Losing the corner office

“Today we move out of our offices. Eleven years to earn it, seemingly taken away in a moment.” This was my journal entry on a cold March day.

From the very first day I launched the retail concept, we bootstrapped everything – a makeshift counter, dressing rooms fashioned from excess fabric and Velcro, flyers we printed ourselves and cut in fourths with an old-fashioned paper cutter – this is how we started out. And when I finally began to add team members, we rigged up an office environment in the back room, behind the store – glass desks with white boards on the walls, a funky color paint and rugs to absorb some of the sound. We called it “urban chic.”

This arrangement worked for a while. However, every time I wanted to make a private phone call, I had to sit in my car (not fun in the middle of winter in North Dakota!), and when we packed boxes for shipping, the sound of the tape was magnified ten-fold, like fingernails on a chalk board, but WAY louder. On shipment days there would be piles of jeans everywhere as we would unpack what came in, sort it, and then pack and ship it all out – usually in a single day, because, after all, we needed to be able to walk from one desk to another.

I have learned that my superpower as an entrepreneur is to visualize the end from the beginning. I envision an end result and then build a plan to get me there. I saw the office we would have before it materialized – an office with doors (to make our private phone calls in a warm building), a library staged in my office full of books and resources for the team, massive white boards with goals and inspirational quotes, and a connected warehouse where we could pack and unpack in a comfortable environment. We would have a welcoming space where we could bring prospective franchisees, as well as a beautiful office where I could meet with my team to discuss business and life.

When that vision finally came to fruition only to be stripped away a few short months later, it just rocked me. How could this actually be happening? After only a few short months I was packing up an office – which was really a much larger dream – and moving back into a cold, noisy, concrete warehouse where I would again sit between piles of inventory, noisy tape guns, and once again have to host conversations in my car. Little did I know that the disappointment of moving out of a nicely appointed office space would be nothing in comparison to the feelings of moving out of my home a year later.

We all face disappointment – a failed marriage, a friendship gone cold, or a job opportunity falling through. There are little disappointments that can rock our world too, such as tortilla chips that have gone stale, tomato plants that refuse to grow (true story), or coming home to chores left incomplete (another true story). Disappointment comes when our expectations do not align with our realities.

If you allow it, disappointment can be crippling – the feeling that sweeps over you when you realize where you are, compared to where you want to be, is a real emotion. How do you push through those feelings and fight the tendency to let bitterness and resentment overtake and consume you?

People who know my story and continue to see me smile ask me about this all the time. In fact, one of my employees asked me once how I could face all that was happening and still hold my head up, move forward, and function. As I’ve explained before, I could not and did not do it alone.

Life isn’t fair, and sometimes it feels justice isn’t served. The heavy and weighty disappointments of the past several years – from the loss of a corner office to the loss of our home – would be too heavy a burden to bear alone.

I have cried. In fact, the tears flowed like a river as I boxed up everything in my office and left the keys for the landlord. I sobbed after I walked prospective buyers through my house knowing we would lose our home while those that had contributed to the company’s demise would continue doing business as usual. If I had attempted to battle disappointment with my strength alone, the weight of it would have consumed me.

Here are some ways I learned to lean into my relationships to battle the disappointments I faced:

  • Speak openly about disappointments with those closest to you.
  • Own your disappointment instead of denying it.
  • Seek out the council of others in your circle who have walked through intense disappointments of their own.

Through these lessons and conversations, we can find the strength to carry on and the hope we need to fully appreciate that every trial makes us stronger, and every disappointment leads us down the path to a renewed sense of purpose in a future chapter of our lives.

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