How did a working single parent find the time, energy, resources, and the sheer bravery to open up an independent bookstore? In today’s podcast, I talk with Barb Short who recently opened Short Stories Community Book Hub.
In this episode, we discuss:
- The powerful reasons she had to take such a big risk.
- How she learned to “choose herself,” when searching for someone to fill a gap in her community.
- The reasons she was drawn to the business challenge of running a bookstore
- How she found the time, energy and resources to pull it off, and we will explore the very real challenges she faces along the way
- How the risk of failure gave her focus
- And how she learned to establish boundaries that allow her to passionately dedicate herself to her job which she loves, her children, and the bookstore
This podcast is part of the research for a book I am writing called Dabblers vs. Doers, which is about working through RISK as you develop your craft and build a meaningful body of work.
Here are some key insights that Barb shared with me…
SHE IS CREATING EXPERIENCES
Why did Barb take on so much risk by signing a lease, hiring staff, and taking on the responsibility of opening and running a bookstore? As she told me:
“I am a tremendous believer in the power of art and creativity in our lives. My interest in this was around that passion. Becoming not just a place that sells product, but by becoming a creative space. It was about creating a place of experience that brings out the best in us.”
“You can’t even measure the experience that my daughters will get out of this; out of seeing me prioritize something I love in my life, and finding a way to fit it in.”
“Here I am, about to turn 50, and let’s make sure that I’m living. I’ve got a 14 year old and a 12 year old, let’s teach them how to live.”
“The initial financial investment, the vast majority of it was mine. There is this tremendous commitment, which I may never get back. I’ve always been someone who invests in experience. Even in the first week or two we were open, the impact on lives that we have had in just that opening period, with all the people coming together, and building the shelves, and performing in the space, and we haven’t even yet been able to respond to all the interest for the use of the space. That has yielded so much experience and fuel that is immeasurable.”
CHOOSING YOURSELF (AND BEING BRAVE)
When the existing local bookstore was flooded and decided to not reopen, Barb began wondering who would step in to fill the gap in our community — who would open a new bookstore?
“There are clarifying moments in life, where you are grateful for what you have, and I started thinking we have to find someone smart, creative, and brave and somebody really cool should do this. Then I started getting jealous – why would I let them do that, I can do that.”
“What a cool experience to have, why wouldn’t that be me? Why couldn’t I try it?”
“Any friend that I told, told me that I was crazy. they were concerned for me raising two girls as a single working mom. It just felt like the right thing to do. It felt like our community deserved one. I wasn’t just opening a book shop, I was opening up a place in our community for all of us. I had a great confidence in the people who would join me in this.”
“I have never ever felt alone in this. That is the whole premise of it – community.”
TO DO MORE IN LIFE, SHE FOCUSED ON ENERGY, NOT TIME
How did Barb find the ability to open this bookstore amidst a very full set of responsibilities?
“I think it is about energy management, as much as time management. I have a job that I am passionate about, so I can give endless energy to that. I believe in my company, the leaders, the work we want to do out there. When you choose things that fuel you, rather than drain you, there is a lot more time available.”
“For me it’s about focus. In order for me to be a doer, I need to step back and process all of it, organize all of it, and put together big chunks of what I’m going to get done. I can’t always be stimulated, I need to step back away from it. From a focus perspective, I have to protect my mental energy.”
“As I have gotten older, I have protected what I love more aggressively. I love to run — I’ve protected the time to run because it makes me healthier, and gives me more energy to do the job, raise the kids, and experience and enjoy the world. More and more through my work life, I’ve learned more how to draw boundaries, and it’s okay if I don’t respond to someone tonight, or if I don’t do something.”
“It’s about being comfortable with failure, or in not quite succeeding in the way you want to be right now.”
THE WISDOM OF FAILING
That doesn’t mean that she is without limits, and she discovered some of them in the process:
“I underestimated the demands on me once the store opened. By the time we hired our store manager, I was exhausted, fried, and I disappeared on her for two weeks. Just for myself, I needed to just focus on my [full-time] job and focusing on sleep — catching up on the pile of laundry in the hallway. I needed to refuel. I was so overwhelmed by the interest and love for the store, and the time demands of it.”
“[The bookstore] wasn’t becoming its vision or promise immediately. It was hard to manage other people’s expectations of what it will become.”
“It was a moment where I had to ask myself, ‘what’ve you got in there to deal with this challenge? This is about character. You need to help others become comfortable, and make time to ensure you are communicating how grateful you are who made it possible to get to where you are, when you are feeling exhausted and depleted. I needed to re-center, rebalance, get my energy and strength back.”
“I saw this as my leadership moment. There are lessons that will help me become a better person, and help my girls. It’s one of the richest experiences I’ve had, to feel like I was failing and say, “Okay, what’ve you got?”
I loved having this conversation with Barb, and I hope you will enjoy it too. You can find out more about her store here:
- Short Stories Community Book Hub
- And here is a post I wrote about Barb and the bookstore when it opened.
During our chat, Barb mentioned Cali Williams Yost and her book Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day.