With my first-ever organizing class just a few weeks away, I took off for my favorite place to do research: the bookstore. There are a ton of books about how to organize. The problem is that when someone wants to get organized, the best way to un-motivate them is for them to see a 300 page book on how to do it. That’s why people sign up for my class.
Here’s the thing though: I really didn’t need to read those books. Over the past ten years, I’d helped so many people pare down and read so many books on the topic that I had all the information in my head already. The reason I needed a book was to remind me of how much I did know.
I pulled a few off the shelves that seemed to address my audience (retired folk looking to stop accumulating and start scaling down) and then was able to snag an overstuffed chair on which to sit while I assessed the value of each book. I picked the one I liked best – a fairly thin volume that covered what I hoped to in my four week class – and bought it.
I must confess that, though I carried that book and a notebook everywhere I went, I still didn’t sit down to outline my course. But down to the wire, with just a couple days until my first class, I panicked. To get talked off the ledge, I called the person I knew would calm my fears: my mother. I can’t recall what she said. Something along the lines of “Just sit down and do it.” So I did. I put it all on paper. I was ready.
On the first day of class, after my students settled themselves into their seats, I asked them to go around the room telling me what their reason was for taking this course. The answers were what I expected: the collections they didn’t know what to do with, the piles of books and papers, a desire to move to a smaller space. And then we got to a tiny lady in the back of the room. She said she loves organizing and is just here to learn some new tips. Her friend piped up, “It’s what she does – and she has a book.”
My smile hid my intense fear and dread as I said, “Oh, wonderful!” My fear, though, quickly dissipated as I realized I would do the same exact thing she was doing. No matter how much I think I know about organizing, I still pick up the magazines touting tips for organizing your kitchen cabinets. And I, too, would sit in on a class on the topic because there’s always something new to learn.
The other thing that helped me get over my initial shock at having an actual experienced organizer in my class was that I knew that I had a great class planned. My confidence pushed me through. And I figured there was some reason that I was up here instead of her.
My class went fabulously well. I did some interactive activities, had a short video that made people laugh, dispelled some myths and felt like we’d made progress. I knew that was so when many of my students sought me out at the end of the class to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Including the organizer. She asked about my interest in the topic and I quietly told her my dream and how I thought this was a good way to start. She said I did a great job. She gave me her card and her book and offered that if I would like to meet with her sometime to talk about how to get started, she would be happy to do that.
Wait a minute. What about this idea of competition? Why would she want to help me – someone who could potentially take business from her (if I ever got this idea off the ground)? Then I thought back to something Barbara Winter once said to me: there is plenty of business to go around. And smart entrepreneurs realize this and befriend their would-be competitors. Had this woman known this tip? I then thought about how many potential math tutors had asked me about how they could get started – sheepishly at first. I am always encouraging and supportive. First because I’m such a fan of having work in which you’re your own boss – and if I can help someone else see the joys of that, all the better. And secondly because there are a lot of kids out there that need math help. More than I can tutor. And my goal is to help kids. Encouraging others to become tutors fits in with that goal perfectly.
I was still a little mystified as to why this woman would want to help me, though. But I took her information and told her my next few weeks were a bit busy but that I would love to talk to her. It’s true, my next few weeks were busy. But here was God putting this wonderful resource right in my lap – who was I to turn it down? So I e-mailed her a week later and set up to have coffee with her after our next class. Little did I know what a wonderful idea this was.