What lies within us is the steering wheel. It’s the very history of our path, and the map of our adventure, all tied up with the determination or the self-doubt that has either steered us in the wrong or right direction, and also will carry us forward or allow us to stagnate depending on who we are and what we are made of.
Are we the sum of our experiences? Or are we constantly changing? Do we settle for what’s comfortable and live in familiar boxes? Or do we push ourselves outside of self-made limits, and create the kind of stretching of our spirits that ultimately perpetuates growth?
At 5′, I AM small matter. I’ve never really considered my past or future as small matters though. I’ve also never thought of the core of who I am as being anything close to small, even though at times I have doubted myself, my choices, and even my own thoughts. It’s one thing to be self-aware. It’s another thing to be self-destructive. When you’re both at the same time, well, that’s definitely no small matter. In truth, It’s downright scary and threatening.
But think about this. When you are faced with confrontation, do you face it head-on in an attempt to just ‘get it over with’, or do you find the tallest excuse and stand in its shadow? For as long as I have been able to get away with it, I’ve been the one in the shadow. I will admit that…shamefully.
Life doesn’t always cater to cowards though. And that’s the toughest truth to swallow for me. As I mindlessly hopped into my mom’s shoes at her passing, and took over the helm of her cleaning business, this was not something I put much thought into. Yet, in the almost 8 months that have passed since, I’ve had numerous run-ins with my own shadow, Mr. confrontation evader himself. And guess what? When you run a company, you can’t run from unruly customers, disgruntled workers, or moody staff any more. There is absolutely no mountain tall enough to guard you.
The crazy thing though is that I can feel already how the whole experience is changing me. As a parent, I’ve always been the ‘pick my battles’ mom. If it’s big enough to make or break my child’s future, health, well-being, self-worth, or respectability, it’s a battle worth fighting. All others can sail on without me.
As a business owner, every battle is part of the larger war to keep the ship afloat. How you sail that ship directly affects not just you and your paycheck, but also the jobs of countless employees, hundreds of customers, as well as my own two boys and their well-being. So when I got the call this morning from a new customer that I pretty much knew would be unhappy, I felt all nerves kick in to overdrive before I heard her first words.
This was a customer that I had gotten entirely from the internet. I had priced the cleaning of her home via e-mail, spoke with her very briefly over the phone, then sent the girls to go and clean. What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that the homeowners had probably not dusted, scrubbed, vacuumed, mopped, or even washed dishes in at least a year. The girls were overwhelmed. So when they called me from the house around five, I told to leave a note, leave the house unfinished, and close out the day. I knew the customer would be upset, but I also knew that I had hired girls to work 9 to 5, had very much under-priced the customer, and we were quite simply out of time, and under-prepared for what needed to be done.
The customer, who also happened to be pregnant, became so agitated with me at the beginning of the conversation that she handed the phone to her husband. He was livid to say the least. But after venting all of his frustrations, and hearing that I was more than willing to send the girls back out to finish the job, he settled into friendliness and I felt like a superstar. It was just like getting a shot. The dreadful anticipation leading up to the moment when his sharp words would enter my fragile little ears had been much worse than the actual sharpness. I had stepped out of my box. Not because I wanted to, mind you, but because I had no other choice.
And I think that is how we growth happens; out of necessity. We grow because we are faced with feast or famine. We are faced with either moving ahead with all the strength we can muster from our core, or sitting still and wilting within our own fears.
I will be the first to admit, wilting still sounds like a safer option to me, but pushing and stretching myself beyond what I thought was possible made me…well… matter. And that made all the difference.