Updated: May 29, 2020
Starting a new life can feel really scary. For many of us at the moment we are rethinking the way we do things, and perhaps taking a completely new direction through force rather than choice. When the world around you is also experiencing the same seachange this can lead to feelings of being unsteady and unsure.
As we emerge out of lockdown I have been reminded of my own personal experience of starting a business during extremely tough times. When I was 27 years old I opened a restaurant in Bali, Indonesia. A short 6 months prior to opening the restaurant the island experienced devastating terrorist attacks that killed dozens of tourists and injured hundreds. Immediately afterwards the island was deemed unsafe to travel to with travel warnings against visiting Bali for months following the attack.
Tourism is the island's main source of income and without visitors, many businesses crumbled and everywhere I looked hotels and restaurants had closed. Land was for sale, buildings were for rent and the economy had dried up. 'Tidak ada uang' was a common phrase I heard, meaning 'no have money'. With land already acquired, I decided to plough forwards anyway with my plans to build the restaurant.
Kind friends and concerned family, literally everyone, gave me their opinion as to why it was a terrible idea to open a restaurant on an island that was going through a recession and where I did not speak the language. I dug my heels in and the more people told me I was crazy to do it, the more determined I became. Hailing from a long line of stoical Scottish women, I rather like a challenge. I also knew I had a really great vision and reasoned that tourists would eventually come back, and once they did I would be ready.
In the spring of 2004 I began to build my vision. Admittedly, it felt extremely at odds, to be building and growing something new when everything around was shut or closed for good. What kept me going was my focus and holding the vision. I chose not to engage with the news, nor anyone who was not lighting up and expanding my thinking. I had a daily mantra, 'Face Your Dragons,' and found this so helpful when things felt tough, as they so often did.
Making a change of any kind can be extremely uncomfortable and brings up difficult emotions, requiring a change of thinking, beliefs, and action. Stepping out of what we know and feels safe into the unknown takes courage, determination and belief. Telling myself not to give up and keep going, whilst remaining open and accepting of new situations and new ways of existing was my most effective motivation. Although I did not realise it at the time, I had become my own cheerleader. The experiences I had as a consequence of stepping into the unknown and facing my dragons gave me enormous confidence in myself. It gave me a belief I can do it, and something I know is a deep reservoir that I can tap into when crossing stormy seas. Change can be scary, but do you know what is scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.
John O' Donohue puts it so well in his book Benedictus:
"Beginning precedes us, creates us and constantly takes us to new levels and places and people. There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning, more often than not, it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally.
To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where the new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over."