Recently Top Golf opened in Hillsboro, Oregon. If you don’t know what it is, then you haven’t been to one of the cities where it’s located yet; but you probably don’t have long to wait. Right now it feels like every five minutes a new Top Golf is opening up in cities across the country; it’s one of the new ‘things’ everyone wants to go do with family and friends.
My first exposure to it was with Randall (of course it was…the Universe hates me sometimes), so when I first heard that Top Golf was on the agenda for my Uncle’s birthday, there was a sinking feeling in my stomach. I was still only a few months out from going No Contact, and sensitive enough to reminders of everything that I tended to avoid them like the plague.
Ultimately though staying behind wasn’t really an option; I’d bowed out of so many family functions for years that things were moving to an awkward phase where if I didn’t start showing up more family was liable to start forgetting what I look like. So I grit my teeth, changed out of my perpetual pajamas-and-fuzzy-socks routine, and made my appearance.
Top Golf itself is a fairly basic idea…think of what you get by combining a bowling alley and a driving range. People get ‘lanes’ of sorts, and hit balls attempting to score points by landing the balls in scattered holes of varying difficulty; stacking up their scores with the scores of friends to have an ultimate winner. And then in the meantime you have servers coming and going and taking orders for drinks and food (yes, before you ask, it’s pretty amusing when someone drunk tries to hit golf balls).
All in all it’s a pretty civilized way to pass an afternoon…though it’s something I get tired of after a while. Randall on the other hand absolutely loved it; constantly talking about how he wished Top Golf was in the Portland area. Telling everyone around him at one point or another about how much fun it was, and how he wished he could take all of them. Even saying if we made enough money, he’d try buying a franchised location and set it up in the Portland area because it was that popular and would make a lot of money.
Ironic, then, that it opened only three or four weeks after he’d left the state and gone back home.
Remarking on this to my mother, even telling her his fantasy of owning one himself, she just chuckled and informed me that Top Golf had been “coming soon” to Hillsboro for over seven years, since her days on the City Council, and that she could have told him that if he’d ever bothered to talk to her. She’d been part of the Council that approved the request to build in the first place.
Seven years seemed a bit extreme, and I asked why it had taken so long to build, but she said it wasn’t that strange. Between permitting and land issues, and labor contracts and other red tape, these things often take many years to come into fruition even when everyone unanimously wants it to.
That prompted me to think about my own business ventures, and how many years it’s taken for everything to start finding a stride and become what I knew it would from the start. It’s a sore subject, because it was a point of much contention between Randall and I. The fact that my work particularly with Lasting Connections repeatedly stalled out in the first few years meant he ultimately decided I must have been lying first about the profitability and success of the business, and then eventually he even went so far as to accuse me of making up the entire company in my head.
I’d tell him as a startup venture it of course would hit roadblocks and otherwise struggle as it grew into something more, but he would argue back that it wasn’t true. Insisting a business either turned profitable within eighteen months or it was dead in the water and should be dismissed.
Except that just isn’t true. Not in the real world.
First, Lasting Connections was profitable within its’ first six months of existence. Whether or not it could be successful wasn’t in question…but what we were trying to do was grow and expand to a national level, and that required a lot more work, and also meant most of our revenue got poured back into the business instead of findings its’ way into our pockets.
I made less and less for over a year, stretching every dollar while we continued to refine and change and hone our approaches and our systems. Ensuring that the business would long term be a thriving creation…and meaning in the short term great sacrifices were required. Day in and day out Randall would swing between supportive and agitated, one moment telling me how proud he was of my courage taking risks, and my business savvy, and the next moment telling me how everyone in his family and circle of friends thought I was making the whole thing up and that things would never succeed.
Ultimately everything deteriorated to the point where he declared I must have lied and made it all up in order to ‘lure him back’ and convince him to move to Oregon in the first place.
It wasn’t true, but he was convinced it was, and it caused me to start questioning my own judgment more and more. He had all of his friends repeating his words, and because I was so rarely around people of my own circle, I started believing it all to be true; stopped defending myself as much, and even when I tried quickly finding I was tongue tied and unable to really have coherent conversations because I was constantly interrupted or talked over.
It was a nightmare.
But as with everything else, as time has gone by I’ve regained my clarity over the situation…and ironically, recently everything with Lasting Connections has at last fallen into place. Validation is a sweet thing, but the road getting here was long and difficult…made even more so by an unsupportive and abusive partner.
Know this: if you are planning to start or are embarking on any kind of business venture, you have to be prepared to devote the next several years of your life to it. You have to be ready for the fact that you’re going to work your ass off, and there is going to be very little reward in the beginning. People are going to doubt you, and you’re probably going to question yourself from time to time. Unless you are already wealthy or have a wealthy partner, you’re going to struggle financially as over and over again you must make the choice to sustain and grow your business rather than lining your own pockets (no matter how tempting it is or how much you might want to). You’re going to have moments when you regret your choice, and wonder if maybe you should have just taken that desk job to begin with because you’d give almost anything for a steady paycheck.
This is an inevitability. There is no such thing as “an overnight success”; that concept is a myth. A fantasy. A fairy tale. It does not exist. And if someone seems to have achieved just such a thing, I guarantee it’s a mirage; that they might have gained recognition overnight, but the work they’ve put in has taken years of their lives.
Think of the famous people you know, of their stories, and you’ll know I’m right. Actors who are now worth tens of millions of dollars, but who started out waiting tables and sharing tiny apartments with three or four other people just to get by; taking any gig they could, no matter how degrading or embarrassing it was to them later. Anything to get a foot in the door. Or how about the gentleman who invented the GoPro camera…he originally was building something else entirely, and had raised millions of dollars of his friend’s money as investors…and then it failed fantastically and he lost everything. Bankrupt and bereft, he ended up living out of a van on the beach as a surfing bum, and it was there that he invented the first rudimentary prototype for the GoPro camera. He sold various versions of it out of his van for the next few years before he had enough resources to build out the sleek version we know today. To the public, it seems like he succeeded overnight…but it actually took him one spectacular failure, desperation, and then years of developing and refining the idea before success occurred.
Point being: make sure you are devoting yourself to something you really believe in, because everyone around you will question it until you succeed (especially if you’ve tried and failed at other ventures in the past). Surround yourself with the right support system; friends who care about you and want you to be happy, rather than people hoping to hitch a ride on an eventual gravy train. And if you’re in a relationship, make sure it’s with someone who understands the realities of taking risks on enterprenurial pursuits. It won’t work if you’re with someone who requires predictability, stability, and comfort in his or her life…they’ll end up miserable, not to mention the very last thing you want when battling to make your business succeed is to also be doing battle at home. It’s not sustainable (and I say that from personal experience…I damn near lost my sanity by the end before the relationship with Randall ended).
And most of all, stay the course. Had I given up when Randall said I should have, simply because I didn’t have my “overnight success” story, or had I caved to the pressure of everyone else’s insults by calling me a liar or a delusional fool, I would not be where I am now. And what I have now makes those couple of years of struggle worth every minute.
Once I let go of the idea that I was a failure because I hadn’t achieved overnight success, and instead embraced the reality that there is no such thing…I finally found peace with myself. And shortly after the peace came, I was at last rewarded with success.
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.
**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities