Life's better with cake and a sprinkle of fairy dust
Weeks ago, I was in imminent danger of losing my 3-year-old bakery. Call it ignorance, inexperience, laziness (to arm myself with knowledge of contractual law), misplaced trust, complacency… etc., I ran the full gamut of negative emotions from self-blame to resentment to resignation. I had unknowingly put my business in a vulnerable situation and if I had only taken my head out of the clouds for a minute, I might have sooner realised business wasn’t really for the free creative spirits like me, but for the folks with the money, big lawyers, contacts and shrewdness beyond my 30-odd sheltered years of dealing mostly with children and youths.
Don’t get me wrong, the business was doing okay. Despite entering the baking/entrepreneurial scene at the ripe old age of 30 with virtually nothing in my bank account, I had done okay for myself. The company was on to its second outlet, I’d just set up a baking studio to cope with the demand for my highly edutaining baking classes and we were more or less consistently in the black.
A series of events unfolded that made me question the feasibility of the 30-year empire I’d set out to build. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I had not even begun to enjoy the spoils of my labour yet and here I was facing the likelihood years of my hard work and genius could be taken away from me in a split second. Add to that the indignity of being attacked for my personal choices and indirectly accused of mismanaging a business that I ate, slept and breathed.
Those near and dear know that the initial stages of this ordeal involved copious amounts of alcohol and alcohol-soaked karaoke (think Singaporean Whitney Houston in a dingy Jalan Besar pub after four Carlsberg Towers).
The middle stage involved a few tears and a fair bit of cussing. I believe my default way to address my enemies at that point was “those lil wankers”.
As I am typing this, I hope I have somehow entered into the final stages of finding peace within, aka learning how to deal with all this shit. Through it all, I have perhaps grown a bit wiser and proudly kept my pretty warped sense of humour.
1) Giving thanks
Thankfully, hee, daily thanksgiving was already my game way before shit hit the fan. Gratitude is highly recommended for anyone aspiring to live life as efficiently as possible. It changes the way you look at yourself entirely from being a passive being in your own microcosm to knowing you are an incredibly powerful being in the grand scheme of things.
One of the first things I was grateful for when trouble started was knowing that losing everything wouldn’t make me a loser. I was already a winner by the very fact that I had dared to try. And this was no half-assed feeble try ok. This was three solid years of long hours, no safety net, getting my hands dirty, risking it all and dealing with the devil occasionally kind of try. For the daredevil effort, I deserved a superhero’s welcome in bankruptee hell, if that was where I was heading.
2) Letting go
A few times when I felt I had my back against the wall, I was ready to fuck it all and walk away from the business. Dare I say I was finally ready to give up and quit?
But wait a minute… I thought winners don’t quit?! Giving up meant I had allowed challenges to stop me from visualizing my future. Was I walking away from my dreams? Had I stopped visualizing my 30-year empire at barely the 3-year mark? Was my imagination incapable of a way out?
Nope. I wasn’t giving up. I’d merely decided to let go, that’s not quite the same as giving up. I was letting go of the chokehold that the situation had on my thoughts, feelings, reactions and wellbeing. I was mentally preparing to raze all that I’d built to the ground and I felt strangely okay with that, because I, the gamechanger, am still walking.
3) Choosing love
On any particularly bad day, when the ‘lil wankers’ had dealt me an unusually nasty blow, my first reaction was to react with hatred and anger. Bad idea. The other relationships in my life became more tense. My liver hated me. I was sending out the wrong frequencies to attract what I truly deserved – love and happiness.
So I caught myself from even thinking or speaking the term ‘the lil wankers’. Instead, gasp, I sent thoughts of love and happiness the lil wank… oops, their way.
Did it transform my demons into angels and make all my money/legal issues go away overnight? Nada. The only person it transformed was me. I’m guessing that’s a good thing? Because you see, I figured the world doesn’t need someone better than me to be ok, it simply needs the best, happiest version of me. And to be the best, happiest me, I choose love.
I chose to love each customer that I encountered in the day. Even as I grimly informed them that I could be closed next month, I still flashed my most brilliant smile and rendered my most gentle service.
I chose to love the special needs kids that I worked with and that love spilled over to their caregivers. So with the help (and free money) from my best friend, J, we gave a baking workshop to a big bunch of kids and their parents on a Saturday afternoon.
It was like I was determined to rub off the Cake Fairy touch on as many people as possible in a day.
The joy was very real, as I thanked J for helping to put a smile back on my face that I’d missed for a while. J reminded me that I’d put smiles on the faces of 30 people in that one afternoon. When bad things happen, we always have a choice to do a good thing and the fastest way to find something to smile about is to find someone to put a smile on.
The price of choosing love is the risk that your love will not be returned. But hey, great love will always be returned, with interest. The love sent out into the universe will always come back to you. As I chose to send out love in place of negativity, the love returned from staff, customers, contractors, suppliers, mentors, friends and family, virtual strangers… was just overwhelming. I’m not sure if other folks in business encounter the same kind of people as I did? I had a supplier that found me a new kitchen, contractors that text out of the blue to offer help, strangers like Uber drivers offered to pray for me, customers that showered me with gifts, referrals and encouragement, new orders that just appeared magically… And this was just the tip of the iceberg. Call it goodwill, but I call it pretty good returns.
4) Party on
In the midst of all the crap, I realised what an unhappy being I was about to become. I’d forgotten to celebrate life and this adventure called empire-building. So while the worst of the legal battles ensued in my mailbox, I threw a few great parties to celebrate nothing in particular, even bad O-level results. Every breath was reason enough to celebrate. Nobody died, nobody got injured, we still have plenty of reason to celebrate.
I used to tell my team that building this empire was like a rollercoaster ride. Not for the unpredictability, but for every ounce of effort and ploughing through each day of repetitive action, we are slowly making our way up to the top of the rollercoaster and gaining potential energy at the top of each peak so we can launch into the world with maximum momentum when opportunity meets preparation, so the world won’t know what’s hit it. The valleys? Those are just for us to catch your breath. As we get thrown around like a rag doll while the ride negotiates all the sharp turns and curves, the ride suddenly plunges into scary darkness. That’s where we get our picture taken by the on-ride camera that’s hidden in some tunnel portion of the ride. The darkest of the valleys, ironically, is where we get our hilariously unglamourous picture taken, with bulging eyes and mad hair, so after the ride we may go collect our beautiful memory of this exhilarating adventure from the gift shop. And years later, when we are all too old to ride this rollercoaster any more, we will take out this picture and have a good laugh with our loved ones and remember the good ol’ times as young, foolhardy entrepreneurs. So relish every moment, the peaks, the troughs and the scary darkness bits.
The outcome of this nightmare? Right now, as this is being published, I have no bloody idea. I have no clue where money is coming from or where things would go. But you know what? I woke up this morning and in my mind’s eye, I am moving out of the valley and heading straight for the next peak in my thrill ride. And I am definitely gonna remember to smile for the on-ride camera.