Monday, October 5, 2009

Discontented Rumblings

An amorphous sense of discontent has plagued me lately. An inkling that time is going by much too quickly, and I’m not using it well. A suspicion that no one in my world is happy with me, including me. Small personal goals seem as far outside my reach as lofty universal ones. I can no more keep my bathroom clean than I can achieve world peace. There is not one aspect of my life that I can say is where I think it could be or know it should be.

It’s been more than a year since I emerged from the over-stressed sleep-deprived fog I inhabited for the first two years of running the restaurant. And yet, I feel I’ve accomplished nothing in the past fifteen months. True, I’ve spent most of that recovered energy just keeping the business viable through tough economic times. But I really don’t like the feeling that I’m throwing all my weight into this thing just to keep it from going backward. When do we get to go forward? Ever?

And then there’s Old Age. I don’t feel it creeping up on me. I feel like I’m running full speed away from it, but it’s matching me step for step. And its legs are longer than mine…

When I first began to entertain the notion of buying a business, every "how to" book I read exhorted one to write up a set of goals. Where do you want to be in six months? In a year? In five years? I never took that advice. Something told me that I was stepping off into such alien territory that I couldn’t possibly have a clue where I was going or how long it was going to take me to get there. I guess I looked at my business venture as a "Walkabout." It was all about the journey, not the destination.

As it turns out, that attitude has probably been my salvation, as well as my cross. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t even gone in the same direction I thought I was going when I started out, and it’s a safe bet that I have not achieved anything I would have recognized as "goals" at the outset. "Assemble a crew of workers who will actually show up when they’re scheduled" and "chase down food purveyors who believe Scappoose is forty miles outside of Outer Mongolia" would not have struck me as tasks difficult enough to qualify as goals…and yet, accomplishing just these simple things has been like a quest for the Grail. So if I had said, "I want to have increased sales by 20% and banked 50k in profits after three years," I would be living with failure that was beyond dismal, at this point. If I had not chucked it all months ago, based on my inability to accomplish…anything.

Recently, in the midst of an argument with my grocery rep, he said to me, "You want to be a $1,000,000.00 restaurant, don’t you?" I didn’t have to think very long…I said, "No, Kirk, I just want to make a living. If I wanted to make a million dollars, I sure as hell wouldn’t be running a restaurant in a little bitty town like this."

"I just want to make a living." But I’m not doing that yet. Haven’t taken one dollar out of the damned thing. But the doors are still open, and it’s paying its own bills. Still, I wonder whether I haven’t set my sights too low. Maybe if I had said I wanted to make a million, I would at least be drawing a salary by now. But would that have been enough to motivate me to keep going? Hard to say; but I suspect that if I thought I was going to (or needed to) make any money off this thing in the first five years, I would have been bummed or broke enough to get out by now.

But when people ask me how it’s going, I’m getting a little tired of saying, "Well, we’re not losing money!" as if that was the best I can hope for. At some point, it has to do more than pay for itself.

Doesn’t it?

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

I have absolutely nothing to say, but I just want you to know I'm reading,listening and keeping fingers crossed for you.