Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage which a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men to win them.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
In late 2008, just before the winter holidays, I was still relatively fresh out of the military. The economy just tanked, and I was forced to shutter a business I was invited to run despite it showing promise of great financial success. I had to find myself "a real job". I became disillusioned that things were not working out quite as well as I'd grown up believing they were supposed to. Having to stop being the boss and go be an employee again was quite a challenge for as bull-headed as I was at the time.
A few months into that "real job" I started having personality conflicts with others in the office. Most of it was me, part of it was them. I don't seem to do very well when people tell me something "can't be done" because what's usually standing in the way of anything getting done is the person saying it.
I tried to bring innovation and system improvements to my workplace, but ultimately cogs in a machine will only want to spin in one direction; they wouldn't do anything but complain about the things I was trying to improve.
While I was at this company, Shiela and I started toying with the idea of opening our own business; a hair salon. She's a cosmetologist by birth (not entirely joking) and has no end to the number of ideas she has for making businesses. I'm cautiously impulsive and I'm usually ready to try whatever next thing there is to try. She had mentioned this salon idea one night while we were lying in bed and I sat up immediately and said "let's do it". I'd become fed up at my "real job" in a matter of months.
I started using company time to write our business plan (not a wholesome ethical decision), and interact with people we'd need to help get our business off the ground. It was about that time I came across the title quote, and it really helped me become serious about opening our own business. Good quotes come my way almost presciently. Or it's just confirmation bias.
The company must have caught wind what was going on when they invited me into a meeting. They were probably mulling over what to do with me. I simply quit.
We toiled in that salon for seven and a half years. We cried (a few times), we bled (papercuts mostly), and we worried (over everything). Scores of employees and contractors came and went; we could never seem to get ahead. We dealt with dozens of guest complaints. We bought a house, and had two children there. In whatever spare time I had, I worked to become a professional aircraft pilot with the help of my military benefits.
Ultimately, we went in with an exit plan: sell it.
I thought for sure it would sell inside of a year, but it didn't sell until nearly two years after we first listed. This was a pretty big break for us.
Our work has finally started paying dividends. We were able to sell our house at a profit, which was truly dumb luck on account of when we bought and sold it. We realized some "sweat equity" from the sale of the business, and since we're now free of those encumbrances and all the expenses that go along with them, are seeing our net worth increase.
Shiela and I find courage in each other. We follow our course, and frequently there are those who will say what we're doing can't be done; that we're wrong. There have been difficulties which tempted us to believe our critics were right, but we've mapped out a course of action and we follow it. Sure, life is more comfortable in a house, on a couch, in front of the television, but we're not content with being spectators to life. We're going to do something with what we've got.