A Business Owner’s Guide to Distraction
I am on the subway platform. It’s my 11am trip into my office in Manhattan. I am fortunate. I do not have to rise with the sunset and travel in with the commuters. I own my business, I am an entrepreneur. I can take my time in the mornings. I have 15 minutes of calm reading in my backyard. I shower. I put laundry away. The kids are at school. The house is quiet. I have done a bit of yoga. I have taken my vitamins. I have eaten, just enough to get me through to lunch. I am participating in my own self care. Yay me.
It took me over 15 years of running my own business to be able to go in at 11 as opposed to 9. The task-master that resides within a business owner’s mind does not allow them to disengage, to “give space for the excellence of others” (my coach told me that one).
The inability to trust that if they are not present for every moment of the daily machinations of the moving beast that they built, is colossal.
This part of my business owner brain has been dubbed “Edna”.
Edna does not like it when I take my time. She does not fully trust my able employees. She likes reminding me, through a series of catastrophic images, i.e. the office is on fire, the coffers are secretly being pillaged (we have no real coffers or any real equipment that makes access to cash possible) , there is a secret meeting taking place right now, major decisions are being made in my absence and if I don’t get in and control the outcome, all will be lost. Everything I built. Gone.
My conversations with Edna go like this:
ME: I have empowered my team to be their best selves. This is what a leader does.
EDNA: No one can do it like you
ME: In order for me to be my best self and be fully present for my work I must not clutter my mind with small-picture distractions.
EDNA: Yeh….(awkward silence)….are you sure there is enough toilet paper in the employee bathroom?
My last step of morning preparation before leaving is a luxury I started giving myself about two years ago. You may have heard of it? It’s called : Brushing and Styling Your Hair.
When I was growing up and then continuing into my 20’s and 30’s, my hair was mostly long, sometimes short, with no special attention paid to it. During my childhood, I had no one around to show me anything outside of this is how you clean a bathroom. And this is how you do the dishes. And this, THIS is how you just plain stay out of the way…
Some people had older sisters to teach them cool things. I didn’t. I had three unreachable and untenable older brothers. So simple things like making a braid in my unruly hair-never learned that. Then when I was older and in college-blush, lipstick, the appropriate way to insert a tampon (seriously) , I didn’t really know yet.
In my 40’s and now a mother to a daughter and the owner of a successful business, I know some things.
The styling of my hair, the daily ritual that takes all of 8 minutes is a thing I give myself each morning before I head out into civilization . It’s my testament to the world: I have earned this. I really get to do this. At this point, I have the routine down to an exact science and nothing is going to stop me from completing this short offering to my own vanity.
So being a successful business owner means what exactly?
I guess it means I get to curl my hair in the morning.
I am on the train now. It’s crowded. I am seated, thankfully. I hate to stand. I feel weak when I stand too long and I often feel faint. If I don’t have a seat, I am forced after a time to squat lower so the blood does not drain from my head. At this very moment, an older Caucasian gentleman is spouting rhetoric about Jews being victimized and he is focusing his rant on the Hassidic man seated next to me. I’ve been taking the subway for 35 years. This is a first.
So I am seated. My arms glisten. They are not glistening from the tan I got this past Memorial Day weekend where I spent my days frolicking around a pool in East Hampton, (I did not).
They are glistening because for the 7th time, I have burned myself with my beloved curling iron and my arms are covered in burn gel.
The burn is caused by the slightest accidental touch of the iron to my inner arm. It’s so slight, one would not know it happened if you didn’t feel the immediate and shocking lightning bolt a burn sends through your body at the exact moment of contact.
The scar has not yet appeared when I cry out: “GoddammitToHellNotAgain!!” But because I have been through this before and because my arms have six other scars just like this one will turn out to be, (round, the shape of the tip of the iron, size of a dime) I immediately apply the last of the burn gel we thankfully have had in our medicine cabinet like a professional boxer wrapping their fists in gauze before a fight.
Logic tells me two things:
1-Heated hair devices are dangerous
2-I am each time mentally distracted around minute 7 and a half at the point where the tip of the iron touches the tender skin on my inner arm.
In the aftermath, I ask myself, WhAAAat??!!! What distracted me this time? What was I thinking of?
The answer is never “Nothing”- I don’t “do” nothing . And it’s never — oh I was remembering how my adorable 6 year old son lovingly woke me up this morning to kiss me and hug me and how this exquisite act brought me so much warmth and delicious joy in that moment.
No, I was clearly besieged by Edna. So I was thinking of not one thing, but several things at once. Several catastrophic things that are surely happening at this very moment because I am not paying close enough attention to them-At The Office.
It seems that Edna has a strategy since she waits until I am on my last curl.
The first few curls are just fine. It’s always the last one where my mind starts to wander to my next move, leaving the house to go to the sidewalk to go to the train to go to work. Edna stands alert, waiting for me to drop my guard in this tiny nook of time.
ME: Edna, cut it out now, my arms look like I have an infectious disease. And people are starting to stare.
EDNA: Those people don’t know how important your work is.
ME: It takes 8 minutes to do my hair
EDNA: You’re not listening.
I don’t want to give up the curling so it would be really nice if the burning thing would stop. I also do love those moments before my usual 12–14 hour work day begins. And if I give up those precious moments, how can I be happy? Where will I go to be me?
I will be tired, spent, overworked and most devastatingly, I will have shitty hair.
If I give up this one thing what comes next? And if it’s this thing and that other thing until nothing is left, what will become of Edna? To which recess of my mind will she begin her descent to then?
Since I don’t have the answer, I decide that the risk to change anything is too great. Edna will just have to be along for the ride for now.
And I will just have to start wearing protective gear in the mornings.