Entrepreneurialism and the Art of Juggling
It's the same dream:
I'm standing in a white room filled with natural light, and my arms and hands are engaged in a fluid continuous motion resulting in several brightly colored balls flying in a circular loop over and over, never hitting the ground.
Until one does.
Which causes a disturbance in the continuous motion - a domino effect and all the other brightly colored balls begin to drop, and I'm left, still frantically moving my arms and hands, but filling them up with only air and frustration.
When I wake up, I feel anxious, and tired, even though I've just woken.
This reoccurring dream went on for about three months earlier in 2018 before I started to 1) Really interrogate my subconscious 2) Started asking for proper help. What came after I untangled these two tenets was a profound personal wake up call. That it took as long as it did, and culminated in a health scare, is perhaps a testament to my Taurus nature: stubborn and committed, even to my own detriment.
Meanwhile, during my waking life:
During my presentation this past May for 1 Million Cups ABQ I shared Cushy's story: that we began as a personal blog in December 2016, and have since grown into a community of 20+ people, regularly sharing our creative gifts through our website, print journal, podcast, and most recently - through our 1st Annual Cushy Retreat. The incredible and organic growth that Cushy has experienced in a little over a year has left me, literally, breathless. I love this community and the Founders and Senior Editorial Board that keep our platforms alive, vibrant, and functioning.
But Cushy isn't my only love.
I also have a career in communications and venture capital that I love, and even though I haven't been doing it that long (I'll be celebrating 3 years this August), I can't imagine not doing this kind of work now.
Did I mention that aside from my career and creative ventures, I'm also head over heels in love with my husband, Michael? Married two years and together for six, he's my favorite person in the world, and I haven't stopped wanting to spend every second with him since I first met him in Grad school in 2012.
Add to that the love I have for my life: for my Rotary club and fellow Rotarians, for time spent with my wonderful parents and in-laws, for game night with friends, our 3 hilarious, adorable pets, for the beautiful desert land I live in and love to explore, for all the restaurants and breweries we have here to enjoy and try, for an endless list of books I'll spend my life working through, to the piles of journals and files I have of everything I've written and continue to write.
Each of these loves represents a brightly colored ball. Each ball requires love, attention and sacrifice to keep them afloat. I am a master juggler.
Until I am not.
Welcome to my personal hell.
When shit hits the fan my tried and true method for gaining clarity is to throw everything on the floor, sort, make piles, then attack each pile with vicious intent.
The dream started around the time I announced that Cushy was going into print, and, that we were going to launch a new podcast, UnWomanPOD. I'd recently been promoted to Communications Manager at the vc firm I work for in winter of 2017 and things were starting to pick up pace in the new year. Accio Politics was picking up more listeners and Adriana and I were wrapping up season 2 and moving directly into season 3 without breaking, and adding a whole new roster of recording dates to our schedule with UnWoman. Michael and I had spent the break over New Year's contemplating our shared goals for the year and were excited by what we'd outlined: grow our little family and start putting down serious savings to purchase our first home.
The hustle was on.
The first time the dream happened, I actually didn't remember it - just the feeling I woke up with; that anxious nervous feeling that moved into restlessness throughout the rest of that day. I became fully aware of the dream and able to remember it in its entirety by the end of the first month, and at that time, I simply chalked it up to mean that there wasn't "balance" in my work-life situation. I made some topical changes - like getting really good at keeping an up-to-date daily and weekly calendar of appointments and tasks split up over the course of several days as opposed to one. I employed the use of third party apps like Trello and Slack, telling myself that efficiency in my work would lead to more time being spent in my life, and thusly, a restoration in balance and an end to my dream cycle. Checkmate, life!
In the second month, I started to panic - the feeling of anxiousness and fatigue hadn't diminished; if anything, it was heightened by my awareness that it hadn't gone away, despite my efforts to restore more 'balance' into my schedule. That's when the North Star of the Cushy community, Marina, introduced me to Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map and Core Desired Feelings. If you aren't familiar with Danielle LaPorte, give her website a visit, check out her podcast - she's someone I'd recommend if you're looking to let a little light into your life. The gist of her desire map and CDFs are to identity how you want to feel, and then create goals around those desired feelings. An example of how you might live this is: instead of just scheduling what HAS to get done during any given day in your planner, would be to include things that will make you FEEL the way you want to feel that day, week, month, year. For me, that includes scheduling karaoke breaks and infusing more meditation time into my daily routine. But you do you.
