Parenting Your Small Business: Identity
Part two in a five part series. Read part one here.
Some mama friends and I are going through Parenting by Paul David Tripp (can not recommend this enough as the #1 parenting book we've read since embarking on this journey 2.5 years ago!), and the similarities between parenting a small child and rearing a small business are undeniable.
As a parent of two little kids, my needs are often forgotten. Not trying to fall on my own sword. Just recounting (another) day when I forgot to eat lunch - try explaining that to 20-year-old me - and had just fought the kids to sleep. Normally good sleepers, our kids with too much sun and late naps were turning their normal sleepy selves against a sleepy me and none of us were coping well. I read once that it's sometime hard to differentiate between despair and exhaustion. Exhausted, I felt despair in that moment. My goodness as a mom banked on my kids going to sleep. In that moment, with tunnel vision setting in, my value rested precariously in the palm of my two-year-old. Frightening is right.
The kids collapsed into dreamland, and I collapsed on the couch. I was going to take a nap. Just as soon as I checked the 'Gram and the 'Book. See, my primary role at Modern Forestry is social media. And, like a good never-off-the-clock business owner, I was going to check in on our little social media world in the clouds. I should have taken that nap.
A dozen unfollows, a mere 40 likes on my latest post, and a message from a disgruntled sales person. Not even a customer. I like making things right on the rare occasion that something is wrong. But someone who I've never met, who was selling me something I didn't want, and was now upset by my polite but to the point no thank you.
Hungry as I was - some days you have to chose between sleeping and eating - I felt despair in that moment. My goodness as a business owner - nah, a person - banked on little pink hearts on Instagram. In that moment, with tunnel vision setting in, my value rested precariously in the digital palm of some rude stranger. Frightening is right.
Identity. I've best defined it as where you find value. Another litmus test is where are your highs and lows coming from. Riding the social media roller coaster of popularity is THE (with a long E) worst thrill ride. Ever. And I'm tired of it.
In his chapter on identity, Tripp writes, "All our actions and reactions are connected to who we think we are, who we think God is, what we think life is about, what we think important, where we go to find help, and what we look to un order to give us peace, rest, and security. At street level, we don't really live based on the facts of our existence, but based on the sense that we are making out of those facts."
With as many insecurities that come with parenting a small child and a small business, it's not surprising that the highs are mountaintop and the lows are the shadow of death. It's easy to look to social media or sales for " peace, rest, and security." And when those arbitrary markers are your foundation, it takes very little for that foundation to be shaken. So little that an online shrug from a faceless person just about did it for me that afternoon.
You can't thrive with that kind of instability. You can't build your business on a value system so rocky. You can't face the hardships - and there are real ones in the business world that extend beyond the confines of social media - when you're so consumed by if so-and-so account with 20k followers followed you back.
Tripp goes on to write that if "we come to parenting [to the business world] with hearts that are full and satisfied, we live with courage and hope, and we are not needy, because we have found all that we need in Him."
Ya, Christ is involved in your small business, and He brings lasting security, courage, and hope to face all the hardships that tax season, a recession, and a summer of bad weather can (and will) throw at you. These follower numbers and post likes, "they were never designed to satisfy your heart and give you peace." They can't give you those things. It is one of the easiest things to succeed at in small business, but it's a sorry thing to look for your value in the irregular tides of popularity.
Besides a mental shift - and not checking social media when I'm both hungry and tired - I implemented some physical boundaries to protect me from the crashing waves, at least until I can gain some ground on a firmer foundation and get my feet under me. I stopped checking numbers. I post, I answer messages, I get off. I stopped scrolling and found freedom from comparison, expectation, and others' approval.