Learn From My Mistakes
In late 2004 I opened a quality brick-and-mortar yarn shop and grossed in my first year more than half the TNNA member yarn shops’ annual receipts. Unfortunately, it cost me more than that to keep the doors open and the fiber flowing. The following year I knew I had to make a choice: a) try to tap dance faster and sell more to local customers; b) sell cheaper products, eliminate the staff and do it all myself; or c) reach a wider audience online. Caught up in the day to day struggle and burning out faster than a paper match, I chose A by not making any changes (except trying to live on no sleep and no profits). Eventually, the situation devolved to plan B (with my customers less satisfied as my stress levels rose), and less than a year later I shut the doors depressed and massively in debt.
After that, I returned to my former career as a web developer to try and pay off the debt. I spent several months sitting in a freezing, opaque fishbowl making changes to client sites while my boss sat beside me yelling into the phone for 8 hours a day and in between hissed at us to up-sell clients to the “SEO package.” This package consisted of regular website updates & adding a WordPress blog to their sites which they could and should be doing themselves for free. Once it was discovered I could successfully train clients to use WordPress in a 90-minute phone call, that was added to my tasks — along with any other training jobs. One day I spotted a Gold-Crowned sparrow peering in at us through the slit window near the ceiling, the only window, and realized I was sitting in Hell.
Meanwhile, my spouse was laid off from his telecommuting programming job in the Post-2008 Economic Collapse bloodbath. He ended up doing contract work on the other side of the country on a 3-month contract (that lasted 5-years). I began cleaning houses for twice my web development pay and picking up short-term office contracts. One of the short-term contracts connected me with Linty Hopie who was developing the Entrepreneur Institute for the Continuing Education department of the local college.
So I started teaching classes for the Peninsula College Entrepreneur Institute to show other small business owners (start-ups) how to avoid my mistakes and move online to reach their target audience no matter where they lived. Many of them grabbed the opportunities for small businesses that the Internet offered. During the classes, I found myself spending several hours a week teaching some students how to make a lasting positive change in their businesses — and their lives. This was Heaven.
Since my spouse was clearly going to be working east of the Rockies on various contracts, we decided I should a) find a base-camp more centrally located and b) work on an online-based business. I would continue to teach for Peninsula College at least one semester per year. Unfortunately, every time I began working The Plan — things changed. In big ways. Medical crises, financial crises, and life crises. Every time I got up, dusted myself off, and started again but eventually, the hits took their toll. I felt trapped. I developed the same sense of helplessness that Seligman’s dogs did who received the electrical shocks no matter what they did. I would try something, get a shock, stop, eventually try something else, get a shock, stop, and so on.
Then the SARS-Cov-2/COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Watching the impact on others not only close to me but throughout the world, I realize how lucky I am. My spouse has a secure, essential position doing work he finds meaningful in an environment where he is appreciated and that pays the mortgage and other expenses. We have health care benefits, good ones. And we are in relatively good health ourselves.
So I decided to stop fighting. Stop trying to do what everyone else said I needed to do to “succeed.” There are many flaws in the “Greed is Good” philosophy and the myth that anyone who isn’t “succeeding” by accumulate wealth, fame, and power simply isn’t trying hard enough. That our self worth is based on numbers: financial worth, social media followers, likes, recognition, position on a bestsellers list or chart, degree of separation, and so on. That our sense of self and success is dependent upon external validation, and external validation alone.
I love teaching and I want to reach more people. But I want to reach more people by simply sharing what I’ve learned, what I know, and what I hope will help others find what they truly value and succeed in what truly matters to them when the world goes mad.