I spent many of my undergrad evenings hunkered down in the comfy green armchair at the coffee shop “College Drip.”
Sure, it sounds like something you cure with a shot of penicillin, but it served exceptional espresso and was where I’d pretend to study when I was obsessing over life after graduation.
“Don’t worry,” Claire said. “Seventy percent of college students change their major.”
Claire was a whippet-thin barista with a cascade of skull tattoos lacing her arms. She’d worked there since ‘91 when she quit school to concentrate on her band appropriately named “Downward Mobility.”
“I’ve changed my major three times,” I mumbled.
“Let me guess,” she hummed. “You wanted to be—
“—an astronaut, then an FBI agent,” I finished. “But then I crushed on my parasitology professor and convinced myself I could spend the rest of my life studying tapeworms. . . . Until hot stool microscopic examination day.”
“Eww.” Claire wrinkled her nose.
While another student placed an order, I sat quietly with the folder of letters in my lap. “Congratulations,” they began.
“Take a look at this,” I said, handing her one letter. I fiddled with the strap of my overalls while she read.
“You’re going to law school?”
“I don’t know,” I sighed.“What do you mean you don’t know? Why wouldn’t you?”
“Let’s see,” I said, counting the reasons on my fingers. “Crazy expensive. Lawyers are usually the bad guys —”
“— like Blonde guys in The Karate Kid,” Claire said, nodding her head.
“What if I get there and hate it?” I banged the letters against my head.
“Listen,” Claire said, “Don’t stress. It’ll come to you. Now get out of here before you start sprouting roots. And eat something!
I reluctantly took Claire’s advice and went next door for Chinese.
The small restaurant was quiet – just a few students and a girl studying behind the counter. The smell was incredible, though, and my stomach sprang to life.
After finishing my Mu Shu, I reached for the crunchy golden fortune cookie on the table. I tore open the plastic wrapping and broke the cookie in two, eating the first bit while staring blankly at the water dripping from my iced tea glass.
I pulled out the thin, white strip of paper.
I’ve often thought about that fortune cookie when I’ve faced hard decisions.
But answers rarely come to us like that. And life isn’t supposed to be easy. Especially now.
You don’t reach a certain employee count or revenue number and then suddenly have all the answers. There’s not crystal ball that tells you to change your business hours, sell online, or let a trusted employee go – to keep the lights on.
But find comfort in this: You’re not alone, Small Business.
No one has all the answers – not the largest of the large companies or the most established entrepreneurs. No one knows what they’re doing. Especially now.
And while the “not knowing” can be frustrating, the uncertainty makes our journeys beautiful.
If you knew everything, then you wouldn’t feel that excitement when the day’s first customer walks through the door. You wouldn’t be surprised when your business receives 5-stars on Yelp because you gave more time helping someone than you had to give. You wouldn’t share a celebratory hug when your best salesperson tells you she’s having a COVID baby.
So go out and make your mistakes. Appreciate the consequences. Learn from them. And when you lay your head on your pillow at night thinking about your small business, remind yourself that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.
Fortune cookies, on the other hand. Trust fortune cookies every time.