Today is my 54th birthday and I celebrated by starting work at my home-office, then taking a few hours off for lunch with my husband, then back to a meeting with a new intern, then back behind the desk (here I am!), before trotting off to dinner with my son tonight.
The life of an entrepreneur is not an easy one. I worked for many years as a legal secretary and my organisational skills stem from those years of strict discipline in the legal field. My work ethic was handed down from my father, a blue-collar worker who emigrated to Australia with two young children and a wife, from The Netherlands, after leaving his birth country Dutch-New Guinea after the post-war troubles. Same with my mother who left Dutch-Indonesia after things took a bloody turn after World War II. So off to the Netherlands they went, but after 10 years, my father longed for the warmer climes of the antipodes and he paid our fares on a Greek liner called the Elinis in 1969.
So, he worked hard and bought a home on a single income, and retired after his small body couldn’t take the weight of years as a heavy machinery mechanic anymore. Now he is 88 and teetering on the edge of dementia after a long, long life of working hard, never leaving a stone un-turned, keeping everything in a tidy state and being super-organised, able to fix anything or turn his hand to anything. Of course, necessity is the mother of DIY, so I too have inherited his “I’ll have a crack at anything” kind of personal creed.
So far, I haven’t killed anyone with a power-tool or painted myself into any corners.
When at 48 I found myself essentially un-employable due to my age, I set about re-inventing myself and took on the role of full-time musician, having married a fabulous guitarist, Sean Mullen, and being able to work together (when he wasn’t being a lawyer by day).
Bit by bit, I became more and more creative and started putting on shows and then tours, then festivals and now I have a fully-fledged events business Body and Soul Music Australia Events.
Bulimba Ukulele Festival, Briz Chilli Fest and now Chillogan are just the tip of the iceberg. Next year, Townsville will see the birth of Chilliville chilli festival, and I have no intention of stopping! Of course, I will reach a point where I can no longer do everything myself and therein lies more complications. How do you find a clone of oneself?
Typing at over 100 wpm and being also a professional publicist as Sandra Beynon PR, writer, social media manager and musician, there isn’t a lot I cannot do (okay, there’s netball)…so when it comes time to outsource, there is always the notion that I need to find someone who can do it just as well if not better than me, or I will not be happy.
Training someone is harder than doing the job oneself, that is quickly becoming obvious.
But, I have to let go. Being an entrepreneur means setting up things and then once they grow too big for you, being able to share it around and have it grow.
Meanwhile, an entrepreneur spends a lot of time alone in front of a computer. Or making mental notes whilst standing in the shower, or lying in bed, or wandering around shopping. There is rarely a day goes by without a lot of ideas popping into my head.
We often feel isolated in our home-offices and I have lately taken to setting up my office for a few hours at a time in other peoples spaces. Big thanks to Andrew Tambakis for sharing the Brisbane Greek Club’s fabulous new restaurant Nostimo with me in the non-service hours. I have a view of the city and coffee and shortbread on tap! Not to mention the super-friendly wait staff who hover around making sure everyone is happy.
Working from home means you hear all the workmen banging away at renovations or municipal works gangs jack-hammering your street or footpath; the bins being dragged in of an afternoon and the irritating sound of loud exhausts as cars speed down my street, rat-running.
Then there’s the ever-present need to think about dinner, washing, cooking, cleaning, doing the book-keeping for my husband’s rental properties,
My only company is the aquarium on the desk and lately I worry about my gourami and if he’s going to die like the last one….and why is the prettiest, smallest fish the most aggressive? Oh, yes there is the cat, always on the prowl for another sachet of food, then slinking off somewhere to sleep a glorious total of 21 hours per day.
One thing I have discovered is the more I reach out with my events and festivals, the more I give to charitable causes, the more I become engaged in life and the wonders of relationship-building. I meet people from all walks of life, and get around the place filming promotional videos dressed in a chilli suit with people I’ve only just met. And I marvel at how they take like fish to water to the joyous freedom that comes with the wearing of a silly costume. We can all be kids again, it seems.
And on that note, 54 is far from being a kid. But, as I celebrate another year, another milestone, another fabulous 365 days behind me filled with music, love, adventure, challenges, hard work, dedication, determination and obstacle-beating strategies, the more I realise that the key to happiness is never withdrawing from the art of involvement, the art of giving.
Winston Churchill’s saying “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm” is one that is dear to my heart. These days, the failures are few and far between, but in undertaking any new venture, there is an element of risk and bravery necessary to keep getting behind that desk every day.
To all of you over 50s who might be struggling to find relevance in your worklife, I say never give up. Find what it is that brings you joy, what you are good at, what you love and what makes you come alive and awaken the kid in you. Do that thing.
What we do isn’t always who we are, but it’s a big part of it. So, as another great her of mine would say, “Do what you love and the rest will come.”
Cheers to another year, and cheers to being an entrepreneur in the second century of my life.