Making your own hours, doing tasks your way, making key decisions and ultimately being your own boss are all aspects of the entrepreneur lifestyle I think most people fantasize about. While these aspects are glorified, there is also the reality of risk and sacrifice that comes with removing the safety net of a job. We were well aware of this when we set out to build Trainer+.
The reality, is that the last year has been quite the struggle. In addition to development setbacks, we have faced a number of unexpected roadblocks in all of our activities as we have bootstrapped this company. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, this has led to much leaner financial times than the usual ‘Ramen Noodle’ diet of startups. By that I mean, bare cupboards, scraping nickels out of a jar to buy the no name noodles, lights about to be shut off, phone cut off and evicted type of financial times. But this blog isn’t about whining and telling you the complete “poor me” story of the last year.
If anything, the experiences of the last year have taught me to appreciate the little things that much more. Maybe it is being in a constant state of lowered expectations from things not going according to plan, but it is amazing how meaningful a little luck can be and how helpful people are when you’re broke with a purpose.
That luck ushers in surprising moments of joy for something you have never appreciated before. Like the time that all I had left in the fridge was the ingredients for a salad, and only after I had prepared it did I realize I was out of dressing. It was a crushing defeat since at the time I could not afford to buy more dressing, let alone something else for lunch, and the veggies, beans, etc had already been chopped and mixed. Then, I opened my pantry to discover that one of the few things left in it, was an extra dressing that I’d bought by mistake. I have never been so excited to see a condiment in my life!
I’ve never appreciated transportation and public transit more than I do now. Not because I use it to get around and it is so convenient, but because until you are too broke to justify the $3 fare each way, you just don’t realize how limited your activities away from home can be. At the start of this year, after a crucial conversation deciding to continue to push forward with Trainer+ and start re-engaging everyone, I started to set up meetings around the city. Unsure of how many I would end up rescheduling as skype or phone calls because of the state of our finances, I was walking to get a tea and noticed something on the ground half buried in snow. I picked it up to discover it was a monthly transit pass (transferrable in our city) and looked around to make sure no one was around to claim it. With 3 full work weeks left in the month, I spent the weekend booking meetings and set things in motion, once again. The epiphanic moment came when I was on the bus, bags of groceries in hand after stopping on the way home from a meeting as it chugged up a long hill. Without the pass, I would’ve trekked home with all of these bags in hand, stopping to recover traps and delts along the way.
It’s not just the lucky moments, but also the empathy of the people I deal with that keeps me positive. Whether this comes from my cell phone provider forgiving an entire bill, or my bank waiving fees and interest on loans and visas for a few months, or even my landlord being very lenient with the rent schedule when they found out I had started a small business. That’s right, I just said nice things about a cell phone company, a bank and a landlord. I’m sure they see taking care of me now as an opportunity to have better business in the future, but more importantly, they are service-oriented and I believe they also afforded some leeway out of compassion. Nowhere is this more accurate than at the local Starbucks, where the entire staff conspires to give me lattes for the price of regular teas, endless refills throughout the day and leftover food due for the garbage at the end of the night, always asking me for updates about the app and when they can use it. Howard Schultz would be proud that this Starbucks remains a third space for me and I can justify the $2.05 for a tea in spite of my deteriorated financial state.
These interactions personify what I experience with everyone I talk to about what I do. They all have a version of the same reaction of encouragement, optimism and to some extent, envy that I am my own boss. Better yet is all the fitness professionals I talk to who instantly understand what we are trying to do, have had an idea similar to ours themselves and have their own ‘war stories’ to trade about making it in the fitness industry.
It’s these encounters and surprising moments of joy that strengthen our resolve every day to get this app out to trainers and fix some of the problems plaguing this industry. In the meantime, I’ll just have to keep finding joy in the struggle, because it is something to wake up for every day... at whatever time I want.