As I write this article our 12 week old puppy, Red, is snoozing on a pillow by my feet in our kitchen, and I'm grabbing this quiet time to get on with some work.
It's been 4 weeks since she joined our family, and an intensive 28 days! And I can't help but see the parallels between raising a puppy, and starting a business, or between many other of the BIG life goals.
This is something that I've known for a long time I wanted to do. I grew up around dogs and for me a house just isn't a home without one, but we've always re-homed dogs so missed out on the puppy stage in the past, and it was something I wanted to experience at least once.
We'd discussed getting a puppy for months, and had planned to take the plunge as soon as the renovations on our house were complete and we'd moved in. But that time came, and after a few weeks to get our breath back and settle back into a "balanced" routine, I found myself procrastinating over this decision, second guessing my intuition, and noticing all the reasons why now maybe wasn't such a great time.
Fortunately, 2 of our close friends then announced that they were getting dogs (1 a puppy and 1 an older dog), and it was the catalyst I needed to recognise that there was never going to be a "perfect time" to get a puppy. Whenever we made the decision it was going to take compromise, adjustment and a solid commitment to making this work, but if this was something that I genuinely wanted, at some point taking a deep breath, a leap of faith and committing to it was the only way to make it happen. Just like starting a business, there will never be an ideal time and you will almost always, have to sacrifice a few other things short-term to make it happen.
So we did.....
And the last 4 weeks have been a roller-coaster of ups and downs. Just like the start-up stage of a business it's harder work than we thought it would be, there's not enough time to get everything done, the sacrifices & compromises have been harder in reality than the theory, and we've had to let go of/lower the bar on some of the other goals/challenges we were working towards whilst we focus on this one.
But, when I look at many of the BIG life goals and challenges we set ourselves, I can see that this pattern is not unusual. For many (if not all) of our big goals, the journey to achieving them is often not that fun, exciting or glamorous, and is often longer than we first anticipated. If you want to run a marathon, whilst on the day that may be a fantastic experience, during training the reality is that you're just going to have to get out and pound the pavement (potentially in some not-so-pleasant weather conditions) to get the miles under your belt. Creating your own business, will feel fantastic on the days when you're living your ideal work-life balance or working from a laptop on a sunny beach somewhere, but to achieve that you're going to have to do some (or a lot) of those marketing and management tasks that you really don't enjoy that much. Renovating a house is a great experience, but you'll potentially spend a lot of days in an unheated house in the middle of winter, scraping wallpaper paste off the walls and using a bucket to flush your toilet!
In my experience the big life goals are ALWAYS harder than we thought they'd be going into them. We always have to put more in than we expected and push ourselves further than we anticipated. It almost always takes more work, more time and results in more stress than we initially planned. But does that diminish their value? On the contrary! This "grit" is all part of the process, it's that commitment to pushing ourselves further than we thought we could, that gives us such an amazing sense of achievement at the end.
The reality is that I love our house all the more because I helped shape and create it with my own hands and because I know I sacrificed something to make it happen. I love my business for the same reasons, because I've invested in it - with energy, commitment, time and money. And I love Red all the more because we're going through this journey together. When she sits on command, or learns a new trick such as "roll over" or "paw", we are the proudest of puppy parents because we know what it took to make that happen!
At 4 weeks into this journey, it's dawning on us that we have a very long way to go before the puppy stage is behind us, but as hard as it is some days, other days it's also really fun, and extremely rewarding, and we're in no hurry to get past this stage. No doubt in a years time we'll look back and realise how quickly she grew.
With many of the big goals, it's really the experience that we wanted to try anyway, whilst we may define it by the end goal, it's actually the process and the challenge of the journey that we wanted to experience for ourselves first hand. If we were solely interested in the end goal we'd just buy a lovely new-build house, buy an existing business, or re-home a lovely dog from the shelter. It was the experience of having a puppy that was what I really wanted (as well as the end goal of a lovely dog!), and sometimes it's important to remember that on those days when it's harder than you thought it was going to be! I knew it was never going to be easy, anyone who's ever had a puppy will tell you they're not easy. Likewise, anyone who's run and grown a business will probably also tell you it's not easy, but the journey is an intrinsic part of the end goal, and whilst it can be hard, it can also be really fun; it's creative and challenging, and will force you to grow and develop new skills, you'll learn things about yourself and about other people, and ultimately the good bits will far outweigh the bad.
If you're embarking on, or in the middle of, a big goal or challenge (business or personal) let me know your thoughts, I'd love to hear if you agree/disagree.