Why did it take so long to get to growth?

I want to get this out of my head. Sometimes in live events your brain decides to in a tangent you’ve not prepared for. Does anyone else experience that?

So I was on a panel yesterday and I’m not happy with my performance, multiple reasons. But the first one is one I consistently f-up, and need to get my head around it.

It’s about my business journey. I said something like – I started my first business in 1994, but wasn’t really ‘full-time’ in it until 2018 after my youngest finished school. Since 2018 it’s grown ten-fold. So really, the ‘growth’ phase is only 4 or 5 years old.

That’s an accurate take, but it’s also not the whole picture. I’m annoyed with my telling of that, but am trying to work out why.

I think the abbreviated story suggests I was ‘playing’ or it was some kind of hobby. And that’s not true.

Lisa and I started in the business in 1994. I’ve talked about that origin story before. My first child was born in 1995, next 1997, then 1999, and last one in 2000.

There are lots of women who continue to build their careers while having kids. Why was mine so interupted? What is it about my story that meant growth only started in 2018? I’ve been thinking about this since the panel and it’s important to me to work through it – not sure why, that may come at the end of this.

Mid-writing note: I’m going to keep writing and not edit. As I am writing, new ideas are coming. I have no idea where it’s going, but I’m going to just let it flow. Let’s tag this post – idea flow hey?

I’ve never not worked.

The first thing to note is that I’ve ALWAYS had paid work. The only time I had any ‘time-off’ was when I was working at uni and had parental leave after Number 3 was born. I think I had two months ‘off’. But I’ve worked LOTS of casual work – either generating income from the business, casual university tutorial, sessional lecturing etc. And I’ve often been the main breadwinner of the family.

“Too” much volunteering

Too much is the wrong phrase, but yes. Since I volunteered in high school there has been rarely a time in the last 3 decades when I haven’t been on a board or committee. Really there’s nothing ‘too much’ about it – it’s important work that needs to be done. But it does distract me. It’s meant that time I might have spent developing myself wasn’t available. I still do too much. And I tend to do things that needs hands-on help. Sometimes I’m lucky to be involved in things that have staff and resources, and all I need to provide is time and ideas. But it’s the gigs that mean I’m the one actually doing the work – well that’s time I can’t be in my business.

In recent years my volunteering is really industry-specific. If I add up how many days I’ve done in the last 6 years… f-that. I’m not going to do that or I’ll cry. But it is possible I’ve allowed myself to be exploited. Particularly by governments – doing their job for nothing. I could spend all day on government reference groups and committees helping them.

Short attention span

I know this is one of my biggest issues. I love so many things and have so many interests. I could 10 PhDs on all different topics. They’re all interesting to me. I do get bored easily, and happily hop from one thing to another. Building a business when you don’t focus on it, OR worse still, when the business has TOO many elements to it – it’s going to take longer to get to a stable spot.

Running out of money

Instead of just sticking with educational resources, I started getting work in graphic design. Our first job in the early 2000s was designing Deadly Ears. It was just meant to be a one-off. But then another job came, and another. It was good because we had income coming in (albeit not that much), but it meant I shifted focus from education so that part of the business stifled.

I almost finished my Masters, but stopped because I had to get work. I could have finished it but prioritised bringing income in and clearly didn’t have anything left in the tank for further study.

Disorganised

Others can do it. I know lots of women who’ve had kids, worked, volunteer, (and stayed fit. lol). But I’m fundamentally a disorganised character – I’m probably reading or exploring something new, or just probably sleeping. Is disorganisation a by-product of short attention span? When you’re always learning new things, you spend so much time in learning stage that you never reach a point of true proficiency and efficiency? maybe …

I’ve become a little more organised in some areas now – but I’ve just become obsessed with time management (my most recent posts reflect that).

I didn’t know my worth

We were one of the very early players in Indigenous graphic design. We did solid and good work and I was working with an experienced industry-trained Indigenous graphic design and illustrator – one of the very few then and now. But did we know our worth? No. I don’t think so. We didn’t charge enough. It may have been possibly because I was thinking we were still about educational resources and this design thing was just a side-hustle.

Now that I think about it – I did the same thing with social media training. It was just something I was interested in and enjoyed doing. AGAIN! We were doing it early, but I didn’t charge enough. I kept saying FFS people just google it! lol. I also helped people for free cause it was interesting.

I internalised the traditional role of mother and wife

This is embarrassing but f-it -there it is. It’s true. I’ve been reading feminist literature since uni. I got it. But clearly didn’t. To be honest, I know I do this while trying to reject it. I’ve borne the mental and physical workload of parenting and running a house. I could have shared that load, but didn’t.

I’ve started thinking about how the ‘administration’ of life is f-ing enormous. Some people handle it, like ducks to water, so they have no idea how much effort it takes for others. I find the whole thing so draining but have tried to bear the responsibility of the load because #mothering. *eyeroll*

What this also meant was I gave up finishing things for the family cause – either there was no time or no money. I didn’t finish my last semester of teaching degree, or the masters. I just couldn’t make it work.

Failure to learn how to delegate

One of the things I’m grappling with now is I’m no good at delegating. I ask my kids to do stuff all the time. But staff, I don’t know how to ask them to do stuff. I’m learning and hopefully will get better at it.

Money story

Too much money means you must be a sell out. No? So working for free is the only way to contribute.

Money management

yeah. Nuff said.

Failure to stick

Related to short attention span?

No idea how to build a business

Yep. No idea until recently. Now I’m here. Wish I’d got here in my 30s. But yeah.

No hustle

I see pics on social media of business owners meeting with politicians. First thing I think is what are you bothering them for? But I later realised they’re doing it to get known – be top of mind when opportunities might come up. I’ve never done that. And may never do it. I would never consider it. What’s that about?

I’m a soldier

Someone I know (who has a very successful career) describes themselves as a soldier not a leader. I’ve always felt like that’s me. I’m not the one coming up with the big ideas. I’m very comfortable being a soldier. I’m a worker so I’m quite content doing the work. I’ve never wanted to be the chair or president. I like taking minutes and getting them distributed.

Someone, once said to me ‘oh Leesa, you’re a saint’. I was pissed off. I’m not a saint. I’m human. I hate the thought that people think I’m some kind of saint. I want to think I’m in control of my future. I don’t want to be a matyr or a victim. When I am starting to feel that I push that shit out of the way, cause that does not help me at all. Doesn’t mean I don’t get pissed off and angry, but overall, feeling like I’m not in control is not me.

I’ve made my life and am making my life. It is what it is. Sure I’ve given up things but it was my choice to do that. Do I wish I’d made different decisions? Of course. But don’t feel sorry for me.

So why write about it? There’s probably a dozen other things and that can be another post later. I’m writing it down because I need to understand where I am and how I got here, and when I compare where others are, understanding my journey helps to make me feel less shit.

Compare health plans, not life journeys Leesa.

What’s the lesson? Or where to next?

There’s probably a post in the future that reads the opposite –

Short Attention Span v Sense of Adventure or Willing to Risk.

When I turned 48 I put a chart on the wall so I could track the number of weekends until I turned 50. I was not going to waste those 104 days. I think I’ll do the same again. How many weekends until I turn 55? Right let’s go.

So here she goes –

  • Study – I’m going to write down all the things I want to study. I’ll start at the top of the list – complete it, and then move onto the next one. I’m only 52, I’ve got plenty of time I reckon. I’m going to pick an area of study, and get a thesis written and submitted, and then another one, and another one.
  • Business – keep doin’ it.
  • Life – stay grateful, surround myself with fantastic people, keep doing it but just drink more water and exercise more.

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