Small Business Ups and Downs (Warning: May Induce Evil Clown Nightmares)

Emily's Musings, Entrepreneur

On Valentine’s Day, my sweetheart and I went skydiving. Okay so it was indoorskydiving.” But it was still really fun and super thrilling. We had a blast!

At first though, I was super nervous.

While you wait for your own turn in the big wind tube (which reminds me of a giant version of the pneumatic tubes that would magically bring me and my siblings lollipops whenever my mom went through the drive-through at the bank), you watch other people flying around in there.

I was really enjoying watching while they were at eye level. But then I watched an instructor suddenly take someone up to the top of the tube (about 5 stories up) and free fall back down.

I seriously had a Shonda Rhimes moment:

“Dry mouth. Heart beats so, so fast. Everything in slow motion. Pass out. Die. Poop.”

Okay, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I did briefly consider sneaking away and hiding out in the restroom until closing time.

As you can see, I put on my flight suit instead. I look pretty cool, don’t I? The staff does an excellent job of making you feel really safe during a little classroom session. Once I started flying around, I totally forgot about my nerves and remembered how much I love thrill rides.

Lessons about small business ups and downs from inside a giant wind tube

I’m not going to pretend that I had any profound realizations about small business ups and downs while I was weightlessly flying around in that giant wind tube. I was too busy trying to remember all of the hand signals they taught us and trying not to bump into the walls.

Nope. This isn’t a story about how indoor skydiving taught me to just relax and enjoy the journey of starting a business (barf!). I immediately write off anyone who says anything like that to me. I don’t care how much of a risk-taker you are—it’s not realistic to try to enjoy the rollercoaster ride of small business ups and downs.

Rollercoasters at Cedar Point are fun! But do you know why they are fun? It’s because you are free to enjoy your body’s physiological fear experience— the rush of adrenalin and release of endorphins—within a relatively safe environment.

Starting a business is more like being on a rollercoaster at the county fair in rural Michigan. You know what I’m talking about: one of those old rides that a carny pulled off of his trailer and threw together in the dark after kicking back some moonshine.

I remember being nervous getting on these rides as a kid. They were probably missing a few bolts. The chain would squeak and complain shakily pulling the cars to the top of the first hill—the point of no return. And why did there always seem to be an evil clown standing behind the control panel?

Starting a business is a lot like strapping yourself into a rickety rollercoaster controlled by an evil clown. Which is pretty much the complete opposite of a relatively safe environment.

Thrill of the unknown

 But I will give you some straight talk: if you are thinking about starting a business and there’s not some part of you that enjoys the thrill of free falling into the unknown, you should probably reconsider. You are going to have a really hard time handling small business ups and downs because in the end, it’s the thrill that gets you through.

On any given day, I go from feeling like I have my sh*t together at 11am to despairingly browsing job ads on indeed.com by lunchtime. Although other business owners with more experience than I say that the mood swings eventually even out, I don’t really believe them.

If you are constantly hustling and pushing to get to the next level, when is there ever room to feel comfortable with where you are? There is only this constant feeling of being on the cusp of something really great if you could just get up over this last hump.

I know. I know. You have to take some time to look at the big picture and pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished. I do this. I also remind myself not to dwell on the negative stuff.

I practice yoga and meditation to keep the stress at bay. But even armed with mind-strengthening activities recommended by Harvard psychologists, the valleys are rough and seem lower than they actually are when you are in the thick of things.

The truth is I can’t always put my finger on what is going to pick me up out of the valleys. I wish I could because then I would have a guaranteed solution for beating those moments of pessimism. A lot of the time, though, the only thing to do is wait.

Do you know what helps?

  • Remembering that work is not life.
  • Realizing that I’m not a quitter.
  • Having failed at many, many things. Looking back and realizing that I’m still here.
  • Having failed, but not feeling defeated every time I think about those failures.
  • Talking to people who actually believe I’m doing great.
  • Talking to people who are inspired by what seems utterly inadequate to me.
  • Thinking about tasks that once felt impossible, but are now as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth.

What helps with small business ups and downs is perspective.

It’s putting on the flight suit, stepping into the giant wind tube, and waiting for the nerves to subside. It’s looking that evil clown in the face and saying, “F*ck you!” It’s not some sugarcoated, deliciously disguised substitute for running away. It’s taking it ALL in. Then purging whatever isn’t serving you.

Subjecting yourself to small business ups and downs takes courage because you are stepping into the unknown if you’re doing it right. And if there isn’t some small part of you that feels the thrill in that, you won’t make it. You won’t have the courage to try and there’s no chance of feeling that thrill unless you’re willing to try.

Sorry in advance for the evil clown nightmares.

Are you ready to start a small business? Need help finding your voice? Contact me today and let’s chat about how I can help!

2 responses to “Small Business Ups and Downs (Warning: May Induce Evil Clown Nightmares)

  1. I started my business in 1999. I had those ups and downs leveled out in 2015. I really did. That entire year was so nice and predictable. Then came 2016, which featured my worst two months. November 2016 was especially bad. I recovered two weeks ago with the largest contract I’ve ever worked on. The rollercoaster never stops. Accept it.

  2. Congrats on the upswing Michael! Knowing others are on the rollercoaster ride with you doesn’t make the ups and downs easier to take, but it confirms that you’re still on the track.

Leave a Reply