“We forge the chains we wear in life.” — Charles Dickens
So this is a true story about a client I was working with recently.
It’s a sad story, but there is a good lesson in it so I’m going to tell it to you.
I had a couple referred to me by a business friend who has met me in person and knew I would take care of them. The husband is a middle-aged senior executive, the wife also has professional business experience. They are also parents of a special needs child.
The thing is, from the time we were introduced to the time we started working together was many months. They kept telling me they were eager to begin but that he was “super busy” at work because things were falling apart and fires needed to be put out.
Like most clients Connie and I work with, they were keen to leave the 9-to-5 world, build an online business, and travel as often as possible. Again like most people, they really had no idea what online business to start but they wanted to do something meaningful, something that they would be proud to tell people about.
To me, this is always a fun part of what we do with clients.
So after some back and forth with questions from me and conversations between me and the couple, we discovered an interesting convergence. She had a personal interest in a small retail niche that could be described as ‘bespoke gifts.’ These are services that offer a unique series of gifts that are designed around a specific person and tell a story.
To use my wife as a hypothetical example, I would contact one of these companies and buy a gift package from them. Next, they ask me questions about Connie’s life, her interests, etc. Then, based on that information, they curate a series of gifts that ‘tell a story.’ So I’d tell them that Connie was born in a coal mining town in West Virginia in the 60’s, moved to Indianapolis before high school, loves Dalmatians and Dachshunds, and now London is her favorite city to visit.
Based on that information, they might send her an old glass milk bottle from the dairy in the West Virginia town where she was a kid. Then a week later send her framed photo of a fire truck of the Indianapolis Fire Department with a cute Dalmatian sitting in the jump seat. And a week after that they send her a picture taken from a luxury hotel window that looks out onto the Thames and Tower Bridge. All very meaningful gifts for her.
And there are variations that tell more involved stories, like mysteries. Fun, memorable, and meaningful stuff.
Cool business, right?
The Exciting Part
Well, this couple also was passionate to have a business that would somehow benefit special needs children. So we came up with the idea of creating an online business that would curate wonderful and appropriate gifts for kids with special needs.
Speaking for myself, I’ve raised six kids but I don’t have a clue what I would buy for a 12 year old girl in a wheelchair with spina bifida or a five year old boy with Down syndrome. And to be honest, I’d really be concerned that my choice might accidentally be insulting or insensitive for reasons I just never thought of. Perhaps even dangerous.
But what if there was an online store that knew all the sensitivities, psychology, and safety considerations for every kind of special needs child? What if they already curated brilliant, hard-to-find items for the new parents, toddlers, and teens? What if they would listen to the information you provided about the child of a co-worker, neighbor, or family member who has specific interests, and perhaps specific fears – then provided the perfect gift, beautifully wrapped, and addressed directly to the child?
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful, rewarding business to build?
And from a financial standpoint, what’s the upper limit in revenue? It’s far into the millions, for certain. Sky’s the limit, really. (I checked the demographic.)
We never got to the marketing part of the business plan. But I can tell you that it’s easy to find parents of special needs kids on social media. There are many thousands of people daily using hashtags like #SpecialNeeds #SpecialNeedsMom #Autism #AutismAwareness #ADHD #DownSyndromeLove, and on and on.
Showing these people your new bespoke gift service would be a walk in the park, in marketing terms. And imagine how these communities would appreciate the ethos of a married couple doing this for a living?
So, to say the least, I was excited to help this couple engineer their online business.
The Sad Part
On our last phone call everyone was excited. I had some more questions for them so we could design the business and the business model to suit their lifestyle goals. I asked, and waited.
Days turned into weeks.
I pinged them to see if I could clarify anything.
He reported being “super busy.”
The next time I asked, he replied with an email that things at his 9-to-5 job were going off the rails. The company was in financial trouble. He was on the bridge working to save the sinking ship. He hated everything about the situation, and reported that he and his wife would have to abandon their online business ambitions. They were just “too busy” to have any time to work on their own future plans.
So this enterprise will never happen. *sigh*
Look, I get it.
I don’t stand in judgement.
We’ve all been in the situation where keeping that steady paycheck coming supersedes other dreams in life.
But on the other hand, we’re talking about having just a few hours out of the 168 hours we all get every week. Just a few hours to start chipping away at the to-do list for a better life. A life on your own terms where you own and control our own source of income.
And what makes this particular “Super Busy” story so sad is thinking about what won’t get built! The kids who won’t get that special gift that was just for them. That one thing they might have remembered and treasured for the rest of their lives.
And the tragedy isn’t that these kids need pity. It’s the exact opposite. It’s that these kids are heroes. They deal with challenges that would wither most of us. And being kids, they laugh and smile most of the way though those challenges. They are the definition of heroic, and way too often they are unsung heroes.
Building a business devoted to making those kids feel special would have been a wonderful accomplishment in life.
I know I’d have been proud just to have a small hand in it.
Instead, this caring, intelligent couple with ample business experience will spend their finite life energy helping a failing corporation survive. A corporation they have no affinity for or real future with. A corporation that will suck up their life energy and then issue cost-cutting pink slips.
They’ll devote their priceless and irreplaceable energy to working for some other guy’s failed dream, and forsake their own.
And the loss to all concerned is really only because they convinced themselves they are “super busy” and don’t have any spare hours to build the magnificent life and business they visualized and designed in such clear and vivid detail.
I know this is a story that’s occurred millions of times in millions of ways, but my goodness, if you see yourself in any of this try to find a way to stop telling yourself you’re “super busy” and can’t start building your preferred life – and maybe even a better world – right now.
There are 168 hours in every week. You only need a few of them to get started on your most rewarding and authentic life.
For the love and betterment of humanity, find those few hours!