Welcome back. This is part three of a three part series on the question of ethical fitness business ownership and operation during the Coronavirus pandemic. You can read part one here, and part two here, if you haven’t already.
Hi again. Thanks for seeing this thing through and getting to part three. It’s a lot, I know. I mean, it’s taken me four days and three posts to get it all out so, I’m with you there.
In Part One I offered my thoughts about why it’s time for me, and others like me, to reconsider what we do, why we do it, and for whom. In Part Two I articulated, to the best I know how right now, how damaging labeling the fitness industry as essential is to public health and the wellness of the Whole. Today I’m going into the land of What If.
What if your business doesn’t make it out of this pandemic alive? What if you don’t do what you used to do anymore? What if you have to reinvent yourself, perhaps again, in the middle of a global crisis?
What might happen next?
There’s this tool I like to use that I learned from a teacher of my teachers- Baron Baptiste. I know, I know, I’m referencing a yoga celebrity teacher here, and it’s a dude who makes millions on the yoga industry every year, and that’s some seriously problematic shit, but/and, without his contributions I can confidently say I wouldn’t be exactly where I am right now so, there’s that.
Anyhow, Baron has this phrase “and so what?” And damn isn’t it useful when I find myself catastrophizing.
Let’s try it out.
So, you can’t reopen your business, and maybe that means you can’t pay your employees, your business overhead, your rent, or yourself anymore.
And so what?
Well, your employees, as I pointed out in my last post, can get unemployment. Your overhead costs won’t get paid and you might have policies canceled but odds are good there will be a bit of cushion and forgiveness, plus, if you don’t have a business anymore you don’t need to pay most of those anymore either, because #math. If you can’t pay rent you might get evicted, and your landlord may, or may not negotiate with you and they may, or may not sue you for breaching your lease. Given the current climate it’s unlikely they will be able to come after you but if they do, it’s still going to be okay. We’ll get to why that’s true in a second.
As for you, and your income? I’m going to bet that since you are a small business owner you not only have skills that are of use in many other industries, you also very likely have other credentials or degrees, because very very few of us got started in this industry when we were fresh out of braces and big bangs. You are pretty unlikely to be a spring chicken, and even less likely to be a green one.
And, since there’s a, oh, I don’t know, somewhere around 85% chance you are a white small business owner in the fitness industry in America right now, you remain in a relatively safe position. Between your business contacts and your clients you probably know some people who might know some people who can get you a job. Your resume probably has a socially acceptable name at the top of it, and since odds are high you left a high paying career to build your fitness empire when you found yourself, you can probably write a decent cover letter that will get you through the door and in front of a desk somewhere.
Ouch. That might have hurt a little, ya?
Let’s keep going.
Let’s say your financial situation is so bad you end up so out of money you choose or have to file bankruptcy.
And so what?
Well, y’all. It’s literally just paper. If you have to file bankruptcy, then you have to file bankruptcy. If your credit score goes down, your savings gets depleted, and you don’t qualify for the best loans anymore, then welcome to the reality of millions of Americans. For real. WELCOME. Literally millions of Americans don’t qualify for quality rental homes, humane interest rates, or the same jobs that you and your 750 credit score, do. Yet somehow they manage to carry on anyway, bearing the burden of cost for you, actually.
Maybe it’s your turn to take the load.
If you’re a white person who’s going to argue that it’s your financial diligence, your superior spending and budgeting habits, your airtight business plan, and not your extreme privilege in a world designed especially to benefit you that’s “earned” you that credit score then we may not get a whole lot further together here, but that’s another post for another day.
Friends, I promise you, bankruptcy is not the worst thing that will ever happen to you, and if by some stroke of whiteness it is, then you had better be counting every blessing you’ve ever had.
Is your physical life in danger? Are you seeking asylum from a country ruled by a ruthless dictator, corrupt law enforcement, extensive impoverishment, or oppression? Are you without a home, access to food, or being held prisoner?
No? Okay then, maybe a failed business is not actually, such a big deal after all.
It is for you. It might be in the short term for the people in your circle. But they will move on and so will you, when you choose to.
So you close your business. You either spend your savings or file for bankruptcy to cover the remaining expenses.
And so what?
You begin again, folks. You begin again.
You start with what you have, and where you are, and you figure your shit out. Maybe you will have to get a job working for someone else. Maybe it will suck. Maybe you will make minimum wage and have to give up all the things you’ve worked so hard for the last X amount of years. Maybe you’ll have to move in with family, sell your belongings, collect unemployment if you can, or couch surf for awhile.
You. Begin. Again.
And if that doesn’t work, so what?
And then again.
As many times as it takes. As many shitty days and dark days as it takes. You will figure it out, and although it doesn’t have to get that messy, it might.
Yes, this is hard, there is no denying that. But you know what? You can do hard things. I know you can, because you have already. You’re here, aren’t you?
Now is a time for you to wait, shift, and create differently. The old way won’t work here, literally nothing will be untouched by this pandemic. Not a single thing. We are all still figuring out our “and so whats.” We are all still trying to find both of our feet. We are all still trying to hold on to the railing just enough to hang over the edge and see what’s at the bottom. Stop. Let go and let’s begin again.
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Some final thoughts, because three parts was just barely enough. If you’re still wondering, thinking, or stewing, here’s just a bit more to digest.
Here is where you are, actually– you are in a place where you can sit back and ask yourself, truly ask yourself – is what I do actually that important? Am I, white fitness boutique owner, actually irreplaceable? Who do I serve? Do they really need me? Is this the best way to serve them? Am I actually qualified to serve them? Am I getting in the way of someone more qualified or deserving of doing this work?
And perhaps most importantly- is it right for me to profit from helping people?
Now there are going to be all kinds of opinions and defenses of this. And Capitalist America is going to come at me with the “work hard, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it’s okay to do what you love, follow your passion” rhetoric. And that’s okay. I’ve been there, I get that. I’m well versed in the law of attraction. Been there, bought that. I mean, it works, but, also, it’s problematic as fuck.
Do I think you should be well compensated for your time and expertise? I do, yes. Do I think your level of responsibility, contributions, and skillset should be factored into your salary? Yep. Do I think you have a right to live a comfortable life? Yes, and – not at the expense of others.
And here we fall down a new slippery slope of entrepreneurial tropes – everything can and should be yours if you hustle for it, and, everyone is screwing someone over so why shouldn’t you?
Well now my American is showing, isn’t it?
Please. I beg you, right now to please sit down and collect your thoughts. If you haven’t yet, educate yourself about what it’s like to live in a non-white body in America. Not sure where to start? Here, I made you a list. Pick one and get started.
When you have caught at least part way up to speed, I’m going to ask you to go back to the questions above and try again.
If you are a yoga studio owner, and you are not of African or Indian heritage, I especially challenge you to ask yourself this – is it morally right for me to offer what I offer? Am I following the very codes I claim to uphold by teaching what I teach? Is this my place? Am I needed? And, again,
IS IT RIGHT FOR ME TO PROFIT FROM HELPING PEOPLE?