations- all with a feeling that without me, the business was destined for failure. Some of my staff offered suggestions, and my family begged for more time and attention. My business continued to grow as did my ego. But my personal joy was nowhere to be found.
In 2012, I was introduced to a stranger at my store in Leesburg. I responded by saying “I’m Heidi- or otherwise, I AM The Dandelion Patch.” I didn’t even realize it at the time. But the moment the customer left the store, a Patchette asked me, “aren’t you more than the Dandelion Patch?” At the time, I actually didn’t know the answer to this question. At the time, I was living, breathing and working TDP non-stop.
Fast forward to December 2014 when I was meeting my circle (more on this later, but it’s basically a group of women that I have met monthly for 4+ years, and we hold each other accountable for goals and objectives for a year at a time), and I was presenting my outcomes of a project that we’d completed where a pie chart was supposed to represent our lives- divided into 8 portions. Each piece of the pie chart that was less than 10% needed it’s own strategic plan for the year to increase to an acceptable level.
And there it stood out. Personal joy was below the 10% mark.
I had spent 9 years defining myself through my business. In the process, my family, my health and my interests outside of the business had suffered. I was (as usual) up to the challenge. I wrote an award-winning strategic plan for how to create personal growth, but first I had to acknowledge that TDP had to stand on it’s own two feet without me involved 24/7, or I would never achieve this goal. I quickly realized that (for the most part) my priorities had slipped to where my friends, family and faith were all behind the success of the business.
I wrote a list of things/experiences/people that brought me joy. It’s a harder project than you think- but with each realization, I promised to find personal joy in 2015 and was truly excited about the prospect. Here are a few of the items that I wrote:
1. I needed a day off from the business weekly. This meant I needed to close our stores every Sunday, or I’d always be called into a meeting/emergency/staffing need.
2. I needed to spend more time with my immediate family. This lead to a discovery that I needed to visit my son in California every six weeks and that I needed date night with my husband weekly.
3. I needed more time focusing on my health. My accountability group keeps me honest in saying I exercise 2-3 times weekly.
4. I needed more “me-time.” I know have a standing appointment at my favorite spa 5 times a year for a day of papering.
5. I needed more time for my hobbies. I love to read. I committed to a book club that changed my life and my attitude about living it to it’s fullest. And yes- it’s full of my favorite Europeans who believe living life to it’s fullest is the greatest accomplishment.
6. I needed less financial stress. So I’ve decided to make a few major pivots in my business strategy.
Of course, this is not the complete list- but it’s a glimpse into the way my brain worked towards a goal of achieving personal joy in 2015. I’m not quite there, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I had set backs. But here we are at the half-way mark of the year, and I feel satisfied that I am making progress and forward movement towards these goals.
I hope that some of this will spark enough curiosity that you will begin your own journey towards personal joy. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Until next time here’s to big wishes and pixie dust.