What You See Is What You Get


Our stories define our outlook, and lead to the outcomes of our life. So many corners I have turned in my life have opened up simply because I first turned a corner in the way I saw my situation. By stepping back and reflecting on how things are, and by having a creative, open mind about how things could be, new perspectives can present shining new opportunities.


That Repair Shop is the story of a wonderful opportunity

When Alec and I had our backs against the wall after three years of working That Repair Shop, we found ourselves at a crossroads. Whether we changed our response or not, life could not stay the same. Those bankruptcy papers on the desk simply could not be ignored. Doing nothing would see the debt swallow us up, but any of the options that involved doing something would still bring long, painful results. Any of the pathways available to us were going to be gruelling. So we evaluated our options:

  1. Continue to try and trade out of the mess by trying to reduce our expenses and/or increase our income – this hadn’t worked so far and neither had much left in the tank for this business any more
  2. Call it quits and file for bankruptcy – with my teaching and Alec’s work at Harvey Norman we would have experienced the immediate relief of no debt and a very comfortable weekly income
  3. Close That Repair Shop and direct our resources towards other business models – we had suppliers for the Nelson Vacuums eBay shop, but this business couldn’t offer anything like wage

Each of these options had one thing in common: An expensive financial price tag. With heavy hearts, we compared the cost of continued exposure to rising debt, versus seven years of zero financial capacity, versus the risks of a gambling on a relatively new, small time online enterprise. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place, so in our somber decision-making conversations we started doing what we always did: Find ways to Thrive!

We refused to settle in this dark place, and started looking for opportunities amidst the adversity. We started imagining possibilities, even if they could only be real in our minds for now. We started to revisit the essential ingredients of the perfect life that we wanted. We started reminding ourselves that our highest values were autonomy and integrity and empowerment  We started to tell stories about the sorts of things that could come from this. We started to believe that this crossroads was THE turning point we had needed all along. We started seeing this bankruptcy option as something Significant. Opportune. Transforming. We saw this situation as truly … wonderful.

And so it was. It was wonderful because we saw it as wonderful.

It did signify a new beginning. It did open new opportunities. It did transform our life.

We saw the ‘wonderful’ because we chose to revisit the passions that drove our purpose, and we used these to illuminate the truths we needed to see. The truths of our passions are always higher and more lasting than our circumstantial truths. And these kinds of truths energise us, always.

And with that, we knew our pathway. We had to follow steps that would advance our autonomy, and our integrity, and our empowerment. We had to make a plan to serve the love we had for each other, our children, and our family. A plan to work, with people, to build something grand. A plan that provided for Alec in business and for me in education. A plan that would accelerate us through the long, tough days that lie ahead, on the fuel of our passion.

The plan looked like this:

  • I would continue to teach to provide financial stability
  • Put off our staff of four at That Repair Shop
  • Fire sale everything that we could to squeeze every last dollar out of our resource
  • Close That Repair Shop
  • Pay out as many suppliers as we could
  • Set up payment plans for the rest of our creditors
  • Alec would resign from Harvey Norman
  • Set up vacuum cleaner repairs for Alec to operate out of our home garage
  • Build our online business selling vacuum cleaner spare parts

This plan fitted us perfectly because it advanced our autonomy to direct our own path through our time schedules, our careers, and most of all, our debt repayment. It stretched our integrity by taking ownership of the responsibilities we had to our creditors, and to the passions of our heart. And it advanced our empowerment by anchoring all of our actions into the motives that came from the deepest passions of our heart.

I love that this change taught me that there is no such thing as a disaster. With the ongoing costs of start-up business and raising a young family on a single wage, the debt we promised to pay off rolled on for years. In fact, That Repair Shop closed in 2009, and it wasn’t until June, 2014 that I could enjoy the relief of being completely debt free.

It will never cease to amaze me how situations can turn on the dime of our outlook. Things can – and do – change simply because we perceive a new thing with our insight, we activate it with our stories, and we enliven it with our actions.


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