Bird by Bird - A business plan
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ -Anne Lamott
I’m overwhelmed to a ridiculous state. Somewhere along the path of amazing, whilst traveling and producing and speaking, my cart became full of expectations, deadlines and impossibility.
“If you say no too often, Leslie, they won’t ask you back to babysit. Be careful when you turn down a job opportunity.” -Oma Flinger
I was 7 when I started my first business. A friend from down the street and I ran in to the woods beyond our houses and collected rocks, interesting twigs and other “potentially beautiful” items. We ran home, painted each carefully, and set out knocking on every door asking if they wanted to purchase our art for ten cents each. I made about a dollar that day peddling my work amongst the neighborhood.
At 10 I decided to run an in-home daycare for an hour a day at my parent’s house. My mother wasn’t a fan of having 12 children in our small home, so I set up the garage as a small “school” setting and offered to take children who lived near by at a small fee to teach them a play that we would perform at the end of the week. It was a cabbage patch kid reenactment set to the tunes of a record I owned. At the end of the week, parents came to watch the play and praised the sweaty mess of children I directed in the two car garage in Houston.
Having recently decided to take life by the unicorn horn (if you will) and start a new, more amazing, better freelance business than I’d ever had before, I opened up my contacts to accept new work. Happily, Joyfully, Thankfully work flew in the front door, even more than I knew I could take. My mother’s words bubbled to the surface and her years of an incredibly strong work ethic and high expectations of her own life replicated in my own. I took the work, even when the deadlines were smashed together, with travel booking both ends, and said yes to it all.
I said YES to it all.
A good businesswoman can handle this, I decided. I’ll sub-contract out what I can’t do, I’ll do what I want to focus on in the future, and I’ll continue to grow because clients will be happy and my role will change to project manager slash mobile web prototype dev. This seemed the perfect plan.
I’m sure every tiny business owner thinks this at the start. But starting a business is like bringing home your new baby to an empty house that first day and suddenly it wakes up pissed. The invoices aren’t paid, the subcontractor fails to do their work and the client is calling hourly asking where said work is.
I’m not foolish enough to think those who last beyond the first year of business did not work 80 hours a week at some points. I have great friends who succeed regularly and work diligently in their business that I model my own after. I know they, too, stay up nights in a row working, laboring, building because they are passionate in their lives and their futures.
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is this one fact, this one reason, I am still walking ahead, one foot at a time, producing code one tag at a time, writing this lesson one bird at a time. I’ve been drinking tea at midnight across friends who also care deeply of their work, listening to music and slamming furiously away at our keyboards. We share a goal, I their contractor, they my biggest fans, and we stay late, rise early, work diligently. I am away from my family but I am not alone. I am aching but it is not in vein. I am wary but it is not forever.
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” -Robert Collier
The solace I find in those who overcome is immeasurable. Each of those people who inspire me to be greater than that I am now, who achieve what I long to achieve, who share in honesty their own struggles and triumphs, who are transparent in their joys and failures, and who believe in me beyond what I think I am capable of, remind me that seeing the dawn again from this side of my laptop is worth this small sacrifice of time. One day my daughter will ask me about my work and I will tell her with absolute certainty, I love what I do, I love you more, but I love, absolutely love, my life. I hope she finds a passion worth staying up for. There is no other way to live.