I can still remember the moment I committed to launching my own business. At the time I wasn’t quite sure what that business would be, but I felt a gauntlet had been thrown and I was ready to pick it up.
I was sitting down for my performance review with my boss circa 2010 and we had shifted our conversation to my professional development. As I’d grown in my own leadership, I’d come to view these twice yearly conversations as an opportunity not just to receive feedback but to shape the kinds of opportunities that lay ahead. I’d realized that managers, no matter how skilled or experienced, were not mind readers. They could give me all the feedback in the world about how I was doing, but only I could answer the question: What do I want to do next? My most inspiring managers would then help align my learning objectives to both the business need and, where possible, my own professional vision.
So I shared with this particular manager some of the aspirations I was leaning towards. One was a path that would be well aligned with the growth opportunities the organization could offer me. Another was completely different; I told him that I’d always seen myself starting my own business. His reaction to that idea surprised me. He shared a personal vignette about how he used to have that same idea for himself, but how he’d had so many opportunities to be entrepreneurial inside of companies that he’d never needed to pursue it. He went on to say that it would be the same for me. It might be a nice idea, but that wasn’t going to be the path for me.
(See that gauntlet being thrown?)
I can still remember the rush of energy swelling up in my chest when I heard him say that. I wasn’t quite sure what the path forward would look like, but I recognized in that moment – when someone I respected told me I wouldn’t end up being an entrepreneur – that I really wanted it. Like REALLY wanted it. It was a clarifying moment.
Now it must be said that I admired deeply – still do! – this leader. He is perhaps one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever worked alongside. Outside of his intellect, he is incredibly kind. A strategic and thoughtful thinker. He has run diverse businesses and appears unflappable no matter how tough the circumstances. And he has that beautiful gift to both drive results and always lead with purpose and vision. I learned a ton from him about management, mentorship, and my own capacity to step up and lead.
But when it came to what would come next for me, he was wrong. 4 years ago I did just what he thought I wouldn’t. I launched Point Road Studios and embarked on an entrepreneurial path that has forever changed my personal and professional development path.
I am writing this post on the very day Point Road Studios turns 4 and as I prepare to release the new pointroadstudios.com out into the world (which is where you will be reading this very post, no doubt). It feels like an exciting and transformational moment in the business. We are living into our original vision of being a community space for sharing ideas and learning, a marketplace for beautiful objects, and stewards of organizational and individual growth. But as much as I’m drawn to look forward right now, I recognize that this is an ideal moment to look back. To see and appreciate what moved the business into this new expanse.
It’s been a wild four years across the board with many milestones to celebrate. I’ve stewarded clients through major career changes, developed marketing strategies for solopreneurs ready to take their businesses to the next level, ran interviews with healthcare executives from around the world, and hosted retreats for women looking to develop their visions – to name just a few of the things that have kept me on my toes professionally. I’ve had opportunities to teach and speak in venues I wouldn’t have dreamed possible 4 years ago and have been able to integrate retreats to places I adore like the Hudson Valley into my annual work practice. Business areas that I felt very unsure of when I started – like accounting and legal – aren’t so scary anymore. (Thanks especially to hiring great people to execute these parts of the business and teach me enough about the process to give strategic guidance.) Each new opportunity, each scary unknown has been one more opportunity to grow and learn. Most days I’ve been able to embrace them as such.
I’ve loved being my own boss. Setting my own boundaries and writing my own rules. It’s been a fun and iterative process to explore what kind of work I want to be doing and where I feel Point Road can have the biggest impact. When I first started, I was so eager for my client work (which I continue to love). I never would have guessed that I’d also create a coloring book for adults or launch a podcast or integrate writing into my weekly practice. Following my gut and continuing to play with what’s possible has been my guide for where to take the business next.
And then there have been the hard times. Times when I really wanted to have someone else to point a finger at – but knew the only place to look was inward. Running your own business means that YOU are accountable. Period. Stop. No questions. For the most part, I’ve thrived in that environment. But when I notice myself feeling resistant to something or frustrated by something, I also realize that the only person who will change these things is, well, me. And I’ve also learned again and again these past four years that as tempting as it is to will others to change, the first starting point is always with myself.
