October 25, 2018

From Namaste’ to Wu Wei…How I Lasted 10 Years as a Yoga Studio Owner

“About half of all new establishments survive five years or more and about one-third survive 10 years or more.”

– Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

The road to success is curvy, steep, and never-ending. It’s a path to nowhere, yet so many people, including myself, keep climbing and climbing, thinking we’re only a few hundred feet away from the ever-elusive idea of success, only to find ourselves faced with the reality that we have once again been fooled by a false summit. For some, a false summit is too much. The climb has been too tough requiring too much sacrifice; they have no more energy or love to give and they are ready to call it a day.

If you spend any time climbing Colorado’s highest peaks, our famous 14’ers, you will inevitably find yourself enduring some of the wildest weather along the way to the summit. The dark, cold moments at the base, the beautiful sun and blue skies along the way, and, sometimes, the black clouds that threaten to swallow you whole leaving you with nowhere to go for protection. In those moments when you’re sure the top of the peak will offer some protection – or at least, the reward of reaching the top, finding yourself on a false summit is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Those moments are game changers on the mountain, just as they are in real life and in business.

To make the decision to keep climbing, despite the darkness, are the steps that change you. During the dark moments you have nothing to rely on but hope, courage and luck. You say a little prayer and you keep moving toward the top even when you can’t see. And, if you’re lucky enough, you go from dark to light to find yourself standing above the clouds with the sun shining down on you once again. You feel light in your step, you forget about your blisters, you ignore your screaming shoulders and you put your head down and keep climbing, excited to finally reach the summit. But shortly after the celebration begins, you quickly realize that this last part is going to take you longer than you expected. For every three steps you take, you get knocked back four. It’s a non-stop fight to get to the top of the peak, and then, when you do, it’s not even the summit! Your peak is still another hour away, the trail is steeper than ever, the summit feels completely unreachable, and you die a little death.

You instantly feel all of the miles, you can barely breathe, and you miss the life you used to have. It does not feel like you’ve been on this mountain for hours, it feels like it has been days. You are tired, pissed off, bruised and battered. Then you remember. You remember that you are doing something more than half of the population of our world will never do. You remember that you have walked this path for too freaking long to give in now, and you remember the reason you started in the first place. This is how one-third of all businesses survive ten years…they dust themselves off, take a deep breath and carry on. One foot in front of the other. As slow as need be. Even when you get to the top, even if you make it ten years, there may be yet another path to climb. If you’re lucky, you keep climbing those mountains and you keep reaching for success, more difficult with each new path, yet more rewarding. There is no summit to success. It’s a never-ending path, and if you go into any business with this way of thinking then you will make it into the one-third of ‘successful’ businesses.

If you keep reaching, with no end goal in sight, then you too will make it ten years. It’s up to you to fight, and at times, the weather is too dangerous to continue on, so you turn around, you make little adjustments, you get creative, and you show back up the next day to try again.

My advice is to offer you no advice, only love and my own personal climbing story. It’s a dream come true that I have lasted ten years as a yoga studio owner, but dreamy is not how I would describe my climb. It’s hard to work for yourself no matter how glorifying it may seem. You have to be someone that can walk with blisters, through the black clouds and hailstorms, brave but not fearless, to keep your doors open year to year.

It’s lonely at the top, especially at the false summit. You look around and realize there is no one that can help you. It’s your path, and yours to walk alone. Your friends and family, they walk with you, but when it comes down to those months you can’t pay your rent or payroll, there is no one to figure out how to make it happen but you. You are alone as an entrepreneur, and the false summits are both the hardest and the most beautiful moments of your life. The climb to success has the capacity to change you, to completely turn your world upside down as you see it, and it’s this change that makes life worth living.

“Ever forward, never backward” -Big Magic

To celebrate my ten years as a yoga studio owner, I plan to share with you TedTalks, books, articles, YouTube videos, and podcast that have helped me to climb over a handful of false summits during my ten-year climb as a yoga studio owner.

The Ted Talk I share with you today came at the perfect time, the dark cloud was thick and suffocating, and it helped me to find the energy I needed to keep walking toward the top.

Two years ago, I dismantled my business. At the time, my business was known as Qi Functional Training Centers, a dual business owned by two people. One side of the business was an athletic club/gym, the other business was my Spin-Yoga studio.

The owner of the gym and I teamed up together, not as business partners but as two people with two different business models to brand one name. During our five years together, we grew independently, yet offered our growth as one membership-based studio. He owned the two gyms of our dual business and two years after I came on, he decided to open a spin studio of his own that he calls Ryders. I launched the Spin-Yoga and QiYoga Teacher Trainings and opened QiYoga Edgewater and QiYoga City Park. Together we launched our Lowry location, another spin-yoga studio but with his spin class model. It was confusing, hard to keep up with, and it caused a lot of competition within our once peaceful ‘partnership’, yet we were wildly successful.

It’s hard to believe that we made it five years together and built our ‘empire’, as we called it, to the age-old definition of success. But it was only a false summit. We dismantled, and I fell. I fell hard all the way back to the beginning of my climb. It seemed that everything I had spent the last seven years creating – my business model, my brand, and my reputation, was destroyed. I had never been through a business break-up before, so I had no clue what signs to look for or what to expect.

Caught off guard and totally underprepared, the aftermath of our split proved to be almost the final nail in my coffin. To look back now and think of all the things that went wrong, getting lost on the path so many times trying to scramble my way back to the top with bloody knees, sore feet, and tired heart was almost too much to handle. My stress levels were at an extreme level, and I was slowly experiencing the death of my business.

No one, including me, believed I was going to make it. I started to get sick, seven times in the course of six months. I ended up in the ER and really wondered whether I was going to survive the climb. The clouds had gotten so thick, so dark that there was no way I could continue doing business the way I once had. It was time to retreat and go back down the path. Seeking for one ray of sun to light my journey, I scrambled for alternate views and perspectives about the stress I was feeling. Today’s Ted Talk proved to be that ray of sun that lit a different way, a different perspective on how to use my stress as motivation and courage to keep moving toward the top. Today, I can say that this shift in perspective is one of the things that saved me and one of the reasons QiFlow made it to ten years.

There is so much more to my story, but for now, I would like to leave you with this…

”Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and glorious at the end.”

Today I stand on another false summit, enjoying the glory of this fleeting moment because I know that this moment is my moment before it becomes messy again. Soon I will take off toward the top, exploring my way through the obstacle course of the mountain, so I can once again feel the power of standing in a place most people will never experience.

Never again will I climb for success. I stay on the path, through blue skies and black clouds, only to revel in these most beautiful moments when I stand on top of the world. It’s here that I will pause to gaze around and absorb the gloriousness of the climb and all it has taught me, loving it deeply as inspiration and motivation to continue my journey.

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