Let me tell you a story.
My husband Ralph is a serial entrepreneur. He has done everything from sell used cars in his driveway to run a kid's clothing store. He currently has a fairly successful window washing and chimney cleaning service.
His longest-lived dream, however, was starting a coffee shop. He nurtured this dream for eight years, spending hours and hours on Pinterest and eBay, dreaming about the exact equipment he would buy, mapping out every detail in his head. It would have chalkboard-topped tables with chalk so that people could draw on them. It would feature cakes and fudge baked and served in Mason jars to minimize waste and maximize reuse. It would have Charlie Chaplin movies showing on a big-screen TV; comfortable furniture; used books and CDs to peruse and buy; organic Haitian coffee; chess, checkers, and backgammon; wi-fi; ... in short, not just a place to drink coffee, but a real home-away-from-home living room experience in which everything possible was repurposed, reused, and recycled.
You can imagine Ralph's delight when the owner of a local garden and antiques store approached him, saying that she wanted to open a coffee shop in her store. The rent was right, the location was great, he would have built-in foot traffic with her customers; everything seemed perfect.
They agreed that she would move her office out of the space for the coffee shop, which would give him six months to get it cleaned, remodeled, plumbed, and ready to open in time for summer tourist season.
So Ralph started happily accumulating used furniture, books, coffee dispensers, and all of the things he would need for his shop, a little bit at a time, and stored them in our tiny apartment. His goal was to open his shop debt-free. And in the meantime, he and the shop owner kept their conversation going.
At one point, Ralph was working on a potentially lucrative window washing contract with the city, which he would turn over to his employees after he opened the coffee shop. Delighted, he told the shop owner about it, thinking she would be happy for him.
Her response was, "Oh, I don't want to waste my tax money on that!" She was a fixture at city council meetings and shortly afterward, the window cleaning contract negotiations fell through.
Meanwhile, two months, then three months, then four months marched by, and the shop owner didn't make any effort to move her things out of the space. Ralph offered to help, but she refused his help. He asked if she still wanted the coffee shop in there, and she said, "Oh, yes, I want you. I'll clean the office, don't worry".
Six months came and went and the garden shop owner's office space remained untouched. Meanwhile the furniture and supplies for the coffee shop continued to pile up in our apartment.
Finally, after eight months, Ralph decided to simply move ahead without the shop owner's permission. He brought his ladder and his construction supplies, moved her stuff out of the space and started working. A month later, after a Herculean nightmare of remodeling, plumbing, and health and building inspectors -- all the while continuing to wash windows and clean chimneys until the last possible moment -- Ralph opened his shop, proudly debt-free.
The garden shop owner complained, "You're late. You should have been open by now. I don't know what took you so long."
Ralph settled in and started his new routine. He learned how much coffee to make so that there was as little waste as possible.
The garden shop owner started giving away coffee for free at the front of the store.
Ralph learned to bake cakes in Mason jars.
The garden shop owner started buying up the Mason jars in town and stocking them in her store.
Ralph put up a nice awning over his store front so that people would know his shop was there.
The garden shop owner moved several display cases in front of Ralph's coffee shop, blocking his windows.
After two months, Ralph's coffee shop was beginning to gain a steady clientele.
The garden shop owner demanded that Ralph get his insurance in order.
So Ralph made phone calls, pulled his paperwork together, and started scraping together the money for the premium. It took a couple of days because he had to clean some windows and then wait for his clients to pay him.
He had just sent the check off to the insurance company when he got a text from the shop owner. "We need to discuss an exit strategy."
One week later, Ralph's shop was closed and all of his things moved out. He got a check from the store owner for the plumbing work.
While Ralph was moving his shop out, the garden store owner was moving her things in.
It would be easy at this point to waste a bunch of time and energy being angry at the garden shop owner, telling and re-telling the story, maybe even seeking to get even by trashing her reputation around town. In fact, I'll confess, I did spend a couple of sleepless nights (that I'll never get back) dreaming about ways to get revenge.
But I only saw Ralph let this shop owner get to him a couple of times in the year he had been working with her. He knew what was coming. Everybody knew this woman, and they all warned him about her. But he decided that the advantages to going ahead with his shop outweighed the disadvantages in terms of experience, making connections, and gaining political capital.
Now, thanks to his stint at the garden center, Ralph has signed a contract to open a coffee shop at our local college. He's opening there tomorrow. He'll have no rent to pay, no equipment to buy, no overhead other than supplies ... and no garden shop owner to work around.
In short, it's an even sweeter deal than what he had at the garden store.
As entrepreneurs, we don't have the luxury of allowing ourselves to get distracted by the negativity that is constantly regurgitated by everyone around us. Any time and energy that we spend on negativity is time and energy we could be using to help us manifest our dreams.
Any time we catch ourselves getting frustrated, discouraged, angry ... we need to ask ourselves, "Is this train of thought helping me get where I want to go?"
If the answer is "No", we need to declare that train of thought "irrelevant", cut off all attention to it immediately, and re-focus on where we are going.
Leave the negativity to the office rats who are bored to death in their 8-to-5 jobs. They have the time and energy to waste on gossip.