At what point am I a success? When my income reaches a certain level? When I stop getting money back from but instead start paying to the IRS? When I have more employees than family members? When? Well, for me the answer to that question is: When I get my why .
Let me explain by taking us back to my first business endeavor of the early nineties. I was new to the world of stand-up comedy. I was also old to be entering any field and the sole source of support for eight hungry children. There was no time to fail yet I had barely begun to learn. Rather than spend the usual four years performing on open mic stages for short five minute spurts at a time hoping to eventually share the stage with bigger names whom I could learn a polished comedic style from, I chose to hire myself. I decided to find bars that needed a boost in their traffic and create my own shows. I would advertise those “big name’ comedians, borrow from their popularity and experience in order to draw a crowd and improve my skills. Initially I struck door-deals with the managers of failing bars. In this arrangement I passed most of the door money to the “name’ the increased liquor sales went to the club leaving a grand total of $25.00 dollars an evening for myself. That money covered my gas and I supported the kids by adding a pay to sing karaoke component.
These Lynette created comedy Karaoke nights were unique back then. They were surprisingly popular. And before long I was working for more than gas money and groceries. Eventually all the comedians had gone from treating me with that new kid on the block disdain to a more she might give me work respect. The problem with that was since they now wanted me to give them work they no longer gave me honest criticism.
I remember walking into a competitor’s club and having all the heads turn as I looked around for someone fresh to hire. And — like an old black and white movie – the someone’s came out of the wood work: Someone lit my cigarette, someone got me a drink, someone gave me a chair, someone took my sweater, and another someone introduced themselves and asked me to watch their set. As the club lights dimmed and the show began I did a mental check on the upcoming gigs I still needed talent for and realized just how much of my time was being spent running this new business. I also realized how much of my time was not being spent on stage. That is when I knew it was time to quit. So though I had just gotten the business on its feet, I was about to close its doors. For most people a decision such as this is a mistake.
True, I was buying groceries with greater ease. In fact one might think that supporting the kids was my main goal so I should keep the business growing and increasing our variety of food choices. BUT, in fact, though caring for my kids was the main driver in my life it was not the main driver in my chosen careers. Lots of jobs buy groceries, I was “running rooms’ to improve my own stage skills. And the minute my business impeded that process by making me both an administrator and a person other comics mislead with ass kissing job seeking lies, well, it had ceased to serve its desired function. This new person that I was becoming was not the person I wanted to be. I considered teaching someone else how to do the administrative part of the business and get back on stage with greater regularity but I knew that wouldn’t work. Teaching the business to someone while raising eight children, four on the spectrum of autism, would take more of my time than performing would allow.
I have spent my career as a mom making quick decision to ensure food on the table and my career as a performer making quick decisions to ensure I kept my eye on the why of whatever I have chosen to do. I was lucky to have so much need at home force me to learn so quickly. I believe that it was due to the simultaneous tugging of both home and career development that I was able in both arenas to recognize success by my own criteria.
Its easy to look at someone’s life and choose based on our own why’s if they were or weren’t successful. It’s a little harder to remember that we are actually playing a game of “if I had your life with my why’s I’d call your life a failure.’
Thus, if you use your why’s while looking over the history of my entrepreneurial life, I may or may not seem successful to you. After all I grew many businesses till they had legs and then walked away. I tried my hand at birthday party entertainment, radio call in shows, jingle writing, freelance writing, speaking, singing, play writing, authoring spiritually driven novels sized self help books, renovating homes, indoor outdoor painting, furniture refinishing etc. Each and every choice had something to do with me paying bills, while simultaneously gaining skills and not having an employer who could fire me for bringing my adopted autistic kids to work.
For me running a business has been a necessity that solved my problem of under education and became income-generating apprenticeship styled school. Sometimes I even managed a grant for the formal version of learning. I gained unusual out of the box very effective techniques that raised most of my adopted autistic children out of their autism.
People began to find me. I began to help. Another business was born. But I know me ” I know my why. So though I now travel Internationally helping autism and families, though I am highly sought after, though I have a book that teaches from experience and brings people to me in droves, though I satisfy my need to share from the stage by speaking and doing a one-woman show on the brain and its ability to heal I will surely retire this job when I get my why.
Today that why is helping Dar (my still disabled son) to become independent. I teach to learn. And staying abreast of changes and doing research enables me to help others while helping him accomplish that.
So when I quit you’ll know I made it! That is always the case.