I am holed up in our family’s cabin in the middle of nowhere Arkansas. There are 400 wooded and flooded acres of beauty and the best duck hunting in the world, in which we all partake. My favorite time of day is from about 4:00 pm on where I sit on the porch and watch the sunset over a reservoir while keeping my fingers crossed I hear shots in the distance destined for a deer. I have to use a hotspot from my phone to get the internet and even that is spotty. The closest town is half an hour and we shower about half as often as a human normally does. But the quiet, ordinary and beautiful allow for things to spring up that the plugged-in, busy and productive environments often do not. That has been the case as I’ve reflected on what I am most thankful for this year. I’ve really spent some time asking myself what it is. My team and our marketing manager need this content so I want to hurry it but over four days I’ve really tried to figure out what it is. And I’ve landed on two words: hardship and partnership. Let me give the qualifier that of course, I can name all of the obvious things like health and family and a roof over my head and food on my table. But I am going to assume that we all know that about one another. So as it relates to each of our individual stories and what gratitude within each of those stories looks like, I land on those two words.
First, hardship. I understand that’s not exactly the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of a gratitude list. And this year, maybe more than any other, I have said “uncle” in my heart and my mind. Personally and professionally I have been as stretched as I’ve ever been. Our business has grown beyond that first start-up phase to a “real business” where metrics and strategy and capital and talent are no longer hopes but necessities. Everything kind of got “real” this year. What that means for my day to day as the founder and leader has meant a new pressure professionally that I’ve not had before. And I’m grateful for it. It’s forged in me a new strength and confidence. The strength is I can do it, the confidence is I know I will do it. There are a lot of mornings I’d like to wake up with a little less weight. But I wouldn’t trade it. I am thankful for what is being developed in me and our team and this vision and know I’ll look back with even more gratitude as it continues to unfold.
Personally, it is similar. Families or origin can be messy, can’t they? Mine is no different and it’s had its challenges this year. I became a full-time mom overnight a few years ago to my husband’s three small children and while that’s some of my greatest joy every day it is also non-stop needs and practices and plays while growing a business. But the personal hardship, too, I can truly say I am grateful for. This past weekend I accompanied my husband to the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Forum in Palm Springs. While listening to the female CEO of a six billion-dollar company she said something that stood out to me: “You’re capable of more than you think you are, don’t underestimate yourself.” And that best describes the gratitude that I’m referring to. There are so many things I would change if I got to control life. But I don’t. And yet I know things about myself and my strength and others and their strength that I could never have known otherwise. There is a deep peace and humility in that knowing and I wouldn’t trade it. I am grateful for what this year’s hardships have yielded.
The strength of others is a good segue to what else I find myself most grateful for: partnership. This too is both professionally and personally. First, as it relates to my husband and romantic partner. The security of unconditional love is a powerful thing. The partnership I feel at home from building businesses to raising children to traveling the world together is something I know not everyone experiences. I kind of marvel at what it means for someone to have your back no matter what, all the time. That security gives me what I need to keep taking chances, keep dreaming dreams. Yesterday the girls and I took a four-wheeler ride to this large field they like to run through. I stay on one side and they run to the other. Halle, 5, runs a little way and then looks back to make sure I’m still there. Then she goes a little further and checks to see I haven’t left and keeps going further. On and on until she has made it all the way across the field. That’s what partnership kind of is, I think. The love and security and support to know you can venture out and try things and go places and fail and succeed and everything in between and that person is still right there for you to come back to.
Professionally partnership this year, too, has been one of my greatest sources of gratitude. My business partner and I continue to find yin and yang and so much of what we do wouldn’t be possible without her. I have more ideas and hopes and dreams and product designs and grand plans than I often know what to do with. Some of them aren’t always possible but those that are she brings to fruition. She’s our anchor, kind of the company mom that keeps everyone on track. I am grateful for her contribution of course but it’s really the partnership, the I’ve-got-your-back and we’re gonna do this thing mentality that she and I continue to foster within our business and our relationship. We’re both moms to young kids and understand what ear infections or husbands traveling or calls from the school mean and there’s an unspoken understanding we both have that we will each always take care of both our families and our work. Similar to my at-home partnership, my professional one too offers security and strength to keep going, keep building, keep designing, knowing there will be failures and messes to clean up but that we’ll figure it all out together.
There are broader partnerships too and I would say that those we most closely do life with our partners, whether they be best friends or family members, they are the people with you along the way with a shared common goal of you being the best version of yourself. Whatever partnerships you may have, grow them, nurture them, take care of them.
Hardship and partnership. Those are my gratitude words for 2016. To know hardship, when it comes, can sometimes also leave you with gold is something to cling to. As Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” To know true partnership is possible, that people can be trusted and relied on and always there, is a powerful thought as obvious as it may seem. To me it means together with others we can all do more than we ever could alone and maybe ever thought possible.
This Thanksgiving let me first say thank you to our customers and followers and friends and family. We truly sit around tables for hours on end trying to figure out how to bring you even the smallest moments of delight through beautiful things and a great experience. May your hardships surprise you with refinement and strength and may the partnerships you have been recognized and cherished. May those that you hope for but don’t yet have, find you soon waiting patiently and expectantly. Happy Thanksgiving!