steve duross - craftsman. artisan. entrepreneur. musings on running and growing a small business
whenever i need a little inspiration, all i have to do is climb the stairs and slide into my apron, pick up my raw materials and create. the production studio is always good for my soul. on the days i am working behind the chair, detailing a cut, chatting with the guys, it knocks me out. the energy i feel in that moment.. my world becomes about the flow. though i utilize these two worlds as a form of creative expression (and perhaps a bit of escape), in those two places there is a profound connection to the me who exists when i am alone. the best parts of me that don't have to be censored. the me without limits. this creative self brought me to the projects people now refer to as my "businesses". that i still have access to simplicity at my core brings me an enormous amount of joy. a fine accomplishment. my personal best.
surprisingly, working on the floor again in the store has re-ignited the fire of my inner entrepreneur. i feel at one with my original intentions. pure possibility. not dissimilar to the feeling of coming home, the shop floor is a place where i know for sure i belong. as i now center myself again in the comfort of what i left behind, i am feeling a sense of satisfaction. the store is just where i left it, eagerly awaiting my return, completely unexpected. buoyed by the fact that the store is the domain of sarah, i feel emboldened to focus on little projects that have been neglected. think of the store as a garden and me a gardener who is back from holiday. it's all there. with enough love and nurturing attention, it will be dazzling to behold once more.
as we approach the eleventh anniversary of duross & langel on 13th street, i cannot help but look behind me to see how far we've come. remembering the eleven years i've shared with sarah by my side. my business partner. my work wife. in spite of the fact that we have loved, laugh with and ultimately lost everyone around us, we persist because we are committed to duross & langel as a key element of our lives. we are blessed to be committed to one another as friends. there exists no shade between us. as i sit pecking out this paragraph, she sits across from me silently on her lap top. the day ended thirty-five minutes ago but here we are, in the quiet of the store, doing the things we don't have the time to do when the doors are unlocked. blissfully alone. together. and tonight i promise myself that whatever the future holds, i will cherish all that has happened, all that we have shared, and honor the choices of a future that has yet to be written.
the development of my skills as a small business person continue. saying goodbye to valued staff. saying hello to new hires. often the beginning is filled with promise. the ending of woe. personally i have reached a point where i no longer feel the need to build a family from my work life. this is, after all, a workplace. that people can come for a time and do their best work while attempting to figure out what comes next should be enough. and for me, now, it is. it takes a fair bit of time to realize the things we need, the things we don't, and what gets left along the way. whatever remains is meant to be.
tonight i am feeling a great many things. the ground beneath me shifted. but when one considers that life on this planet formed and reformed many times over through the process of shifting, i think that in the grand scheme of things... we're good. change is life. psalm 30 (my favorite) has been rattling around in my brain all day. anger is but for a moment, favor is for a lifetime. weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning. and so i close this paragraph knowing that whatever stresses the day might bring, or worries the night may hold, i can always count on the joy that comes as surely as the dawn.
relationships are hard. romantic, business, familial, neighborhood, political... doesn't matter really. we have to work at keeping the mechanics of our relationships lubricated lest they cease up and breakdown. depending upon the type of relationship, the lubrication varies. let our city and our neighborhoods degrade and the end of your political career is nigh. throw late night parties and break the building rules, your neighbors will instigate a process that has you searching for a new home. you get the idea. small things begin at first to grow into much larger issues. when those issues infringe upon the group, then we have a problem. everyone in our lives comes with a certain amount of stuff. how to make everybody's stuff work together is the charm. but when you find a staff member who pushes up against the norm once too often, you have yourself a scapegoat.
the original context of the term scapegoat was a jewish purification ritual described in the book of leviticus, wherein a goat was symbolically infused with the transgressions of the community and driven into the wilderness. in christian thought, jesus came to be seen as a scapegoat, whose sacrificial death led to the purification of the human community.
the ancient greeks practiced a "scapegoating" rite in which a cripple or beggar or criminal (the pharmakos) was cast out of the community, either in response to a natural disaster (such as a plague, famine or an invasion) or in response to a calendrical crisis (such as the end of the year). building upon these religious foundations, "scapegoat" has become a common term for an individual who is selected to bear blame for a calamity. "scapegoating" is the act of holding a person, group of people, or thing responsible for a multitude of problems.
mobbing is a form of sociological scapegoating which occurs in the workplace. scapegoating is an effective if temporary means of achieving group solidarity, when it cannot be achieved in a more constructive way. it is a turning inward, a diversion of energy away from serving nebulous external purposes toward the deliciously clear, specific goal of ruining a disliked co-worker's life.
psychoanalytic theory holds that unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected onto another, who then becomes a scapegoat for one's own problems. if the scapegoating pattern continues into early adulthood, development towards healthy personal identity is likely to be compromised, with a strong likelihood of developing histrionic, compensatory narcissistic, and/or obsessive-compulsive, as well as passive-aggressive traits. such misplaced feelings are also understood to potentially yield severe, ego-protecting "affect management behaviors" including substance and behavioral process disorders. how messed up is that? so if someone's parent's got their damage all over them, they in turn can project whatever damage was caused to them on the people in their lives, including the workplace? sometimes i just want my old life back.
forgiveness is an easy virtue, for the majority (we hope) recognize our basic humanity. our flaws. by offering redemption we offer another a chance of wiping the slate clean. it is also an opportunity for self forgiveness.
life is hard. recognizing that as a fact makes life easier to manage. when we step into any relationship with our eyes wide open, when our expectations are right-sized, it becomes easier to manage the diverse relationships our lives proffer. hiring and managing employees is the nexus of this idea, for more often than not, we won't see what's really going on for some time to come. by then the dysfunctional processes are well under way.
i am not a psychoanalyst, nor would i want that job. figuring people's motives is far above my ability or pay grade. but i am no saint either. my baggage is plentiful. a lifetime of sinning has taught me a great deal about forgiveness. fyi: for those who do not already know, the root of the word sin is taken from a term in archery. to sin or syn is to be in error. to miss the mark. for me, the whole of my life is the act of learning from all moments equally, whether spot on or missing the mark. to be blissfully and blessedly human. i firmly believe that my ability to be flawed is one of the traits that make me an effective leader.
as business owners we have to be mindful that we don't allow ourselves to scapegoat, and that we don't allow it to happen to our people. everyone is coming onboard with stuff. everyone has tendencies that drive us to distraction. i was reminded of this lesson quite recently. instead of loading the board further with a list of grievances, i chose to wipe the slate clean. the best and brightest often upset the status quo. it is our job to make it all work anyway.