March 19, 2017

A Mother’s Journey [Part 40]: The stress test

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Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

I recently shared on Facebook an article by Inc. magazine titled “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship” and it led to a serious discussion about the demons within the entrepreneurial spirit.

Throughout this series for Worcester Sun, I have written often in broad terms about the struggles of entrepreneurship while being sure to highlight the many positives. I have boasted about the ability to take back my time. Above all things, I consistently try to impress upon my readers that entrepreneurship has been a savior for me.

It is a lifeline that can change everything — but after reading this article, I realized that entrepreneurship is not the hero in everyone’s story.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The parent trap, or scroll down to explore more of her story

Jessica Bruder, author of the award-winning 2013 article, highlights the mental struggles of entrepreneurship and the toll it takes on an individual’s life. She writes about the suicides of Jody Sherman, founder of Ecomom, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of Diaspora, as examples of the internal battle faced by many entrepreneurs.

I, for one, have always said that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart, but I now understand that it is also difficult even for those with the toughest skin.

As Bruder puts it, “call it the downside of being up.” Expressing yourself and your innermost scuffles is a tall task of its own. But trying to relate all the variables and difficulties to someone in the 9-to-5 grind can often be even more vexing.

I’m lucky to hear people tell me often that I “make this all look easy.” The thing is, while many may be wondering how I “make this all look easy,” I am desperately kicking to stay afloat.

No matter how many items I’ve crossed off the to-do list in a given day, I tend to ask myself, “Am I doing enough?” With every meeting I schedule, I wonder how I could take on two more next week. With every library deal I close for The Learning Hub’s STEAM maker class program, I add two more to my goal. Whenever downtime approaches, so does an overwhelming sense of guilt that I haven’t accomplished enough.

The question bears itself out at every turn, and multiple times a day. My husband, Jaime, tries to get through to me: “Slow down. You are doing more than humanly possible.” I would love to believe him and take his advice — I just can’t.

See, I gave up a career in property management and the financial stability that came with it for this new venture. I can’t slow down. Slowing down, to me, means becoming irrelevant, and while The Learning Hub is still growing I can’t afford to let momentum — or my dream of helping my daughter and so many students like her — slip through the cracks.

Entrepreneurs need talent and dedication, sure, but most of all, we need passion. Do you wake up and fall asleep thinking, and rethinking, about your goals? Do you need them like your next breath?

Some people look at me inspired, but many of those closest to me worry and say my passion to succeed is borderline obsession. They say that needing to succeed as much as you need to breathe is unhealthy. I truly believe your business is an extension of who you are. My concerned supporters say that is not the case.

Bruder writes, “The same passionate dispositions that drive founders heedlessly toward success can sometimes consume them. Business owners are ‘vulnerable to the dark side of obsession,’ suggest researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.”

Maybe I am borderline obsessed, but I believe that my work is me. It is who I am, and when I put my name on something I must “go big or go home.”

Failing can set you back, no matter how tough-minded you are, but in those moments I find an abundance of inspiration, drive and connection to my goal, business and family. My husband and my daughters, Brooklyn and Evian, still love me when I fail — and they of course are a big part of who I am — but to maintain my individualism, I must remain passionate about succeeding.

Being an entrepreneur should come with a warning label: “May cause depression, anxiety and a constant state of stress.” But if I am being completely honest, if someone handed entrepreneurship to me in a package, I would rip the warning label off, open it up and dive right in.

Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning:

Part 1 — The Brooklyn trip

Part 2 — The playbook

Part 3 — The space race

Part 4 — The unsettling score

Part 5 — The point of no return

Part 6 — The poetry of motion

Part 7 — The keys to success

Part 8 — The stumbling block

Part 9 — The Learning Hubby

Part 10 — The next breath

Part 11 — The imperfect storm

Part 12 — The defining moment

Part 13 — The balancing act

Part 14 — The right turn on Pleasant?

Part 15 — The exploration within

Part 16 — The long way home

Part 17 — The road to empowerment

Part 18 — The new direction

Part 19 — The social club

Part 20 — The way forward

Part 21 — The momentum conundrum

Part 22 — The Pleasant Street exit

Part 23 — The stemming of the tide

Part 24 — The starting line, finally

Part 25 — The full head of steam

Part 26 — The kernels of wisdom

Part 27 — The Book of Hub

Part 28 — The great debate

Part 29 The girls are all right

Part 30 — The movement keeps moving

Part 31 — The picture of serenity?

Part 32 — The network effect

Part 33 — The original Woopreneur

Part 34 — The gift of reflection

Part 35 — The resolution revolution

Part 36 — The model students

Part 37 — The growing pains

Part 38 — The time trials

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