What the Flu Can Teach Any Business Owner

business owner fluLast Wednesday, I woke up feeling a bit under the weather. It’s rare that I get sick, so I just felt that it was my turn to catch whatever version of the cold was going around. I participated in a panel for the local PRSA chapter that day and not soon after, I looked at my colleague and said, “Ummm, I’m sick.”

Naturally, what that meant was:

– Let’s go back to the office and take a conference call.

– I can work until 7pm that evening.

– I can certainly take an on-site lunch meeting with a prospective new client on Thursday.

By late afternoon on Thursday, I’d given up. I needed to go see the doctor. I called Kaiser (shut it) to get an appointment and they gave me a 20-minute phone triage and said, yeah – it’s viral, honey. Nothing we can do. Drink fluids and rest. Muttering an inarguable “fuck you” to whomever would listen at that point, I drove my ass to the Walgreens and filled my basket with every possible homeopathic and OTC remedy known to mankind. If you can believe it, I walked out with over $30 in christ-I-hope-this-makes-me-feel-better concoctions and I-can’t-have-the-flu-because-I-got-a-flu-shot thoughts and positioned myself on the sofa.

Where I’ve been for 5 days now.

It got so bad on Saturday that I hauled myself to a doc-in-the-box where I was told, yeah – it’s the flu. BUT WAIT! For your faith in OTC remedies and all the rest you’ve given yourself, we have a special gift for you! An upper respiratory infection, complete with antibiotics that cost (gulp) a tidy sum of $100! (And yes, that WAS the generic version.)

So here I sit – humbled. Run down. I’ve dubbed this illness The Plague. Yesterday, I lost my voice. And truth be told, I feel like three-day-old pad thai that’s been left on the kitchen counter and licked by at least four cats. Today, my voice is coming back — I sound like a cross between Joan Rivers and Stevie Knicks with emphysema thrown in for flavor.

And this whole thing has taught me a little bit about business.

Everyone Knows Best

God bless the interwebz, I say. I’m as plugged in as plugged in can be and once I shared my battle with The Plague with friends and followers, the advice seemed to overpower the notes of sympathy. Not that I was looking for sympathy, but it reminded me that – good heavens – everyone knows best, don’t they? According to the interwebz, I should do everything from gargle with vinegar to steam baths and take Emergen-C. Even after I went to the doctor on Saturday, even a doctor wanted to share his long-distance opinion with me.

Something to remember: People are generally altruistic. They want to help. We all have experiences to share. And y’know, there are the jackwads who just feel like they know best (and there’s no shutting those up). When you decide to head down this entrepreneurial path, you have to prepare yourself for unsolicited input. Everyone – other than you – will know what’s best for you. It’s not unlike unraveling our lives and going back to the days where mom and dad said, “Because I said so!” or “You’ll go blind if you keep touching it!” Later in life, we realize that both are bollocks, and even though I wear glasses, whatever damage I incurred from “touching it” I’m happy to chalk up to genetics (my whole family is myopic to some degree) instead of behavior. You can’t stop the advice for pouring in, and that’s good because…

Great Ideas Can Come From Anywhere

For all the unsolicited advice, there will be a piece or two that catches your eye, ear, and mind. Like the person who recommended pineapple juice for my lost voice. I had to get dressed after 4 days (yes, FOUR days) and go to the bank, and Whole Foods was right across the street. I needed probiotics and, well, I saw a bottle of organic pineapple juice. So I grabbed it. Drank it on the way home. Not only did it taste sublime, especially when you consider that the only thing I’ve been drinking for days is coconut water and TheraFlu, I had a phone call come in and – wouldn’t you know it? I could croak out a “hello.” Maybe it’s timing, but I’m going to chalk it up to pineapple juice.

Something to remember: While all of that unsolicited advice (most notably, the person who recommended that I go for a 40-minute jog to ignite my immune system when it’s nearly impossible for me to even laugh with launching a coughing fit) is rolling in, you just might find some gems. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and think that we’re the only ones with ideas worth acting upon. But in the end, some of the best ideas – even ones that don’t include pineapple juice – come from outside our protective bubble. And that’s okay – the worst thing we do to ourselves as business owners is feel like we have to do everything. Which means…

We Don’t Rest Enough

Christ on an iPad – we sure as hell don’t. Lemme tell you what being relegated to the sofa for 5 days feels like: ass. Pure, unadulterated ass. I haven’t been to the gym. I haven’t left the house except to go to the doctor. I’ve fallen a bit behind on business (since it’s hard to have phone calls when you can’t talk). But you know what? I have rested. My body has crashed for nearly 9 hours straight each night since The Plague set in, and that’s not including the pass-out-on-the-sofa mid-day nap times I’ve had. I’ve watched stupid movies, seen the entire first season of Downton Abbey (OMFGAWESOMEBBQsauce), and even rearranged my office on Saturday afternoon in a fit of decongestant-fueled purpose.

