Everything happens for a reason. Let me explain, my friends.
Texas recently experienced a devastating winter storm. I lost power at my house for over 50 hours, and with the roads in hazardous conditions, was stuck at home in freezing temperatures (our house dropping to just 48 degrees inside) with my husband and three small children.
I was forced to be almost completely removed from my business for three days, leaving my team without my guidance for days.
We were very blessed to have had a wood burning fireplace with plenty of wood to keep it going, and plenty of food in the freezer to last all of that time without power. And I am very fortunate to have built such an amazing team that my business was able to run without me for those few days.
This chaotic experience taught me so many incredibly valuable business and leadership lessons, and I believe that I had to go through this in order to learn those lessons.
Today I’m sharing all the details of my experience without power and the important lessons that I was able to derive from this that you need to hear as well. Shoot me a DM and let me know what lessons from today’s episode resonated with you over on Instagram (@emilyhirsh)!
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Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. So I’m excited for this one. This is my first podcast I’m recording after all of the craziness that happened in Texas. If you didn’t see it on the news, which I think it was all over the news, I don’t know because I didn’t have power. This is my first day back and recording a podcast and it was insane. So I have some leadership lessons, of course, that came from it and some things I think you guys will get value out of. But just to fill you in, if you didn’t see on the news, Texas had a crazy storm. It never snows in Austin, and it snowed like at my house, probably seven inches overnight in one day. And then for like a week straight, probably more like five days, it didn’t get above freezing temperature. So everything was ice. Like, first of all, Austin’s not set up for snow. Second of all, everything was completely frozen. Like the trees were ice, the roads were ice, and it caused all of these issues. The biggest one being the power.
So I don’t know all the details of what happened, but basically Texas’s power grid failed, and hundreds of thousands of people were without power in the freezing cold. And then that caused pipes bursting, lack of water. So you had people who were five days without water, without power, and it was like 20 degrees outside. So we lost power for just over 50 hours in the freezing cold, and it was quite the experience. After you go through something like that, like during it, it sucked, but it’s just like, okay, I can’t really break down or complain about this because I need to be strong. And then afterwards you’re like, holy crap I did that. And then also, you realize just how quickly something like that can happen. I mean, I actually feel like in many ways we were very lucky. We have a wood-burning stove. We had plenty of wood to go out and cut trees down, lay branches down. We have a big house, so there was space for our family to be in, but we actually stayed in one room. We didn’t have, as of now, any pipes bursting or things like actual house damage.
The other thing that kept going through my head to be grateful for throughout the process was a year ago, like literally to the day cause William celebrated his first birthday during that week, was that I was about to give birth. And I’m like, if this was the weather a year ago, cause I had a home birth, I wouldn’t have been able to have that home birth. But if this was the weather a year ago, I mean, it was dangerous to leave your house, to get to the hospital. It was completely icy. And I was probably past my due date at that point. I mean I felt for people like that. I felt for people, so many people were in all electric apartments with no electricity, no water, you know, like couldn’t get pregnant women who can’t get to the hospital, or people who don’t have the ability to go cut down wood and have a wood-burning stove. And we also had, my husband’s like a partial prepper, so I’m like, okay, I will never make fun of you again after this. We did not have a generator, which I was like, babe, that’s like prepper 101. We’re getting a generator now, but we have a freezer full of like a whole chest freezer, literally packed full of food. And so we were set because now all the grocery stores are out.
So like there were so many things that I was like, thank God we have this and I’m so grateful for this. And so I just kept reminding myself of those things, but it was really hard. My kids did amazing. To them it was like a regular day that I just had to wear three layers of clothes, but my house was 48 degrees. All we did for basically two and a half days is sit in front of our fire. We had a wood-burning stove, like that was the only room you’re right in front of the fire. You could stay warm enough. So for two days I just sat there. I didn’t, like, there was no point in putting on my clothes. I just had three layers of pajamas all day and sat there.
We had a charcoal barbecue on our back patio. That’s how we made food and then heated up water for tea, which the water tasted gross cause we had to heat it up in a cast iron pan. So my tea tasted bad. This is basically like camping, but like glamping cause I guess we had our house for three days and at night in our room. It was freezing, 48 degrees is what my thermometer that I brought in there said. So even with two full comforters and we were all squished into like two beds to keep each other warm. I was so cold and my hands were cold.
And so you’d get through one day, and then of course like the power company and people are not giving you updates. So you’re like, this could be like days longer. You’re like you get through one day, you get through one night, and you’re like, okay, I could do that, but I can’t do a whole nother day. I can’t do a whole another night. And we had so many friends offering their houses to us, which was amazing. But with that, it’s like also our friends had issues. So we had friends who had power, but they didn’t have water. Or we had to weigh should we drive 45 minutes across town? It’s going to take us actually an hour and a half with the roads and risk getting stuck on the side of the road with all of our kids, which wasn’t worth it to us.
