Remembering Priorities, or Schooled by the Nephews

A few weeks ago I was humbled by my nephews.  Don’t get me wrong – nieces and nephews are awesome.  They embody all the benefits of having your own children with none of the real responsibility.  I have sixteen and  strive to maintain close relationships with all of them.  My film maker nephew Ty and I discuss art and literature.  Jimmy teaches me how to differentiate makes of tractors.  (We are both partial to International Harvester.)  A gaggle of little nieces beg for stories and pony rides. 

But, when it comes to nineteen-year-old twins Ben and Dan, I’ve got nothing.  They listen to bands I’ve never heard of.  They do extreme sports that involve twisting body parts at unnatural heights that I am sure cannot be healthy.  They are young and hip and cool and I’m……not.  To make matters worse, they are identical twins, and I, apparently, am the only member of the family who cannot tell them apart.  Oh sure, when they are side by side I can see that one is slightly taller and one has a touch lighter shade of bluish green eyes.  But, the thing is, I can never remember which one is taller or has the greener eyes.  For a while Ben had braces, which was a boon to our relationship, but that ended with middle school.  So, for now, a lot of conversations start out on my part with an awkward “Hhhhhey…..”  

You can imagine my excitement, then, when the family scuttlebutt was that Ben and Dan were starting a t-shirt business.  YES!  Finally, here was some way we could connect.  I would fill the role of trusted mentor to guide them along the complex and difficult journey of Small Business ownership.

The concept was simple enough:  design really rad t-shirt graphics, screen a few samples in a friend’s garage, hawk the shirts to the ubiquitous surf shops along the Jersey Shore boardwalks, and print to order.  How easy is that? 

Oh, but there could be so much MORE!  Fully in my comfort zone, on my next trip to New Jersey I came prepared.  The Business Plan.  The Marketing Plan.  The Production Plan.  The Growth Plan.  The Exit Plan.  I attractively spread my ideas before the twins like a peddler displaying his wares. 

Cricket. Cricket. Cricket….  

Finally Dan (or was it Ben?) said, “Yo, dude, we just want to earn enough extra money so we can surf all summer.” 

Huh.  Imagine that.  Starting a Small Business so that you have enough money to do the things you really want to do.

People say starting a Small Business is like having a baby.  And, like parents, we Small Business owners nurture and guard and watch that baby grow.  Too often, though, our businesses consume us.  We become the helicopter parents of commerce.  Like Gollum and his ring, we can no longer separate ourselves from our treasure.  We forget why we started the whole thing to begin with.  But, no matter how vested we are, our businesses are a means to another end, be it serving the community, personal fulfillment, independence, or a paycheck to do the things we really want and live our lives.  We are not our businesses. 

So, this summer remember to take a break from your Small Business, and if you happen to be at the Jersey Shore, pick up a t-shirt and help a few college kids catch their next wave.

When was the last time you did something you really wanted to do?

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