Happy Herbivore Blog

December 10, 2012

Minimalist Monday: Change is Hard, but Good

My life is always changing — most often, it's my surroundings. I like to think I'm the type of personality that rolls around in change. Really wallows in it. It's true: I like the challenge and excitement of the new and unknown, but there have been changes in my life — changes that were made for me and thrust upon me that I wasn't so hot for. I came to realize I liked change that I can control. Or change that *I* ignited.



I've also learned, as we all do in life, that you can't run away from your problems (they follow you) and starting over is a bit problematic, because you're always you and everything that's happened to you.

Still, I believe we can change. I believe that change, as hard and stressful as it can be, is often good — and necessary. Even when we don't see that as the change is happening because we're too busy losing our marbles.

Adopting a plant-based diet was a change for me — a great change. Being a minimalist was another difficult, but necessary (and wonderful) change. Marrying my husband was a change. Leaving my lawyer job to write a cookbook was a change — and there are so many small changes I can't even remember but surely had lasting effects. 

In the end, change is change. Like life, it's what we make of it. I like to believe that we can make the most of it. 

Today, I'm sharing a story about a friend of mine in hopes I can inspire you to make necessary changes in your life — or just change something you want to change, or perhaps, fear change and the unknown a little less when it happens.

Sarah* and I have been friends for years. We went to law school together — Sarah is a successful (and busy) lawyer and loves her job. After a few years at a large firm, Sarah decided to go out on her own. Opening your own law office is just like opening up any other small business, so it was through the challenges (and rewards) of owning your own business that Sarah and I bonded further.

A few months after opening her office, Sarah put an ad in the paper for an assistant and found Lisa*. Lisa had experience as a legal secretary and was passionate about the area of law Sarah practiced. They hit it off in the interview, so Sarah hired her on the spot. From the start, it was a perfect fit. Sarah and Lisa worked well together. Their personalities and work styles were complementary. Meanwhile, business was booming. Sarah was getting more and more clients,  and Lisa was happy to take on more and more work. Eventually, Lisa was running the entire office — she was paying the bills, invoicing clients, and managing the trial calendar and Sarah's schedule. She made it so easy for Sarah. All Sarah had to do was meet with clients, go to court and do the lawyer work (i.e., writing motions). Everything was perfect and Sarah couldn't be happier. This went on for two years. 

Then one lazy Sunday. Sarah received an email from Lisa. She wasn't coming in on Monday. She quit. 

Sarah's heart started to race. What was she going to do? Lisa did everything. Sarah realized she hadn't done the office finances in two years and had no idea what invoices were paid or due — Lisa had taken care of all of that. Lisa had also taken care of the blog, social media, and the ads they placed in various papers/websites. Sarah didn't know the first thing about social media, or even how to update her website or blog. Sarah also didn't know the status of certain projects, such as when documents were expected back from Kinko's, and so on. 

Sarah's head was about to explode. How was she going to survive this? And how could Lisa quit just before one of the biggest trials of her career?

After the panic started to settle, Sarah decided to focus on the trial that was starting on Monday. The phone at the office could go unanswered, email unchecked, and invoices not paid for a day. It would be all right. 

Sarah pulled it together and the trial went well, but even with her best poker face, Sarah's client could tell something was wrong. Sarah didn't want to say anything to her client; it wasn't exactly professional to unload her personal issues on her client, but she did. Sarah had to tell someone. Sarah's client said, "My daughter went through this recently with her roommate. All of a sudden the roommate says she's moving out. That's it. Just leaves, sticking my daughter with the entire rent with no notice. It worked out well though. My daughter found a new roommate who is a lovely girl. They're already the best of friends." This gave Sarah hope that it would work out for her, too. 

As the weeks wore on, Sarah realized things weren't as perfect as she thought. She realized that Lisa had left a lot of projects unfinished and forgotten or worse — she'd tell Sarah they were handled and finished when they really weren't, and Sarah had never thought to check to make sure because she trusted and adored Lisa. Then one of Sarah's clients confessed they didn't care for how Lisa sometimes treated them on the phone and that Lisa's invoices were often incorrect or filled with typos. They'd almost hired another lawyer because of it, but liked Sarah so much as a person they stayed.

In retelling her experience to me, Sarah described it to me as going somewhere, and on first glance, you think the place is lovely, but the longer you stay and look around, you start to see wallpaper peeling off the wall, water stains on the ceiling in the corner, wear on the rug — things you don't see right away or notice.

Anyway, two amazing things happened as a result of the change that momentarily terrorized her life. Sarah got more involved with the business side of her business. By doing the finances, she found ways to cut corners and save. By talking to her clients (rather than having Lisa sending letters, etc.), she developed deeper relationships with clients and provided better customer service that led to more work. Repeat clients or clients recommending her to a friend. Sarah also started blogging (instead of tasking Lisa to do it), which she realized she enjoyed. She also realized she was a much better writer than Lisa, who was giving the office website, blog, and social media the bare minimum effort, while lying to Sarah about their effectiveness. (Sarah has since turned her blog and website into a recruitment tool for new clients). Finally, Sarah found Amy — Lisa's replacement, who is doing an amazing job. 

The change was hard, and for a while — terrifying, but everything ended up okay in the end.

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