Category: Being an Entrepreneur

Freedom vs. Security

Life has its trade-offs and compromises. When I left my full time job to follow my passion to work with animals, I gave up the security of a regular paycheck and 25 years of experience behind me which just about ensured that I could find work if needed.  But I wasn’t thinking of that at the time; I was focused on my newfound freedom of being able to take an exciting new path. It’s now been just about seven years since I walked from that seemingly clear, obstacle-free road into what at times have been the scary, dark woods. I may be liberated of the confines of a full time job, but am I truly free?

There have been so many days when I long for the certainty of an income that will cover my bills, to wake up each morning and know exactly where I’m supposed to be and what I have to do.  Instead, I have a variable income that often does not pay the bills and every day is a different schedule (even weekends) with an overwhelming number of project/task choices. Some people may say, “Terrific! I would love a life like that!” Truly, some personalities would be okay with that uncertainty. And many days I am too. But there are so many other days filled with fear and insecurity. I desperately look to find the way back to the highway. I get tired of struggling with hacking my way through to clear a new path.

The philosophers tout, “follow your bliss,” “do what you love, the money will follow” and I believe it. But they neglected to explain that it may take a very, very long time, and getting there takes a great deal of faith and tenacity. Changing careers at mid-life is not for everyone.

Who’s to say that if I had stayed with the old corporate job that it would have been any easier? As we know, no job is secure anymore. It is an illusion, as I frequently have to tell my 90-year-old mother who constantly tells me to go back into telecommunications to have a “secure” job. I then remind her of the days when she worked for AT&T and she had to endure the stress of impending layoffs. That shuts her up…temporarily.

Where I sit now, I have full control over steering my ship. That’s freedom. And the compromise I have made is dealing with fear and the insecurity of where I’m headed. In reality, aren’t we all in that same boat no matter what our career choices? That realization makes me feel better.  


End of a Dream

Yesterday, one of my dreams was doused. As I watched Oprah’s last show, I selfishly mourned that I could no longer envision my book being chosen for Oprah’s book club nor see myself intimately discussing it with her so the world could learn more about puppy mill survivors and their adopters.  So many of us writers had that dream; so few saw it realized. And now we never will. Oprah’s impact was huge. Will there be anyone coming along to fill that void?  Can someone else pick up the ball so that we can resume the reverie?

I actually never had the time to be a regular viewer but occasionally tuned in if Oprah had an interesting topic. I particularly liked her inspirational guests: Mattie Stepanek, Iyanla Vanzant, Maya Angelou, and others who may be called New Agers. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, Oprah undeniably introduced us to many important universal concepts, ones that have shaped my life since I changed careers and decided to work for the animals. I may not have been able to persevere without having learned about believing in the soft whispers from my soul.

During her final show yesterday, Oprah reminded us of a few of those principles. First and foremost, Oprah reinforced that we all have a spark, a passion, a mission in our lives. It doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor – improving the life of just one person can make a difference.  We all can’t be and don’t need to be Oprahs. But we’re all capable of being educators and helpers. She also said something that rang true for me: We’re all looking for validation; to be recognized and heard. Amen to that. And her other reminder: We all are worthy and deserving.

If I truly buy into the teachings that came from Oprah’s couch, I can achieve my dreams without her, without her book club. I can be the voice for the dogs still suffering in puppy mills, I can be an effective advocate for animal welfare and I can be the educator who explains the interwoven and intricate relationships with our pets.

What will you miss about Oprah’s show and do you think she’ll reinvent herself with another venture to help us with our lives?

Yes, Oprah, we will miss you. We thank you for all you have given us. But you have empowered us with the information to carry the ball ourselves.  There may not be someone else to come along to take your place.  Maybe we are finally on our own to realize our individual potentials.

