Stamina – An essential ingredient for business success

Anyone who has started a business will know that it is indeed a journey that takes longer than most of us realise at the onset. To see it through to the end will require one essential ingredient – Stamina.

Some friends of mine attended the premiere of a movie called The Way starring Martin Sheen and directed by Emilio Estevez. In the movie, Martin Sheen plays an American doctor who embarks on a pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago. Also known as The Way of Saint James, the Camino is an 800 km pilgrimage from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of Spain.

Two years ago my husband took a month off work and embarked on this same journey. As I read his daily blog about his experience, it was clear that much like Martin Sheen’s character discovered, this journey was not for the faint hearted. Excerpts from his blog proved to be useful tips to help me along my journey into business.

Pace Yourself:
[From the onset, I planned how many kilometres I was going to walk per day in order to reach my destination on time] – Most athletes know that to compete successfully, they have to train regularly. In my experience I’ve found that having a plan and targets is critical to keeping a nice steady pace. You can’t spend one week doing ten times the required work and then the other not paying any attention to the business. There must be a sure and steady application to getting the job done.

Travel Light:
[The rule is for the pilgrim’s backpack to ideally weigh no more than 10kgs] – For obvious reasons, the heavier you are the slower your pace. In business, you also have to learn to shed excess weight. Sometimes the uphill journey can often lead to feelings of failure, disappointment or frustration. Whilst all are valid emotions, we must find mechanisms to help leave them behind and face each day with a fresh approach.

Be Prepared:
[Sometimes I would walk 8 hours or more each day. I quickly came to realise that success would mean physical effort, sacrifice and the right frame of mind] – The tests we face along the way simply ask us the question, are you up for the challenge? No matter how many books you’ve read or business start-up seminars you’ve attended, nothing quite prepares you for the rigours of the climb. It sometimes helps to remind oneself that this is normal and comes with the territory.

Celebrate the Successes:
[It takes a great deal of effort to live in the daily moment and not constantly think about the end. I focus on each stage and enjoy whatever it offers] – On the journey to success, there are often little wins that we overlook; a finished to do list, a call from a prospective client, a review on your product, a referral, a sale, a day finished without tearing your hair out, etc. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the ultimate success of the business and forget the little wins along the way.

Try Something New:
[I find out from a fellow pilgrim that sanitary towels act as very good insoles for boots because they prevent friction which can lead to foot blisters] – Whilst there is great benefit in having a routine it can sometimes get tiresome. Doing something new or differently can bring fresh excitement to the journey. No matter how bizarre it sounds, it might just be the idea to bring a turnaround in your business.

Revisit your Vision:
[Instead of focusing on the pain the journey was inflicting on me, I focused on the bigger picture] – When the going gets tough you can be forgiven for entertaining thoughts of packing it in. These are the times when you have to remember why you started the journey in the first place. Reading the stories of successful entrepreneurs, particularly those who started out small, is guaranteed to reignite the fire.

Take a Break:
[I stop at a cafe and have a coffee and chocolate pastry. I chill there for about 30 minutes before continuing] – As we focus on our action plans and the to-do list it’s very easy to keep working without taking a break. Overall this kind of lifestyle is not sustainable. We simply need to plan to rest as a vital part of our routine.

The Finish Line:
[ We hug, laugh and cry as we congratulate each other for making it successfully to Santiago] – It helps to always remember that every race has a finish line. Every dedicated athlete adheres to strict training because of the hope of winning a prize. Likewise, as a business owner, a certain amount of trust must be placed in your strategy. Keep to your plans, maintain a tenacious spirit and see it through.

*This is the first of a few posts I wrote ages ago for Women Unlimited. As I’m embarking on a new business, I’ve been reliving some of my previous business posts and will be sharing the rest as time goes by.

Like a Virgin, Touched for the Very First Time

If the plants and shrubs in my garden could sing, this is what you’ll hear them singing. I have simply been reluctant to tackle our garden and it has suffered neglect as a result.

I’ve been planning to get my friend over to help me out. (as I mentioned in Blackberry Crush) However due to our garden being a mini version of the amazon forest, I thought I’d better clear it up first. The weird thing is that I am interested in gardening, always have been since I studied Agricultural Science for O’levels. My teacher was so inspiring that for a while I wanted to be a farmer.