And then we also have five people in our family. So should we go somewhere where we’re like, there’s no room for us and be uncomfortable sleeping then? Or should we sleep in our bed and just be cold? So we stayed home and our power came on at like 10 o’clock at night on the third night. And I was literally about to cry, just like so happy. And it’s just crazy. You don’t take it for granted as much now, even when I turn on a light, it’s been days after I turned on a light and I’m like, Oh, we have a lot. We have light, how nice. So little things like that. It definitely was an experience. It was an experience that I will not forget.
But out of that, I definitely had some lessons from it that I want to share with you guys. One of them is I have probably never in my life stayed in my pajamas all day and actually did nothing. Maybe after I gave birth that counted, but I feel like I still… yeah okay, after I gave birth. Like no warning, because giving birth, you prepare for that for a month, so then you prepare for those weeks off for a long time. But no warning just like that night, okay no power. I didn’t have, I don’t have email, I don’t have Slack on my phone. So the only way that my team could get ahold of me was Voxer. And I sent a few messages obviously to let them know what was going on, but I also don’t want to waste my phone battery. So I basically had no communication. I went like off grid for two and a half, three work days basically.
And so never in my life have I really done that. Anytime I even, I will be the first to admit if I travel, I’ll take days off, but I still check in. Even when I’m traveling, or on the weekend if I’m not working, I’m still doing. I’m constantly in this doing mode. It’s like, I’ve got to get my workouts in, I got to clean the house, I got to organize this closet, I have to go do this. I reflected massively on how I’m constantly in that state, that state of busy and doing, whether that’s work or not. Because I do a lot of other things that are not work. I am very big in my health and getting in a bunch of workouts a day, in my walks, and all these things. But I, this slapped me in the face with this is how you don’t do, you just have to be, literally. I mean, I don’t know what else would be just doing nothing besides what we did, which was sit in front of a fire with no electronics and nothing. But we had games for the kids, and I’d play Legos with them, and then just like chased William around all day and kept him away from the fire. That’s all I did for three days.
I mean, it felt like the longest three days of my life, to be honest, but it was such a big lesson in that I never do that, and how I could probably do more of that. And I haven’t solved exactly how, because I’ve thought about this before, but I haven’t solved exactly. How do you have both? How do you have the productive, you know, I’m definitely an overachiever. How do I have that productive life where I’m hitting all these goals and doing all these things I want to do, whether it’s with business, or with work, or with my health, or with my kids, and then also create the space to just be and do nothing? And I like to think I do that, but I think I do it in a very controlled to-do list way. It’s like, okay, I have to be for two hours, cross it off on the list.
So one of my big lessons in this was how am I going to create that state of doing nothing of just literally being in the present moment of being with my family, of not doing. That means not trying to get a bunch of chores done, that means not working out, that means just being. I read a book in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. I’m like, I have never done that. Like a novel, I read it at night. That’s when I do it, but like in the middle of the day when I’m supposed to be working, I always choose work. And so that was just a big reflection.
And so with that, one of these books that I was reading had this fable in it, I guess it’s called a fable, and I read it and then this happened. And the whole time, this was in the back of my head and I want to read it to you guys. It’s going to take me like one minute to read it, but I want to read it to you guys because I haven’t forgot it since I read it. And this goes into the leadership lessons that I learned. So here’s the fable.
There once was a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fishermen rowing a small boat towards the shore. Having caught quite a few big fish, the businessman was impressed and asked the fishermen, “how long does it take you to catch so many fish?” The fishermen replied, “Oh, just a short while.” “Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished. “This is enough to feed my whole family, “ the fishermen said. The businessman then asked “so what do you do for the rest of the day?” The fisherman replied, “well, I usually wake up early in the morning and go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife and evening comes. I join my buddies in the village for a drink. We play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fishermen, “I am a PhD in business management. I can help you to become a more successful person from now on. You should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon, you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you’ll have moved out of this village into Sao Paulo where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.” The fishermen continues. “And then after that,” the businessman laughed heartily, “after that, you can live like a King in your own house. And when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the stock exchange and you will be rich.” The fisherman asks, “and after that?” The businessman says, “after that, you can finally retire. You can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with the kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife. And then when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.” The fishermen was puzzled. “Isn’t that what I’m doing now?”
