[This is a series of articles on reflections & ruminations on striving for mindfulness as a founder / entrepreneur.]
Hi, I’m Jen Horn, founder of MUNI, and I’m an entrepreneur who has experienced the difficulty in “shutting down” or “closing shop”. And no, I don’t mean putting an end to a business, but that when I’m in a business, I’m in a business, completely immersed in it and I can’t disconnect. Sound familiar?
The Bunny That Kept Going And Going And Going
Back in 2009 (wow, seems like a lifetime ago!), my partner in a retail design company and I decided to pursue our business full time. We were managing regular releases of our existing product lines (graphic designed laptop sleeves, camera straps, and yup, shoes too – basically anything that was not a T-shirt or tote bag, because that was too “obvious”), while also developing a new brand and product.
Gail and I (and then when she moved to Canada in May 2010, our new operations manager Nica) handled product design & development, production & quality management, marketing & PR, and fulfillment & distribution to five different distributors and over 20 outlets, on top of monthly business housekeeping.
My brain was always on and thinking about ideas for this new design, product, campaign, or partnership, or how to improve our website, the customer experience, our pop-up displays, our tags, or this thing or that thing. I was an Energizer bunny and unapologetic workaholic. This is both what gives energy to many entrepreneurs, and what can also lead them to burnout. And it gave me energy for a while, but then I didn’t know how to manage it.
Crash & Burn
Finally, after three years of dedicating myself solely to that endeavor, and never really feeling like I could give myself vacations, while simultaneously resenting my business for it, I finally self-combusted.
I had been struggling with moments of self-doubt that fanned this precarious fire. It’s what had prompted me to create a business philosophy down the line, not for my customers, but for my own resolve. This helped me get by for a while, but my why was not strong enough.
Rise & Fall of the Phoenix
In Greek mythology and in East Asian culture, a phoenix is a mystical bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn from its ashes.
When I got to the end of that rope in 2012, I took the break I needed, disconnected, and used that time to listen to my own thoughts, unencumbered by the day-to-day deliverables of the business. I experienced the world beyond what had become my myopic vision, learned new things, nourished my mind and body, and that restarted the journey of self-discovery, which gave birth to MUNI and brought it to where it is today.
I can’t express enough how vital periods of purposeful thought, observation and presence have been in my life, and how necessary it is for my wellbeing, which is why, in running MUNI, I wanted to make to make sure that I remained mindful in the process of figuring the business out, because I might otherwise not be congruent with its very purpose.
I believe that part of the reason why I had any moments of doubt about myself and Muni in the past two years was largely because I was frequently looking outwards and not enough inwards. I contended with the fear of being found out as a peddler of mindfulness who lacked the very thing she peddled.
I was physically mindful in how I ate, shopped and got around, but psychologically, I would have negative thought patterns every now and then – caring too much about what people thought, and struggling with the push and pull of wanting to grow Muni while not wanting to get overly stressed out by / about it (and in the process losing compassion for myself and others), pingponging back and forth with being hyper ambitious, to being too flaccid at other times.
Simply Begin Again
At the end of the day, we live our lives for ourselves (even when it is in service of others), and we need only to take the time to listen to what is in our heart of hearts after peeling back all the layers of doubt, insecurity, social pressure, or self-defeating thoughts about having self-defeating thoughts.
We can choose to re-group to review what we’ve done so far, complete with the trials and triumphs, and if we see we’ve fallen off course or diverted in a direction that was not fruitful, we can pick ourselves up and simply begin again – a useful tip I’ve picked up in practicing mindfulness meditation that applies as much to the practice as it does with anything else in life. I still fall off course, but I believe the important thing is become more and more aware of the times that we do, so we can gently, calmly remind ourselves to simply begin again.
New age juju and cheesiness aside, I believe it is when we live with true compassion for ourselves, allowing ourselves to shut down or close shop to reboot and get realigned, that we can be of the better service to others. And when we make that happen, people will take notice, and be inspired to think, speak, and act with compassion in their own lives as well.
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Want to share your own journey in growing a mindful business too? E-mail us at email@example.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jen Horn is a wanderer, writer, and founder of MUNI, a community for mindful living. She empowers people to think critically, to ask questions about how they shop, eat and travel, to live more socially and environmentally mindful lives while remaining kind and nourishing to one’s self.
She writes about psychology, wellness and the environment, and loves diving and bike-commuting. Follow her at @nomadmanager.