An Entrepreneur’s Attempt To Slow Family Time While Work Speeds Ahead
I’ve been away with my family for 4 weeks, on an epic road trip that started in West Texas and ended at Disneyland in Anaheim. On the last day of my trip, while standing in front of a ride called Emotional Whirlwind (inspired by the Pixar film Inside Out), I turned to my husband and said, “I finally feel like I’m on vacation.” It took 28 days out of my 29-day adventure to finally feel like my body and mind can relax from my own emotional whirlwind into vacation mode. This was not what I expected when my family and I planned our 4-week summer road trip.
Our kids are 12 and 8 and I love moments of spontaneous fun with them and I want to do whatever I can to freeze our moments together. A long summer adventure to places we’ve never been before, without the Xbox to argue about, is a dream come true for me.
As the owner of my own business, Base Beauty Creative Agency and the creator and host of the podcast series Where Brains Meet Beauty, I know too well how challenging taking a break from work can be. I started my own business so that I would be in the driver’s seat of how much I work and when I work, but in these past 12 years I’ve developed a pit-in-my-stomach Pavlovian response to work invading my vacation time. If my clients were texting me about how fabulous the work is and how excited they are for our initiatives, then work intersecting vacation would be a joy. Those moments actually have happened, but most of the time it’s very high-level business problems and challenges, ones that are important for me to address directly with clients while my team works to unravel and fix the situation. Having unhappy clients never feels good, and certainly feels worse when I’m on vacation. I run a service business and servicing our clients well is a top priority that is equal to creating awareness-building breakthrough work.
As we planned our 4 weeks of travel, I thought I was being realistic in the balance between work and family time. I planned to take the first week off from work, work remotely the second and third week and be off the grid the last week of the trip. During those work remote weeks, I would be in PST, waking up early to do calls with my team and clients, before the kids were ready to start the day, and feel balanced in both family time and work.
BUT what I didn’t expect during my trip was to feel like a bowling pin that keeps getting knocked down, only having to pop right back up in place to take another hit:
1) On day 2: A personnel issue triggered an old emotional wound and bubbled up a lot of strong and intense feelings for me, days of processing with my head feeling a bit foggy and an emergency call with my business coach followed by a lot of introspection. Feelings, if you’ve ever had them, are exhausting and emotionally draining.
2) On day 6: Communication challenges with a client needed my leadership to resolve, which I’m proud to say have been unscrambled beautifully and made the work and collaboration so much better. But this was not fixed with one phone call. It was hours of calls with my team and with the client to get this back on track and functioning in a productive, fruitful and fun way for everyone.
3) At the start of week 2: A beloved client cancelled hundreds of thousands of dollars of work (gulp), which felt like a punch in the gut. After processing this emotionally, I had many calls with my team to see if any of this was salvageable and conversations with the client to see what future collaboration would look like. In the end the work is gone.
4) At the end of week 3: A client whose social media we’ve grown ORGANICALLY by 12,000+ fans in only 5 months decided not to renew with us, sent us the news in an email, leaving my team blindsided, perplexed and disappointed.
5) Also at the end of week 3, the “straw that broke the camel’s back”: Our social media management tool glitched and posted the wrong brand’s content to a client’s feed. While this is not a crisis and is so easily fixed, by this point my body had enough. This small issue overwhelmed my emotions and the tears started flowing. I needed a real break.
Waking up at 5:45 or 6am each morning, squeezing in a few hours of calls and emails before we started our adventurous days of white-water rafting, hiking, exploring and ending these days back on email was exhausting. Plus I was stress eating sugar and gluten, which don’t make me feel good but are hard to resist when my emotions are on overdrive. By the beginning of the fourth week I was totally depleted.
The hours of hard work and psychic energy I devoted to these challenges took the place of the “me” time that I really needed. My body was desperate for my quiet time: morning workouts to clear my head, deep breathing and get my focus on something other than work. The intensity of these situations was so draining. Losing significant work is a business crisis. Having valued clients struggling with team communication is a business crisis. And I was navigating this from afar and with a mushy brain that desperately needed a reboot and refresh.
A few years ago I created a platform called Me Business Movement as a way to pull together all that I have learned about myself and my entrepreneurial journey. Through this program I teach people how to stay focused on the things in life that give the most joy. I use the system to help me balance the seductive nature of growing my business. I have a bucket system that gives me permission to focus on my priorities, change my mind about what those are, and offers a strong visualization when a bucket is depleted and needs to be filled up.
At some point during this year of incredible business growth I went from balanced to basket case. Breathing room, creative adventures, fun and serenity are my goals. But I had little of that in advance of my trip. I was working more than I’ve ever worked – waking up earlier than early to catch up on emails, days in meetings and back to email at night and on weekends.
On top of overseeing our client work I was managing our office move. After years of working out of co-working spaces and sub-lets I finally took the leap into a lease of our own. It took months to find the right space, oversee construction, select decor and finally move, and while it was a fun process, it occupied an enormous amount of time and psychic energy. Thankfully I signed a 5-year lease and won’t have to deal with that process again anytime soon.
But most upsetting before my trip, during this marathon of work, I got the devastating news that my friend from college passed away – completely unexpected and shocking. He lived in my town and was always full of joy, kind and supportive. He was also the type of person who would write a nice note on my LinkedIn posts and ask me about them when I’d see him in the neighborhood. As I’m writing this story I’m thinking of him and his family and how important it is to focus on the things that matter, really matter, because we only have today.
When I revisit the past 30 days of adventure and the month before that of non-stop work, I’m now able to see the many lessons that the universe served up to me:
1) I don’t want to work 24/7. I have no ambitions for world domination. My goal is to collaborate with brands who are truly differentiated, help them grow and honor the vision of their founders and CEOs. For me and my team it means working smart during business hours and having time to be humans beyond work. Our most successful partnerships are with brands that respect this and want this for their teams as well.
2) Refocus on my buckets. Just as I teach at my Me Business Movement Workshops, I need to take a closer look at my buckets. What are they? Which ones are empty? How can I fill them? I can only fill one at a time, which gives me the comfort to accept that I can’t do everything at once, but I can support these values one by one.
3) Find my joy and trust more. I wasn’t joyful at work before my trip and had a hard time finding the joy in it during my trip. I need to search for what makes me the happiest about my work and ask my team to do the same. Life is too short to let the days slip by in a flurry of rushed emails, rushed calls and rushed meetings. Work can be fun, but I need breathing room to honor and enjoy the small moments and build trust that the universe is always giving me what I need when I need it.
4) Me time! Getting back to my fitness schedule. Getting back to writing my book. Making time for lunch with friends. Eating good energy foods. Sleeping more.
5) Watch Pixar’s Inside Out with my kids, a film which perfectly dissects the complexity of emotions and brings to light all the intense whirlwind feelings I’m having about my children growing up, the growing pains in my business, and will no doubt induce a good cry. And after that, I’ll schedule myself a proper vacation where I will truly recharge, with no email, no texts in sight. 😉
If you’ve had similar vacation/work adventures or if the upside-down aspects of running a business suck up your psychic energy, please let me know!