This is a follow-up to the reel and about 4 months of personal and spiritual growth work that I’ve been really focused on and something that has been heavy on my heart.
Especially with so many new features, new “experts” and all the influencers who make life look so glamorous
To be fair and honest here, there’s nothing wrong with being an expert or showing off your glamour
But if we’re not careful it can create a false reality and a false narrative that can undermine what we set out to do in the first place
Today’s outline goes a little like this:
Dive into the Mexican fisherman parable
Then a story of a young boy who, in his pursuit for more, lost sight of what mattered most
I’ll top it off with a personal journey with vertical ledge and what matters most to us
In the end, I will leave you with some questions to ask yourself about what’s at stake and how you can start to safeguard your work-life balance
I will conclude this life by retelling the parable of the Mexican fisherman
Parable of the Mexican fisherman
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”
The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said,
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.
I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you
. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat.
With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution.
You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
A story of a young boy
This is the story of a young boy who pursued more. This young boy’s grandmother came to New York with her successful husband who owned a shipping fleet. Upon coming to America, the ships were seized because they were African American and the family was forced into slavery.
As the family grew up and had children, the abolishment of slavery happened in which the family hired the grown children on as household workers. During this time, the children grew up educated, and well respected as helpers around the house. They eventually had 4 daughters and 1 son.
The parents had high hopes for their first son in the family. He was brought up to be respectable, presentable and was told that he would go do to do great things in life. His parents instilled in him a sense of duty and responsibility from a young age
During the 1950s, the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. There, the boy witnessed a different way of living, a way of living that was discriminatory- even for himself with his other black peers. He didn’t fit in with the white people because of his skin, and he didn’t fit in with the black people because of his temperament, attitude, and positive outlook. He didn’t see obstacles, only possibilities
At 18, the young man got married to a white woman and had his first son. He enlisted in the Navy. A way for him to get out of Jacksonville and create a better life for his kids, in a geographical area that was more accepting of interracial marriage.
How far is too far?
The young man pursued a life that would be better for his wife and kids, through enlisting in the NAvy, this allowed him the ability to relocate to the West coast. There he and his wife would have another child- a daughter.
After 10 years of working diligently, climbing the ladder of success, and grinding away, his wife decided to leave because of various reasons- one being his lack of involvement in the family. Being left alone with 2 kids, now 8 and 10, he realized he needed to retire from the navy and settle down.
He retired from the Navy and joined state patrol. He ended up working even more on this path and often lashed out at his children in abusive ways. Due to the long hours, this often meant this his son would be taking care of his sister forcing the son to grow up too fast and with lots of responsibilities
A story so many of us know too well.
What’s at stake in our pursuit of a better future?
In pursuit of a better life for his children, the young lost sight of his family. After numerous failed marriages, his oldest son took the abuse and grunt of Derek's failures. This abuse of his children ultimately led to son becoming something of a monster to his own children, abusing, and destroying his own family.
So my question is this: Where’s the line?
That story I just told was of my grandpa, my Dad’s dad. And yes, my great-great-grandmother was a force to be reckoned with and from what I know, was full of life.
Yes, there was so much pain and trauma growing up. So much of which I still have to learn to forgive, and push gently through. But let me tell you another story- a more personal story, a story so much of us are currently going through as small business owners in real-time.
In our pursuit, we can often be blind. We can be blind to what’s at stake when we pursuit MORE. Now don’t get me wrong, the pursuit of more is not a problem, it is when we lose sight of what’s at stake where the line and when we’ve gone too far.
Let’s tell another story, of Vertical Ledge.
When Andrey and I met, we had already tried a few small business ideas together. So naturally, when we got married, I dove into a few more business ventures as he built up Acadia with his 2 partners. Andrey worked long hours, and while it took a toll on our marriage, it wasn’t that big of a deal because it seemed at the time that it would pay off-
We rationalized it by saying that the short-term tension would mean long-term freedom and success . At the time Vertical Ledge was very small- just a few hand-cut stands here and there after work hours
It was October 2019, 2 years ago, we bought our first home and dove into remodeling after hours which meant 3 months of grinding 20 hour days, 4 hours sleeping while keeping up a health coaching practice, working full time as a nanny, and teaching yoga classes multiple times a week, oh yeah and juggling vertical ledge, which at this point was really starting to pick up.
Maybe this story is starting to sound familiar to you at the moment- juggling 100’s of things that are all important and all require every second of your time, energy, and capacity. It was at a moment of complete exhaustion that Andrey pulled me aside and said this pace of living wasn’t working for him- that I needed to let something go for our mental health.
So, I put in my notice at the nanny job that I’d been at for 5 years. I started working for VL full-time in February 2020. 2020 was a great year for VL because it allowed us to take a step back, focus on scaling lean, and figuring out our potential.
We didn’t give Vertical Ledge a lot of credit or think highly because it still felt like a side hustle for us.
How far is too far?
So when we both started burning the candles at both ends this year starting in January, it felt normal to pursuit the grind, hustle, and glorified BUSY that so many influences boost online
Come March 2021, I have so much on my plate, I was working 18 hours a day non-stop almost for 2 months in a row. And it paid off in the numbers- we hit our biggest sales month. To put this in perspective, we made more in March than we did combine in the first 2 years of business. We signed some HUGE clients, put out more custom stands, and made our biggest investment- new pegs and bags!
While all that was great…Andrey and I barely saw each other, we were at each other’s neck over every little thing, we felt distant, out of alignment, and far from the best versions of ourselves that we worked so hard to find
There was one conversation that left us realizing that this wasn’t the life we wanted to create for ourselves.
What’s at stake in our pursuit for a better future?
It was in that moment that Andrey said, “it’s either we keep working like this and separate or we come to a full stop and reassess”
At this moment is was:
Either feed the ego and be a slave to the growth OR STOP
Either stay successful to the outside world or dwell in the spirit
Either grow or die.
That might seem a bit extreme, but to us- it always is. This is when we booked our trip to Greece, dropped everything, and left for 3 weeks.
We chose to die. To kill our old ways.
To die to the habits of grind hustle, and sacrificing our health
To kill the mindset that glorifies BUSY
To realize that if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy from Corrie ten Boom- Sin and busyness have the same effect- they cut you off from God, from others, and from your soul
What was at stake was the best versions of ourselves and our marriage. We became consumed with MORE, more success. More sales. More Work. More Grind. More hustle. We weren’t doing anything terrible, to the outside world we were succeeding in our pursuit for a better future, right?
That pursuit to work for ourselves, our time, our freedom, to not work for someone else’s dream but our dream.
So, how far is too far and how do we safeguard against this in the future?
Our entire trip to Greece was all about this exact question We focused our attention inward during this trip to SLOW down, realign our hearts, souls and mind toward what matters most- our relationship with each other and God. We read 3 books and did a bible study on Mark.
The books we chose were on SAbbath- the act of slowing down and stopping entirely. While you might not be Christian, Sabbath is a principle that’s found throughout history, and for good reason. Science even backs up the sabbath You’re capacity to work decreases exponentially after working 50 hours a week and drops off a cliff at 55 hours - 6 days of work, 1 day of rest, even God didn’t work 7 days a week
Stop overworking yourself and be more productive, meaning actually turned off work when you are not working.If your work is on your phone, like me, then you need to hide your apps, set limits, and turn off all notifications. Free your mind from the distraction of the work.