Riding the Waves of Change: Why It ‘Must’ Get Harder Before It Gets Easier
Back in 2016 I had my first dabble in entrepreneurship — I started my own business. I taught yoga classes in my village, alongside my main hustle — a shiny corporate job in the environmental sector.
Even in those days, I knew I was pretty fatally allergic to timesheets, team meetings and management structures.
But while I had the desire to be my own boss, I wasn’t sure if I had what it really took to make that jump — grit.
So back in my pre-grit days, a side hustle suited me fine, and yoga is a pretty nice thing to have as a side hustle. I could have kept that going — and, in hindsight, that might have been a smoother ramp in.
But as it turned out, I didn’t have the patience for a smooth ramp in. I wanted it all. I wanted to jump right in and fast forward that change, like, yesterday.
The bright lights of full-on entrepreneurship were dazzling, and Tim Ferriss had convinced me it was, if not a walk in the park, then perhaps a rather satisfying hike.
Not a hike like the Himalayas — vast, inaccessible and impossible for most.
Maybe more like the Pacific Crest Trail, or the West Highland Way in Scotland. Challenging — but achievable, with the appropriate training, equipment, and the right mindset.
And my hike was going to be one you could do in as little as four hours a week.
I liked the sound of that.
Two and half years and several iterations of my business later, I am pleased, but mainly relieved, to say I’m fully autonomous.
It did take more than fours a week. And it was not a straightforward or easy path, it wasn’t even nearly all ascent. Of course, it was never going to be.
There most certainly have been obstacles. And setbacks and surprises, too.
For a while, I was surprised at how much it took from me, the sheer depth of how hard it could be.
Worry, stress, anxiety. Relationships lost, damaged and fizzled out, inconsistent income, damaged credit, hormonal disruption, and more. Two years of pretty deafening discomfort took its toll, and at times, I felt like my pain threshold couldn’t take much more.
Of course, the bite is that even after going through the fire over and over again, I still feel like I’m only just beginning.
But even after all that — weathering it, worrying about it and questioning it, the biggest surprise has actually been how fast it can all change.
The first few years of business have been described by some as a desert — bleak and inhospitable, it can feel like it stretches out for infinity, which, both conceptually and in reality, is pretty soul destroying.
Even with an oasis here and there along the way, any sweet relief may be short lived, and then before you know it, you’re back crossing the vast expanse of suffering, hardship and not knowing when it will end.
The mistake is to think it’s like that forever.
Because — before you know it, you come out of it. You stabilise. You find your flow.
The trick for surviving the desert lies in trusting that it will indeed pass. That you can handle it and see that change, that transformation, through.
The trick to the desert is not setting up camp there.
Many, many, many times along the way, I’ve considered giving up, giving in, or digging a giant hole and taking up residence in it for the rest of time.
I’ve even considered going back to my old career, or failing that, just starting a new one.
I have changed directions; stopped; restarted; explored all the avenues.
But somehow I kept going. And now, finally, looking back, I can see that the desert parable feels true for me too.
That desert, that expanse of time, those growing pains — they are necessary because, if it was any other way — if it was easy — everyone would do it.
And they just don’t.
They really don’t.
They might stand on the sidelines and cheer you on, they may even join you for part it, or help you along the way — but not everyone is prepared to go through it themselves. Because, as well we all know — it’s a scary place.
So the question on everyone’s ( or at least my) lips is — does it get better from here?
Does it get easier? What have I even learned in 24 months, and was it worth it?
Well, we can say this for sure: hindsight can be 20/20.
Looking into a crystal ball is not so easy.
I don’t know what’s coming next, and as much of a fan as goal setting as I am, I let go of needing to control outcomes.
That didn’t help me in the desert — the goals I didn’t achieve just made me want to stab my eyes out.
What does help me, though, are those tools which support me to keep me going, navigating the path.
For me that looks like a daily practice of yoga, journaling and meditation.
They help me cultivate discipline, commitment, and focus — the foundation of grit.
Previously, the skills I needed most were deference, obedience and negotiation — or, failing that, willingness to compromise.
I’m happy to have traded that out.
On balance, this time and energy investment of 2 years of my life was worth it when I contrast it to what a lifetime of pain it would be working for someone else.
My chief value of freedom would be massively compromised, and that’s where the rub occurs. That chafing, burning, eye watering rub of not being able to set my own schedule, decide my own terms, make my own decisions — and, of course, make, accept, and learn from my own mistakes. All of them.
So here I am, in 2019, taking stock.
Battle scarred, but healing, and cultivating new reserves of grit to take with me for the next part of the journey.
(Hopefully it’s not more desert. )
What I’ve packed are the tools of my trade. The bits that work.
What I let go of for 2019 is the worry.
Worrying about whether or not I can do it, worrying whether I’m capable, whether I can be successful, whether I’ll get there, or worrying about what else I can or should do — grasping at other, easier, paths.
Worry doesn’t help anything, in any way. It gets you bogged down in desert.
That’s why worry is a DEFCON 1 Distraction, and we can all do without it.
No one said it was going to be easy.
Once you can make peace with the journey and get down to task, the faster you get through the desert.
Two years ago and looking forward, I (adorably) predicted unicorns and rosebeds. Skipping through my goals, smashing them like a piñata, full of the joys of spring.
The reality was hard graft, tonnes of self doubt, hormonal upheaval and everything in between. Had I known the extent of what lay ahead, I might not have started.
But if it was easy, I probably would’ve got bored by now.
For all the challenges, all the obstacles, all the lessons, everything in my life that helped me develop this grit, I’m grateful. For my tools that help me stay on course, I’m grateful.
If you’re here reading this, chances are you have it too. It’s burning bright, or it’s an ember, somewhere deep inside, and you are called from somewhere, someone, something to stoke it.
I stoke my fiery grit every day in whatever way I can, and I make that fire stoking a daily practice.
I journal, I practice yoga, I meditate. I read, I surround myself with others who are also on this journey. Between this all I can keep myself on the road, on the path, pointing in the right direction.
If I start stalling, going the wrong way, backwards, or end up in a ditch upside down, there’s a good chance that one of these things will catch me and quickly get me back on course.
I don’t do these practices to achieve samadhi, bliss, contentment. Yet.
I do them so I remember why I do anything. I do it so I can stay the course.
I do it so that I can live by my value of freedom.
And I know not every one can. That is why it has to, it just has to, get harder before it gets easier. It’s part of the application process for the desert crossing experience.
So if it feels hard right now — just know that this is a necessary part of the formula. It’s part of the desert. But it doesn’t have to last forever — only so long as it takes to learn the lessons and tools that you need for the rest of your journey. Take them, hold them close, and keep on hiking.