I just finished listening to Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Did you hear me right?
I FINISHED A BOOK!! This may be a run of the mill statement for you but this was a huge accomplishment for me. I’m the girl who’s had the same book sitting by my bed for six months.
I’ve been in a book funk for about…. um, 6 years. (That time frame seems to coincide with the age of my oldest child.)
It's not that I haven't read any books in the last 6 years but the quantity has been pitiful. I’m embarrassed about it. When current reading lists rise to the top of a group discussion, I go quiet. I look around with adoration and hang on their words, living vicariously through them.
I long to read more. Time seems to always be filled by something else (often the kids or sleep).
But, I had a nice breakthrough. I was getting bored with the podcasts I usually listen to, so I checked out a few audio books from the library.
And guess what happened? I listened to TWO books this past week. No joke. Any moments I’ve had to myself I’ve been listening. Cooking, folding laundry, grocery shopping, driving, you name it and the words have been flowing.
Big Magic as been amazing. It is a beautiful conversation where creativity and reality collide. She pulls the concept of creativity down from the clouds and gets real about incorporating it into your life. Her discussion of a “shit sandwich” completely resonated with me.
Here’s a quick excerpt:
“What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?” What Manson means is that every single pursuit—no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem—comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, its own lousy side effects. As Manson writes with profound wisdom: “Everything sucks, some of the time.” You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?” Manson explains it this way: “If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the eighty-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.” Because if you love and want something enough—whatever it is—then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”
Yep. Read this part again. Internalize it. There is so much truth in this passage.
"Everything sucks, some of the time. So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?”
I wanted to cry out “Sweet baby Jesus, thank you!” So many people only focus on the glamour and end result when the journey is really rough. Those of us who choose these paths endure and overcome many challenges along the way, mostly unacknowledged.
My husband and I owned a coffee roaster for eight years. The first two years we made less than $15,000...combined. We would work for months (no joke!) straight without a day off while we were getting the business off the ground. Friends around us were going kayaking and sailing while we were inside making lattes. It wasn’t pretty.
But we had bigger dreams than staying behind the counter. We kept sight of those goals and continued to work towards them. But for the time being, working our asses off for no money was unfortunately part of the strategy. Slowly but surely we worked our way out and up from behind the counter.
The last year that we owned that business, we spent our efforts driving the business forward with strategy, marketing, special projects and staff development. We had flexibility to take chunks of times off with our family. We never worked weekends anymore (in a service based business this was huge) and we cut back on the hours we worked. All while becoming more profitable.
And then we sold that business.
Many people only looked at that last year of business and the fact that we were able to sell it. They focused on the success and the wins.
They didn’t want to acknowledge that there was a buffet of shit sandwiches we ate along the way. Most people would not be willing to do that. But we were. And in the end we accomplished many of our goals.
Even now in my new business I strive to always be improving and spend more of my time doing the parts that I love. But there are shit sandwiches all along the way.
You can’t escape it.
Life isn’t all roses.
Creating something out of nothing is hard work.
Are you willing to endure the parts you hate, to create the parts you love?
Many people aren’t willing to endure that parts they hate. When things get tough, often people want to switch to a different project. We are our own worst enemies, sabotaging our work by not completing it. Or worse, never starting it.
I often have to remind my clients that they won’t love every part of owning a business. Especially at the start. This shit is hard! You are greeted by a lot of resistance. Your own thoughts and self doubt can be the biggest roadblocks to get around.
In order to grow as a person and a business we have to do things outside of our comfort zone. That is where the biggest rewards lie! I’m not saying this is easy. Being outside of our comfort zone makes us all squirm. What scares you? That is where you should go.
Do what you love but realize no matter the choice you make every path will have parts you don't like. Do you love it enough that you are willing to eating the shit sandwich that comes with it?