My partner and I talk a lot about compounding interest.
Not in the financial sense, although that is how it started, with talks of 401ks and retirement accounts, HSAs, and long-term investment plants. More in the abstract sense, in the concept itself and its application to other areas of life.
We were talking last night about the compounding effect of not doing something, versus the compounding effect of doing something. Specifically, we were talking about alcohol and the compounding effect of not having a glass of wine or a beer every night. The way that too builds up in your body, changes your internal workings, and is felt across all of your biological systems.
We are, of course, frequent cannabis consumers but this was all things being equal, with the number of studies that have linked alcohol consumption to cancers, digestive issues, cognitive issues, and more. How the effects of alcohol compound across generations, and how one generation of alcoholics breeds another. (This is not to take cheap shots at alcohol; I still enjoy a hard cider or a cocktail now and again.)
I think about this concept often as a business owner. I am the only one responsible for me during the day, for ensuring that there is new business coming in, the business I have is completed, and all of the tasks in between and under these are done. It was something I struggled with when I first started my business, the overwhelm of constantly having more tasks to do and limited brainpower every day to do them.
I started my business as a perfectionist, as someone convinced that something was only worth doing perfectly or not at all. This is a ridiculous notion that no successful business person holds, but it was one that I struggled with for months. The idea that my effort would compound, that small, imperfect steps would lead up to greater growth had not yet resonated with me.
It is one thing to know of a concept like compound interest and its application in the financial world. It is an entirely different thing to truly understand the concept and its application in your own life. On the days when my energy was low and my to-do list seemed unending, I felt suffocated under the weight of my perceived failure. If I could not muster enough energy to do the things I needed to do in a day, every day, how could I ever hope to support myself, let alone a household?
March of 2023 marks my three-year anniversary of becoming self-employed. My business has taken many shapes (and a few punches) and what I have today is not what I set out to create. There are milestones I thought I would have crossed by now, and some accomplishments I never saw coming. There was a time when I saw no way forward, a summer spent nannying instead of pitching. Yet every bit of effort I’ve put forth, no matter how small or seemingly futile, has led me here.
Today I understand that there will always be more to do, always another task to tackle. And I can find grace for myself on the days when my energy is low and all I can do is the bare minimum. As long as I do that and get up again tomorrow, it is effort well spent. It all adds up.
Remembering that I’m building something that I can’t see yet is what I’m keeping in the center of my mind this year. Three years in business feels like a lifetime, but it’s just a start. Every effort I make, every day I wake up and try again is another stair built. It took three years to allow myself to be comfortable with small imperfect steps, but when I look back I can see just how far they’ve gotten me.