Janna Taylor currently owns and operates Mind Full Tutors located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She holds a Masters of Education in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University and has over ten years of experience tutoring students in some of the nation’s most prestigious schools. In 2008, Janna served as a judge for Harvard University's Education Enterprise Competition. She talked about the beginning of her dream in the post If You Get Defensive, You're Getting Close
Heartbreak Hill is a roughly half mile stretch of low-grade incline between miles 20 and 21 of the Boston Marathon. Anyone who is familiar with this race knows Heartbreak Hill. Runners dread it. Spectators thickly line the streets to cheer on the brave athletes who dare tread its path. What some might not know is that Heartbreak Hill is actually the last of a series of four hills that begin at mile 16, which makes reaching that final hill even more challenging because the hills begin at a point when a runner’s energy is quickly running out. In other words, the middle is the hardest.
Like the exhilaration of the first mile of a marathon, when we begin an endeavor, the momentum and power of our dreams and the support of others’ well wishes drives us on. Over time, this energy may die down, not because our dream has lost value or that people no longer care. Rather, because the dream appears to move along at a steady pace. All looks well.
You might think that once you’ve reached the middle, you’ve hit your stride. You get into your groove. Easy, right?
Nope. At least not for me.
Right now, I’m in the middle of my dream and it is hard. Even though I’ve come a long way, I have farther to go. How do I keep going when I am energy-depleted and in the middle of my Heartbreak Hill?
Here a few things that are helping me through the middle:
Recommitting myself to the vision. My business approached a critical moment this past spring in which I had to decide whether to maintain my business at its current volume or expand. The initial vision was to expand, but frankly, it was tempting to stay at my current level. I was happy and satisfied with the level of income, number of work hours, and simplicity of managing a small cadre of tutors. What I had to face, however, is that I didn’t sign up for a 5K run/walk. I had signed up for a marathon. To accomplish what I set out to do, I needed to recommit to the original vision of helping as many students as possible by expanding the tutoring center and hiring more tutors. To signify this my redoubled commitment, I hired three more tutors for the fall and negotiated a space expansion with my landlord. Had I decided to maintain my business’ success rather than increase it, I would not have been true to my dream or my capability.
Trying to view the middle as the beginning. Honestly, even though I am in the middle, every month feels like a start up month. I am constantly learning major lessons or skills simply because I have to in order for the business to grow. I try viewing these learning opportunities as beginning down a new path that will make things easier and more productive rather than pesky things getting in my way. One proactive way that I keep this perspective is to audit my approach (policies, procedures, etc.) when something starts to lag or goes awry.
Asking for help to see myself. Since beginning my business, several friends have had to talk me down from my proverbial ledge. Even in the midst of the exhilaration of living a dream, my self-doubt has momentarily stopped me in my tracks. During these times, I’ve called up friends and asked, “I need you to help me see me.” They always excitedly and graciously share their perspective that “Yes, you can do it and here’s why.” Sometimes when we are in the middle, we forget who we are because we are snowblinded by the difficulty of carrying out our dreams. Friends and family who know us and love us are often more than up to the task of helping us reconnect with our greatness.
Now that all the helpful advice is out of the way, I do need to mention one critical factor playing out smack dab in the middle of my very own Heartbreak Hill – bone weariness. I am tired. Really tired. I’m tired from doing something I love, but I’m tired, nonetheless. While I'm inspired, even comforted, by Warren Brown (Cake Love) who talks here about being "Physically Tired, Spiritually Amped," I still haven’t worked out what to do about my weariness. My week vacation doing nothing but lay on the beach didn’t fully replenish me, which should be a red flag regarding my depletion levels. I do not know how to keep the physical and emotional energy at a critical mass. Any thoughts or suggestions?
What are you in the middle of?
Most of fulfilling a dream is the “middle.” How are you sustaining yourself throughout this time?