Sometimes, You Have to Let Go of Good-Enough In Order to Grab Even-Better

by Annie

in brain hacks

Two empty hands reaching above

Today, I want to do something a little different.

Instead of giving you advice, or suggesting a how-to workflow to make you more productive, I want to tell you a story about one of the most insidious dangers we solopreneurs face on a daily basis: the danger of grasping the short term and ignoring the long game. 

The Story

So, as you’ll recall, I messed up BIG  years back. And part of the consequences from that huge-assed blunder had to do with housing.

Namely, I lost mine.

As in, I was evicted.

This meant for awhile, at least, that no one would rent to me. (At least, no one with habitable premises who did even the most bare-bones background checks on prospective tenants.)

For a year, I couch-surfed in various friends’ homes.

Then, the tide turned, somewhat: I worked up the nerve to try to rent again a few years back.

I knew my options were going to be highly limited. So, I restricted the search to owner-rented apartments on Craigslist. And I lucked out – seriously, amazingly lucked out – when a very nice lady offered to rent the downstairs of her house to me on a month to month basis.

Now, this place wasn’t exactly a winner. The windows didn’t open, and there was no screen door, so fresh air was just not gonna happen, unless I opened the front door wide and let all the local wildlife come in for a visit. The gas hot water heater was located behind a door that couldn’t or wouldn’t stay shut, in our part of the house, mere feet from our bedroom doors. Carbon monoxide, anyone?

Oh, and it had baseboard heaters. And a tiny window AC unit.

And did I mention the one-foot-across hole in the middle of the wall in the living room where they’d ripped out an old wood-burning stove and nobody had thought to mend it?

Still. It was ours. It wasn’t like couch-surfing, even though we were still, technically, in someone’s house. We were paying for this space, and slowly, the self-esteem came back.

For a long time, things were groovy.

Then, this past fall, on a sunny Friday afternoon, that very nice lady asked to speak with me. She hemmed and hawed for a few minutes, then finally came to the point.

“I’m selling the house. You need to move.”

I felt like I’d been gut-punched.

I mean, it was a bona fide miracle I’d found THIS place.

How on earth was I ever going to find another miracle?

Then it got worse:

“Can you be out in two weeks?”

(Um. NO.)

“OK, well, forty-five days is the most I can do.”

Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland

Something like that, yeah.

For three weeks, I panicked. I ran around the house, trying to pack things up and simultaneously brainstorm ways I could get around the big black spot on my renting record. Trying desperately not to let the “ZOMG I am SO SCREWED” thoughts gain any traction in my brain. Trying to keep my spirits up and my mood calm for my daughter, so she wouldn’t feel as terrified as I did.

Then the landlady did something quite unexpected: She offered to let us stay through the end of the year.

Now, all along, for those three weeks, in the back of my brain I’d been thinking “God, if I could just stay ’til the end of the year, it would be SO much easier in January!”

So, you’d think I’d have jumped at that amazing kind offer, right? I mean, landlady didn’t have to offer it. She’d already given me more notice than our month to month lease required. She could have stuck firm to the 45-day deadline. And I’d been saying all along that I just needed to stay through December, right?

So why did I hedge?

Hedge I did.

And then the landlady rescinded the offer. (Yes, it was … odd. To say the least. But the whole experience had turned decidedly odd.)

And so I had no choice.

I stopped the freakouts. I mean, it’s impossible to get shit done when you’re that much crazy-town.

I called a few people I knew locally to ask for leads.

Within three days, I’d found a house.

Within two more days, I’d signed a lease.

The house is small. It’s a cottage, really. And it has its own problems — the heating units aren’t fully functional, so we require additional space heaters, and the water pipes need to be cleaned out or replaced so I can shower under something slightly more than the current trickle of H20.

But the windows open.

There’s a front screen door.

There are no holes in the walls.

The floors are gorgeous hardwood.

It’s slightly larger than the old digs.

Best of all: IT IS ALL OURS.

(In the leased sense, anyway.)

And this is the part of the post where I segue into the moral of the story …

The Moral of the Story

I was so busy grasping on to what I currently had — to “good enough” — that I almost missed out on getting something even better.

Your hands can only hold so much, after all. If you want to grab that king-sized box of Godivas, you better drop the M&Ms.

That’s what happened to me. I had to be willing to lose what I thought I “deserved” — the “best I could expect, given the circumstances” — and take a risk on asking for something better.

And I had to let go of what was in order to be able to grab what could be.

It’s scary, I admit. It’s soul-quaking and terrifying to let go of something you have — say, a not-so-ideal client, or a service line that brings in moderate amounts of cash but which you despise having to perform — so you can have the space in your environment or headspace or business to ask for, or even demand, something better.

But it’s necessary.

And here’s the kicker: every time you do this, it has ripple effects that are far-ranging and cross life-area boundaries.

Here’s what I mean – and you can go try it yourself, if you don’t believe me:

Weed out your wardrobe — go donate all that wearable, serviceable crap that you hate and that makes you look like an aging Queens fishwife.

See if something cool and unexpected doesn’t pop into your life within a few weeks thereafter.

It might be another piece of clothing.

It might also be a kick-ass new client.

Or tickets to a concert you couldn’t afford but desperately wanted to see.

Your Turn

What’s that little voice nagging at you to get rid of? It could be something in your environment, your home, your business … it could be a tangible thing or a trait or characteristic … it could be a thing or a person … a friend or a client … a habit or an “obligation” that’s holding you back.

Share in the comments!

