Chiena’s Story| October 25, 2022
I was trying to control every detail — and it wasn’t working
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Chiena Avzton spent her childhood years custom designing her own wardrobe at her local Chinese tailor. She used this talent to found Three Bows, a company focused on affordable classic apparel. With her years of experience sourcing top fabrics and fine-tuning patterns, her brand is centered around great wear, great style, and tried-and-true designs.
Recently, I was at my cousin’s wedding. The music was playing, the crowd was dancing, and as I gently pushed my hair behind one ear, I felt that something was off.
My earring was gone.
These earrings had clasps that swing shut in the back. I never trusted those. I’d always put an additional butterfly clasp on as a security measure, but this time I’d forgotten to.
I couldn’t imagine how I’d possibly find it. My mother was standing next to me. “Don’t worry!” she said, all optimistic. “Someone will find it!”
I knew she was trying to give me encouragement, but I remained skeptical. Did she not see the close to one thousand people in the hall, the dim lights, the size of the room?
Not comforted by a suggestion I doubted was likely, I started to make a game plan of how to find it. I searched by my seat, tried to mentally retrace my steps throughout the wedding…
And then I caught myself.
The earrings had cost a pretty penny. But so had flying down to this wedding. I’d paid hundreds of dollars in tickets, hotels, and gowns to be here. Trying to retrace my steps would be futile when the chuppah, shmorg, badeken, and seudah had all taken place in different parts of the hotel. Trying to find an earring in a crowded, dimly lit hall filled with hundreds of people would take hours and probably be ineffective. And by the time I’d conclude this 99 percent-hopeless search, the wedding would be over.
I’d miss a wedding I’d spent hundreds of dollars to attend in the likely fruitless search for an earring valued at not too much more than what it had cost to be here.
My determination to fix the situation crumbled, and I resigned myself to the fact that what was lost was lost. I allowed that realization to help me switch gears and made the decision not to let this loss influence the rest of the night. At the sheva brachos, I’d ask if they could make an announcement asking if anyone had seen it, and I’d ask the party planner to have the workers check after the wedding — and that would be it.
I went back to the dance floor, keeping that bitter feeling of loss out of the wedding hall, my hair nicely covering that bare ear.
It was a conscious effort.
There was the value of the lost item, but also so many emotions as well. I felt disappointed with myself for forgetting to put on those safety clasps, guilty for not trying harder to find it.
I could have tried to make all those feelings go away by overcompensating, ruining the simchah for myself by frantically searching among hundreds of dancers for the earring.
But I didn’t.
The last nine years in business have forced me to break this pattern of making things happen, of trying to compensate for mistakes by kicking into overdrive, of trying to control all of the outcomes. Instead, I’ve learned to let go, to show up and do my best, and then just accept that things don’t always work out as planned.
I’m blessed with a creative mind and a fearless personality. Over the years, I came to view myself as someone who could get things done. I was always able to think of Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, sometimes all the way through Plan Z.
My motto and modus operandi had always been, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and I strove to never accept defeat. I’d put in extreme effort to achieve the elusive goals I’d set. I felt this false sense of confidence that I could make things happen because I wasn’t scared to work hard. I believed that if I tried hard enough, I could control the outcome.
What I failed to realize is that when things don’t go the way we think they should have, when despite our best efforts things go south, it’s best to not fight our way out of it with over-the-top efforts. Sometimes it’s simply Hashem’s way of rerouting us to better places.
We can’t actually control things. No matter how hard we push.
What we can control is how quickly we let go and accept those things we can’t control.
As my business grew, the number of things I needed to manage grew with it. I had more employees, more products, more launch dates, a bigger warehouse, and more advertising.
More employees meant more people calling in sick on the busiest days, more ads meant more deadlines to keep, more products meant more items to screen for potential problems, and more orders meant more logistics to manage to ensure timely delivery. The more we grew, the more I had to work to keep it all in order.
And then it became too much.
