STORYTIME: Ignore the haters. Chase your dream.
I have thought about sharing the following experience a lot recently. This is a true story that took place before I quit my office job to work with animals full-time and start The Mindful Mutt. It's a story about rising above disrespect and ignorance to follow a dream I had for ten years -- starting a pet care business. I hope anyone reading this will see that people offering non-constructive criticism should be ignored, and they can be used to motivate you to prove them wrong.
Let's start with a quick backstory. I first wanted to open a doggie daycare 9 years ago after graduating from undergrad. I was in a funny place, though, since my degree is in Human Services (social work, counseling kind of fields), and I thought it would be a "waste" of my education to work with animals. I felt like it was not acceptable to have a degree that wasn't being used directly in its intended field. It took me a LONG time to come to terms with this... It took five years. I learned, through several different jobs, that while I can do them well, my true purpose was to create change and work with animals. And this story is an example of why it took me so long to take the leap of faith into The Mindful Mutt.
For three and a half years, I worked in real estate in Boston. For a while, I worked with a super successful real estate agent who sells luxury Boston real estate. So, my colleagues were also in that same area of expertise -- fancy downtown Boston homes. I mean these houses we were selling were multiple millions of dollars. It was a REALLY cool job and I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that a lot of people who sell fancy stuff think they are better than other people. (Just FYI: I am NOT referring to my boss or any of the lovely folks who became friends...). It's kind of a silly concept... You know, the concept that you are cooler than some people because other people who are richer than you buy stuff from you. In my view, that's how the field of real estate is... Full of ego and comparison (the thief of joy). It's not a field for the thin-skinned or do-gooders. If you're not careful, the people around you can chew you up and spit you out. And everyone talks badly behind their "friends'" and colleagues' backs, but rarely to their face.
It was probably early 2017. I was still working in an office at the time but had recently left my job working in real estate for a job in office administration. I was dog-walking and dog-sitting part-time when I wasn't grinding away at the office.
One night, I happened to run into three former real estate colleagues who used to work in my office. Let's call them Keith, Roger, and Brian (not their real names because I don't believe in public shaming and I believe Karma will get them in due time). I noticed Keith, Roger, and Brian were having drinks and chit-chatting at the bar, so I went over to say hello. At some point, Brian mentioned that we had run into each other outside of his house when I had been walking a dog. And I was like, "Oh yeah that was funny seeing you and your kid. I was just walking a dog who lives near you!" And I thought nothing of it.
A few minutes later, Keith (who was a friend of my former real-estate boss) started asking me how much my boss used to pay me, which I knew very well not to disclose for two reasons: 1) it's an inappropriate question, and 2) it's none of your GOSHDANG BIDNEZZ!!! He kept prying, and saying he would hire me and he would probably pay me waaaay more than I used to make with my old boss. And I explained to him, it's not about the money, I'm making a career change and looking to fulfillment with my work; however, Keith kept asking me how much I would "need" to make to leave my current job, come back to real estate, and work for him. Now, do not get me wrong, it's flattering to think that someone wants you on their team. That means your work ethic speaks for itself, and it felt like a weird, nice compliment. But, I told him again that it's not about the money at all. And that is when he sarcastically said,
"YEAH RIGHT. THAT'S WHY YOU'RE WALKING DOGS!"
And Roger and Brian chimed in like little laughing hyenas, "hee hee hee yeah, that's why you're walking dogs!! hee hee hee!"
Well, I had enough of the disrespect at that point and told Keith that I would NEVER work for him no matter how much he paid me because he has a reputation for being a jerk to females. Maybe I shouldn't have said that... but it was said. The guys laughed it off. We finished our drinks and parted ways.
They probably never thought about that conversation again. But I sure did. I was FUMING!!!!!!!!!
Here are some visual representations of how I felt after that encounter with Keith, Roger and Brian:
I probably do not need to explain why I was upset by the entire interaction, so I won't. There was, however, a lot I wish I had said instead of letting them laugh it off and be disrespectful. I wish they knew that the pet industry is a $99 Billion industry in the US alone which is due to over 67% of households having a pet. I wish I told them that they should do the math and realize that pet care is a REAL BUSINESS; not a hobby; not a side-hustle; but a business that provides not only for pets, but for employees and their families. I wish I told them that although I'm not working with animals for some big pay out, that pet sitters across the country make 6-figures or more. I wish I told them that money might be how he measures his success or my success, but I measure it by how fulfilled I feel and whether I am working to become a better version of the person I want to be. I wish I told them that I create to build my own business where I can give the best care to all of the animals I possible could meet, and I knew it would be successful because of my hard-work, research, and pure passion for the animals.
But I didn't tell them any of those things. Instead, I let them laugh it off, and I pretended like it was no big deal, like it wasn't hurtful. That's okay because, now, I can let my hard work and dedication to my clients' pets prove the three stooges wrong. I have well over 150 satisfied clients with over 200 pets, and business was incredible pre-pandemic. Even now, I have almost a full roster mid-pandemic, and the great majority of all new clients are through word-of-mouth. Now, The Mindful Mutt is a recognized local brand -- when I go to the dog park and someone asks me about my business, they often say, "Oh! I know The Mindful Mutt! So-and-so has said great things about your dog-walks!" or "So you must know so-and-so's dog!?" Now, the community of clients and community members that have supported my dream has grown exponentially, and I am grateful every day that my friends and clients allow me to care for their fur babies like they're my own.
I guess the moral of my story is NEVER let ANYONE dissuade you or shame you for your dream. Don't worry about what you think your undergrad degree means you should do -- live your PASSION and figure out a way to support yourself doing it. Or maybe your passion isn't your full-time job and THAT'S OKAY, TOO! Don't let the haters weigh you down. Just lift them up off your shoulders like Hulk Hogan in 90's WCW wrestling matches, slam them to the ground, and then take a metaphorical metal chair and bonk them over the head with it! Because you do NOT have time for their negativity!
Vibe high, my friends. Follow your dreams and pet a few extra dogs today.