Shopping Carts, Business, and Life, Part II

By Chuck Violand

November 6, 2017

As a business owner, it’s common to question ourselves about the number of hours we work, the family sacrifices our business demands, and the physical and emotional toll our business takes. This usually happens when we’re struggling through a tough time in our business, when we’re exhausted, or, as in my case, when we get older.

In part I, we explained the metaphor between shopping carts and businesses; how businesses are receptacles for lessons we learn, whether the knowledge is used immediately or stored up for another time. These lessons are not random, one-off events placed in our paths to frustrate us. Their value will be understood down the road. Of course, this holds true whether you own a business or not, as it pertains to life in general.

When we only view our experiences or lessons from an immediate payoff perspective, it’s like continually adding items to our shopping carts with no thought to when or how we’ll use them.

A recent conversation with one of my sons about my early business experiences highlights this point. He wondered what my first business would be like today had it not burned to the ground a couple years into owning it. I didn’t have the answer, but I thought a more important question was what did I learn from that experience, and how have those lessons affected my professional career, my life, and even my thinking today.

What does this have to do with collecting outstanding receivables, growing sales, or losing a long-term, valued employee? After all, you might say, “I’m working as hard as I can just to keep the wheels on this wagon; who has time to ponder the future?” That’s exactly my point. When we don’t look beyond the heat of the moment our work becomes an endless procession of exhausting days.

Please don’t misinterpret this. I’m not suggesting that the daily challenges we face in our businesses aren’t important. They certainly are, and some of them can spell the difference between success and failure. Nor am I saying that drive and ambition aren’t important. I’m simply suggesting that viewing the lessons we’re learning from a longer perspective may help us find greater value in them as they happen.

In the first part of our professional careers, our job is to establish our identities as business professionals, develop relationships and a sense of community, build security, and learn valuable lessons. These are the things we put into our shopping carts.

The second part of our careers is to figure out what to do with the lessons we acquired in the first part; all the things we put into our shopping carts.
I’m convinced that a lack of understanding the transition from placing items into our shopping carts to figuring out what to do with them is what causes so many business owners anxiety when it comes time to transition out of their businesses. For many, their identities are so closely linked to the items in their carts that they overlook the purpose of the items … and struggle with letting them go.

As you celebrate a success or struggle through a tough time, think of the lessons you’re learning as items being added to your shopping cart. Your job is to figure out what you can learn from these lessons now and how to apply them in the future.