Day 175 of Owning a Bookstore – This week I wanted to die

This week was tough with a bunch of snow keeping us under $400 one week.

The partners in the business, who were going to run it, were wavering. Or maybe I was the one wavering.

I don’t know and I was too stressed to even think clearly about it. I’ve seen a lot of 3 AM’s on the alarm clock this week and the kind of jolts to the stomach when you wake up and you feel like the nightmare is still going. Or you wanted to fall back into the Dream. 

I won’t blame anyone ever again for wavering about starting a business. Or buying a business. Entrepreneurship can make you want to die. It can make you just drive off into the sunset and create a new identify.

I found shopping for copies of How to Disappear .It has a sales rank of 99,000. That means that everyday, fifty people are on Amazon planning to disappear. Figuring out how to do it. They are buying the book, presumably hammering out the details.

It made me feel better that I wasn’t alone in that thought and even better that I didn’t buy the book.

But as my crazy neighbor once told me as we let a house go post-2008, “you can’t run from your problems, you gotta face ’em and fix ’em.” This was the guy that would play air guitar on the side of the main street in our town for hours.

I thought about that,and that advice. I thought about the book “Abundance“. Life has never been better. Even with some struggles, my life is better than 99% of the people who have ever lived. 

Where would I go to make a different life, a better world? Where is the place without problems, without money-troubles, without family turmoil. Where is a place without mirrors, where you wouldn’t have to look at yourself anymore.

I thought about those people who did disappear themselves. How did their life go from there. Did they miss whatever they left behind. Did it just happen all over again with a different wife, different friends, different jobs. Was it all the same with different names.

When you get divorced and immediately re-marry, you bring the same flaws to a different marriage. You end up marrying the same type of person. Just a different name. 

The wheel just turns.

We don’t ever hear from those folks who erase all trace of themselves. But if we did, what would they say. I imagine a person who no longer can daydream about ditching it all.

I can dream about it during hard times still. But they did it and find out there is no option for escape. Only death to move us out-of-the-way of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. 

Entrepreneurs have reasons for moving forward. They’re called business plans. The irrational packaged in a rational series of steps, projections, market data, operational plans.  I no longer have the illusion that these are rational reasons. There may not be a single rational reason to start a business.

Financially you are better off staying at your job 90% of the time. I started this business while at a job and was laid off so I figured it was the time for a leap of faith. The leap takes awhile to land it turns out. Maybe there isn’t a full landing.

Back to the rational world, I was a year away from any plans of actually going out on my own. This year, now that I have some help with the stores, have some sense of how much this can grow (not as much as I thought), what type of value it brings to my day-to-day life, I’m looking to make up for that one year ahead of schedule jump. I’m looking for a job.   

I have a new humility. I’m more committed to and looking forward to helping people with their ideas. What to do, what to read, how to be.

For business, especially if those ideas have a 20 year track record of consistent revenues! There are a lot of businesses that close because of divorce, debt, even death.

Sometimes it closes because it’s a “dirty business,” not in the sense of Mafia or criminal dirty but trash service, junkyard or debris removal dirty. The owner’s kids don’t want to run that type of business or just don’t want to run any business. Down the road, helping someone keep their legacy going, at a healthy discount, that’s taking someone’s existing idea and making it better. That’s protecting jobs also. 

There is good in doing that, more than I ever thought. 

It may also be taking and helping develop someone’s dream but I’m more aware that I have an 80% chance of failure there, that life is short and I really don’t like to fail, especially if I don’t see the reason for failure before it happens. I can accept something going awry which I planned or could see as a possibility.

If the bookstore goes away or I’m not able to grow it and sell it in 30 or 40 years, I’m comfortable with that only because I knew and understood the margin-omics of the book selling concern. I understood the downsides. I mitigated those downsides. 

But to have something like a cyclone or slip and fall shuttle everything, I’ve realized that I need to work more on accepting that which I can’t change.

Embracing the Unknown Unknowns.

Because inevitably things like that come up and waste away the best of intentions of the best business plan. Just ask the guys at Long-Term Capital Management.

– Matt

>>> Next time in Denver, visit Coyote Ridge Books.