I left my corporate job almost 7 years ago to work with animals. It was exhilarating yet the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I’m still scared because I continue to live off of my dwindling savings as I hope to sell lots more books. I can find myself in a very fearful place. But I’m lucky. I’m safe. Hundreds of thousands of people in Japan are not.

My home is now 15 years old and my rugs and kitchen floor need replacing. But I have a floor – and a roof over my head. Many people in Japan no longer have that.  Thank you for my old flooring and dog-dirty rugs. They look just fine.

I have a strict food budget. I shop the sales, clip coupons and freeze vegetables I buy in bulk in a large freezer in my basement.  Many people in Japan now have no food or even water. Thank you for my freezer and for the grocery stores who have great sales!

I hesitate to take time for myself, to go for long walks instead of sitting at my computer working. I think that if I work longer, I’ll be more successful. Many people in Japan cannot leave their homes for fear of radiation exposure. Thank you for the option of being able to take walks in fresh air if I want to.

There are days when I feel like I am losing my footing, my future shaky. But the earth is not moving under my feet without warning every day, several times a day as it is in Japan. I am thankful that my little piece of land isn’t shifting or being swept away in a torrent.

Whenever I feel fear, I will remember the images of the people left homeless or the ones who are being scanned for radiation exposure.  I have it really, really good. Don’t we?

One Year Anniversary

Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog. I thank my loyal readers and commenters – you have kept me motivated to write and share. While most of my posts are about animals, the true theme is change – whether it’s me who is changing or me hoping to bring about change.

Change is something we all can relate to; it’s unavoidable. It happens regardless if we decide to make a change or just live and let change happen to us. No matter, most of us find change to be very difficult and resist it. Security is what we crave, and when we find ourselves in a good place we want to stay there. But inevitably, something occurs to shake up our world and bring challenges. After all, safety and security can breed complacency.

I have to admit that I want security. I would run to it if it were a place to live. I don’t think I’ve ever lived in Security. As a result, I’ve looked for Change to be where I reside. I guess I think that with each move to Change, I’ll really find that it brings me closer to Security.

I’ve read self-help, spiritual books that claim the only way to peace is to be happy where you are. In other words, don’t move to find Security. Even if the winds blow you to Change. And believe me, they will. Gusts will come along and take you to places you’ve never dreamed.

When I decided to leave my job in the corporate world, I made a conscious decision to make change happen instead of waiting for it to happen to me. I wanted a different life, a new career that would bring me happiness and fulfillment. The past 6 years have seemed like the town of Security was 10,000 miles away. I asked for change and I got it! But who knows what would have happened if I had decided to stay put in my corporate job? I may have been blown into yet another direction with a whole different set of challenges.

Life is truly about how you deal with the changes, no matter if they happen to you or if you make them happen. For me, I’d much rather set my own direction. How about you?

No matter who we are or what we do, everyone needs to be told “thank you” or “you’re doing a great job” at least sometime. Many bosses overlook this very small detail which can go a very long way in helping morale.  The act of acknowledging someone also brings happiness to the acknowledger.  It feels good to make someone else feel good!

Just this morning, I was walking my dog in the snow-covered street because there was nowhere else to walk.  Sidewalks were covered and we couldn’t hop over the six-foot mound of plowed snow to get to our usual trail across the street. I picked up my dog’s “deposit” in a baggie and stopped to throw it into the community dumpster. Just then, the trash truck pulled up. The driver hopped out and surveyed how he was going to maneuver the truck to get to the dumpster which was surrounded by snow.  I said to him, “This snow must make your job twice as difficult.”  He looked surprised at first, maybe because he rarely gets spoken to? Then he smiled and said, “It has its challenges. Have a good day.”

I was instantly glad that I made the effort to acknowledge this hard-working, and probably quite undervalued person. I hope that I made his day a little nicer.

Can you think of how you can acknowledge someone each day in just a little way to make them feel better?  And to make you feel good too!

