This is me in October of 2014, the day I signed my lease and embarked on the most exhilarating and terrifying journey of my life—opening Viscera. The shop was completely new to me and had been sitting empty on Broadway for the last thirty years. When this photo was taken, I was 23 years old and this was my “crazy project”. I wasn’t sure how, but I was going to open my very own brick and mortar store in the heart of Downtown Oakland. Looking at this photo brings up a lot of emotions for me. It reminds me of my excitement, nervousness, fear, uncertainty, pride but most importantly perseverance. I distinctly remember that around this time, I was being told several times a day by brand reps and the like, that my project was impossible and I’d never make it (this was also before Uber had announced they were moving to Oakland). Yet, here I am in 2017 with a shop that’s become my second home, a community space for creatives, and has become a part of the fabric of Downtown Oakland.
Like life in general, entrepreneurship will throw the unexpected at you. It requires so much mental stamina, emotional agility, but most of all tenacity. In the last couple of years, I’ve definitely hit lows where I feel like the world is over and I ugly cry over a pint of ice cream. But, I’ve also had such joyous moments that my face hurt from smiling so much. In all of this, the most valuable things I’ve learned are strategies to persevere in the face of difficulty. This isn’t to say I have it all figured out, because I certainly don’t, but my hope is that I can share some of the things I learned along the way and help someone else going through a similar struggle. I’m not a medical expert, so this is by no means psych advice, but I am someone who’s struggled with anxiety for a long time and these are some things I’ve personally used to cope. Here are 3 ways I’ve used to help persevere when things get tough
Say it Out Loud
When things aren’t going well my first response is to shut-down. It’s our natural stress response— it’s fight, flight, or freeze. It can be overwhelming and so I want to put my head in the sand and not acknowledge the difficult thing. But, when we shut down, usually a sense of shame and embarrassment follows, even if it’s not warranted. When sales started slowing down at the shop, I thought it was all my fault and that I’m a terrible business owner and felt like I was failing. Rather than seeing it for what is was—slow sales being caused by construction on my block. Once I started talking to friends about it and saying my challenges out loud, I was able to hear it for myself and gain some perspective. I realized my business wasn’t slowing down because I’m suddenly I’ve turned into a dud or something. But if I didn’t say it out loud, I would have been stuck in my own negative train of thought and not taken action.
Let Yourself Be Vulnerable
Like most people, I selectively show the good parts of myself. With social media’s growth it’s become the norm. We all put the filtered, best looking versions of ourself into the world, and I don’t just mean this literally—we do this emotionally. We only show the wins, but never the process of getting there. Despite this, I’d like to encourage you to choose vulnerability over perfection. Much of my own anxiety (which is a common one) is the fear that I’m not good enough. And it’s only natural, we’re inundated with perfect photos on instagram of perfect lives. We’re taught to strive for perfection rather than fulfillment. However, there’s liberation in being vulnerable and showing your real-self, scars and all. When I launched our Indiegogo Campaign, I was so nervous because it wasn’t “perfect”. In my anxious mind, I thought people might see the flaws and wouldn’t want to be a part of the campaign. But then something magical happened, friends and customers reached out and wrote, thanking me for sharing my story. I got emails from people telling me they experienced the shift in Downtown Oakland’s development themselves. I got messages of encouragement, and heard stories of how a piece from Viscera made a difference in their lives. Our campaign is honest, it’s real, and it’s vulnerable. I’m talking about a difficult thing that happened to my business, but that’s what we need more of. It’s not perfect and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So when you’re trying to persevere, don’t strive for perfection, let yourself be you. Be vulnerable.
Ask for Help
This is the most difficult thing I’ve learned. Perseverance is about making it through. The definition is “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” It says nothing about independence, nothing about perfection, and nothing about ownership. As a “solopreneur”, I felt like I had to try to do it all myself or it wasn’t my own. That’s not true. No one does anything alone. So when you’re trying to do “something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success” remember that you aren’t alone. You have a community. It’s actually one of the reasons I love Oakland. Oakland is tenacious and stubborn, it’s gritty, and it’s not apathetic or frail. We’re a city of creatives, innovators, and we’re all in it together.
So, with all this being said. I hope that my strategies for perserverence can be helpful. Right now, we're half way through our Indiegogo campaign and we're trying to 'achieve success despite difficulty'. If you want to be a part of our campaign and help keep us in Downtown Oakland, you can contribute here.