My Last Straw

I've struggled with my work life my entire life in some ways, because while I work hard and pride myself on doing a great job, I can't do things that don't agree with my values.

No matter what I did, if I disagreed with the value system behind it, there seemed to be this inescapable rebellious streak that popped up at the most inconvenient times. I was always a top performing employee, but in the wrong environment that sticky little issue drained the life out of me. So starting a business many years ago for myself and my then-husband was a no brainer!

And a total disaster!

The Way Things Were

I was able to get my contractor's license and create a profitable business in a short time. We worked in a niche area of construction, so marketing was simple and the business rolled in. But my idea of being a business owner then was to handle whatever came at me and get it done just in time.

Come up with an estimate, send that invoice, send out those mailers, log that payment, and balance the books. I did whatever was right in front of me and needed doing. It was like a surprise party everyday! And I worked a full-time job at the same time! It was exhausting.

In fact, I've just recently come off of a nearly 10 year stint of full-blown exhaustion. Raising two boys and doing everything possible to give them everything they needed, while juggling all the demands of making a living can make you tired. The very deep, way down in the cells of your blood kind of tired. 

Although I was proud of what I'd been able to provide for them, I hated being tired around my kids all the time.

The Last Straw

One night while sitting around the dinner table eating together for one of the first times in what seemed like forever, my oldest son actually said these words..."Why are we doing this?"

The concept was that foreign to him.

Me (confused): "Umm, we're eating dinner?"

Him (also confused): "Yeah, I know. But you can eat dinner and do other things."

It was a funny but sad wake up call. Then the same kid started driving and I could no longer shake the reality that living in a fog of overwhelm and crisis management had to stop. So much of my working life had been spent with a gun to my head.

Blaring alarm clocks in the dark. Brushing my teeth and putting on my shoes at the same time. Driving away from the house and taking one last look up the hill at the light in the kids' bedroom window. A quick prayer for their well-being while juggling the coffee cup in my lap around the first curve.

Then one day I couldn't live like that anymore. It was over. I just stopped.


I just decided. I decided to design a more vibrant, profitable business that worked for me and my kids. One that gave me the life I really wanted, not a life that felt like someone else's.

I sought out every bit of information I could find about making a business work. I wore out my library card, and the UPS guy that drops off our Amazon packages, and one laptop. I once heard one librarian loud-whisper to another in possible disgust as I walked away with a heavy stack of books, "she just checked out some yesterday."

If I haven't read it all and taken every course now, it's not for lack of trying. What I discovered was not, despite all the harsh statistics, that small businesses can't work, but that the parts you have to have in place to make them work well, without killing yourself in the process, are not well understood. I discovered you can't just be a business owner like I had been. You have to be, first and foremost, a business designer.

I discovered that a business can, and should, be a carefully, elegantly designed mechanism. That to get to "carefully, elegantly designed" you have to get dirty, and mess things up a bit.

That a business like that is better. It can run beautifully.

And that a better business makes for a better life.

Now my question for you: Can you relate to any of this? Have you had a last straw moment like I had? Please share below!




Libby DickersonComment