Have you ever paddled alone in a canoe? I did lately and have found it to be a good way to ponder – and experience – my limitations.
First there is a trick to getting even a semblance of control: sit were you usually wouldn’t sit. Then there is the work: you need to know a few extra strokes to steer the canoe by yourself – or if you don’t you will have to do a lot of extra work when you get turned around or get off course. And finally, if you are coming up against wind, be prepared to work extra hard, go extra slow, and be very careful and vigilant and allow for the occasional detour while the tandem paddlers zip by you. Of course, all this get much easier with practice.
Work and life are much like paddling a canoe: it’s much easier to do it with another, more complicated if there are too many on board, and it is absolutely possible to do it alone — it may just take a little longer, take a bit more effort and it may be a bit more exhausting at times (or even scary).
A good example is being self-employed: You’ve made the decision to take the plunge and open your own practice or centre or store. You have planned it all out (a map is an important tool for any journey) and you are itching to go. You may also be a bit apprehensive. You’ve done your homework and got yourself ready. But before you choose the vehicle for your journey into entrepreneurship, it may be a good idea to get a different perspective. Sit yourself into the spot of your potential clients; ask others for their experiences in starting a business, especially those who have been there themselves. There are many ways to run a business and it pays to spend some extra time to research the best fit for you from all the angles.
Then there is the launch, and believe me, launching your business with others is MUCH more fun and much more reassuring than doing it alone from your living room. Do you want your business to be noticed? Share it’s birth! A public launch doesn’t have to be a big event or party, either: a fun email to everyone you know, announcing the good news and / or a give-away raffle are just as effective, engaging, and fun while being less involved and costly.
Once you get out there into the world and onto the waters of your business, there is a lot to learn: taxes, registrations, laws, marketing, ethics, finances, what to do and what not to do, etc. You can research and do it all on your own — but for some things it is better to get the help of others, especially experts who may be able to not only save you time but also money in the long run. I am thinking of bookkeepers and other professionals like that.
There are other things that you will have to figure out yourself as you go: what works best for you, how do you get yourself out of a difficult situation, what are your strengths and for which weaknesses do you need to compensate, how do you recover from serious problems, and how do you stay afloat in rough waters or times of drought. But even for those moments there is a possibility of not going it all alone: finding a peer or networking group where you can share ideas and solutions, working with a mentor or supervisor, or even talking things through with a friend or family member can be tremendously helpful and make you feel less alone on your journey.
Remember, practice makes perfect. You WILL most likely run aground a few times, you will make mistakes, get turned around, and have to cover the same ground twice. You will learn from it all … if you keep going. In the end what you are heading for are the joys and freedom of moving in open waters without anyone giving you direction except yourself — until you come up against some white water rapids. But that is for another day…