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Doing What Needs to Be Done

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Doing What Needs to Be Done

Just recently I started working with a new client, named Maria. Maria runs a bookkeeping business in Melbourne, and she is stuck. The last 3 years the business has stagnated or even shrunk and things are not going well. In fact things have been going south for the past 3 years or so, ever since Maria’s separation from her husband of 15 years.

Maria has a couple of employees who do most of the routine work in the business and Maria does the quality control, and the complicated stuff. The problem is that over the past 3 years, Maria has struggled to find the motivation to do her work. In the first year after the divorce, Maria chose not to notice what was happening and the business didn’t really suffer much yet. Things just sort of went along more or less on automatic.

But during the past financial year, the warning lights have started flashing more and more excitedly and could no longer be ignored. Clients have started complaining and not paying their bills; A number of clients actually left, and the mood in the office was uncomfortable to say the least.

In June, Maria knew she had to do something drastic or she might even get herself into hot water with the Tax Department. Maria went looking for help and found me.

Maria with her head in the sand

Maria laid her cards on the table for me right from the first conversation. “I’ve had my head in the sand for a while now”, she told me. “But I can’t do it any longer”. “I’ve let my anger and sadness over my marriage failure get the better of me and it’s time I took control again”. “But I just don’t know where to start, I am so far behind, I just can’t get my act together and get on top of things, and things are getting worse all the time.”

I’ve been in situations like that myself in the past 40 years. Back in 2006 for example, I had neglected to do my own business admin for a while, and the task of getting back on top of the books, the admin and the tax became so insurmountable, that I just pretended the problem didn’t exist.

The smell of my own hypocrisy

But reality won’t let itself be ignored forever, no matter how hard you try. I realised one day that I was being a complete hypocrite. I could no longer advise my clients how to run their business, if I couldn’t even manage my own super simple business administration and tax affairs. The smell of my own hypocrisy had become overpowering, and I realised I needed help.

I swallowed my pride, picked up the phone and made an appointment with my accountant. I showed him my pile of manure and we started shoveling. A couple of months later everything was up to date, I’d made an arrangement with the tax department, and I’ve kept my books up to date ever since.

Fessing up to my accountant was a challenge and the next two months were a challenge and talking to the tax department was a challenge too. But the sense of relief I felt when it was all done was incredible. I felt positively ecstatic.

Start shovelling

Maria’s situation is not too dissimilar. We have started clearing up the backlog in the past months, she has had a few challenging conversations with clients and she may yet have to have one with the tax department, but she’s already poking her nose out the other end of the problem and her business will survive and she is already a changed person from the woman I met 3 months ago.

Sometimes we get ourselves in a muddle and before we truly realise what’s happened, the steaming pile of horse manure has become so high that we can’t see our way past it anymore and we go and distract ourselves with other stuff.

In those moments, no amount of self-help podcasts, motivational videos, meditation, mindfulness practice, therapy, or getting in touch with our inner child is going to help. The way to eat an elephant? “One bite at a time”… The only thing that’s going to fix the problem is to sit down behind the pile and to start eating, one spoonful at a time.

Just one word of advice however: When the stench finally invades even the deep dark place you’ve been hiding out in for a while… Accept the fact that you need help… And go and ask for it… It won’t be as bad as you fear… I promise you.

By the way, if you enjoyed reading this article, you may like to read my article about Overwhelm in Business and how to set yourself free again with Kindness.

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