We don’t take care of ourselves. We think that going to the gym and a Naked juice smoothie fixes the fact that we work 16 hours a day, six days a week. I need to unplug more and do things for myself. I need to stop answering business emails at 8pm. I need to take weekends. In short, I need to do a better job at having a life. Just because I can plug into anything via my iPhone doesn’t mean I should and it certainly doesn’t mean I should all the time. Life got along just fine these past 5 days when I needed to take care of myself.

I have a feeling it will continue to do so in the future.

The Net-Net

I might have a fever. I’m out of TheraFlu. But I feel decent enough today to spend at least half a day working and the other half taking care of myself. I’m also back to laughing at juvenile jokes that include the word “balls.” I’m grateful for all of the unsolicited advice, as in it I found something that worked. And it’s funny business, these bodies of ours. They’re the best barometer and thermometer we have for gauging what’s real and what’s not.

  • Sweating is different than being on fire
  • The gut offers brilliant, no-hold-barred unsolicited advice 24/7
  • If we don’t learn to take a break every now and then, our bodies will, without fail, make us take one.
12 replies
  1. Annie Sisk
    Annie Sisk says:

    Glad the juice worked, Erika, and so tickled pink to be associated with a “gem.”  (Seriously, I can’t figure out *why* it works. Something with the enzymes, maybe?? I just know it almost always does. Plus, dude, YUMMY.) Also a big fat DITTO on the whole “rest, dammit” thing. And people wonder why they always get sick after they’ve put in three weeks of full-tilt-boogie-go-go-GO. Well. Because you’re exhausted and your body figured this was the only way to put you on your/its ass. (Also that whole exposure to germs and viruses thing.) 

  2. cloudspark
    cloudspark says:


    We’re not in a culture that values rest but eventually our bodies win out over our minds and we crash. It’s happened to me and holy hannah I wish you the speediest recovery but also the time to get the rest your body is telling you to take. You know what, work will be there, as eager as ever for your scorching-hot talent.

    And thanks for the reco on Dowtown Abbey. Heard it’s good but haven’t found time to watch.

    Be well,
    JR Schmitt (@cloudspark)

  3. Carole
    Carole says:

    Um, husband has had the flu twice, both times right after getting a flu shot. I’ve never had a flu shot, never had the flu. Ever. Just sayin’.

    Doc prescribed Tamiflu for him – worked wonders.

    Downton Abbey – the best.

  4. Kate Jeffries
    Kate Jeffries says:


    There is not a paragraph of yours that doesn’t make me piss myself laughing or nod my head in the really stupid way that you do, then catch yourself and THEN have a demented internal conversation in which you ask yourself who you’re nodding at.  But, I digress.

    I am so proud of you for a) swearing like us lovely English, b) KNOWING that Downton kicks large style arse (spell it right, come on) and c) not killing the wank stains that gave you advice like running when you were at death’s door.

    Still laughing at using wank stain on a blog where half the people reading won’t get what it is.

    Glad you’re on the mend, lady.  Looking forward to the next instalment.


  5. shellieshel
    shellieshel says:

    I am sending this link to my bosses and peers where the “work until you have a stroke or are hospitalized” culture is so prevalent we have a standard amount of OT we are required to work (unpaid) and a dear friend of mine got stress-induced Bell’s Palsy.  Not to mention the numerous heart attacks and undefined break-downs that I have been aware of in my 17 years with this company.  ilovemyjobilovemyjobilovemyjobilovemyjobilovemyjobilovemyjobilovemyjobilovemyjob

  6. Ruth Zive
    Ruth Zive says:

    Haha – it must be going around!  Here is my post from late last week – http://www.freelancewritingblog.com/what-a-yucky-stomach-virus-taught-me-about-content-marketing/.
    Great lessons and I hope you’re feeling better!

  7. No2violence
    No2violence says:

    Aah yes. Precisely the reason I don’t get a flu shot. I got one exactly once and it was the sickest fucking year of my life.  But glad you are feeling better! 🙂

  8. ilana eberson
    ilana eberson says:

    Wow…I think we must have shared the exact time-frame and intensity of this hacking and coughing crap. I also discovered and lusciously enjoyed all of season one of Downton Abbey too. (And don’t we love the start of season 2!!).

    I armed myself with homeopathic remedies and immune support stuff,  and was forced to chill for nearly 10 days. Are you kidding me!? WTF do I do about the work piling up.

    I’m also trained as a homeopath and IT’S NORMAL for an exhausted, overrun, tired-all-the-way-down-to-your-socks body to need some rest. If we don’t get it, then the body just takes you down when it’s had enough! The body needs a few days to sort out whatever gnarly virus or bacteria has taken it over so it can boot it out of the body.

    We’re so used to pumping at 24/7 that we don’t want to accept that healing takes time. I was so stressed while I was sick worrying about all the work I couldn’t do. And after a bit of me time and loads of sleep…I feel GREAT!

    Glad you’re on the road to recovery…and keep up the great posts so I can keep laughing.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *