Finding Reason in Entrepreneurship

This afternoon, I had an unexpected two-hour break due to a meeting cancellation. And the weather was unexpectedly sunny! So instead of holing up at my desk to catch up on emails, I went for a run to the beach. At one point in my life this may have felt like a waste of time, but today I reasoned that a) the emails would be there a few hours later, and b) it’s been a stressful few weeks and some head-clearing was in order.

A lot of thoughtful processing can be done while the body is moving. I’ll spare you the details of my own thought process, but the general topics covered were:

-How can I grow my business?

-Why did I start a business?

-When will I ever pay off my student loans?

-Will I ever buy a studio space?

-Should I have gone to law school instead?

Some of these thoughts aren’t particularly pleasant. Thankfully, they are balanced out by the beautiful moments I get to take part in while working as a music therapist every day. When I am feeling overwhelmed by the financial aspects of choosing a career in a non-existent field (in Maine), I just consider the changes I see in the clients I work with, and I feel that I’m doing the right thing. Alas, even when one is doing the ‘right thing’, one still has to consider finances and make strides to grow. So I run, and I think, and I feel stress, and I keep running.

Today, my run turned in to a walk as I reached the ocean- I took my earbuds out (I was listening to Fela Kuti), took a few deep breaths, and listened to the growing tidal waves splashing up on the beach. An older woman was approaching with a small dog, and we exchanged pleasantries. This turned in to a more personal conversation about the area, which I had moved to recently, and our families. When she found out I was the great-niece of the famous Red Soucy, she got a big smile and began to share stories about my uncle’s impact on his community. He was a barber, but also a comedian and a musician. He spent years playing music in nursing homes and rehab facilities- moving people to tears, and then to laughter (most often, tears of laughter). It was really touching that a stranger had such kind words and fond memories of one of my loved ones. And as I walked away and eventually resumed my run, my thoughts changed…

-How can I make a positive impact on my clients and my community?

-Why did I start a business?

-When will I let myself enjoy my success and relax a bit?

-In 50 years, will one of my grand-nieces be running on this beach and meet a stranger who says, “Oh, your great aunt used to sing at my nursing home!” Will she shed a tear of joy and be inspired to keep moving?

When we make choices based on impact and not on financial success, we are leaving a positive mark in the world. Yes, we should strive to be successful and get paid what we’re worth; but in the end we can each choose what success means to us. I’ve been struggling with ‘competition’ lately, knowing that there are people who want to make a negative impact on others so that their business can thrive. I’ve received advice from colleagues about how to get ‘above’ the competition, and I’ve realized that the success I want isn’t the kind you get from beating anybody at a chess game. I moved to Maine to see the field of music therapy grow, and it has. I came here to improve the lives of my clients, inspire future music therapists, and create a culture that has room for complementary and integrative therapies. These things are happening while I’m working so hard, having long days of driving to clients, whether I notice them or not. My heart is full knowing that even though I may die with my student loans, I will die having made a difference. So I may as well enjoy the ride and give myself some time to listen to the ocean.