On the 20th of July 2016 my business plan (I’ve worked on for months) was approved, and with it came my green light to apply for a start-up loan and register as self-employed for tax purposes. Fast- forward one year, and I wonder how that ever happened. I have spent the best part of the last few days fighting with the various online registrations to either transition into an incorporated company or register for VAT as a sole-trader, one option looking more appealing than the other based on which of them is giving me a headache at any one time. I’m past wanting to give up, but I start to feel increasingly inadequate for the task. Never mind the under 30s self-made millionaires, what future do I have if I can’t even manage to log in successfully on a website?
This reminded me of one of the links in the latest Grit and Virtue newsletter. The content of that newsletter (the founder’s miscarriage) alone should put me in my place, and in great shame too, although God doesn’t shame us. It was an article about quiet leaders. It starts with a talk about humility. And it hit home: I know, deep down, that everyone started on a journey that is a learning curve and didn’t know it all, and had to ask for help and that’s OK. They may not admit it, but that’ the truth. I even wrote about it before, once on this blog and once on Inclusive Networks (speaking of which, someone thought I had something to say that was worth listening to, that should be enough of a confidence boost, right?). I’m not sure there is much help to be asked about how to log-in when I followed all the right steps to retrieve the details etc, but it’s not really about help in this case, it’s about becoming overwhelmed with the circumstances we’re in and asking whether we are the right person to face them. Maybe we misunderstood God’s promptings and went down a path that wasn’t meant for us and that’s why it’s just.so.hard. Or maybe, as the suggested articles at the bottom of the page on Grit and Virtue says, our breakthrough is in the deep waters?
I’ve never realised before just how important it is to have a support network where people are comfortable being vulnerable. I’ve had many networks over the years, but always felt like I was wearing a mask. Always under the pressure to prove myself, and prove that I was enough. Make that a Christian group and the pressure just gets more, and often so hard to bear I just want to run away from it all. When people are comfortable being vulnerable, and are truly comfortable making mistakes in the light of day rather than saying platitudes about how failure is not the opposite of success but a part of success (does anyone knows what Arianna Huffington failed at?!), it creates a space where people are comfortable enough leaving their comfort zones to grow. A space where people are comfortable they can be taken seriously without being perfect. To an extent, Grit and Virtue offers this space to me. Another recent article states that:”With our own high expectations and success in other areas of life, we lose motivation when things don’t come easy.” (Your Calling: if you don’t take it seriously, no one will). This is very true about me (like now, while fighting technology for a few days). Other articles are about us being more than enough. There is so much to convict anyone with a low self-esteem, but not in a condemning way. These are women who say “mea culpa” and you realise that actually, it’s your fault too.
However, as encouraging and great it is to be a part of this network, there will be the times when insecurity isn’t just random. Times when you need practical help with very specific circumstances (again, like now). I’ve spent a year navigating this on my own, with a compulsory business course teaching me about the good qualities of an entrepreneur rather than things I actually need, like for example about VAT and why it would be a good idea to be an incorporated company even if there’s just me in it at the moment. At the end of the day, there are two things that make a good entrepreneur: they are good at what they do, and they can navigate the stormy ocean of the practicalities of running a business. Creativity, innovation, and what not are certainly important if what they do requires it, but a plumber is not reinventing the wheel and can be a very successful business owner too. I’m not. My tax records may say that I started a year ago (although my business loan came through at the end of September, so maybe a year from then is more accurate), but I don’t feel like someone who is ready to leave the start-up phase (normally thought of as the first 1-2 years). In fact, I’ve been on the edge of giving up. I haven’t, both because of a change in circumstances and because there is no surprise I’m one of the Grit and Virtue ambassadors, I’m stubborn and while I may lack in the virtue part (God have mercy), I definitely don’t lack in grit. I’ve been through some tough stuff in the past 28 years of my life, and here I still am.
I don’t know whether my breakthrough is in the deep waters, but I definitely am in them (and when you have asthma it’s a pretty scary metaphor to use because chances are you can’t breathe and you’ll be dead.)