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