Thanks for all the great feedback on my last post. I especially liked the comment from David, who said
I’ve found that the problem with comparing ourselves to others is that you’re usually comparing your strength to their weakness or vice versa. Either way, it’s not fair.
Exactly! That is so true, and a good reminder for the times when we start to compare ourselves – either favorably or unfavorably – with other people. Focusing on how we can make ourselves better people compared with who we were a year or a month or a day ago is probably a much more effective way to make positive changes.
I made a big step in my purging process today. Physically it was only one box, but mentally it was a big step in terms of letting go of things that are no longer useful, regardless of how much they cost or how much we once liked them.
About seven years ago, back in the very early days of our business, my husband and I purchased a multi-media business card package. It was supposed to be an interactive DVD that we could send to our clients, and it was packaged in a fancy case with our pictures and lots of info about our business. It took several months to complete the process of making them, as they were custom made for our business. Sometime during the process, the company that made them ran into serious financial problems, and nearly declared bankruptcy before our order was finished. To make a long story short (and boy was it ever a long story at the time, complete with lots of tears on my part), the “interactive DVD” part of the package turned into a generic DVD about our industry rather than one specific to our business. Although we were disappointed with that change, we were generally pleased with the finished product, and sent lots of them to clients and prospective clients for the first few years after we got them.
We had signed up for a payment plan to finance the project, and it took quite a while to pay them off. Our business wasn’t making much money back then, and we were making the minimum payments each month for a long time. Eventually we were able to pay more than the minimum due, and I think we paid them off sometime in 2004 or early 2005… Funny how I can’t even remember now, given that I was so stressed out about it at the time (a lot of the stress came from not knowing if we would even get the finished product, even though we were on the hook with the financing company to pay for them either way). Whatever happened, that money is long gone and forgotten – the proverbial water under the bridge.
Our business has become much more successful over the years. And it has also morphed into something that we do entirely on-line and over the phone. We never have to drive anywhere or send anything to clients by snail mail. We’ve basically made our office paperless; I can’t even remember the last time we bought paper or envelopes or anything like that. Times have changed, and we’ve changed with them.
And that brings us back to the multi-media business cards. We still had a box full of them sitting in our basement. It’s probably been two or three years since we sent any out to clients, and the last box had just been hanging out in the crawl space of our old house and the basement of our new house. Were we ever going to go back to sending them out? No. We have much more efficient ways of communicating with clients now, and our marketing strategy is much more targeted and streamlined that it was in 2003. So what was I going to do with the box that was taking up space in our basement?
I checked to see if the cases were recyclable… they were not. I checked to see if our information could be taken out of them so that they could possibly be used by someone else (I was thinking of putting them on Craigs List for free if I could get our info out of them). But that wasn’t possible, as our marketing material was permanently encased in the plastic.
So I threw them away.
It felt great. The box actually sat on the kitchen counter top for about 24 hours before I got up the nerve to toss them. I pondered all the money we had spent on them. But then I thought about all the ones we had sent out to clients back in those early years, and all the good feedback we got. The money hadn’t been wasted. We had ordered the minimum number of cards possible, but we just didn’t need all of them. We weren’t going to start going backwards in our marketing strategy just because we had leftover multi-media business cards. And I was tired of seeing that box every time I went down to the basement.
Now the empty box is sitting in the garage waiting to be filled with stuff to donate to the thrift store, and my life feels just a little bit lighter. Just because something cost a lot of money doesn’t mean we should hang onto it forever. Once it’s no longer useful, it doesn’t matter what we spent to buy it, or how useful it was in the past. We live in the present, and we might as well make sure that the things we surround ourselves with are helping to make that present as good as it can be.
The other take-away lesson here: don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. I wish I could go back in time and see the me who was crying over those business cards. I’d tell her that she really doesn’t need to worry, and that seven years down the road she won’t remember how much they cost, when they arrived, or how long it took to pay them off. Focusing and working hard to pay off debt or solve whatever problem is facing you is definitely worthwhile. But stressing and freaking out about it are not – they don’t solve the problem any faster, and they take away from time we can be feeling happy instead. Now I just have to focus on applying that lesson to my current life. I’m much better about not stressing about things than I used to be, but it’s still a work in progress.