The Entrepreneurial Ledge
Nov 20 2008

I had to talk myself off the entrepreneurial ledge yesterday.  Of course there is the often publicized glamour of entrepreneurship and then there is the unsung story of the not so glamorous side.  I think most entrepreneurs are a little bit neurotic, myself included, so when I heard that the first company I was founding CEO of officially shut down recently, I entered a state of…well I still haven’t figured out what state that is.  

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The company was alive for 11 years.  For 11 years it provided experience, salaries, products and services to employees and customers.  I left in 2001 and my husband, Erin, who was the CTO left in 2003, and we have had nothing to do with the day to day operations since.  But the profound affect it has had on me cannot be reduced to mere words.  In many ways, it was like my first child (without the diaper changing).  It was a difficult parting of ways for me both personally and professionally.  

I knew a few good people who were still there and through the years they have reached out to me to help them find another job or share their experiences about working there.  Good people came and went.  Some bad ones came and went and some bad ones stayed, but overwhelmingly greatness was among us.  I heard about the company shutting down a few weeks ago but just mentioned it to a group of college friends on an email group I’ve been a part of since 1995 (pre-social networking sites for people who love mushrooms, pre-blogging, pre-twitter).  I had convinced one of the guy’s in the group to join us for the journey and he replied by saying this: 

Aruni – I know I’ve poked at you and Isochron since I left but I have to say it was the best business class I could have taken. This piece of Oil Field Trash was polished quite a bit while in Austin. I do want to thank you and Erin for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. From that trial I learned sooooo much. I’m not sure I ever put it together sufficiently for you guys to know what the experience meant for me. Thanks! You and Erin were a rock I could depend on during my time in Austin as well. It meant a lot.

When I read his note on my phone before going in to an invitation only IBM Women Entrepreneur’s Webcast event held at IBM, the flood gates cracked a little.  I was sitting in my car in the parking lot so I had to pull myself together and go in.  The rest of the day I was on edge and I still am. 

I had to walk into my day job after the IBM Webcast and deal with bureaucracy, with people wanting 5 approvals to get something done, with collections, with employee allocations, and with being extremely underpaid because I’m doing much more than I was hired to do.  I had to suspend reality to make it through the day.   I repeated to myself “floodgates don’t open at work” over and over.  If I was a man and punched the wall, it would be more acceptable.  I had a “What am I doing with my life?” moment.  I had a “I’m working for ‘the man,’ I have two kids, I’ve been married for 7 years, we have a house and car payment, I have to keep our insurance benefits, our savings have sunk due to the crazy economic situation, and I feel trapped” moment. 

I had already committed to guest lecture at an executive MBA class yesterday evening so I went in not knowing what would come out of my mouth.  I shared the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and received several questions about Babble Soft and my day job.  I was surprised at how calm I felt giving my talk given the emotional roller coaster I had been riding all day.  One of the students took my card and said he wanted to see if he could help me get introduced to someone for a possible opportunity for Babble Soft.

I also happened to receive an email through facebook from one of my former students (I taught entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Austin) who happens to be expecting a baby.  He sent me a link to a new book by Randy Komisar who wrote The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living (a book I made required reading in my class) called This I Believe.  Komisar writes about the Deferred Life Plan and how we make excuses about not doing what we want to do and putting off things until the time is right.

So despite all of that, I talked myself off the entrepreneurial ledge because I live in the real world.  The real world is where I have two beautiful children who smile and laugh.  A world where I tell my son after he ate a big dinner tonight that he was a ‘hungry hippo’ and he immediately replies and says in a comedian (trying to make his voice sound deep) tone “There’s a Hungry Hippo in the House!“  My daughter laughs, and I look at him with a smile on my face and know instantly he got his sense of humor from me. 8)

[Hippo photo by my friend Sandy Blanchard]

So I take solace from some words my day job boss told me the other day.  When I asked him why he wanted to hire me he said ‘because he heard I was a natural entrepreneur and he wanted one on staff.’  When I thought about those words later in the day, my soul said ‘thank you grandpa’ because he is who I gained my natural entrepreneurial tendencies from…I just happen to be a woman girl.

I hope both my children will be able to express themselves throughout their lives in ways I was never able to in the past but aspire to in the future.

Author: | Filed under: blogging, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, social networks, working mother | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

18 Comments on “The Entrepreneurial Ledge”

  1. 1 mousewords said at 12:27 AM on November 21st, 2008:

    And I’m sure you will!

    What an experience–I know what you mean by “haven’t figured out what state that is.” I’m familiar with that feeling. :-)

    mousewordss last blog post..Tagged – Is There Anything Interesting Left?

  2. 2 Vincent Wright said at 12:51 AM on November 21st, 2008:

    Arun,
    As a fan of yours since the very first instant I heard the name “Babble Soft”, I know how committed you are as a professional, an entrepreneur, a wife, and a mom. And, from my own personal experience, I know, too, that it’s tough to watch a business close, even one we have been away from for awhile – BUT – having a “hungry hippo” with a sense of humor in the house is absolutely PRICELESS! :-) The “hungry hippo” helps rightly balance things. Indeed, for me, reading about his little “deep” voice, immediately pushes away all the heavy stuff we try to process with our big old adult brains…I love being reminded that our children are not just there to help us extend our lives but by merely being themselves help us to get THROUGH life. (My favorite advice has come from my son…)

    You’re tremendously blessed having the “hungry hippo” help you get through life…

    Keep STRONG, Arun!!

