A couple of weeks ago, I left Prim’d Headquarters and headed out to the wilderness. Jenni here, and if you’re like me, nothing beats heading off the grid to hug trees and hike around under a big blue sky. My husband and I have had been planning a trip to the Grand Canyon for over two years, and this past month we finally made it happen. We spent five days backpacking around Hermit Loop, one of the more desolate areas of the park. I was excited to clear my mind of work-things, but somehow along the trail I kept coming back to Prim'd, and the last few months of business ownership. Today's blog post is a little more personal than normal because lately I've been thinking a lot about pacing and entrepreneurship, and I felt like it was our readers likely deal with too.
I don’t have to spend paragraphs telling you how completely-mind-blowingly-beautiful the Grand Canyon was. It was ridiculous. Quiet. Full of breath. There was even a moment where the sun was shinning and two yellow monarch butterflies the size of our fists landed on each of our shoulders and my husband looked at me and said, “Are you kidding? Is this a Disney movie or something?” (totally true story).
It was Day 5, the last day on the trail, which brought my mind back to our business. We had been hiking with four other people and we were a compatible hiking group. We each had our own rhythms, but we all carried a similar speed. We had a designated “pace car” hiker keeping time at the head of the pack, I tended to stay toward the middle, and a friend, let’s call her Jules, hiked a little slower, rounding out the back of the group. Jules would lag during long miles, but she’d always catch up by the end of the day.
Day 5 was "the big day:" we were headed out of the canyon, and had a 6,000-foot ascent to climb in just eight miles. This meant an alpine start (up at 4am, on the trail by about 6am) to get ahead of the heat and the sun. Packing camp and hiking partially by moonlight only added to our nerves. None us really slept the night before. We had been scared of sleeping in too late, our packs being too heavy, the sun being too hot, getting blisters, not being able to make it. When we hit the trail at 5:45am our stomachs were hallow with that nervous energy of too little sleep and too much coffee. But off we hiked anyway.
The night before I had a long conversation with Jules — she was the most nervous member of the group. We sat prepping our packs and I could see her anxiety, a real fear of not making up to the rim. As she described her fears she said something that caught my attention: “I’m not a real hiker like the rest of you guys.”
She didn't say “I’m slower than you guys” or “I’m scared it will be hard” or “I’m not is in good of shape.” Her statement was, “I am not real.”As if she hadn’t just carried a forty-pound pack for the previous four days. As if she hadn’t hiked thirty+ miles that week so far. As somehow, she was just a fraud.
Sound familiar? Hearing Jules confess her hiking insecurities, and the conversation that followed shined a spotlight on a feeling we all face as business owners: The trail of entrepreneurship is steep and demanding, and it can be easy to look around at your business-heroes and feel insecure that you aren’t farther along. It can be easy to think we’re “not real yet.” But what makes us “real” is simply the fact that we’re out here doing it. Fast or slow, gracious or flailing, it's the one-step-in-front-of-the-other that makes us real. Thinking about Jules made me realize how important is to go at your own pace. To turn off that nagging voice that says “this is what a real expert should look like.” Because I don't know about you, but even though I've been in the marketing space for a long time, I still occasionally have these moments. Maybe it's seeing a woman entrepreneur that is really rocking her business, or a really well designed website. Suddenly I feel a little anxious that I'm not farther along, or panicked that I'm not designing like that other cool company over there. Sound familiar?
The next day Jules was a rock star. Let me tell you, that hike out was hard. But we dug deep, found our personal stride, and let that be enough. Some of us went faster. Some of us needed more breaks. We all arrived at the rim at different times, but you know what? No one kept track. When we finally rounded that last switchback and came over the rim there was nothing but cold sodas and high-fives because we all were so amazed at how far we had come.
As I’ve come home and washed off the dirt from my hiking boots, I’ve continued to think about this notion of pacing. And I wanted to share this because it is a great reminder: That the best thing we can do as business owners is to find our own unique stride, without trying to fit into someone else’s. We need to surround ourselves with a team that both inspires us to push ourselves, and encourages on the days when we’re tired and the load feels too heavy. We need to remind each other that owning a business is an adventure, and we’ve taken an incredible step by picking up our packs and setting out on the trail.
What’s been the scariest thing about being a creative business owner? Was it something you didn’t expect? Let us know in a comment below.
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