Have you taken the enneagram test? It’s basically a personality test. The idea underpinning the test is that each person has certain personality traits that are inborn, and can be boiled down to 9 specific types of personalities. I took the enneagram a few months ago thinking it would be fun. What would it say about me? What kinds of cool things would I find out about myself? Instead, it sent me into a tailspin. 

I scored most strongly in type three: the achiever. As I read the description, I felt like someone was telling my life story. So many of the type three qualities seem positive: driven, high-achieving… but, to me, it felt like a life sentence. You see, I was in a spot where I felt like I was on a hamster wheel. Between my day job, adjunct work, being a mom and wife, my hobbies, and (oh, yeah) this business, I just felt like I was someone caught up in the normal hustle of life. I operated on the mindset that these countless obligations were just happening to me. I didn’t feel like the mastermind behind my packed-to-the-brim schedule.

“I don’t know how you do it all!” “How do you run a business with everything else you’re doing?” “How do you find time for hobbies?” I’ve heard these questions more than a few times over the past year and haven’t always recognized them as an indicator that I might be over capacity. I’ve always worn overload as a badge of honor. For friends who do less or choose to have more space in their life, I see it as a sign of incapacity, not as a healthy, conscious choice. Reading that enneagram description caused me to pause and ask, “Am I achieving my life away? And, are the achievements ones that even matter?” Instead of feeling righteous for my ability to overload my plate and work at breakneck speed, I felt jealous of my friends with space in their lives. I realized that I could choose to do what feels most natural for me (running full speed ahead) or I could make a conscious effort to stop. connect. breathe. rest. 

When an idea starts to spiral

Launching this business has been one big learning curve from day one. I never set out to be a business owner, to learn about online publishing or marketing or anything else related to becoming an entrepreneur. When I first thought of the idea behind F-flat books, it came out of a personal desire for my own publishing career. I wanted a publishing space like this to exist and when it didn’t, I thought I should try to build it myself with the help of my brother. Others seemed to think that this was a good idea and I had a few authors on board to launch, so we did it! The first half of 2019 was spent writing emails, finishing my own book, meeting with lawyers, filling out paperwork, testing our platform, and all sorts of other things that I had never done before. 

I quickly realized that while I already had a full-time job, this business could easily become my full-time job. There was always more I could be doing—connecting, marketing, emailing, editing, the list goes on and on. I found myself squeezing out every second of free time listening to business podcasts, reading about online marketing strategies, and soliciting new material from authors. When our books started to sell and we began experiencing significant traffic to our blog, I was so excited. This could really be a thing! But, with other commitments in my life, the “type three” in me wanted to push hard; to set strict goals for myself and make sure I hit them no matter how busy I was in other spheres of my life. 

Self-care and a new perspective

A few months ago, we published a blog post by a dear friend of mine about burnout. Laura Long left her job as a music teacher and shared her thoughts on how she’s processed her change in career and what led to her leaving the classroom in the first place. It was (and still is) our most read post. I began realizing that the conversations around teacher burnout and teacher self-care were some of the loudest conversations on social media. One of my collaborators, Danielle Larrick, and I wanted to write an eBook as a gift to our email list subscribers and we knew we had to address the need for music teacher self-care from the perspective of research to practice. 

As I was culling through the research on burnout and emotional intelligence, I felt blindsided by how much I needed to read this book that I was writing. I needed to create room in my schedule. I needed to have healthy spaces to process my work. And, most of all, I needed to treat this business with the exact amount of time and energy that I could sustainably offer it. I realized that my biggest critic was me. And, in an effort to do something for myself and others, I had started down a path in which missed deadlines (set by me) caused guilt and frustration (from myself). And, for what? 

Do you have trouble saying no to things? I think part of the problem is that many of us want to have the capacity to do all the things. And, if we could clone ourselves five times over, we would! But, after reflecting on this past year, I’ve realized a couple of things. I certainly don’t want to live a life that is deadline to deadline. I want to have space in my schedule to care for others at a moment’s notice or to play with my kids and let dishes sit in the sink. I don’t want to define my personal success by the items crossed off my to-do list (as a type three, this is so hard!!). I want to do meaningful work and feel good about the time I am dedicating to my professional pursuits and focus on the ones that really help people. 

What does 2020 hold ?

David and I had a meeting earlier this week to talk about our content for January and all of the projects we have on the horizon. As always, we started spinning out ideas and hopes and dreams for the business. We also prepared statements to send out the first round of royalty checks to our authors and I had to pinch myself. Some of our authors made hundreds of dollars in the few short months we have been in business. My original vision was to create a space to celebrate authors and make sure they received fair pay for their intellectual property. I am seeing that dream come to reality and it excites me beyond belief. 

If you are a small business owner, social media and the internet will send you daily messages about how you are failing and what you should be doing better and what the perfect formula is for success. But, you have to define success on your own terms and pursue it in a way that is healthy. One day, I was driving with my husband and talking about F-flat. I told him how excited I was that our business was connecting people, it was celebrating the work of authors I value, and the work was inspiring me in my personal practice as an educator. “Is it ok if I never make money doing this?”, I asked him… basically, looking for permission to pour time into something I believed in but may never benefit our family financially. “Of course!” he said. He affirmed that a successful business does not always mean a business that makes a lot of money. It could be a business that helps others, and I can make that my focus. 

Our goals for 2020

With a fresh perspective, a whole lot of learning to do, and a better sense of what we can accomplish in any given month, here are our goals for 2020:

  • Launch 15 more eBooks on topics including early childhood education, teaching orchestra, music business strategies, and more
  • Publish weekly blog posts from a growing list of authors that represent a diverse set of beliefs, backgrounds, races, ages, and positions
  • Continue to donate 5% of all profits to non-profit partners
  • Continue promoting and celebrating the work of authors (aka continue to be a professional hype woman for our F-flat authors)
  • Continue forcing Chelsea to make weekly boomerangs with me on our Instagram page

If we don’t meet these goals, I hope we can celebrate what we did accomplish and be kind to our growing business, knowing that our identity does not lie in some elusive measure of objective success. 

What are your goals for the new year? How do you balance your commitments in a way that is healthy?