I’ve always been kind of a misfit.
Growing up, I was raised in a strict household, where getting anything but straight A’s and a perfect score on my SAT risked getting me disowned by my family and left outside in below-freezing Korean winters.
OK, maybe a hyperbole on the last one, but the rest is true.
So what did I do?
I left this upbringing to attend the Naval Academy, a military college halfway around the world, where I wore a uniform the entire four years, took thermodynamics so I could graduate with a major in English literature, lived only on campus, and was subjected to regular inspection of the hospital corners on my bed.
Because I wanted to nobly serve my country?
Nah… it just seemed like fun.
It was the most unusual thing I could possibly do, because, you know, going to a regular college to sit around and talk about philosophy with other kids equally out-of-touch was so….
I’ve always had a pretty sick idea of what fun was (examples include but are not limited to: the military, the year of unemployment spent working as a bar-back, CrossFit, and gym ownership). And although sometimes these things were fun, I more often than not burned myself with my impulsiveness.
My rash “why not?” moments were frequently moderated by the painful introduction of reality. A sign of youthful stupidity? Probably.
Anyway, that’s why you can probably find me conflicted (even tortured) in any life situation I’m in, seemingly uneasy with everything that’s going on. It’s my human condition. It gives me stuff to write about.
That being said, I really like being a gym owner; specifically, an entrepreneur.
Why? Because running a business is like doing a puzzle. It’s a thing you tinker with, just to see what happens. Like kids playing Jenga. They watch the tower of blocks teeter at high heights, then with one wrong move, it all comes falling down.
That’s what I love about entrepreneurship. It’s that real. It either goes up or it comes crashing down, and you can’t blame anyone (your boss, your coworkers, your Uber driver) but yourself.
I don’t only enjoy being an entrepreneur, but I also believe my personality makes me a good fit for it.
It’s not my strengths that tell me that, though.
Everyone loves to believe they’ve got what it takes to be an entrepreneur, because it’s sexy, right?
An innovative, risk-taking leader of men who operates best on zero sleep and overwhelming chaos… everyone wants to be that bad ass.
But when I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur, years ago when I was still in the Navy, it was actually my weaknesses that pointed me in this direction.
I found it hard to enjoy the same things about my job that others appreciated: the steady paycheck… the structure… three square meals (in the Navy anyway)… paid time off… manufactured purpose… friends you saw everyday.
I agonized over feeling like I was missing out on a better life.
People around me were in disbelief when I said I was going to switch careers. They thought I was crazy.
I felt crazy, too.
When I left the Navy an old associate of mine said she was really thankful to observe my experience out of the Navy, because it showed her why she should never leave.
Months out of the military, I had already become a cautionary tale in her mind. Talk about leaving a legacy, huh?
What made others happy made me unhappy, and it was hard feeling like I couldn’t hack it. Like I didn’t have enough gratitude. Like I couldn’t just suck it up for a pay off 20 years down the road.
But what uniquely caused me strife and pain were the things that, in hindsight, made being an entrepreneur a great fit for me.
And this is the moral of my story:
We don’t live lives defined solely by our strengths, our weaknesses left to hide in the shadows of our greatness. We are the sum of our greater and our lesser parts. Our weaknesses have just as much to teach us about who we are as our strengths do, and to accept yourself for who you are and find out what it is you’re truly meant to do, you must embrace your weaknesses, too. They’re you.
When I had a job, the stakes never felt real. Everything was predictable, safe, and unbudging.
Now, nothing is predictable, some choices are unsafe, and nothing stops changing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Deep down, I’m kind of a wild child. I’ve never been a fan of safe.
Sebastian Junger talks about this in Tribe, quoting a sociologist who says, “In every upheaval we rediscover humanity and regain freedoms. We relearn some old truths about the connection between happiness, unselfishness, and the simplification of living.”
I have always craved upheaval.
When I was in the Navy, I spent as much time as I could traveling, climbing mountains, rock climbing, surfing, and drinking to excess.
These days, my sense of adventure hasn’t left me, but it’s found a different outlet.
Now, making minimum wage as I’m getting a business up and running is my idea of a good time.
Quitting my job not knowing when I’m going to get paid next sounds like a riot.
Like I said… I have a twisted idea of what’s fun.
I revel in this extreme ownership because I get to make many of the rules I didn’t when I had a normal job.
Sure, I was driving ships and pulling into ports all over the world when I was in the Navy, but I still had a dick of a boss. Nothing I could do about that.
Later on, I was making great money stretching 30 minutes of work into an 8 hour day, but I was stuck in one place, ready to gouge my eyes out from boredom. Every. Single. Day. Nothing I could do about that. #notblessed
The rules are different now.
I can work 27 hours in a day or 2. I can refuse to take a vacation indefinitely or I can leave for two weeks to go suffer from jetlag somewhere decidedly foreign.
It doesn’t matter to anyone or anything else but the bottom line. And if the bottom line is happy, because customers are happy and employees are happy, then everyone wins.
If members are happy, then it doesn’t really matter how we get there.
This is a formula that makes sense to me. It’s a system I gladly buy into, whereas others (many others) want nothing to do with it.
The wonderful thing is, the better the business is doing, the more flexibility, freedom, and self-agency I have to do what I want:
Never not sleep 8 hours a night unless I’m waking up for an early morning flight
Wake up actually excited for the day ahead
Go to that amazing breakfast joint in town on a Monday morning when the wait isn’t two hours long
Work out first thing in the morning, then drive home in the opposite direction of rush hour traffic
Enjoy margaritas at 3 pm on a Wednesday with friends
Spend each morning having coffee with Lee, my boyfriend and partner in crime
… It doesn’t take much to feel like the luckiest person alive.
That’s what entrepreneurship offers me: a lifestyle of freedom and fulfillment both in and out of work.
It’s where the misfit in me feels at home.
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