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February 27, 2020

My Business Almost Destroyed Me

I felt so incredibly empty. Like I had nothing left to give or offer at all. I was thousands of dollars in debt, not sleeping well, eating too much junk food for comfort, and convinced there was no way out of it. 


In November of 2016, I kissed my day job goodbye and decided to strike out on my own to run a recruiting desk from home. I was scared but excited– I was gonna do it! I was gonna be an entrepreneur. I think I’d watched every episode of Shark Tank and dreamed of being my own boss one day. The day arrived and… it was nothing like I had imagined. For the first three months, I tried to do everything on my own. Nothing was moving. The money I’d saved up was dwindling and I panicked. So then I flipped in the opposite direction: I outsourced many things, sought out automation and “magic pill” quick fixes, hired people I believed were experts, etc. None of that worked either! There were actually times when I seemed to repel technology. Emails wouldn’t send. My phone would suddenly die. My wi-fi would bog down. To be fair, I managed to close some deals and experience a bit of success, but it never felt fulfilling. As soon as payment arrived, I’d rush off to the bank and then panic about how long the money would actually last. 


It all came to a boiling point in the summer of 2018. My business– this thing I’d looked at as though it were a baby– had become an entity I loathed. I absolutely hated it and resented it. I felt like it had robbed me of so much. I was tapped out financially and decided to do the one thing I never wanted: to go back to a day job. Initially, I was relieved to have a steady income again. Some of the monetary pressure was off but emotionally, I was still bitter and angry. I kept telling myself, “This is all temporary. You’ll figure out what to do next,” but no inspiration was coming. If I had a muse somewhere, she’d abandoned me. Those feelings of anger and frustration turned into a deep depression. Last fall, shortly before my 39th birthday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt so empty and bereft. The negative self-talk was horrid. “You are nothing. You have nothing to give. You have no message. Nothing to offer. Just give up.” I no longer knew who I was. I had been a top producer at an agency, a well-known recruiter in my community, an overachiever, a perfectionist, a Type A personality. Now none of that seemed to be true. Keeping it extremely real: I wanted to end it all. I was deep in an existential crisis with no light at the end of the tunnel. 


The stars aligned and I found a YouTube clip of Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday discussing the dark night of the soul. He talks about deciding what qualities you would want to get out of your dark night of the soul period. What would you need from it? I took out my journal and wrote things like, “Strength. Resilience. Knowing that whatever happens, I can survive it. Forgiveness for myself and others. Getting my sense of humor back. Feeling joie de vivre again. Believing in myself.” I wanted to be happy and to have a sense of purpose again, but still didn’t know how I’d get there.


There are a lot of articles and books that glorify starting a side hustle, quitting your day job, launching a successful business, and so on. Not as many discuss the emotional turmoil that can follow such a decision. Or how to rebound from it if you find yourself in distress once you’ve taken the plunge. I believe it is absolutely crucial to have good intentions, work on your mindset, and determine how you want to help other people BEFORE you start a business. Simply saying, “Well, I wanna make a truckload of cash, who doesn’t?” is not enough. People spend time lining up the money, the legal documents, and the logistical components, but may forget about how owning a business will impact them emotionally and spiritually. 


I came back from my dark night depression and found joy and peace again. Fortunately, the qualities I wrote down in my journal are qualities I now know I possess. 

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