Have you given yourself permission to rest?
We just went through a year unlike any other in our industry. You’ll hear that a lot in the future. “Remember 2020?” and you and others will nod in acknowledgement of the shared experiences, of the frustrations, the uncertainty, the fear, and the ever-changing landscape we all navigated. The toilet paper? The Zoom meetings. The work-from-home, school-from-home, elbow-bumping reality which changed how we thought about each other and how we thought about our livelihood.
No matter if you doubled down on what you were doing or tried a fluid approach and changed directions. Even if you just took the hit and got back up to do what you’re best at, I applaud each of you for being here and surviving. I applaud you for your determination to succeed this year as well. It’s going to take a lot more than 2020 to stop that kind of drive and determination.
But right now I want to tell you one of the most valuable lessons I learned in these many years as a window cleaner: take some time to rest.
I didn’t used to do that. I’d barrel through the busy season intent on making hay while the sun shines as the saying goes. One time my brother, Jeremy, and I went 74 days straight without a day off. Great weather and a schedule so full that people were waiting for any opening no matter if it were a Sunday or a Holiday will give you that kind of streak. Then I jumped right into paperwork and catching up and marketing for the nextyear and maintenance and supplies and doing sales calls to try to get work through the winter and all of a sudden Spring was here and I was still exhausted but ready to go. Whew, I had to catch my breath after that sentence.
And then I found that I wasn’t all I could be. That’s the saying from my military days: Be All You Can Be. It was such a clichè and yet it sticks with me. It means something special because you compare your present self to yourself at the top of your game. “You aren’t living up to your potential,” coach Sanders used to say to me when I wasn’t practicing hard enough. You aren’t living up to your potential I said to myself as well because I know, just as well as you know, what is possible.
When given that measuring stick I came up lacking. My house washes weren’t great. My window cleaning speed wasn’t at its top. I was forgetting tasks and having to make more reminder notes that littered the inside of my Silverado. I wasn’t sharp. I’ve never been compelled to compare my success or ability to others and even though business is inherently competitive I’m confident that when I’m operating well I’m going to succeed and grow no matter what others do. Likewise, when I’m not operating well success is elusive with no one to blame but myself.
And just like your body needs breaks or it starts to fail, your mind also needs breaks and your spirit, no matter how you view these things, needs to recharge and rejuvenate. The problem I had was that I was fooling myself into believing that I was taking time away and resting, but as it turns out, I wasn’t.
Oh, I had the excuses. You know I took three-day hikes or I went to Florida to spend time on the beach. I took those amazing trips to New Orleans. But I never turned off the machine in my head that was working on my business. The whole time backpacking I was dictating messages into my phone about things to do. I spent Florida mostly on the phone trying to nail down an important deal which would give us much needed mid-summer contracts. New Orleans? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard about the forerunner to the Huge Convention. That was fun, but it was still all business.
Then one year I was talking to a good friend in another state and he told me about going to Jamaica every year. He wouldn’t talk to his office or even turn on his phone. He wouldn’t read emails or check on his bookkeeping numbers. He told me that he spent the time reintroducing himself and discovering that person he remembered from different times in his life, from different perspectives. That really hit me because I realized that I no longer knew myself as me. I just know myself as Wren Windows. I didn’t own my business, my business owned me.
It was then I started giving myself permission to take breaks. Two weeks away from the phone, email, bills, clients, crewmembers, and the constant urging to do just one more thing. Maybe you want to remodel your house or work on restoring that El Camino you’ve been putting off.. Maybe you just want to practice cooking or painting. Maybe you want to binge all the superhero television series you’ve missed. Maybe get in your car and find a new place to sit and look at the world. Maybe a beach, lake, mountain, stream, ski hill, or an old farmhouse without wifi in the middle of a frozen field of snow with a glass of Scotch and a long cigar. Whatever it is, just take time away from work. Trust me, when you come back you’ll be sharper and have a new perspective. You’ll be refreshed.
It’s not enough to just do something else though. It’s important that you give yourself permission to turn this highly tuned, constant attention engine off for a while. No guilt. No thoughts of what you might be missing. It’ll be there when you return. There’s very little that can’t survive a little time away. Prepare for it. Tell key partners and colleagues you’ll be away. Trust someone else to take the calls. Go introduce yourself to you again and remember what the part of you that isn’t a window cleaner or a pressure washer or a business owner is like. You’re going to like that person. I know I did.
Then come back and do this year as strong as ever, knowing there’s a part of you waiting for a return visit next winter.
Good luck and Happy New Year.
- Rick Wren