So I read that and then went into this and it just put me in this state of where I think that we spend so much time doing, doing, doing, at least I do. And that feels great, but then it’s like, what are we chasing? And I am determined to have a successful, very successful company, $10 million plus, a hundred million dollars, but not allow that to sacrifice the quality of my life and not be shooting for this goal of someday I will retire, or someday then my company will be at this place where I can sell it, or whatever those thoughts are that we have as entrepreneurs, and then I can have this, this perfect life, and then I can be present with my family, or then I can be healthy, or then I can travel, or whatever it is for you that you’ve thought about in once you get to that place. And for me, I mean, I’ve created a multimillion dollar company. I think that you need enough money to definitely sustain and pay for your life. That’s proven, that does create happiness, but then at some point when you chase and chase and chase, you have to ask yourself, what are you chasing? After I read that, it really just got me to think of what is that dream life that I want, how do I want to balance work, and family, and my own time, and friends, and fun, and travel, and why not just have all of that right now?
And I do have a lot of it, to be honest. I do create and set up my life so that it is very flexible, and I can travel, and I can do the things I want to do, but I don’t think I have enough fun. And I don’t think I do enough being. I think that also, there are a lot of successful entrepreneurs out there who, not even intentionally, maybe it’s unintentionally because it is their reality, show this hustle mentality or addiction to work. I just watched the interview with Elon Musk and Joe Rogan and he said he works until 1:00 or 2:00 AM every single night, except for Saturday and Sunday, or Friday and Saturday, or whatever. He said he works until 1:00 or 2:00 AM. And it’s like, yeah, he’s a billionaire. He’s one of the richest men in the world, if not the. I think Jeff Bezos actually just passed him, whatever second richest man in the world, or the us, I don’t know what the metric is, but he’s working until 1:00 or 2:00 AM. Like at what point, you know, he’s having a massive impact in the world for sure with his projects.
And that’s what Joe Rogan was asking him is, you know, you’ve got space X, and you have all these things, and you’re literally changing the world. How do you have time for it? But maybe that is his path and that is what he wants. But I also think as a CEO, as you build a successful company, you need to ask yourself for what and what does that dream life look like for you, and create it and be the leader that can show your team and your audience that you can have both. You can have a successful company and still have a life where you’re not a hundred percent plugged in, or you have quality time with your family and you’re a present mom, or wife, or partner, and you travel, and you can have all those things.
So reading that really made me think just about how we go, and we hustle, and we do, and we do, and we do, and we stay in this grind. And sometimes we do, at least I have in my head of like, once I finished this project, or launch this thing, or get to this certain level, or this monthly run rate in my company, then I can start doing this, or travel more, or take time off, or have a week off. When the reality is, I mean, to be completely honest, if I was given this week and someone said don’t take meetings and take the week off, but you’re at home and you have to do nothing, I wouldn’t have done it. I would have 100% chosen to work. Even if I would have created work for myself. I know myself, I would have created things that I needed to do because I would have wanted to stay busy.
And so I’m challenging that for myself and this experience changed me because I haven’t just off the cuff taken a break like that and just did nothing. It’s very difficult for me, but I will say after two days, I got to a point where our power turned back on and it was actually William’s first birthday, and you would think I wanted to dive back into work, and I missed it so much. And I did, I missed my team, I missed my work, but I was like, you know what, I’m going to take the rest of the day. I’m gonna take the day off to be with my family. I’m gonna take one more day in this kind of gift that happened, and just wait, just keep the pause a little bit longer, which is so unlike me. It took me two days, two full days for that, two and a half days, that full day for that to be where my mindset was.
So I’m going to be working this somehow in. It’s very hard for me, but also with that, a couple of other like leadership lessons that came out of this is number one, the ultimate test of your business of could it run without you is to do what happened. Go off grid and see what happens. And I am so excited and proud and almost emotional about the fact that I created a company, we didn’t even skip a single beat, sales still came in, we delivered to our clients perfectly, all of our monthly goals are on track to be accomplished, decisions were made, team members like recruiting happened, hiring. Everything kept on moving.
And that’s one thing I thought is if this was forced on me, that I couldn’t work, there are so many people who that was forced on and they won’t make money or they won’t get paid. I felt so sorry for the businesses that have had to close down for COVID, and now had another week they had to shut down. But I was able to create this company that an emergency basically happened and I couldn’t show up at, and everything ran literally perfect. I mean, the only thing that now we’re behind on is this recording my podcasts, which is fine. So that’s amazing, and if you can create that as your end goal of your company, of creating a company where it runs without you, it should be because that is a level of freedom that you really can’t get any other way.
So that’s one of my goals, but then also the business lesson is for me, or leadership lesson, is really one, defining but then also communicating my end goal as a CEO. Which I don’t know if I have yet, like I might not have figured it out yet, but once you create enough, once you really have a $1 million business, that’s enough money to support a family, and now what is the point? Why keep doing what you’re doing? Obviously, because you’re driven. You want to have an impact.
