Who could have guessed that a decade-long teaching career would unravel over one evening thanks to a few words from Oprah?
Years of study, detours, travel, professional development and a strong teaching heritage had seen me attain the professional success I was seeking but my destination left me feeling overworked, unbalanced, unfulfilled and constantly feeling that personal and professional me were two entirely separate selves, hell bent on destroying one another.
It was at this moment I navigated away from work and onto Facebook and found an Oprah interview. She described the experience of being disconnected from our life’s purpose, where we feel desperate, frustrated and detached. She described me.
To fix it, she explained, I needed to quiet my mind from the whole of it and to think of my next right move. Sometimes you hear exactly the right thing at exactly the right time and this was that. In the quiet of that moment, I knew. I needed to resign from teaching and commit myself to our growing BBQ business.
Except my only experience of hospitality was my waitressing stints during College some 20 years previous and my only business experience was even less remarkable. Namely, none.
Our little BBQ business was born in 2013, from a marquee at markets to a weekend residence at a local brewery. Our family had put all of our resources into it – physically, financially and emotionally, we had given everything, at every possible moment. Everything except abandoning my ‘real job’; my salary paid the mortgage and gave us our lifeline in case of failure. The lifeline, I realised, was not protecting me but holding me back.
And in that moment, focused on my next right move – it became clear. I had no answers to all of the hard questions in front of me but I was ready to jump off the ledge.
I’ve now been Managing Director of our BBQ restaurant in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula for just over 2 years. I can tell you all the ‘measurable stuff’ like how we grew from 3 to 45 employees, that we have 6000 visitors monthly, how we’re hitting 35% on a forecasted 25% revenue growth on previous year.
I can share our accolades – that we’re Australia’s first B Corp restaurant, a Telstra Business Finalist, my national Entrepreneurial award, our award for The Australian Good Food Guide Reader’s Choice restaurant for our region and how we have been written about and featured in every kind of amazing local, national and international magazine for food, business and tourism.
What is immeasurable and indefinable is everything else. The difficulties of starting your own business are well documented and I’ve been confident on more than one occasion that the sky was indeed falling.
Yet despite this, I have never felt more alive, more of a thirst to continue learning, more connected to myself and my purpose.
And I know I’m not alone, there are an army of women who came before me and who now are taking that same leap into the abyss – with an unwavering clarity of purpose but without any ‘traditional’ experience.
What we learn in this process, despite perhaps a lifetime of believing differently, is that we have all of the skills we need, we just need to keep redefining the playing field.
The world out there, though slow in its progress, is shifting toward a more inclusive, more expansive and more fulfilling definition of our professional lives but it is up to us, every day to continue to expect and seek more and to hold ourselves to account when we’re not living up to our own versions of happiness.
Here are the things that guide me every day toward connecting my purpose to our business and my business to its purpose.
Ignoring the rules
Everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to tell you how everything works. The truth is, the rules don’t matter. The success stories that feature in the news had an inner compass and they listened to it. And they probably actively ignored a whole bunch of people who said they were doing it the wrong way. I know I did.
Keeping my eyes on the road ahead
Bank folk and investor types will want you to assess your competition. But the thing is – the more you’re looking sideways, the less you’re looking ahead. We don’t want to be like the other businesses in our space – so why are we watching them?
Building our community
In previous jobs I was powerless to affect the culture from above and to set the priorities of the business – no matter how far I travelled. My business, made up of people from every corner of society, without shared skill, experience or ability, have a common thread of passion and kindness.
Trusting my gut
Apparently there’s evidence that connects our gut microbes to our brains. Millenniums of being caregivers and understanding human behaviour, has put women in the ideal place to know when someone or something is right or wrong for us. When we apply this to our business, we are unstoppable. I sacrifice best advice, warnings and easy answers to hard questions when my gut tells me to.
Our ability to see, know and nurture those around us can be our greatest asset in business. When we eschew the rules that weren’t written by us, keep our focus on our priorities, find our people and listen to our gut, we make our next right moves. In the dark of night, emboldened by a desperate detachment to our life’s goals, we need only pause and look inside.
Oprah is with you. As am I.