Robert Frost’s most famous (and most misinterpreted) poem, often (incorrectly) referred to as “The Road Less Travelled”, has been my favourite poem since I was 12-years old.
The “road less travelled” is a term often used to encourage a person to step outside their comfort zone; to boldly go where few have gone before.
However in the poem, ‘the road taken/less travelled’ was not less travelled at all, in fact it “equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black” and it was just as worn as “The Road Not Taken” (which FYI is the correct title of the poem).
Perhaps the poem’s universal appeal is that we have all been faced with that choice between two roads, when “knowing how way leads on to way” that it is unlikely that we can or will ever get the chance to go back and take the other road. And knowing that “somewhere ages and ages hence” we will look back at that moment in time and know that (regardless of our reasonings) it was that choice, that road that we didn’t take, that “made all the difference” (for better or worse) to the way our lives turned out.
Ok, ok…so I know that you didn’t click through for a lesson in literature!
The reason I have referenced this poem is that it is the perfect analogy for the situation that Tim and I found ourselves in last year.
As you may or may not know, we (Tim, myself, our kids and our staff) busted our proverbial(s) to renovate, stock and open our Melbourne Design Gallery in February 2016, which we subsequently closed in December 2016, exactly 13 months into our 3year lease. When we made the decision to open a Design Gallery in Melbourne, we were convinced that we were making a bold, daring decision and absolutely the right move in order to grow Green Cathedral…and as it turned out, we were right.
However, what we hadn’t or couldn’t fully comprehend was the effect that our “success” would have on every aspect of our life (family and business). After 4 months of increased sales, we knew that to keep growing at the rate we were, we would have to put on 3 more staff, move to a bigger workshop, gain additional financing and increase the workshop hours from 8 hours a day to 12 (Tim was already working an average of 12hrs a day 6 days a week)!
Not meaning to brag, but Green Cathedral had experienced a 400% growth between 2012-2014, which saw us take on 4 full-time staff, upsize workshops 3 times, open a retail space (in Noosa) and push us to our mental, physical and creative limits (not to mention I also carried and gave birth to a 10pound baby in this time). When faced with the prospect of growing again we had to re-evaluate to make sure it was what we truly wanted.
What we realised is that we were unhappy:
Tim was consumed with managing the (5) staff he had in the workshop and he was spending less and less time ‘on the tools’ actually making his furniture. I was in Melbourne every other week (sleeping in our showroom) and exhausting myself trying to juggle all the balls that inevitably go with the title of Small Business Owner/Wife/Mother. And as for our kids, well they were unhappy too; our 2-year old (Archie) was miserable and was suffering from separation anxiety, our 9-year old (Bailey) who is our Teflon Kid (as in nothing sticks), seemed ok, but our 14 year old (Bella) had essentially become our live-in nanny and was also struggling. Then there was our amazing staff, who were constantly under pressure, which is not surprising considering neither Tim or I are very well known for hiding our emotions…all in all, it was becoming a bit of a strain!
So here we were with our proverbial “two paths diverged in a yellow wood”. Do we grow or do we try something different, knowing that potentially the outcome of both choices could be the same (divorce, bankruptcy, meteoric success or happiness)…either way we had to make a decision.
We thought back to when we were happiest and realised it was when we were building the business, not growing it. When we were hands on in all the aspects of GC, made all the decisions and knew each and every client by name and their order, the times when could come up with a design concept over breakfast and being looking at the prototype over dinner…the time when we actually shared mealtimes!
So we made the choice to close the Melbourne Gallery, and thanks to one of our VIP clients (who bought almost the entire showroom and it’s fittings), it was done very quickly and with little fanfare. We then gave our staff 3 months notice that we would be downsizing in 2017 (thankfully every one of them agreed to stay on to help us through the Christmas rush) and then we started looking for the perfect all-in-one location closer to home.
In December, we bought Tim’s dream car (a Hilux), a boat (which Tim renovated over Christmas and is our #1 stress-relief), a camper-trailer which has been dragged to Fraser Island and up the North Shore a few times and (unless you count the 2.5 weeks that we camped with the kids in a tent on the floor of the Melbourne Gallery whilst we were renovating it – which I certainly do not), next month we are taking our first family vacation in 6.5 years – 11 days in New Zealand!
So although I am not looking back from “somewhere ages and ages hence”, I can honestly say that I couldn’t be happier with “The Road Not Taken”.
Thanks for reading,
And if you are interested in what is next for Green Cathedral then please stay tuned for ‘The Road Not Taken – Part 2’