On a personal level, my business growth has aligned almost entirely with my life as a parent. My daughter was just 11 weeks old when I launched the business. Now she’s a big sister to a 2 year old brother and they are both very excited to welcome a new sibling into the mix early next year. First snuggles, first solid foods, first steps, first words, first kisses and giggles and I love you’s. What a magical, beautiful time of life this has been. Chaotic to be sure, but wonderful all the same.
With life sadly also comes death and these four years have also been a container for some terrible losses: My 35 year old brother to an asthma attack, my dear aunt who had suffered many chronic illnesses, and most recently a young client on the brink of such tremendous things. Life is a gift and it is fragile. I feel as though I’ve been reminded frequently that this moment – this one happening right now – is there to be seized and appreciated. It is a great thing to be able to love deeply, but it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. I’ve often reflected this past year that “real life” just keeps happening all the time. We can have the best laid plans, but life happens in the unexpected twists and turns.
As I sit back and reflect on the winding road that has unfolded over these last four years, I am struck by how happy I have been in my work. Sure there have been times where I’ve been exhausted or nervous or frustrated. But even in those moments, my gratitude for this work is what shines through.
I spoke about some of the key lessons I’ve learned over my first four years in business on the podcast this past week. Check it out, if that’s your jam. What I want to close with here are the three insights – mantras almost – that I continue to come back to both as I reflect on where Point Road been and consider where we are headed next. I don’t pretend they are a universal prescription for how to move through those early years of launching a business, but they are my story. And with a great belief in the power of narrative, I share them with you:
We get to choose our paths. How we spend our time, where we focus our attention, who and what we have in our lives – these are all our choices. So be bold in these decisions. Don’t lose sight of the fact that these are choices. I could have continued on my path as a sales and marketing executive at a company I love and respect, doing work that I feel is critical and mission-driven. But it wasn’t the calling of my heart. It can be scary to name what we want and even scarier to go after it. But it’s our choice. I choose bold.
Gratitude eases grief
Grief isn’t just something that pops up in the face of death. We grieve paths not taken. Business opportunities fumbled. Relationships gone awry. Hitting rough patches – which we all do – is an opportunity to practice resilience. To just sit and be in the uncomfortable and undesired reality. To honor the emotions that wash over us in those moments. And to keep moving. At whatever pace feels right to us. The best antidote to grief that I’ve discovered is gratitude. Especially very present-oriented gratitude. What am I thankful for right now? What gifts surround me? What is beautiful or uplifting or inspiring, even in a place where I don’t feel any of those things myself? These questions have kept me moving forward in the most emotionally trying circumstances.
Build business for your life, not the other way around
It’s easy to get caught up in work. I myself do it all the time. But work is just one part of life. Rest, community, family, friends, health, art, service – and the list goes on! – weave together to form the rich and intricate fabrics of our lives. And so we’ve got to build our businesses in a way that stewards the whole picture, the whole life that we want to lead. Just yesterday I was contemplating another late night of work. (See my previous statement about getting caught up in work all the time!) I called my husband to discuss options. He was en route home with our kiddos so picked up on bluetooth and my 4 year old took an interest in the discussion. “Why does mommy have to work all day and all night, Daddy?” I had to burst into laughter. It was an insightful question. I decided to come home (to cheers from the minivan) and brought a special intention to our evening together. We sat around the Christmas tree, sang carols, and drank cocoa next to the fire. When bedtime came around for the kids, my husband took the lead and I signed back online to get through some of the work that had been on my mind earlier that evening. It wasn’t a balance or schedule that would have worked for every person, but for me, in that moment, it was just right. I do feel that my work is a gift. One that gives shape and movement to my days. But dancing around to jingle bells with my son cracking up in my arms is pure delight. Those are the moments that give a sense of spirit and heart to my days.
I will close with this – thank you. Thank you, thank you. I am grateful and inspired by the community all around me. My friends, my family, my neighbors, my clients. Never have I felt so fully in my work and in my life as I have since launching Point Road and I know that none of it would be possible if it weren’t for the amazing community standing around me. I couldn’t imagine a better birthday gift as we celebrate our first four years in business than to have launched platform in this new website to be able to engage with all of you in new (and I hope fun and surprising!) ways.
Here is to what has been and what lies ahead. And of course, as ever, to what just is, right now.