This year has been eventful. The memories, lessons, and experiences will stay vibrant for a long time; I hope the lessons at least will last a lifetime. Early this year it became evident that the startup wouldn't last beyond the quarter. That wasn't unexpected and when winded down there was a feeling of peace. Finally, I said to myself. I'm disappointed the products I worked on never made it out, but I'm pleased at having been a part of it. I learned so much.
And then I was "unemployed". Looking back, my memories lie about how I felt at the time. I had a long term plan and no savings left. Crossing the gap to get to the next step in the plan was perilous. Coming out of a failed company, I was also afraid of failing my family. I was afraid of disappointing my kids. I had more fear welling inside me than I think I've ever had.
Very fortunately a few very good opportunities open up to me. Unfortunately, each seemed at odds with the next steps I wanted for myself. I wanted something short-term and flexible. I also didn't want to go back to just being a developer, or just being a team and product leader. I already know I'm a skilled developer, can lead teams to success. Now I want to build a durable company in the realm that I'm most passionate about: Enhancing the human experience.
Right when I felt I had to make a decision between supporting my family or achieving my ambitions, I got some great advice. I was looking at these opportunities as answers and solutions, and my responsibility to choose the right one. Instead, become comfortable with the questions and the unknown. Combining that perspective shift, the support from my allies, and an amazing and understanding wife who trusts in me completely, I knew I didn't need to have an answer.
I did something very strange for me. I simply talked to people without bringing any answers along. I explained what I wanted, my concerns, and even my fears. I explained what I thought they wanted, and explored the reasons for it. This path opened up conversations I never expected. It's an amazing experience to have an open and honest conversation with someone you've known for nearly a decade, yet only engaged with superficially.
Stephen Covey would smile upon us; we found Win/Win and Synergy. The downside is for the next 3 months I was very, very busy. May through July would be a mad dash, but I knew I could do it.
I spoke with my family about this and we agreed it was the right move forward. It's harder for the kids to understand a decision like this. After the 6th weekend in a row where I chased them away from my office door my daughter complained, "But it's the weekend, you aren't supposed to work!"
I gave up a lot of other things, too. I stopped writing and working on Be Better. I stopped almost all other development; Daily Practice and My 3 Questions languished. They would live and so would I. This is the path upward, to the next level, getting closer to building that durable company that does good by doing well.
Now the hard part is over. I got beyond the crazy development sprint I committed myself to. I'm back to playing with my kids, maybe only on Sundays. I'm back writing. It feels good, but not everything turned out the way I wanted it to.
My original expectations broke apart and now I'm creating new expectations from a new vantage point. The company I thought I would build is not the company I will build. I'll write about those lessons soon.
Cover photo courtesy of Flickr user Howard Dickons.