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Photo Credit:striatic via photopin cc

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Tea Silvestre November 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm

What an awesome lesson, Annie. Sorry you had to go through all of that, but WOW. So often we fear the unknown that we’re afraid to let go of what we know — even if we kind of hate it. (Better the monster you know…) I’m definitely doing some introspection today on this one. Thanks.
Tea Silvestre recently posted..Speak Up! Why and How to Find Your Voice

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Sharon Hurley Hall November 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm

A great lesson beautifully told, as always, Annie. It’s kind of a ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ thing, isn’t it?
Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..How to Create a Lean, Focused Writing Business

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Rebecca November 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm

What an awesome story! It’s so scary to allow ourselves to step away from mediocrity, without a clear guarantee that anything better is in store. And it is always worth it.
Rebecca recently posted..Whining Is Just Another Word For Amateur. Step. It. Up.

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Sandi Amorim November 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm

The little voice has been nagging at me for a couple of months to let go of ‘business as usual’ and begin creating business as I want it now. Almost 12 years ago I began my business, and it still runs pretty much the same way with the addition of blogging and social media. Other than that, it’s been mostly ‘business as usual.’ But what I’m really getting here is that what worked then, doesn’t work now and I haven’t been fully ready to accept it.

Now I am. The shift in energy since realizing this has been huge, and I’m more than ready for something new. Great lesson Annie!
Sandi Amorim recently posted..A New Kind of Devotion for the New Year

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Carol Lynn November 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I love the way you tell a story, Annie. And I got a chuckle out of dropping the M&Ms. This is a great lesson because change is hard. We tend to cling to what we have, even if it’s NOT good enough, because we don’t know what’s out there and it could be (gasp!) worse. Even if it takes a while to get there, we should always want and expect the best for ourselves. Now pass the Godiva!
Carol Lynn recently posted..Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Knowing When It’s Time To Say Goodbye To Customers

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Nick Armstrong November 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm

There’s a lot of bullshit cliche stuff out there that doesn’t make you feel better when you hear it, but the one that almost always is true: when bad things happen, it’s an opportunity in disguise.

Strong people can turn adversity into some of the most insane opportunities, it’s outlandish and totally fun to watch.

Way to Captain Janeway that shit! 😀
Nick Armstrong recently posted..Are We There Yet? Nick’s Origin Story – Killing Some Dreams To Save Others

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Clare Price November 28, 2012 at 8:13 pm

What a great way to meet an impossible challenge head on and rise victorious. And what a great life lesson for your daughter and the rest of us. You give me confidence on this crazy journey of growing a business! Thanks Annie!
Clare Price recently posted..The Lady or the Tiger? You Choose.

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evan austin November 29, 2012 at 6:32 am

An EPIC tale, masterfully told as always, and with a moral to boot! Love your raw honest and open courage. I’m with Tea….gonna ponder the little voices. The one thing I can think of right away doesn’t want to be let go, which is of course the surest sign that it needs to be. 🙂
evan austin recently posted..A Lean Business Model: Mac-n-Cheese

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Melanie Kissell @SoloMompreneur November 29, 2012 at 9:03 am

Totally killer and way cool post, Annie!

I love your storytelling prowess but I’m certainly very sad you had to walk through all the nasty muck and mire … and worse. 🙁

Want to know what I think is one of the most dangerous words in the English language? (Just say yes and make an old lady happy). “Comfortable”. Yep! In my way of thinking, that’s a bad word. “Comfortable” can lead to another bad word … “Complacent”. Uh, oh.

The lesson in your post reaches into the pit of my soul and it also gives my butt a swift kick. I’m guilty of simply “settling”, sticking (comfortably) with the “familiar” and, therefore, accepting that “good enough” is good enough. Well, it isn’t.

You deserve better. I deserve better. 🙂
Melanie Kissell @SoloMompreneur recently posted..Out With The Trash And In With The Treasures

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Stacy Stateham November 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Best quote of the week… “”If you want to grab that king-sized box of Godivas, you better drop the M&Ms.” Good enough is only good enough if you’re willing to accept it 🙂
Stacy Stateham recently posted..Starting with Inbound Marketing: Do What Matters Most First.

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Nicole Fende November 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Man I’m ALL about letting go of the M&M’s to get Godiva chocolate (their truffles – heaven!). And that visual really drove home your message for me. Since we can’t be sure we’re getting Godiva chocolate (what if its the more wax than food stuff sold at the dollar store?) letting go can be hard.

On a bigger scale Annie you need to start collecting all these blogs on your life and put it into a book. Because they’re so real and so raw they have impace.
Nicole Fende recently posted..Tame The Paper Beast

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SandyMc December 1, 2012 at 7:22 am

Nicole has it Annie. You have a book. Your story telling is powerful. I tried to tell our story when life went pear-shaped on us (is that an Ozzie expression?) but it just sounded like I was having one long whinge so I ditched it (think it was for the school of hard knocks carnie event). You on the other hand tell the story and that what it is, an epic tale as Evan says. And so out of that a truth emerges. Beautifully captured in the idea of holding onto the M&M’s instead of grabbing the Godiva’s.

The thing is you can think you are letting go of the Godiva’s like we did when we had to sell our home, but actually we hadn’t even tasted them yet. We were so busy trying to hold on to them, they’d long since melted and gone stale! The real ones were waiting for us when we let go.

Thanks Annie, love your stuff.
SandyMc recently posted..Have you lost the passion for what you do?

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Aaron March 10, 2016 at 9:05 am

Wow, this story truly touched my heart. I think that for people to really be truly happy and content with their lives, we have to know which ones to hold on to and which ones to let go. It is not easy to do that, though. A lot of discernment and prayers are needed to come up with the best decision.

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FRANK SMITH J January 1, 2017 at 7:07 pm

What a great way to meet and overcome impossible challenges Annie. You are right when bad things happen, it’s an opportunity in disguise. Your story really touched my heart.

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