I launched Merchandising Matters over six years ago. I worked with a designer and developed my website, purchased business cards and hung out my virtual ‘plaque.’ I timed the start of my new business with a move to Colorado giving the phrase ‘fresh start’ new meaning. Everything was new to me: friends, location, climate, home, you name it.
It was an exciting time, but it tested me to the core. To say it was challenging is an understatement.
Through the years Merchandising Matters has morphed into something I could not have possibly have envisioned, and the road I have traveled as a sole proprietor has been anything but linear, with me even recently contemplating closing the doors on Merchandising Matters because something felt off.
I’ve taken enormous risks and experienced the high of success and the low of perceived failure, and reinvented and redefined what I do countless times, and along the way have learned grace. I’ve learned how to give myself permission to twist and turn as I find my way.
I’m all in now. I wasn’t before.
Not everyone will experience starts and stops like I have. Some will launch their business with a crystal clear vision that never deviates, but I write this post today for those that are perhaps still seeking, but have not yet found their solid direction. I write this post today for those that might feel alone and wonder what the heck they are doing wrong.
I write this post for the dreamers, the idea-populators, the creatively inspired, and the late bloomers. I write this post for those who experience self-doubt, are encountering barriers or who wonder if it’s time to toss in the hat. I write this for those with a passion for their work but who may be feeling a little lost.
About eight months ago, I was floundering. My past work as visual merchandising consultant felt out of focus and lacking in passion. My workshops were loosing money. My writing work felt directionless and my bank account would have been humorous had it not been terrifying. I spent hours outdoors, hiking, riding, or just sitting and meditating near a stream trying to hear myself again.
I knew I was at a crossroads and that I was a little lost.
So I did something I’m getting better at: I asked for directions.
I reached out to my power circle, the people who I respect in business and life, and I asked them for feedback, listened to them share what they saw as opportunities in the changing business climate and the outdoor industry and most important of all, I listened to myself speak.
I heard myself speak with confidence about the things I care deeply about and believe. I heard myself share ideas and listened as they were reflected back by movers and shakers in my industry. I was reignited. And I walked away with a renewed focus, which felt a bit like trading in jeans that don’t fit for a pair that does.
Along the winding path of my business journey, I encountered spaces that were not a good fit, but I would not have known this had I not opened those doors for a peek. The space I am in today is possible precisely because I followed a variety of paths before changing direction and finding my way to today.
My journey as a business owner has involved work with small businesses, as a volunteer, with the CEO’s of major brands, as a coach to businesses and individuals who want to identify and tell their story and I’ve presented at a number of popular trade shows. I’ve worked as a writer, workshop leader, and launched another business, Permission to Leap, in the midst of it all that focuses on helping writers and storytellers tell their own unique stories.
I work with others to stay true to their gift. I believe in the power of story. I know with certainty that human beings want to engage with other human beings. I believe that our personal and professional lives should fit together whenever possible.
And I have the skills to show others the way, to help bring to the surface the magnificent ideas and dreams they already have. I teach them to give themselves permission to leap.
So if you are encountering walls on your own professional journey, my advice to you is to look for a door. And if you can’t find the door alone? Hire someone who can help you carve a beautiful one.
The following tips were my personal game changers:
- Let go of should have’s or embarrassment or rules if your path is not linear. No one is born knowing exactly where they are going.
- Learn to trust yourself and do whatever you need to do to improve your confidence.
- Listen to your inner compass, your heart or whatever is keeping you up at night. Our bodies are incredibly smart and will alert us — we need to get better at listening. I find meditation and journaling to be the most powerful tools for hearing me.
- Reach out to those you respect and ask for help. Hire the right consultant (or fairy godmother) and invest in yourself. Realize that you are worth the investment.
- Remember that who you are is integrally connected to what you do. They must be in alignment for you to feel like you are wearing the right size jeans.
- Focus. I am an idea person and can easily be pulled in twenty different directions and have worked hard on finding a way to harvest my ideas but stay true to the road I’m on. I’ve elicited the help of friends to keep me on track.
- Know why you are doing what you are doing and revisit this regularly. Have it written down somewhere you can see it daily..
- Have a plan. Revise it as necessary.
It took me almost six years to marry my skills into a cohesive package–I’m a storyteller who guides others to creative expression either visually or through the written word. The outdoors is my go-to guru for inspiration, perspective and clarity.
Stick with it. You have something to offer. You are learning. Be patient, but maintain momentum. Ask for directions when you are lost. Stop thinking of making money first.
Remember. You are learning how to dance to the tune of the dream only you have. And this takes practice.