An Entrepreneur's Lesson about Rushing: Face Plants, Oxygen Masks & Juggling Balls


If you know me, you know I tend to do things fast.  Not just because I’ve worked in PR for years (publicists are known to do things quickly, it’s more or less a job requirement)  but it’s more of a personal trait.  I walk fast, I like to believe I think fast on my feet, and since I could string together sentences I’ve had the ability to talk nearly as quickly as an auctioneer.  That said, like many entrepreneurs, the nature of our jobs and the many things we have to do in one day has definitely upped my “fast quotient”.  

Whenever I talk to small business owners the common things they mention they are trying to do include “find balance” and “slow down”.  Today I’m going to give you a few thoughts on the latter due to a recent personal experience.  I too have been saying repeatedly lately that I need to “slow down”.  In fact, just yesterday as I flew through my morning routine I was feeling especially rushed.   I shoved that thought to the back of my mind, took a deep breath and dove into my day.  Little did I remember, that when the universe wants to send us a message (in my case: SLOW DOWN) and we don’t listen, the universe won’t stop sending that lesson, they’ll deliver it in a louder and more powerful way until we listen.

My message was delivered at approximately 10:30 am yesterday, not on my doorstop but on the corner of 28th Street and 7th Avenue in New York City.  I was rushing, I was thinking of several “to do’s” at once while half speed walking/half running to a meeting, trying to decide the best way to get to Connecticut later in the day for a wedding, reflecting on how I had skipped breakfast and was now hungry, texting back an excited response about a press story that was now a “go”... I was in no way present or in the moment, I was in about 5 moments.  Then the universe stepped in. 

While speeding down the sidewalk I tripped over loose construction boards, caught a little bit of air and landed hand/face first on the cement.  It was quite a fall.  After assuring people who came to my aid and myself that I was fine, I dusted myself off and gave myself a once over.  Though a bit beaten up by the sidewalk, I appeared fine.  I was quite shaken, but at the end of the day, the worse injury was to my head which had absorbed part of my fall and within minutes had a cut and a major goose egg growing on it, not to mention the world’s worst headache.  Can you believe how lucky I was?  Oh the things that COULD have happened to me!  My taxi driver home recited a list of things that I avoided (head injury, missing eyes, stitches, falling into traffic – he was creative and quite excited about this topic) and his list really drove the point(s) home – I was lucky, not just because I escaped major injury but because I had finally received a message about rushing that sank in.

Many of us rush around all day – we say we “have” to, I know I thought I did.  We ask ourselves: “how will my clients/my businesses/my partners /my family be successful  and happy if I’m not doing as much as I can at once?”  We all know the feeling when we’re mentally or physically rushed, we also know that we stop paying attention to anything more than our to-do list.  It’s not that we aren’t stopping to smell the roses every once in awhile, we aren’t even slowing down on the walk to notice there are roses ….OR or planks of wood on the sidewalk that we’re about to trip over.

These things aren’t good for our business, body or soul!  

The moment I had my fall I heard the message loud and clear.  It was like I’d been tuning out a voice inside me that had been warning me of an incident like this.  With a slew of personal and professional to-do’s all coinciding on one weekend I had let go of even feeling grounded, I was just one rushed woman.  Sure on the professional side I was happily checking things off my list, but on the personal side I was not taking care of myself.  I was in need of slowing down physically and mentally.  I’m sure many of you have found or currently find yourself in a similar space.  The irony of it all is, while we think we’re helping those around us by rushing in these ways we aren’t helping them or ourselves as much as we could be if we were taking care of ourselves and working from our best and healthiest place.

Reflecting on this has reminded me of a few pieces of advice my mom and one of my closest friends have told me in the past,  that I’ve ignored from time to time as well.  You may have heard them, and I’m sure I’m paraphrasing them a little, but the lessons remain the same.  I encourage you to think about them and how they apply to your own life…

Put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you put on theirs:  Anytime you fly, you hear this message over the intercom.  In case of an emergency, you FIRST put on your mask and then you take care of those around you – even before helping your own children!  Why do they say this?  Well you will be of no use to anyone if you’re passed out and not breathing on a flight.  In business and life you have to take the time (even if it’s a very small amount) in any situation to first make sure you are all right, healthy, calm and addressing your own needs before you take care of anyone else.  This does not mean you’re doing any less for your company or your clients, it just means you’re ensuring you are in tip top shape and operating at your highest level before operating on them, so to speak.  Would you want to go to a surgeon who was overtired or feeling stressed or distracted?  Of course not!  Speaking of doctors, my own father is one of the busiest docs I know, but he still makes time nearly EVERY DAY to meditate in the morning, and he works out several times a week. 

Even if this means waking up a little earlier, he takes care of Philip first.  Then he’s better to take care of all of his patients and all of us.  My sister Mira, an entrepreneur, writer and professor is very good at saying to me “no, I cannot do XYZ because I really need to get my SLEEP”.  They know that they cannot perform well if they aren’t taking care of themselves.  

If you keep giving, giving and giving without taking a little bit for yourself (even – especially if what you are taking is time) you will soon have nothing left to give to your company or yourself!

In life we are juggling several balls, some of them are rubber and can bounce back if we drop them, some of them are glass and if we drop them they will break (a little bit or a lot).  This second lesson is from my mother, who to me is my work/life guru.  She relayed this lesson to me while reading about it in a book.  Though I’m sure my version isn’t doing the original author justice, you get the point.  It’s one of my favorite life/work lessons yet one I often disregard.  In life we are always juggling, as entrepreneurs we are REALLY juggling a lot of balls.  As is the case with even the most experienced of jugglers, the more balls you add, the harder this feat becomes and without a doubt you will drop a ball from time to time.  The rubber balls you can drop, and though sure, they may fall out of your rotation for awhile, they bounce back and you can work them back into your juggling. These things are different things for different people, but I am learning that some professional to-do’s are actually rubber balls.  In life, the glass balls – the really important and fragile ones – are (and must) be limited to things like our health, our families, our personal well being.  If you drop one of these at the very least it will crack or get a dent.  At its worst, a ball could shatter.  Even if you put it back together with super glue, the faint signs of the ball dropping will always linger.  

My face’s up close and personal encounter with a New York City sidewalk was a reminder to me that I do not want to drop my glass ball named “health” anytime soon.  In rushing to a meeting I ended up actually missing part of the meeting.  But more than that, I narrowly missed hurting my head.  MY HEAD!  That’s an important piece of property!  So is your sanity, your family, your own health, your personal growth!  Those are glass balls – you must protect those above all rubber balls!

I’ll leave you with those two lessons for now, as I have to get ready to head off to Connecticut, for the wedding weekend I’m now a day late for, but better late (and with goose egg) than never!

Until next time, I urge you to:

Remember to listen to your mind and your body when it’s telling you to slow down, remember that rushing doesn’t always get you to the finish line faster or better and always keep your oxygen mask fastened and your glass balls in check!