Building your own business is no joke. It often means a variety of hardships and frustrations and sacrifices – I had heard all this before starting my own, but it just sounded like a sly way to give yourself a backhanded compliment while already doing something cool and amazing.

Nope. It’s hard. Really hard. Really, really hard.

And it’s not linear, easy or uncomplicated. And it’s often deflating and confusing. There really is no “roadmap” to building your business – no matter how many times you’ll hear otherwise – just a bunch of signs, and advice, and best-practices, and learning how to turn real mistakes into real lessons – if you’re lucky.

I’ve had a really good year since starting Rhinocorn Consulting – one full of great accomplishments, but I’m far from successful. Yet. I’ll get there. But in the meantime, growth is painful for the impatient.

For example, I took some seasonal work at a retail giant this holiday season – I had the time to offer but also my client work is probably always going to be slow during the holidays and having a paycheck-bump can’t hurt. So during the day I’ve been hustling w/ Rhinocorn and at night hustling with retail.

And I’ve probably bumped into at least three dozen people I personally know and when then see me, with my nametag and walkie I get this “look”.

One that kinda reads “Aw, oh no.” And it’s kind, often sympathetic, but sometimes I can read a twinge of embarrassment or obnoxious joy behind the sympathy.

And I explain that it’s just seasonal – it’s supplemental through January. And then blather on about how great Rhinocorn is and what I’m doing, trying to distract the engaged while also answering questions from customers about Barbie and Ninja Turtles.

But it is insanely awkward. For both parties. And it shouldn’t be? But it is. I get it. Hell, it’s often so because I’m so damn awkward about it.

I regret that until recently, I’d owned a certain shame about the situation – although I shouldn’t. But I had. And people always fear the worst it seems, so that twinge of joy I sometimes see in people’s eyes is people at their worst, assuming the worst, showing their true colors.

My point? I heard from day one, you have to live a certain way for a while when you start a business so that someday you don’t have to any longer. Maybe ever again. And that is the absolute truth.

But it took me awhile to realize this. I think I thought my bright ideas would just naturally flourish under my hands. That having a good idea and putting in hard work was all that mattered. And in this layer cake of potential greatness, I’ve learned they are both important, but not exclusive ingredients to the recipe.

So one day I just looked at my life, and the elements of my life differently. I bumped into someone I’d known for almost 20 years. Someone who was an executive at the very first nonprofit I ever worked for. Someone who is well known and undeniably accomplished in our community. Someone that, had I bumped into them on the first day of working retail I might have just turned into a pile of dust under the extreme heat of my own embarrassment. 

But one day I turned a corner and there she was, shopping. And there I was, tan slacks, red shirt, with a nametag and price checker. And something in me snapped open. 

I hurried toward her, excited to see her. I knew in that moment that in many ways, working–no matter the place or space, was actually a badge of honor – no matter what, I was working my ass off to build my company into something bigger than the headline.

Working to make sure my family was paying its bills while building  my dreams is part of that dream, part of the plan. And there was no shame in that. Not anymore. 

Rhinocorn Consulting will turn two in mid 2018. And it’s already shaping up to be a really fantastic second year. But yes, I am still hustling, still working all the angles, still bootstrapping, and sometimes, still taking some hours at retail.

Because there are MASSIVE plans in the works for who I am becoming and who I am working to become in the year ahead. 

And these plans won’t happen easily or just because I have goals. They will take a ton of work to activate and operationalize those goals. And these goals are big and lofty and fantastic and I believe attainable.

But until then?

If you see me in a red shirt, putting boxes of toys away? This is all part of the plan–trust me. I’m doing this today so I don’t have to someday tomorrow.

And if you have a dream of your own you’re putting goals around? Learn to embrace the hustle. You don’t have to love it. But you have to learn to manage and accept it. It’s taken me a bit longer than I’d like to admit to understand this.

The best goals are never linear. This I know.