I know all those things, and all of those things are true for me. I love what I do. I want to work. I am at times addicted to work, but why? What’s the bigger goal and why am I creating what I am creating in the company? And who am I, if you remove work, and you remove being a mom, and you’re forced to just, you know, sit there and do nothing. Who am I? And so those are the questions I’m asking of that fable of okay, if you do this, and you do this, and you do this, and then you will have this dream retirement, or this dream life. What is that dream life for me right now? And I’m not going to wait anymore. If there are things that I’m not doing, because I am keeping myself busy finding things to do in my company, creating urgency that’s not there, or a reason to be hustling or, or working late. So many times do I catch myself being like, I have to get this done today, or tonight. And it’s like, why you don’t just be late one day, push it back one week in exchange for not having that constant stress.
So I haven’t fully answered that question, but I am thinking about that. And I think with that interview with Elon, it also makes me think how many entrepreneurs are out there kind of promoting this hustle, promoting that. A thought that I personally had was can you be a billionaire and not work seven days a week or nonstop? Can you unplug? I think the answer is yes, but I also recently read like a month ago, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s, I guess it was a memoir. I don’t know, her book Lean In. And in that book, she said the days of having a weekend off or unplugging for a week on a vacation are long gone for me. Like, I can’t do that. And I was like, what? Why? You have a valuation of, like I think she’s like one point billion or something, and she’s like such a bad-ass. But when you have a lot, you can’t unplug for a week, you can’t unplug for a weekend.
Why can’t you have both? And that’s what I want. That for me, that is one of my personal goals to challenge that you can create massive success, multi hundred million dollar success, billion dollar success, and have a life, and unplug, and have fun, and play, and travel, and all of those things. Because if you can’t, then in my opinion, what is the point? That’s my opinion. I guess other people, you know, have, have a different experience in their impact and what they’re here to do, but I’m determined to show that you can’t have both.
So the last lesson that I learned, and I learn this every time I unplug for a series of time, whether that’s traveling for a few days, or what happened, but you know, you think that you’re going to be so behind and come in and have all these emails and all these messages. Literally I logged on and in one hour, one hour I had a hundred percent of my emails caught up, all my messages caught up and I was like, what do I spend the week doing? And it’s just reminder how constantly responding to things is never productive. So I think I’m going to go down to just checking my email twice a week.
I have an assistant who helps me manage it, but she lives in Austin so nobody was managing my email during this whole week. And then she didn’t get power back and I did, and so I checked my email and later on, and in one hour I was 100% caught up on all my emails, all my messages that I hadn’t checked for three days. So that shows you that this urgency we create, this constant I got to stay up to date, I gotta inbox zero, catch up all my messages, get back to everybody. That’s in our head. We don’t have to do that, and if you batch it together in a quick one hour a week, you can actually be way more productive, and then maybe you take that time and instead of putting it into work, you put it into something else.
I know that’s kind of one thing I’m challenging for myself because I have a doing obsession. Like I said, I know if someone said to me, take this week off, no calls and you don’t have to work, but be at home and do it, be at home and do nothing, and you’ll still have your nanny, you’ll still have your house cleaner, all those things, which I actually didn’t obviously with the snow storm, but let’s say I had my regular life and I just didn’t have to work. I would choose to work. I would create things to do because I don’t know what else to do, and that’s just something I’m going to be personally challenging as a leader, because I think it will make me grow in a different way as a person and allow me to show up better as a leader for my community, for my team, and look at that because I think some of the best ideas and also experiences will come from just being, doing nothing, which I never did.
I didn’t see that, you know, my parents don’t do that. I didn’t see that growing up. I do not know how to do that, unless faced with an emergency. No power, or you just had a baby, like that. Those are the things that forced me to do that, and I want to create that more in my life. Looking at what is your end goal as a CEO? Yes, you’re creating this huge company, but also why? And who do you want to be while you create this company? And get off that hamster wheel of doing, doing, doing.
So I hope this was helpful for you guys. I know it’s not necessarily a marketing strategy podcast, but it was a very humbling experience for me. I will definitely be impacted from it, between everything I talked about, that book, and all the things that I’ve been looking at, and I feel like this, I feel like most things happen for a reason. I really do. I think this week, like for some reason, the timing, it was supposed to happen. I was supposed to have to go through this and I’m always looking for lessons with that. So I’m grateful that our family is okay, that we were able to get warm. It was not fun. My kids did amazing. You have a lot more respect to have people who lived like that for every day of their life. We were not as prepared for it, or prepared more than others. And we tried to help as many people as we could too in the community who couldn’t go out and get food, and older people in our neighborhood, but it was quite the experience. All right guys, talk to you next time.