"Things were coming undone."
Erin E. Barrio
I felt I had gotten to the root of what I wanted to feel and I was going to stop the anxiety and restlessness from my reoccurring dream through the clarity of having identified my CDFs and Desire Map. By figuring out how I wanted to feel, I assumed I had cracked the case on my work-life balance juggler's dream, and I'd be dreaming of new and different things promptly.
Identifying my CDFs was a major game-changer in how I navigated my day and gained valuable clarity on close-in and future goals - basically, it synced up my conscious and subconscious desires and helped me feel more in control over the way I felt each day, but logistically, it hadn't concretely helped keep those balls in the air. What it did do, was shed light on the final missing piece of my puzzle - the answer to why those godforsaken balls kept dropping, despite being more organized, despite my to-do lists, despite honing in on how I want to feel and manifesting that into each day.
Time & The importance of the 'village'
As an ENTJ personality type, I feel compelled to keep those balls perfectly in the air at all times. To drop a ball, or two, or five, or all of them, is not only a personal flaw in my eyes, but an egregious affront to the continuous cycle I tend to. But those brightly colored balls kept dropping, in my dreams, and in my lived reality. Things were starting to come undone: Cushy email was stacking up, to-do lists were growing increasingly deep, I wasn't on top of my prep work for podcasting, I felt too tired to go on regular walks with Michael, or do much of anything except Netflix binge. Despite my stubbornness, I recognized that something needed to change: there simply simply simply wasn't enough time for me to keep all those balls in perpetual motion in the air by myself. The love, care and attention that each of those entities requires, and deserves, was beyond the means of what I myself could provide.
Then, like Zeus's thunderbolt (I've been waiting for years to use that Frasier line you guys), two questions hit me at once: why was I trying to take on the world ALONE when I had a literal community of people behind me, and, why hadn't I asked any of them for help?
Can we have it all?
I, and many others in the Cushy community, have an entrepreneurial spirit. Most of us are juggling careers + side hustles + relationships + self-care + being agents for good in the world, and frankly doing a stellar job at it, but, in asking myself why I had backed myself into a corner with a never-ending task list I could never hope to surmount, I realized that I felt like I had to do it alone. I started journaling, my go-to tactic when I'm muddled and can't find clarity. I realized that there were a lot of complicated feelings I had around asking for help. Stubborn arrogance at wanting to show that I can do it all, guilt at bothering people who are just, if not more, busy as I am, and shame, for waiting so long to understand these feelings. To me, I had conflated being entrepreneurial with being in control of all things at all times, and that my friends, is just not how successful entrepreneurs operate.
So I went out and asked for some help.
Asking for help is not a weakness, it's a strength.
I compiled my to-do lists and went through my emails. I split my life into health & wellness, career and ventures, marriage and relationships, spirituality, and recreation, allotting my list of to-do's into these five orbs, making sub-sections for Cushy, Accio Politics, and UnWoman. I made a list of people who were in on these ventures with me, of doctors and coaches I knew, of friends and loved ones who support me, and I started to ask them for help. It was uncomfortable, and there was still some feelings of guilt about asking, but the responses I got were overwhelmingly positive and all said yes to helping. In fact, several reached out to offer their help before I could even ask them (Liz, Danielle - I'm looking at you two sweet angels). Suddenly, shit started to take off, and, my to-do lists started to get smaller and more manageable. Asking for help and delegating out things I couldn't get done, or wasn't the best for, like the Cushy retreat, has enabled me to keep all my brightly colored balls in the air, and even step away from them sometimes, so I can devout more time to my marriage, my self-care and health, or volunteerism.
The last time I woke up from that reoccurring dream I didn't realize it would be my last one. In fact, I can't even remember when the last dream was - I just know they haven't come back. Knowing me, I'm going to bite off more than I can chew again soon. I'll fall back into the same trap of taking on too much and being to stubborn, in love, and un-willing to let any of them go. I don't know what that dream will look like, but I already know the outcome, and I'm ready for it, and for the next challenge.
Deal me in.