Reflections on 2021: It’s Okay To Just “Be”

Person in Field - Reflections on 2021 - Maine SBDCBy: Alison Lane, Business Advisor & 2021 State Star

I used to own a restaurant, and January meant a lot of slow days.  When there weren’t any coffees to pour, dishes to wash, or Quickbooks to update, I would ask myself:

“How can I not waste this time?” 

“What else can I try to generate more business?”

I’d be spinning my wheels and stressed.  Then, before fully forming any one idea, I’d get interrupted or distracted and not have accomplished a darn thing.

I often felt like if I wasn’t DOING SOMETHING, I was failing my business.

Small business owners like you are often plagued with relentless ambition.  It can play a big part in your success but is also ironically crippling.  You feel like if you aren’t moving forward, you’re falling behind, and it’s unacceptable to slow down or rest.  Entrepreneurs like Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey pressure you to wake up at 4am to read self-help books and meditate, thrive in the wake of rejection, and sleep when you’re dead.  “Hustle culture” implies we are wired to never burn out.

The reality is that progress isn’t linear, and humans can’t always be “on”.  Not only is there nothing wrong with standing still for a while, but there is a lot of right that comes from cutting yourself some slack.  I’m not telling you to stop hustling. I’m telling you to acknowledge that resting is part of hustling.   Did you really think the lazy days and white flag waves would make the history books? 

The memorable part of 2020 was all about survival (and in more than the medical use of the term).  Then, 2021 was confusing.  In the words of Jimmy Buffet, “What time zone am I on?  What country am I in?”  Many of the small business owners I talk to are still trying to decide if 2022 means “exit” or “grow”. 

What if we made 2022 about stability?  What if you just let your business “be” for a while?  Would it be productive to stop scheming and “hustling” to take a breath and simply exist?  Let’s think about the benefits:

  • If you focus on the day-to-day, you strengthen the business and relationships you’ve already worked hard to build.
  • For the science enthusiasts, standing still creates a control group, so you can see how your business runs without the influence of any variables.
  • Shutting your brain off for a bit makes it stronger when you power it back up again.

When you lift weights, you’re actually tearing your muscle fibers.  It is the repairing of those fibers that occurs between workouts during periods of rest that achieves muscle growth (or hypertrophy, if you will). 

Forcing yourself to be productive when you’re tired is less productive than resting and coming back stronger.  Louder for the folks in the back: You must recharge to be at full power.  (Yes, even Oprah.)

The hard part is giving yourself permission to just “be”, because it contradicts your instinctive drive to always do better.  I hope that by bringing this to your attention, I’ve given you a tool to help.  

Last year, Brad Swanson told you that you were heroes.  This year, I’m telling you that you don’t have to be. Either way, we’re here to help.Kacey Musgraves 2018 Maine SBDC