I was hustling more than ever and seeing fewer results than before. I no longer felt confident relying on my improvisational skills and hard work ethic to pull through. That tower of belief in myself was crumbling all around me, and I feared my business would crumble as well.
I wondered why Hashem was doing this to me. Why was He sending all of these challenges? Why didn’t He just make everything work out right, especially since I was working so, so hard?
Be an Amazon Driver
It began to dawn on me that if He was making it seem like all my hard work was crumbling around me, perhaps He was doing so because there was a treasure underneath the ruins. Maybe He was doing this for me.
Maybe He was pushing me to let go of believing that the keys to success lay in putting in crazy hours, setting extreme goals, and then powering through until I reached them. Maybe He wanted to show me a different way to achieve success and satisfaction — and a different way to live life. During this time, a pivotal conversation with my business coach brought this home to me in a deep way.
“Imagine you’re an Amazon driver,” said my coach. “The Amazon driver gets paid for going along his route and delivering packages. As long as he gets to the address and drops off the right package, he earns his keep. It doesn’t matter whether the person is home or not. He’s not getting paid for perfect results, he’s getting paid for showing up and doing what he’s supposed to do.
“Imagine what life would be like if Amazon drivers only got paid for delivering packages when people were home. The drivers would quit from the stress. We’d never get our packages. And we’d wait home the whole day so that the Amazon driver would make sure to include us on his route.”
Suddenly I saw things in a way I hadn’t seen them before.
It was a pivotal, humbling moment when I had to let go and admit that good results only come from bircas Hashem. Extra efforts can’t make things happen. Sure, when we do our work, we make that kli for Hashem’s brachah. But when it’s not supposed to be, we can’t change that — no matter how hard we work. And when it is meant to be, it all comes together so easily, with minimal effort.
From that day on, I started looking at my daily to-do list as “Today’s Route,” a reminder that my job is just to show up and “drop off packages,” and not to worry too much about the outcome. Now I come to work, I make the phone calls I need to make, I attend the meetings, I place orders for the merchandise we need, and am always conscious to carry things out at a time and in a setting where I can be fully present.
I do my best to make sure that tasks are completed, customers are happy, and deadlines are met, but on days when things don’t turn out the way I want them to despite me doing the best I can, I remember, I’m an Amazon driver. So long as I know that I’ve shown up fully, I consider that day a success. I just have to keep on delivering those packages. The rest I can’t control.
As I sat at the wedding reflecting on all of this, one of the kallah’s aunts came over to dance together with me. I reminded myself, “Don’t focus on the lost earring. It’s okay. Everyone loses things, don’t take it personally, you can’t control this. Go dance and enjoy the night.”
As we moved back and forth across the dance floor, she noticed my single earring and froze.
“Did you lose one of your earrings?” she asked, looking closely at the one still on my ear.
Sure enough, she’d found my earring.
And in my decision to stop searching and let go, my earring had found me.
What I’d Tell My Younger Self
Stop hustling, because Hashem controls when you get there. And sometimes, when what we’re working on so hard crumbles despite our efforts, it’s because Hashem knows that there’s a treasure buried underneath.
It’s a hard move to make, to go from focusing on “control” to focusing on “my role.” It’s an easy lesson to understand, but a difficult one to internalize and actually live by — one that I’m still working toward. I’m still trying to master the art of being responsible, but not controlling, of doing my part and letting go of the rest.
It can also be scary and make you feel vulnerable — to allow people to see a different type of image, one where you’re confident because you know you did what you could, rather than because you delivered the sun, moon, and stars. But I just keep reminding myself that if I showed up fully, I played my role.
More than that isn’t my job.
“Hustle, hustle, hustle” has almost become a clarion call in our fast-paced society. “Do more,” they tell you. “Work harder,” they say. For the harder you work, the more you “deserve.”
The hustle culture has seeped into our consciousness to the extent that it’s become a badge of honor to say that you hustle hard. So many people feel guilty if they aren’t running themselves ragged.
