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I want to recount a few business-related stories from my Christmas vacation at home with family.
Two uncles from my Dad’s side, the eldest and the fourth oldest sibling (my Dad is the 2nd eldest), were coming with their families to my parents’ house in West Virginia.
Before they came, my Mom did a few preparatory chores. We weren’t too busy. In the middle of the day she remembered to ask my Dad to clear out the toilet pipe from the 1st floor to the septic tank. I helped my Dad open the tank and haul out the pipe cleaning apparatus. The apparatus was called the Cobra and it had 2 blades on the end of a metal rope that would rotate on a motor.
My Dad’s job was to shove that thing in and tear up anything in that pipe. My job was to flush, flush again, flush some more, and wait until my Dad said stop.
For some reason, the lack of a specific end time for the flushing bothered me. He couldn’t tell me when the flushing could end, because he had no idea how much cleaning the Cobra would have to do. However, it still irked me – perhaps because I didn’t understand why or how long I was supposed to do the job? The uncertainty grated on me.
It took a while and I got impatient. Every 15 minutes or so I would ask my Dad: “How is it was going?” He kept saying, “Keep flushing!” That just made me more impatient, because I had no better idea than when I had come outside to ask. One time, I said, “Should I poop in it to test it?” My Dad replied, “no”, flatly. My Sister, my Mom and I cracked up.
Well about 45 minutes to an hour later of straight flushing every minute or so, all the gunk finally cleared. My Dad said it felt good – “ahhh.”
The moral of the story was that not giving someone a definite end date and explaining the meaning or reasons for a task (even something as simple as flushing for a while) leaves the task-doer annoyed and impatient.
Anyways, that was resolved before my Uncles’ families got there. Once they arrived, I noticed how good my Mom was at asking for tasks or favors. Maybe she learned to do it well at her office, which she shares with my Dad and another internist couple.
She would approach me or my sister and say, “Could you do me a favor?” It felt good to be asked! Of course my sister and I wanted to help. Then, she’d ask me to do something mundane but useful, like bring up the Kimchi from the fridge downstairs.
After dinner, I partook in a long held Park tradition of getting drunk on single-malt Scotch. The Uncles love doing this and enjoy it when I join in for the ride.
That evening, my fourth oldest uncle had his small business on his mind. He had left an ER job a few years ago to start an urgent care facility. The project had worked, after some big cash flow problems initially, and he had expanded through the region with other urgent care facilities.
He talked about how success in his first urgent care had opened up so many doors for him. From increased bank loans and decreased rates , to real estate, and growing his business.
He also talked a lot about the risk, the down times, the sense of ownership, and being your own boss. All this came with the experience of starting his own business with his partners. He left a cushy institutional job and put his money and career on the line for this business.
Most of all, he emphasized that he didn’t regret it one bit. He loved it all: being your own boss, taking the risk, persevering through hard times, and coming out on top. Not everyone comes out on top. Many businesses fail. Even if you’re business does well, you’ll probably be cognizant of businesses around you failing, as your success takes market from a competitor.
To me, his main message was that you’ll never be fully ready to take a risk like this. There’s simply no way to be ready. You have to prepare as best you can, convince yourself that it can work, and try your best. However, there’s no better time to take this risk than now, when I’m young. I’m not tied down by family responsibilities and huge cash flow responsibilities excepting rent, of course, which could be reduced by moving or eliminated if I have to move back home.
The problem is that young people often don’t have the courage to take that risk. We aren’t secure enough, prepared enough, knowledgeable enough, strong enough, smart enough – or so we say in our minds. The advantage that older people have is that they’ve often discovered the beauty of saying, “I’m enough.” When you believe you’re enough, you come from a place of loving and belonging. You are worthy to share yourself with the world and risk being hurt. The paradox is that to realize that you are enough, you first have to say it.
The key is to realize the difference between saying it, faking it or just doing in spite of your misgivings and believing that you are enough. Remember, attitude follows behavior as much as behavior follows attitude. Just say, “I’m enough.” Get inspired. Just get started.