Never mind a farm now, I’ll settle for a tidy garden.

First things first. We needed to get the garden cleared and looking more habitable for humans rather than for beasts of the forest. Thankfully you can always pay someone to do that 😉 and fortunately the local milkman, also moonlights as a gardener. I know! So we are now able to get someone who knows what he is doing to help us maintan a decent garden. Our garden must be singing ‘I’ve been kissed but I never knew love like this’.

As life would have it, I got a crash course in planting when my friend gave my children two strawberry plants. She thought they would love them after they picked strawberries from her garden in July.

I was thinking, what exactly am I meant to do with them? I tried to give them back by saying I’ve never planted before. Didn’t work. She simply said I should put them in a bigger pot or plant them in the ground. I interpreted that as it’s not that difficult. So I took them and attempted to plant them.

First we (we being I whilst my children watched) identified where we would plant them, after days of sitting forlorn on the kitchen windowsill. Then we proceeded to dig a hole with a small shovel I found in the shed.

I’m afraid the hole doesn’t look as deep as it actually was.

Then we plant them.

Next year we should know if I did it right or not and hopefully the garden will be singing , ‘I’m still standing; yeah, yeah, yeah!!!’ 🙂

Next on the agenda are some sunflower seeds which I think should have been planted in June. Oops!

Getting Some Perspective On Being Tired

I’m bed with a cold, feeling very sorry for myself. I am physically shattered. I am tired beyond tired. I sometimes think this is how it’s going to be until my kids are grown up.

The last two years have been full of relentless activity with no break. Don’t get me wrong. It has been good, worthwhile activity but I need to rest. I usually take a mini-break, on my own, each quarter to unwind and recharge my batteries. However, I haven’t had the chance to in the past eighteen months. The human body was not designed to go on and on without a break. And frankly with two young ones under eight, my weekends are not very restful. So I’m feeling very sorry for myself right now. I’m getting into that wishful thinking mode of wanting to suspend time like in the Matrix. Do you ever get those moments? Just for a week and then pick things up again when you’re back to your old self. That’s how I feel!

Happenstance is a very funny thing. As I’m mourning my circumstance, yes very dramatic I know, a flurry of thoughts arrest me.

I think about a lady at work who has been going through chemotherapy for the past year. Through her treatment she has combined working from home and a two hour commute to work with diligence and sheer bravery. Very few people know what she’s going through and you would never guess.

Then I remember the lady on Dragons Den who was diagnosed with MS, has a young family and launched a business during her maternity leave. I remember the widow, I read about, who lost her husband in an accident on the A4 and is now raising two teenage girls on her own. I think of my friend whose son has sickle cell anaemia and has to have monthly blood transfusions.

I think of another friend who had a miscarriage and was in pain daily for over a year; enduring a long commute to work in spite of the devastation of losing her child. I also think of people at work who commute for two to three hours, door to door. And get up each morning and do it all over again every working day of the year.

I do need a break, but Tomi, get some perspective on the word tired. So I pick myself up and do the one thing that lifts my spirits – cooking. There’s just something about chopping, dicing and the smell of different flavours that soothes my soul.

20130911-110442.jpgThis is what I do when I’m tired 🙂

Bake a Spectacle with David Baddiel

I had totally forgotten that David Baddiel was coming to Cambridge to judge a cake competition and was happy when I stumbled across a tent hosting the event today.

In a fun and quirky way, Taank Optometrists decided to celebrate 100 years of eye-care by inviting amateur and professional bakers in Cambridge to bake a ‘spec-tacular’ glasses-themed cake for the bake-off. I guess the Great British Bake Off has set the nation off on a cake loving frenzy.


The cakes were judged by owner Anjana Taank and comedian David Baddiel but not before David had us all laughing at some really good jokes.




There were quite a few creative cakes out there. Unfortunately, due to health and safety reasons, we couldn’t taste the cakes.




The winning cake, below, was baked by Fiona McDuff who also won the Cambridge Bake Off.