Many people envy self-employed people whose offices are in their homes. While it has its benefits, do they fully understand the pros and cons? If so, they may not be so envious! I recently told someone that I was feeling stressed and the response was, “ I have to be at a job, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5,”  implying that I’m not working as hard as someone who is employed by a company.  Ha!!  Anyone out there who wishes to chime in?

Some days, I long for pre-entrepreneur days at my old job in a large corporation when I powered off the computer, turned off the lights and shut the door behind me at 5:00pm on Fridays. Granted, not everyone who has an 8 – 5 job can leave it behind, though.  But when you are self-employed, the worries don’t stop when the office door is shut. As I’ve entered the phase of heavy-duty marketing of my book, I find that I’m constantly pasted to my computer checking Facebook for an opportunity to drop a strategic comment that someone will see in hopes of generating interest, writing letters to ask for reviews, and posting to other blogs.  I could spend hours each day looking for events and places to sell.  I often catch myself staying up very late as I search for new opportunities. With an always lengthy to-do list, it’s easy to work 14-16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Taking a break seems self-indulgent and evokes feelings of guilt that you’re not doing all that you can to ensure success.  Exercise also takes a back seat.  And I often awake in the middle of the night with anxiety over what I should be doing.

The benefits of being self-employed are many, however. I have complete flexibility with my schedule, working until midnight and sleeping late in the morning if that best suits me. I can easily manage appointments for car maintenance, doctors/dentists, and other necessities.  I also can throw in a load of laundry while I work. The freedom is wonderful. 

As with anything, the grass can seem greener on the other side.  It just depends on your personality and choices and tolerance for uncertainty. If you do chose the self-employed route, it’s so important to have a strong support network of family, friends and business professionals. My writers group is terrific and I couldn’t ask for better friends and family.  And the National Association for the Self-Employed also is a great resource for the business end. 

P.S. Note the day and time of this post!  No such thing a lazy weekend!

Bucket List

Do you hear people talking about going places and doing things that are on their bucket lists, a.k.a., things to do before they kick the bucket?   The reason behind a bucket list is that we don’t want to die without doing what’s important to us.  For many people, their bucket list consists of places to visit  or whatever piques their interest.  For me, it’s not about where I want to go – physically – but what I want to accomplish.  Fulfillment of my dreams, to hear the music of my soul and, as Wayne Dyer says, to not die with my music still in me.

Writing has always been my “music.” I’ve felt the need to express myself in writing for as long as I can remember. So why have I waited for my menopausal years to put my dreams into reality?  Fear? Maybe. Busy chasing other paths in life instead of listening to my soul?  Definitely!  But as we age, the bucket list becomes more important and we begin to fear losing out on those opportunities more than the fear of doing them.

One of my favorite movies is called The Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah.  She plays a woman who learns she only has three weeks to live and decides to do everything she dreamed of but never did. She let go of her fears and went for it. Despite impeding death looming over her, she had a blast. When I first saw this movie, I was still contemplating leaving my corporate job to go full time in my own business. I think this movie helped to convince me to let go of my fears and go for it.

My bucket list is pretty simple: write books to help people learn about animals. I could die happy if I knew I had made a difference.  Of course, I wouldn’t mind a trip to Hawaii or the Rockies too! 

How about you?  What’s your music?  Do you have a bucket list?

When I took the leap from steady employment in the corporate world into having my own business, I was too exhilarated about my new adventure to be fearful.  But as the reality of the challenges I faced set in, so did the fear.  And then for the ensuing years, my moods would pendulum from energized optimism to chocolate-binging, couch potato-ism.  Coincidentally, these mood shifts can be symptoms of menopause.  Was I experiencing the normal anxieties associated with beginning a new venture, was it menopause, or both?  I couldn’t have asked for better timing, huh?

