After 14 years (2009 – 2023), I’ve finally accepted the end of my business venture. It was never successful, but it wasn’t exactly a failure. It just never earned me enough to actually live off of. It also didn’t improve (increase in sales) over the years. Though, I suppose that is a definition of a failed business. I think I had the mindset that a “failed business”, is one that has to be written off and my claiming bankruptcy.
I know, and probably did know for a long time, that this isn’t working, and I really should drop it. In fact, even this end of my business, wasn’t exactly intentional. I just forgot to renew my business licence when it expired. You could definitely argue that subconsciously, I knew I had to let this business die, and so I conveniently “forgot” to renew it – which forces me to accept it.
I am intentionally avoiding giving specifics into the business, and instead just try to explain in general terms, so it could feel more relatable to everyone.
The aim of this series of articles, is to journal my attempt at a new life, while trying to be more aware of my thoughts and emotions. So as much as possible, I will try to understand if any psychological biases played a role in the decisions I make.
So I started the business, because I had a lot of passion, interest, knowledge and experience in the subject of that business. So just to clarify, this relates to the subject, and not in the business of that subject. To explain with an example – you could be someone who is good at and be passionate about cooking, but running a food stand involves so much more than just being able to cook. It was also an industry that was well established, and many were earning a good living off of it – so not some revolutionary modern thing, but something that is proven to be able to be successful. This is clearly a “Survivorship Bias” and “Optimism Bias” in play. I only saw the businesses that succeeded, and was optimistic into thinking mine would succeed just as theirs did.
Also to make it clear, I am a firm believer in “Doing what you’re good at, and not just what you like”. So to clarify, my use of the word “passion”, is not in the romanticised sense. I was passionate about what I did, because I was good at it.
The very obvious reason for me having held on to this failing business, is the “Sunken Cost Fallacy”. Besides money spent on it over the years, it’s also the time I spent on it. Remember this wasn’t a job to me, it was a passion. This meant even on my free time, I was reading up on what’s new in the industry, or watching documentaries on it, etc. It’s funny how I’ve heard about this for some time – usually in the context of being conned, or in a failing relationship, and wondered why anyone would continue on that path. Yet I myself, was doing it, in a constant state of delusion.
Another thought that comes to mind, is “Loss Aversion”, where the pain of losing is more powerful than the pleasure of gaining. I’ve only ever heard it in the economic context i.e. the losing of money, but could it also apply to other feelings of loss? Once the business ended, there is a loss of identity, a loss of purpose, a loss of things to do throughout the day. A complete feeling of emptiness.
I was (still am?) someone who identified myself, by what I did. Telling people what you do (and hearing what they do), is a shortcut into understanding their character. It helps you have an image of what kind of person they are, based on their position and the industry they are in. The question “So what do you do?” is one of the first questions you ask someone when you first meet them.
Even after a month of the end of the business, I still feel tied to it – I keep saying “I used to have an XXX business”. Followed by “Now I’m trying to find something new”. But I still use the old business as an anchor. Maybe I am using that, as a shortcut to let them know what kind of person I am. More than likely though, I think it’s to NOT give the impression of being someone without ambitions.
Obviously, if I had accepted the business wasn’t working after 5 years, I would have gained from having had the time and money to start something else. A very rational way of looking at my options, yet the feeling of losing was worse than what I might have gained.
This last part of this story, is linked to the “Proportionality Bias”. Once the business ended, and I had the feeling of emptiness, I felt the urge to make a huge change in my life. It was also coincidental that it was going to be the start of a new year. So I had this feeling of cliched “New Year, New Me”. I waited till the new year – 2024, got myself a new apartment, and got a new lifestyle (or at least I’m trying to). There is no logic as to why I had to change everything around me, just to try something new. However, it seemed to be working. This could either be that the change actually works – because I do now get new feedback to my senses with a new place. There’s also a slight feeling of responsibility – like I owe it to myself, because of the work I put into changing my environment, that I need to make it work. Unless, this is again Optimism Bias sneaking in. I’m being overly optimistic, because I need desperately for this to work. So I’m just seeing the small insignificant things, as being signs.
It’s only been 10 days into the new year, so everything still has a lot of energy around it. “Only Time Will Tell”, will be the appropriate saying at this point. I will try to write down every time something new happens. Even if it does nothing for anyone else, it would still serve as a diary of my pattern of thinking as each thing happens.