But is it working for us? I’ve tried it both ways. I used to be very much part of the “hustle culture.” Free time felt like wasted time, and I could never rest if I felt I could be doing more. I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t at my desk by a certain time, or if I wasn’t working as “hard” as my friend, sister, or neighbor.
Until I reached a point of pure and total burnout. I was exhausted. Exhausted from keeping up the rat race, exhausted from always having to push myself to do more, and exhausted from feeling that my work was sapping all of the life force out of me.
Finally, finally, I realized: Although I was my own boss, it was almost as if there was a “board of directors” in my mind that I felt I had to “answer to.” I was doing all of the hustle work to subconsciously keep this “board” happy and ensure they “approved” of me. If I slacked off, they’d look at me with disdain. And if I was extremely productive, they’d be impressed.
I finally came to the realization that this “board” was nothing more than a figment of my imagination. I’d created them, and I could do away with them — if I only had the courage.
So I decided to try a different way.
I stopped doing many of the things that felt uninspiring, the things I was doing because I somehow thought I “had” to, the things I was doing so I could subconsciously feel “legitimate” to the outside world.
Instead, I started taking actions based on inspiration. I would get a spark of inspiration as to how to grow my business, and I’d follow the actions that felt aligned with who I was, inspired, and exciting. Following through on those actions sometimes felt bold and definitely put me out of my comfort zone — but it was also fun and exciting, instead of draining and exhausting.
It was hard to break the pattern — and it’s something I’m still working on daily. It was scary and uncomfortable to stop doing actions everyone around me was doing and to come face-to-face with more free time than I was used to. For a while I walked around feeling extremely aimless — but I knew I had to tread through that feeling to get to the other side, where new levels of freedom were waiting.
I learned a new way to engage in my business — and a new way to engage in life. It was so much easier, so much lighter, so much more aligned with who I was.
Like Chiena shared, when we recognize that the hustle isn’t what’s causing the results, that we really aren’t in control, and that all we have to do is show up, we’re able to give back that control to Hashem and live a calmer, softer, and more meaningful life.
One lesson everyone can learn from the clothing industry:
Trendy things seem exciting, but quickly lose their allure. Good things never get old. So long as I focused on what was fashionable, I found it harder to grow the business. Once I pivoted to classics, things really started to move. Invest in causes and values that are less exciting but practical, and you’ll find yourself with a rich repertoire after a while.
Most common question I get:
On cue, each time I say I’m from China, I get “Do you speak Chinese?” The answer is “Yidian” — a little. Hong Kong is mainly English speaking, but when I started to travel to the mainland for manufacturing, I learned basic Mandarin. I know just enough to get around — and to understand what the factory workers are saying in Chinese when they don’t realize I understand.)
If I could take on a secondary career/business, it would be:
This is an industry I came to because I enjoyed it from a young age, and right now I’m at a place where I realize that no matter how exciting any other industry may seem, this industry is mine. That being said, the same way Hashem brought me to this with my childhood in China, I know that He may introduce me to another career or business. I can’t wait to see what that may be.
Funniest thing that happened in my business:
My first foray in manufacturing ended because of a mistake that I laugh at until today. The size chart I sent the factory was missing the measurement for the sleeve length. Rather than asking me to send it, they figured that an American arm is probably about the same size as a Chinese leg, so they measured their legs and used that instead. When I got the shipment, I couldn’t figure out why the sleeves were so massive!
A final message:
Partner with Hashem. A good partner in business is everything. Focus more on what Hashem wants from you and doing extras, like stopping work on Friday at chatzos, giving additional tzedakah, being a proud Jew in the workplace. Make yourself a kli He’ll want to pour all those brachos into.
Fay Dworetsky is a mindset coach who helps women work from the inside-out to open up to so much more possibility, expansion, and abundance — both in their businesses and in their lives.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 815)
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