Enjoy Every Step of the Uphill Climb

nicolepolaroid_mediumEditor's note: This is a guest post from Nicole Joy Leibman of Little Purple Cow

“There’s only going to be one first, one opening” I hear my mother say as she finishes preparing dinner.  It had been about a year since I was let go from my job as an attorney, and decided to pursue my dream of starting my own business.  I was at my parent’s house having my weekly existential crises – It’s so hard and lonely working for myself. Why isn’t anything happening yet?  How long is it going to take to get this off the ground? Will my business even succeed? Will I be able to fund my business and my personal life?

The story

I mention some of these fears to my mother and this was her response:

“It was the winter of 1987,” she continued, “and I was working as the Director of Sales for the [then-under-construction] Hilton at Short Hills.  It was cold, I was working out of trailer, and I was very frustrated.  My colleague gave me this advice: There’s only one grand opening.”

My mom went on to explain that all the grueling work they did, every day for over a year, all lead up to that one big opening day.  But it wasn’t about cutting the red ribbon of a plush new hotel.  That would just be one small moment in time.  It was about enjoying the fact that every day she was building a small piece of something so much bigger.  What she was saying was that I was so focused on the end result, I was missing out on enjoying all of the excitement in what I was doing every day in building my business.

I drove home reflecting on her advice and realized, as usual, that mothers know best.  Her advice had me pegged.   Anyone who knows me knows I thrive on challenges.  Law school?  Great! What do I need to do to get there? A solid legal career?  How do I achieve that?  All these milestones were mountains that I had always been climbing.   I would arrive at the peak, stop, admire the view, and then look for the next mountain.    I never took the time to realize the value and joy in all those grueling summer days I spent studying for the bar, or the gallons of midnight oil I burned doing legal research.   And now, here I was, climbing an entrepreneurial “mountain”.

But, sometimes you have to hear advice from someone not related to you, before you actually take it.    And so it was a few weeks later, when I met two close friends after work for a drink, that I received the same advice.  They both came from toiling away in midtown offices, while I had come from working in the comfort of my living room.  The conversation turned to my business and how things were going.  Having had a tough week, I mentioned some of my frustrations “I just don’t know how much longer I can struggle along before my business gets there.”  They both looked at me with a blank stare.  “Get there? Do you know how much you’ve accomplished in less then a year? It is there!”    They were right.   I had been neglecting the journey this whole time.   So what if my business has yet to be a smashing success? It was about all the small building blocks I had been working on the last year, right?

Considering I was pursing my dreams, how could I not be at least a little happy everyday?  I wanted to feel the same happiness about my relationship with my work that the character Charlotte, from Sex and the City, felt about her romantic relationship:  “not all day every day but yes, every day.”  I needed to shift my focus.

And once I did, I came up with three things that help me find some sense of happy, not all day everyday, but everyday.

1.  One small victory a day.

At the end of each day, I now list one positive thing that happened to move my business forward.  Even if it’s the smallest thing.  For example:

> We had three sales today.  It’s not 100 sales, but it is two more then yesterday.

> I made a cold call to someone important who took time to speak to me.  Maybe they don’t want to work with me today, but I’ve made a small step forward.

Neither of these things is earth shattering in the bigger picture, but they offer that glimmer of happiness that makes me wake up the next day and keep forging ahead.  One day not far from now, three sales in one day may be totally insignificant.  But I want to remember the small feeling of satisfaction that just three sales could bring.

2. Find joy in every interaction.

One of my typical feelings about being an entrepreneur is a sense of loneliness and isolation.  I now try to really appreciate even the smallest interactions.  Recently, I spent a full day working solo and went to drop off some photos for printing.  The clerk at Kinkos raved about my products.  Instead of just saying thanks and leaving, I spent a few minutes with her to find out what she liked and why.  I walked out knowing more about my customers, and maybe having even gained one.

Or even having a midday cup of coffee with a former legal colleague is a welcome reprieve as it helps me appreciate how much happier I am now compared to where I could be.

3.  Take Time for Yourself.

While finding happiness in my work is important, as an entrepreneur I’ve learned that there has to be a separation between my business and me.   This is no small feat.  Especially if “leaving the office” means walking 5 paces to your bedroom.  So I make a point to take an hour (ok sometimes just 30 minutes) to myself each day.  Maybe it’s going to a yoga class, or for a run, or indulging in a trashy weekly tabloid. Whatever it is, it’s something I do just for my own happiness that has nothing to do with my work.

In a few years from now when my business is more established, there won’t be any more “openings.”   And when that happens, I’m certain I will find another mountain, another challenge.  But I’m also certain I’ll enjoy every step of that next uphill climb.

Nicole Joy Leibman is the Founder & Designer of Little Purple Cow, a new brand of sterling silver jewelry inspired by antique designs.  Prior to starting Little Purple Cow with her father, Nicole was a practicing attorney in New York City.  Nicole and her business will be featured this month in a series of eight webisodes on building a new business that will air on Fox New’s online imagazine.

* Are you on Twitter? Then join over 3,400 people who get my stress relief tips, happiness ideas, and thought provoking quotes. @workhappynow

* I've talked about working in the moment, it's not an easy thing to do. Staying mindful takes a lot of practice. Lance of the Jungle of Life talks about being in the moment while on a steep hike. Beautiful thoughts.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like these too:

> Reposition Your New Career

> 5 Ways to Conquer Your Fears