Regardless of the root cause, I needed to deal with my feelings of fear because I found myself thinking of giving up and running back to the cubicled hallways of dreams ne’er fulfilled.  I found that inspirational quotes were somewhat helpful like this one from Eleanor Roosevelt:

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

And I read books such as The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer and Ask and It Is Given by Ester and Jerry Hicks.  The bodies of work from these people are most impressive and have helped millions of people.  I also recently discovered a new on-line magazine called fear.less.  It looks very promising and deserving of a read. 

Most importantly, I kept my focus on why I started my business – my love for animals and the desire to help them by educating people. Without a solid grounding in those passions, I would have succumbed to the fear long ago. It’s not enough to just want my own business; success can only come through commitment to a dream that won’t go away.

And what do I do about the menopausal moods swings?  I try to adhere to the healthy lifestyle that I wrote about in my blog post, Dawn at 3:00am?  But I have to admit that I occasionally indulge my chocolate cravings along with a few hours of watching my favorite movies, mostly those by Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron. Nuturing for my dreams and my soul.

Remember my blog post on March 13 when I said that I don’t idolize celebrities?  In the same post, I expressed the desire, as a single entrepreneur, to have someone who “has my back” as Sandra Bullock said of her husband, Jesse James. Well, this past week certainly confirmed why I don’t idolize celebrities!  Jesse admitted to adultery while Ms.  Bullock was filming her Oscar-winning performance in The Blind Side.  Thousands of women envied her marriage when she gave her Oscar acceptance speech.  Little did we know the real details of her life and marriage – no different than the rest of us non-glamorous, un-stars.  I was saddened to hear of his infidelities and as disillusioned as when I heard that Prince Charles cheated on Diana (and vice versa!).  There are no fairy tale endings.  Princesses, movie stars and regular people alike.

Celebrity does not guarantee immunity from problems, so why do so many of us envy them?  As much as we like to watch celebrities and wish we could be in their shoes, those shoes do not possess the magical powers of Dorothy’s ruby slippers.  Celebrities cannot click their heels together and return to Kansas where Aunt Em and Uncle Henry provide a safe and secure home.  We’re all living with the exact same issues in this life – looking for love, security and acceptance.  I say it’s time to stop putting celebrities on pedestals and start paying more attention to the real heroes in this world – the people who dream big dreams of making this world a better place and put those dreams into actions.

I’ve never been someone who idolizes other people, especially celebrities and definitely not reality TV “stars” and I don’t indulge in the gossip that surrounds them.  But I do enjoy watching the Academy Awards to see who’s who and to stay current.  While watching the show last Sunday, I was impressed with Sandra Bullock’s acceptance speech.  She was humble and appreciative, and projected the down-to-earth image that we have seen in many of her characters.  Her choice of Jesse James as a husband raised  many eyebrows because he appears to be so different from the person we think she is (although I must admit that I don’t know much about him). Ms. Bullock thanked her husband in her speech, of course, but one thing she said struck a huge chord with me.  She said, to paraphrase, “for the first time, I know that someone has my back.”  And that has helped her to do what she loves and to be successful.  Wow.  As an unmarried entrepreneur, I have long-wished for someone to “have my back,” to have that support.

I’ve been going it alone for 10 years and although I have been successful, I wonder if it had been easier if I had a husband to help me, even if he was just there to listen or give advice.  Maybe I’m idolizing the role of a husband because I don’t have one now.  I think back to when I was married many years ago.  My husband was a nice guy but he wanted me to do what he wanted and he was very adept at convincing me of that.  But then one day, I realized that I was squelching my needs.  I suppose that if had stayed married, I could never have started my own business and followed my dreams to be a full-time writer.  So even though I had a husband, I still wasn’t assured of him “having my back.”  Which takes me to my original statement – I don’t idolize people.  Having a husband is no guarantee that he would support my dreams. Only I can do that.  Throughout my journey as an entrepreneur, I found help with following my dreams from the writing and teaching of  Dr. Wayne Dyer. His blog post of January 15 2010, he says that if you can dream it, you can become it.  I agree.