‘Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life’ – Confucius
I know that I’m not as enlightened as Confucius. And maybe we don’t share the same definition of work. I love what I’m doing, but it definitely feels like work! So… Confucius and I are going to agree to disagree on this one.
Early in my career, I dreamed of running my own company. While I loved my team and the work that I was doing in the corporate world, there were many days that seemed like a drag. I always liked ‘what’ I was doing, just not all the other stuff that went along with working for large companies. Constant meetings, decisions by committee, blah, blah, blah. If I could run a small business, on my own terms, I’d be doing what I love…and I wouldn’t ‘work’ another day in my life. After all, that quote from Confucius should be taken at face value, right?!
I’m not sure why my logic was so messed up (maybe I had been reading too many inspirational quotes!). Why would I think that working for myself would eliminate things I didn’t like, with those challenges replaced with only things that I DID like? It seems obvious in hindsight that life doesn’t work that way.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m with Confucius in believing you should choose a career you love (and that you’re good at!). But I don’t think you should make the decision to follow your passion because ‘you will never work a day in your life’. It’s quite the opposite – you should follow your passion because when you have rough days (there will be many), you won’t be tempted to question whether you’re doing what you’re supposed to do with your life. The small business world is tough enough when starting out – everything is new, you have no idea what you’re doing, what strategies will work and what won’t, who you should listen to or avoid, etc – that you need the foundation of passion for whatever it is that you’re doing to just…keep….going.
Getting a new business started is mentally (and physically) draining. And it takes years before you feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But that doesn’t mean that if you aren't in love with what you are currently doing (even if you’re paid well for it), that you should keep doing it. You’ve got one life to live, and not doing what you love is keeping you from giving the world all that you have to offer.
When I was contemplating whether to establish Grey Duck and manufacture paddleboards, I confided in many of my best friends from the SUP world whether this was a venture worth pursuing. Much of the advice was similar – I had the skills, background, and knowledge to make it happen, but the market was rough for premium SUP products and it wasn’t going to get better. There were too many SUP brands, too many resellers, too much similar product, downward price pressure as low-cost boards entered the market, and the list goes on and on. Bottom line – It’d be a good idea to hit the brakes on this idea before moving forward, as success was far from certain. But I had an itch that needed to be scratched, and that itch wouldn’t allow me to abandon working in the stand-up paddle world.
I got started in the summer of 2016 designing a super lean and mean board line-up, built a few boards to test the market and get a reaction and did a lot of leg work to spread the word about who we were and what we were about. Today, we’re still on that journey. In no way have we ‘made it’. But we’re working with grit, humbleness, and a sense of reality around how long it will take to get to where we want to go. We’re building boards that you can’t find anywhere else on the planet, and having fun doing it. You won’t see me claim success anytime soon, but we’re on a good path – building a small but profitable business and making a dent in our little corner of the world. It’s work, but work we love doing.