Learning As We Go

One of the most eye-opening learnings I've had since starting Hands & Feet is that I have a need to be in control of everything - even when I'm not good at "all the things."   This is largely rooted in experiences from my childhood and feeling an utter lack of control.  After some deeper reflection, I've come to realize that this created a default mindset of thinking I need to do everything or else I'm a failure. It seems doing "all the things" creates a sense of pride for me.  

When we launched Hands & Feet I realized I was in new, unfamiliar territory.   It quickly became clear that if I wanted this venture to be successful, I couldn't do everything myself.  In other words, I needed to change my mindset.
This leads me to a second valuable lesson I've learned on the journey of starting a business - don't be afraid to ask for help.

"Don't be afraid to ask questions.  Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  I do this every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength.  It shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and to learn something new."  Barack Obama

If Eric had a dollar for every question I (& Reese) ask in a day - he could retire to an island.  No, seriously, he could buy an entire island to retire on.  I don’t have a problem asking questions, but what's been challenging for me is asking for help.  (#control issue). What I've learned, at least for myself, is that the more I ask for help, the easier things get.  It's like when you first start doing squats and the next day you can hardly walk down the stairs.  However, the more you do them, the easier they get. Asking for help is a new muscle that I needed to use in order for it to be less painful.

The most beautiful surprise in all of this has been the wonderful people I’ve met.  There have been countless people who have been more than happy to lend their expertise, and ultimately bless our lives, since I started asking for help.  Newsflash - I’m not supposed to have all of the answers!  Don’t miss opportunities to make meaningful connections with other people by being afraid to ask for help.  

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask is a fool forever.  - Chinese proverb

I spent 20+ years working in the corporate world in a variety of leadership roles, across a variety of industries - some of which I knew very little about when I started.  While I didn’t have this quote pasted on the wall of my office, it does capture the essence of how I often approach new opportunities.  Since launching Hands & Feet, there have been more instances of looking like a fool for five minutes than in any other role I’ve ever had in my career.  We have truly been learning as we go.

If you’ve heard the story of how we got started with Hands & Feet, you know that Susan and I had literally no experience in the apparel industry - none.  The very first step we took was to start ‘asking’ - Should we do this?  Where do we buy shirts? Who can help us build a website? Who is working on the issue of childhood hunger in our community?  What should we do first?

While we’ve certainly come a long way since getting answers to the questions above, the frequency of our ‘asking’ has only increased:  How can we get our products into more stores? Who can help us grow our social media presence? How do we scale our business into new parts of the country?  Do you think other business owners spend this much time in sweatpants?

Starting a new business has proven to be a learn-as-you-go adventure, with the only certainty being there will ALWAYS be more questions to answer.  As a result, we have the choice (on a daily basis) to look like a fool for 5 minutes or forever.

The most wonderfully humbling part of starting our own business has been the outpouring of support we’ve received since answering ‘Yes’ to that first question of “Should we do this?”.  If you’re facing a similar question in some area of your life, you’re likely experiencing some discomfort from not knowing what will happen next. Here’s the deal: you’re not supposed to.  We have become firm believers that anything of great importance is designed to be a learn-as-you-go adventure. Our encouragement to you is this: Go. Learn. Repeat.