Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Rolling the Dice
I saw a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert recently that read
"I fully believe that one of the greatest gifts I have given my children is the example of a mother who pursues her passions like a motherfucker."
I like that quote. That quote momentarily diminished the recurring fear that I have dragged my daughters down a path of unknowns and sacrifices that will leave them scarred, anxious and guaranteed at least two full years of intense therapy at some point in their adult life. "I have taught them to be brave and to take risks and to be persistent in the face of adversity" I tell myself. About an hour after reading Ms. Gilbert's profound words, I wondered how the path of an entrepreneur and all the variables and unknowns is different from taking their college savings to a Black Jack table in Vegas. The truth is, from a pure statistical standpoint, the odds might be better in Vegas. In my heart of hearts I believe what I am brining to the market is a sure thing, is needed and has been proven. That is the belief that keeps me moving forward every day, but the fear is still there. It has just become something I live with and try not to think about too much or it would paralyze me.
The farther I go down this entrepreneurial road, the more intense the roller coaster ride seems to be. The highs are higher which makes the lows seem even lower, the closer I am to that large investor, big contract or high profile advisor, the more time frames matter and the stronger the sting when something doesn't go as planned. Rolling with the punches is a gross understatement. Every day I feel as if I'm a circus performer juggling fiery torches while walking a high wire without a safety net. I don't let myself think too long about the leap I took two months ago when I quit the job I really enjoyed, a government job with amazing benefits, to focus full time on my software. Now, with diminishing funds, a tech product in transition to a new team that I just met and waiting customers, I spend every day focusing on the success that I can see just around the corner. It is so very close but dependent on a great deal of factors that I can't completely control. I am excited but just as equally afraid. That is all this post is about really, being afraid and questioning the risks. Hopefully it will simply help someone else who is afraid, to know that I am afraid too and I am doing things every day that I have never done before. There are no tips or advice in this installment, just honest self doubt. I have moments of real fear that I will again be picking change from under my floor mats to get money for gas like I did when I was in college, that I will be serving up a big helping of ramen noodles for dinner and have to call AT&T to ask for an extension to pay my cell phone bill. It's crazy how in my 20's I did those things and it sucked but it didn't seem as scary is it does now. It seems more unbearable now that I have spent 20 years not doing it and I have people depending on me, family, friends and people I don't even really know who have made significant investments of time and money because they believe in me and my product.
Last week my husband said something to me that hit me at my core. It was one of those lazy statements made just before drifting off to sleep, eyes closed, lying in bed watching TV. I was giving him the lowdown of the day about some delays in development and he said his usual, reassuring "Everything will work out Love" but this time he followed with "You take risks I don't think I would have taken." Now, to put the punch of this statement in perspective, you should know a little bit about my husband. He was a punk rock teenager who left the comfort of his Minnehaha Parkway home to live in the streets..by choice. He then traveled all over the world while keeping his few belongings in garbage bags and lived life by the seat of his pants which took him on many dangerous and sometimes unsavory adventures. He is an artist for God's sake and embraces every characteristic of that title. He has lived a most unconventional and envy inducing rich life and experienced things I have only seen portrayed on film. I took risks he wouldn't have taken? Are you kidding me?! It may not surprise you, he didn't drift off to sleep as planned. This may be because I immediately jumped squarely on top of him with my face two inches from his, requesting clarification on his statement. "What do you mean?" I demanded. He replied "Just that I don't think I would have been comfortable with so many variables with people depending on me." He followed up by assuring me he thinks I am doing all the right things and doesn't think I should change anything but he wouldn't have taken the same risks had he had children (he is a stepfather to my daughters). I pretended I was satisfied with the clarification, rolled off of him and let him sleep but I kept thinking about it because he's the biggest gambler and lover of the actual living of life I know. For him to say I took more risk than he would have was profound to me.
My husband's statement was a turning point for me, it changed how I view my commitment to this endeavor and it changed how I see myself in an important way. Am I delusional? Is every entrepreneur delusional? Is it that delusion and persistence that makes the difference, that sets the successes apart from the failures? Sometimes I am truly amazed I have taken this as far as I have, that I continue to overcome obstacles and bring together, through some miracle, the pieces that need to be in place to make this a reality. What if I fail, would I do this again? I tell myself I would not, I tell myself if for some crazy reason I was completely wrong and this ends up going nowhere, I am getting a stable and secure job and maxing out my retirement contributions. I have to believe that because the thought that I may be crazy enough to go through this all again, and maybe even again after that, makes me more than a passionate motherfucker, it makes me a straight up crazy motherfucker.