Losing A Round of the Mental Game - A Blow by Blow Account

Uncategorized May 01, 2016

By any rational standard, this past week was a pretty good one for myself and my businesses.  Everything is going pretty well on all fronts.  We closed spring enrollment for Bookflipping 2.0, our Amazon business is growing at a good clip, the Dollar Book Swap is chugging along perfectly, but I want to share with you guys an experience that I had this past Friday. 

 I came into work at about 4 am, which happens a few time a week.  I don't know if it is a form of insomnia, but sometimes I have a problem waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep.  I was in a really good mood.  The enrollment numbers for our Spring launch looked good.  The team had all worked really hard on it.  I have dedicated a lot of time to this project and I was happy that the results would justify that commitment to myself and to my family.


 In addition, we are making big strides to sell different types of books overseas in bulk that we used to have to recycle which is a double win for me because of the revenue obviously, but also being able to keep more books in book form is great.  When we send them to a recycler they most often are made into low grade paper products (think toilet paper, tissues, or cardboard) or used as insulation.   


 All in all, I was feeling pretty great.   I also kind of love being at my warehouse before everyone else.  None of the dozen little fires that need to be put out that day have happened yet, and it feels like it is a place full of potential, like we can do anything. 


 Many times in the early morning before anyone else is there I scan books on the line.  It does a couple of things for me.  It allows me to see what is going on.  I see the quality of the material.  The way the staff is handling the books, and a dozen other things that let me know whether I might need to make some small adjustments in how we are operating. 


 It also lets my mind wander a little bit.  I've done this for 6 years now, and its almost reflex, so I can plan my day and think a little bit.


 Then the first thing happened.


 I noticed an issue in the way the line was running that had a big impact on productivity.  Essentially it boils down to the fact that truly salvaged books have to be sorted much quicker in order to be profitable.  We need to lower our processing costs by being more selective on what we decide to scan. 


 More expensive books that haven't been processed by other online sellers or gone through a bookstore or thrift store can be processed more slowly, since more profit potential lies in the marginal material we might have just recycled out of hand otherwise. 


 The point is I had to make a pretty serious adjustment to our workflow.  I was concerned about how long this had been going on and what effect it had up until now. 


But, I'm still in a pretty good mood.  Everything is still going great, but I'm a little distracted by an analysis I keep going back to in the back of my head. 


 I keep thinking things like  "How do I get the guys to be as fluid as I need them to be while limiting the decisions they have to make?" 


"This is so subjective.  How I can get them to do what I would do?" 


This is a Friday remember.  So it is Book Sale Day.  Which is great because we get to sell books to the community, but obviously it means a lot more preparation than usual. 


So things are moving along and we are getting ready for the sale then the second thing happens. 


 I hear that there is a disagreement with an organization we work with about something important to our business.  (I wish I could be more open about this, but it is an ongoing situation.)  Now, it isn't mission critical.  It might be kind of expensive if things don't go our way, but what rubs me the wrong way is I'm feeling like we are being treated unfairly by this organization.  I'm feeling like we are being disrespected and manipulated.


I don't like that.  But even worse, in my mind there is also a family component to it since we all work together.  It's not just me that is being treated badly, but my family. 


Now there are a few storm clouds.  I'm still in a good mood.  My blood pressure is up a little, but it's still not all bad.  Confrontations like this happen from time to time in business, and it isn't the first time I've had to deal with things like this. 


The day goes along and now I'm distracted, but I keep reminding myself how how silly it is to be concerned about any of this.  I had a wonderful week.  I got to work this morning feeling like I shot a hole in one.


Then the third thing happened.  This one is the most petty, and the most embarrassing to write about since nothing actually happened. 


Not enough people came to the book sale. 


Seriously that is it. 


Sales were way down.  We spend about $1000 on ads and people just didn't come in.  The place was kind of empty.  Sometimes that happens.  Who knows why people go to stores.  I've heard all kinds of theories and reasons.  Its a running joke in our family.  Everyone has their pet reason why it was a light or heavy day.  But who knows why customers do what they do?


Other things happened that day of course.  With over 18 employees or so, 3 businesses, and dozens of decisions, other things had an effect on me for sure.  But I know that it was the cumulative effect of those three things that put me in a funk.  I was in a crappy mood for the rest of the day.  To the point I had to fight the urge to either lock myself in my office and turn off the lights or just go home.  After the first two rather large issues had me in my head calculating and scheming and distracted, another piece of bad news that had the ability to let me question my effectiveness took the wheels off the wagon. My interior dialog started going something like this. 


Am I a fraud?


Do I know what I'm doing?


What if it was all luck up until now?


What if no one ever comes to the book sale again?


What if I people find out I feel this way?


And so on...


Nice right?


I opened this post by saying by any rational standard this past week was a good one. But we all don't live every second of our lives rationally, and Friday was not a good day.  I don't know why this happened, but sometimes it happens.  It is usually a cumulative thing.  Like a pot filling up with water.  Everything is contained until it isn't and it all comes tumbling down.  


For a lot of entrepreneurs, guys especially, we try and pretend that we are bullet proof. We pretend to not be effected by the day to day and hour to hour rough waters of running a business.  Some of us have mastered it.  I am not one of them.  I just wanted to share this so that you know if you feel the same, its ok.  If you have never felt this way I'm super happy for you, but I also want to punch you just a little bit.


 When you run your own business, it is easy to feel like you are living life on a highwire.  That one small step in one direction or another can send you crashing to the ground.  Usually that isn't the case.   Even if it is, it is just one round.  You have plenty more in you.  If you feel like you are on the mat, no matter how long you have been there, if you are still breathing then you haven’t reached the ten count yet and it’s not over. 


The next round starts now. 



 -Greg Murphy



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