Smooth Seas Do Not Make Skillful Sailors

If ever a saying were true, this was it. There is undoubtedly something very character building about struggling and surviving, finding ways to bend rules, going against the grain and finding your own voice. How much rough with the smooth will you put up with before you give up? Or will you be showing off those war wounds in years to come when you’ve found your version of success and happiness? Do the rewards outweigh the struggles in the long term?

At what point do you say, there has to be more to life than this or do you keep searching and enjoying the journey? Above all the story of the successful creative used to be a tale of struggle and survival, waiting for the right time and place for your skills to shine. These days, noone wants to struggle. Everyone wants Insta success. Overnight.

I have never been one for taking the easy option. I just have this habit of choosing the difficult route. And whilst I wouldn’t say life has been genuinely hard for me (there’s always been a get out clause) I wouldn’t say it has ever been plain sailing.

My business became official in 2012, but a version of it, and the skills that I use in it, have existed in one form or another for over 30 years. Certainly since 2012, I have never considered giving up. That said, I have always endeavoured to keep life as flexible as possible as a survival strategy. Whatever happened to me and whatever route I chose, it still needed to exist in some form. I have always been aware of how quickly things can change.

In addition to keeping my business in business, this has meant I have been able to take the occasional sabatical and do other things, either for the change of scenery, to remind me why I do what I do, or because I just needed a break from money pressures or the lack of social contact. There is no point in being a martyr to the cause, if the cause becomes your own worst enemy.

There can sometimes be nothing more refreshing than a regular and dependable income, no matter how short the duration. When you’re used to every penny being unpredictable, working alone and without much dictation to your routine, a 9-5 in an office can actually be an enjoyable experience. I have done this several times in my six years. Of course, I never had to treat it as a life choice and I have been very glad of that.

This means, unfortunately, that my business has not progressed in the way that other people would expect it to for a design brand. Fashion is an industry of apparent overnight successes, of high follower numbers, Instagram images from exotic locations, London parties, of so called lavish lifestyles. Of course, those of us in the know, know that you can’t believe social media. Behind every one man band there are money worries, isolation issues and motivational hurdles that challenge us every day. But noone ever talks about that.

I don’t know why this is a side that is swept under the carpet as readily as it is. Maybe I am just looking in the wrong places, but I don’t see it popping up on Twitter or Instagram, ever. Of course, it’s not exciting or flash. It’s not the face of the small business. But it is the reality for most of us at some point or another. And I think that those of us in business would get far more support and motivation from knowing we are part of that struggling clan, rather than seeing our neighbours apparently doing incredibly well when maybe they aren’t.

Those struggles should be a celebration of what it means to be a successful business. If everything is handed to you on a plate, you don’t learn anything. You need the struggles to learn the skills and resilience that make you good at what you do. The harder the journey, the better the person behind it and the more satisfying the successess. You learn to really appreciate the good times. You don’t take things forgranted. And we should be talking more about that. Without a doubt.


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