Looking Back on 2015

I can’t believe we’ve arrived in December already! It seemed like moments ago when my partner and I were knocking out our grand plans for 2015, and yet here we are, in the last month of the year and what a year it has been! “Eventful”, doesn’t begin to describe our year. We’ve had an incredibly tumultuous year, fuelled with economic slowdowns (less shopping money around), natural disasters (haze), health scares in the family and even death of loved ones.

In all honesty, this is a year I’d be happy to see the end of. Friends, suppliers and even giants in the fashion industry have tumbled, downsized, closed down or moved on, and for a while, we were wondering about our own business trajectory in the midst of all these happenings. Since December is the month we take stock, do evaluations, start planning for the New Year (I know fellow girl bosses who start planning in June??), I thought I’d share my greatest takeaways for 2015 in today’s blog.

1. Hold That Tongue

Since 2015 was such a difficult year, there were many difficult situations that arose beyond our control. I’m a firm believer of Murphy’s Law: “Anything that CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong!!! “ In 2015, this law seemed to operate at an accelerated pace! I also believe that we are meant to live in communities and a bunch of like-minded girlfriends “sharing” our paths, and encouraging each other along is my preferred version of “time-out” and it usually energizes me.

Incidentally, it was at one of these chit-chat sessions, that I had one of those “aha” moments. Just listening to myself whining none stop to my pals, and I wonder “so how is this going to help in the grand scheme of things?” I stopped talking mid-way and caught a glimpse of my own reflection in the glass panels at the café - lets just say it wasn’t a pretty sight.

It was Charles Swindoll who wrote that “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.” This is one of those huge statements that at times inspires me, and sometimes exasperates me, especially when I know I’m not in the “right” zone. Regardless of zones, complaining and whining, are not very effective reactions, and apart from letting off of steam, they are not very effective efforts in the pursuit of practical solutions.

In fact, the more I talk about the problems, the more the problems expand in my mind and the more I feel sorry for myself and the more dejected I feel. Then I need more comfort, so I seek out more “understanding” friends hoping that they will commiserate with my plight. I mean, after the 10th time of saying “I’m so tired” or “I’m so stressed”, surely your body hears you and believes whatever state you say you are! (Yah right, you’ve never been there, its simply little ol’ me ;) – I understand completely!) In 2015, I resolved anew to hold my tongue and use it to speak LIFE more aggressively!

The other reason to hold my tongue is quite simple. I’ve got a ‘little’ temper, I’m still learning to tame. If something STUPIACK (Singlish word for something so incredibly stupid you want to “PIACK” {sound of SLAP} somebody) happens, and I loose my tongue in the moment of anger, the words that are spoken (screamed more likely), will cut-down and hurt people, most times unnecessarily and perhaps blow the issue right out of proportion.

In the general scheme of things, regrets, apologies, amends etc are always difficult, unpleasant and some words spoken in anger can never be retracted. Even if the action was wrong, I have learnt that anger is usually not a very productive response. The best response is to hold that tongue, withhold judgement and walk away. Some issues need space and time. Nobody stares at a tree and comments: ”Wow, look at it grow!” yet we know that, well - trees do grow. Just because you don’t see it in action, doesn’t mean nothing is happening!

2.     Done Is Better Than Perfect

This is an incredibly painful lesson for the creative perfectionist in me. Imagine that grouchy old woman grumbling: “if you want to get anything done around here, you’ve got to do it yourself!” and that would be me! Its not that I have blinders on or anything, its more like I’m wearing a pair of ME-coloured shades and I visualize everything through those lenses. Styles, products, shops, branding, promotions, everything on social media and this perfectionistic streak bleeds into our family life too! Home décor and household chores, grocery shopping (I’ve got meal menus on excel!), the kids’ schoolwork, even the family holiday is handled like a project. I was doing so much for everybody (because I love them and I love my business right?) I had no room for ME. I was pushed by my “problems” instead of being lead by my dreams!

Then, it happened. My partner’s father was hospitalised and what was originally a simple day surgery became a lot more complicated, and our infrastructure (both physical and emotional), which was already operating at maximum capacity collapsed. We couldn’t be at the hospital, do the business and watch over a child facing major exam simultaneously. Something had to give. I had to take off those rose-tinted lenses and realise that even if I was willing to get down and dirty, 24/7, I was not enough. I had to ask for help and trust that the people around me, my family, my friends, my colleagues are willing and able to help us, keep the business going and the family together. I had to stop worrying and start prioritizing the right things. I had to trust my team in my absence.

I re-visited the reasons I chose to become an entrepreneur in the first place. It was to craft the life that I desire. Therefore, being present for a family emergency is me walking that walk, and I resolved to do it with NO overwhelm, not being a martyr, no regrets and no anxiety. I chose to believe that while I’m prioritising what matters most, the rest will fall into place. I chose to let go, and accept that 80% done, is better than 100% perfectly undone.

In fact, next week, we’re off for our year-end family holiday and all I’ve done is booked the flights and the accommodation! No spread sheet for daily itineraries and lists of places to visit in order to optimise our travel schedule! This year, I got the kids to take charge of a day’s adventure each, and we’ll see how that turns out. I’ll be entrusting my team to watch over the business and do the sales in our absence, so that I can be fully present with my family during our holiday.

3. Practice Gratitude

2015 opened my eyes to the fragility of life and business. We lead such busy lives, chasing our dreams, hustling for the business, that sometimes we assume the people we love, will always be there waiting for us. We take for granted that we will always have the strength, the health and stamina to keep up our momentum going forward. That’s not really the case. Change is the only constant in life. Kids grow up. People fall sick. Friends grow apart. Fads come and go. The only thing that is we have is the present. Wouldn’t it be such a waste, to spend the “present “ worrying about the“future” or whining about the “past”?

In 2015, I am thankful for the love and support of my family, my team, my friends, my customers and suppliers, and God that holds everything in His hands, yet chose to bless me with this awesome opportunity called Butterflies & Marigolds. Businesses bigger, better and more qualified than us, have fallen or moved on, yet somehow, we are still here. I’m learning not to take any of these blessings for granted, and I’m not going to waste precious time over unfruitful thoughts. In closing, here’s another of my favourite quotes from Charles Swindoll:

“The longer I love, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. So it is with you … we are in charge of our attitudes.”

I’m choosing to end 2015 with an attitude of gratitude. Sure, things could have been better, but then again, things could have been a lot worse. I’m thankful for where we are today, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to work towards where we want to be tomorrow. Have a great December, everybody.