#SWAAYthenarrative

Rude Awakenings: The Lessons I Learned When I Quit Corporate to Be My Own Boss

4min read
Career

Ok, I'm Outta Here.

If you haven't heard already, being an entrepreneur is HARD. It's extremely risky; there's a lot of late nights, salary loss risk, a lot of uncertainty, and the list goes on and on. These are the "known unknowns," so to speak, and they are challenging, but expected.

The real challenge, the single largest factor to prepare for is the steady flow of, in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, "unknown unknowns," you must overcome on a daily basis. This cannot be overstated. As a leader in a startup, you will be confronted with a broad and largely unpredictable set of conundrums, and the only way to prepare is to anticipate their arrival with an open mind and a deep breath.

The transition period is unsettling because while you're trying to grow your idea into a tangible entity, you're thrown obstacle after obstacle that tests your perseverance not only mentally but physically as well.

I had a solid career in Brand Marketing at the largest food company in the world— a position that I had dreamt of earlier on in my career. I wanted it so badly that I got an MBA just to qualify for it. This coveted position would open the doors to significant career advancement opportunities. But something was amiss… at the end of the day, the organization of which I was part, while spinning a tale of innovation and respect for, "out of the box" thinking was entrenched in conservative and traditional ideas with deeply shortsighted planning. I said, "Ok, I'm outta here."

Failing Fast

Soon after leaving my job, I learned the hard truth that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Rose-colored glasses blind you from the lurking dangers you need to path around. Being a realist is vitally important, and the faster you accept the situation that arises, the faster you can act to correct it. When you embrace this is a natural part of the entrepreneurial process, the resulting incremental success will help ensure long term survival.

I also learned the hard way that sometimes you have to come to terms with killing your "best" ideas. An early company of mine, a beverage line, was destined for failure. We had no major customers lined up, our formulation had too short of a shelf life requiring a tiny sales window, and it required a large amount of capital for the initial production. Don't get me wrong, the actual product would be GREAT, and I've recently seen a similar iteration of the product in the beverage aisle, but that's not always the point - at the time we were not capitalized to make that product and coming to terms with that notion is KEY. Venture capitalists call it "failing fast," and if it ain't gonna work, it's better to decide to can it, sooner rather than later.

Partnerships

A major career change will affect all arenas of your life, least of which are the relationships in it. It's been said that you should never work with friends or family, and I've learned the hard way that this adage has stood the test of time for a reason. This isn't to say it's impossible, but there will, like any other relationship, be challenges as your circumstances and dynamics undergo changes. This may be with your business partner, your family, or even your friends as your priorities shift to focus on your newfound project. If you're one of the lucky ones, your relationships may remain unaffected by the major adventure that you've chosen to undertake. If not, the good news is that you can prepare for the inevitable ups and downs.

Business partnerships are like any other relationship—you need to be transparent and explicit not only about what your expectations are for the business but also your relationship in the event that your venture doesn't work out. We all hope relationships won't sour, but it's good practice to anticipate and prepare for the possibility that it might. Take stock of your support system: Who will you turn to outside of your partnership to discuss problems? From whom can you get honest but constructive feedback? Whether a support system means finding a seasoned mentor in the industry, checking in more frequently with a therapist, or taking the time to destress with girlfriends at a weekly brunch, schedule me-time just like you would any other meeting or event.

Your Company is Not You

As an entrepreneur, you have to be flexible to pivot when necessary. So when my goal of starting a beverage line didn't pan out, I reached into my back pocket to see what other ideas I had in the past that could come to fruition. I took all those ideas and worked on them simultaneously to see which project could get the most traction. From this journey materialized DoggieLawn, an eco-friendly alternative to pee-pads that just seemed to naturally make sense for a busy pet owner like myself.

It's important to prepare for failure as much as you would prepare for success. Failure is a natural part of this process. And it's so easy to dwell on it when it feels like everything is falling apart before your eyes.

But if and when things go awry, be solution-oriented instead of ruminating over what could have been. Remind yourself that running into obstacles is normal, and success doesn't happen overnight, despite what our social media inundated culture would have us believe.

You can easily become overwhelmed, depressed, or even take it personally. This is why I advise women who are thinking of making the big shift from corporate to being their own boss to prepare for failure as much as you would for success. Your ideas and your company are not YOU. When you ditch a product line or shutter a company, you must not shutter yourself. Meditate on this notion before you even start - you'll thank yourself later.

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.