So four-ish months ago, I made the decision to recline. Recline from a career in public health and policy, its discontents, the experience of being occasionally being introduced as an intern (though actually being paid very well as a consultant), sitting at a table of mostly older men and being assumed to take notes, the list goes on. I was bowing out of the game. I have nothing against leaning in. But I was questioning the impact I was having within my profession and what I was getting out of it (aside from a very nice per diem). It’s also 2015 and being a thirty year old female sans offspring, I felt I could make this leap.
Despite the supportive words from friends who extolled how brave we were to set out and do something we really loved, the doubt inevitably set in. You know about that doubt right? The DOUBT. I’m a big picture kinda girl who tends to move fast, I work best with deadlines and ask for results to come in faster. So I was basically asking for a little anxiety attack to happen. You know the thoughts – “I’m a total fake. Who am I kidding? People will never pay me for this” Alternatively, “well I should just set a deadline for success and I can always go back to my old job,” and “I’ve left a job helping others to promote a yuppie lifestyle.” I don’t think I was a very pleasant person to work with and I am beyond thankful to Cait for being such a patient friend and business partner.
But then I realized, this must be what so many small business owners experience. And you’d think that with all the interviews that Cait and I have already done, I would have already picked up some lessons (check out this podcast for some great ones!). Looking back on these conversations, the small business owners and creatives who succeed acknowledge the slow path to growth, make calculated decisions to ensure that this growth occurs and that risks are worth taking. My talk with photographer Roberto Westbrook made this all the more clear.
Taste became a unifying theme across all the wonderful people we’ve met and had conversations with over the past several months is perfectly captured by these two minutes of words from Ira Glass. Because, come on, what isn’t? I’ve maintained his words as my mantra over the past month, and they are especially relevant during those moments of doubt. They even come as a desktop wallpaper, and as an animated transcript, if you like.
Four months on, I realized we are not reclining at all. I’m looking at recommendations for productivity and management apps, which means that the work is coming in. And I’ve realized that leaning in can mean whatever you want it to mean. You may think you’re reclining when you’re actually leaning in. I might also need a standing desk soon to take care of the problems of literally leaning in (working with Photoshop will do that). But most of all, I think I’ve learned that the leaning in I did do was to figure out what direction I wanted to be in, and to actually embark on a journey towards it. And sure I’m worried. I think a healthy dose of fear helps everyone. And these words from Ira Glass, as well as the supportive community that Cait and I both have, will always keep us afloat.