    Vincent Wrights last blog post..J. D. Ebberly replied to the discussion What Can WordPress Do That Blogspot CAN’T Do?

  3. 3 Lisa (@walkinggal) said at 6:16 AM on November 21st, 2008:

    Aruni,
    I can only imagine what that must feel like. It’s so clear to see the entrepreneurial spirit in you through this post. You look to the future and you see the potential.

    Lisa (@walkinggal)s last blog post..WalkingSpree invited as WELCOA Premium Provider

  4. 4 fred wilson said at 8:12 AM on November 21st, 2008:

    kids, a husband, employees, customers, investors, and all the other stakeholders of your like will do that to you.

    even when you don’t feel like getting up and going to work, there are people who need you to do just that.

    great post

    fred

    fred wilsons last blog post..Goodbye Olympics, Hello Conventions

  5. 5 Mike said at 8:50 AM on November 21st, 2008:

    Great post. I feel the emotion for you. I know nothing of the business you write as I am only gaining knowledge and interest in the entrepreneurial side of life. Working for Siemens for the last 12 years makes me sick. In the cubes I reside ‘working for the man’ I sit and ponder often what I have become and am doing. But it only takes the beautiful smile of my 3 year old or the giggle of my 4 month old little girls to realize that the cube is only a way to provide a better world for my girls. When the time and opportunity is right to move to something I really feel good about I will make the jump, until then I always have the smiles. Now, go feed that hungry hippo! ;)

  6. 6 Isaac Barchas said at 8:53 AM on November 21st, 2008:

    Brave post.

    I think as you indicate that part of it is a “stage of life” thing — your ledge is linked to entrepreneurship, but others’ will be linked to something else. There are not that many of us who can compare the trajectory of our “lived lives” as marrieds-with-children with the infinite possibility of our (usually imagined or at least misremembered) youth, and be completely content. There’s a line in a poem I read recently about how “now we shrink from the light we were once so eager to sieze.” It’s not that bad, but that does capture some of the spirit of it I think.

    –Isaac

  7. 7 Alfredo Jr said at 9:20 AM on November 21st, 2008:

    Aruni,
    You have just helped me and many others put things into prospective. Your passion for the business, family and daily responsibilities reflect in your words. Sometomes things do not turn out as we anticipated and we have to take a hard left turn then find our way back to center. I want to thank you for helping me and many others start this day on solid ground.

    God Bless,
    Alfredo Jr

    Alfredo Jrs last blog post..blacktigersal: CC- Great podcast on Social Media. As a beginner it was very helpful and look forward to hearing more. Thanks

  8. 8 Wendy Piersall said at 11:23 AM on November 21st, 2008:

    Ummmmm, yeah, I can relate *just a bit*. :D This birthing and letting go thing comes with being a “natural entrepreneur”. It’s not always fun, as we both know. But in the end, it always brings us more gifts than anything else we do as entrepreneurs. At least that’s how I look at it. :)

  9. 9 Aruni said at 8:12 PM on November 21st, 2008:

    @mousewords – glad I’m not the only one who experiences that state of mind!

    @Vincent – yes, I’m thrilled to have my Hungry Hippo!

    @Lisa – I am trying to look to the future…there is potential there!

    @fred – thanks for the reminder that there are people who need me to get up and go to work each day!

  10. 10 Aruni said at 8:18 PM on November 21st, 2008:

    @Mike – thanks for the nice comment. Here’s wishing you the opportunity to jump comes sooner than you expected!

    @Isaac – I hope that I can prevent myself from shrinking from the light and continue to move toward it until I’m bathed in it. :-)

    @Alfredo – thank you for the thoughtful comment…it means a lot to me to know you took something away from my post.

    @Wendy – That’s a nice way to look at it ‘birthing and letting go’ I’m going to wait for my gifts then. :-)

  11. 11 isabella mori said at 8:54 PM on November 21st, 2008:

    beautiful, aruni.

    i like the metaphor of the ledge because it really cuts two ways, doesn’t it? “what am i doing here??” can be a deep question, and it can be a question of panic. looks like you recognized the face of it, and pulled yourself back from panic. and what better way to do that than to settle into the moment, the moment of hippos and good bosses :)

    isabella moris last blog post..wordy ramblings on world philosophy day

  12. 12 Aruni said at 8:24 PM on November 23rd, 2008:

    @isabella – thanks. I still see the ledge but as they say time adds perspective which I’m slowly but surely gaining. :-)

  13. 13 Clean Energy Venture Summit 2008 | entrepreMusings said at 9:53 AM on November 24th, 2008:

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  14. 14 Lisa Kelly said at 8:12 PM on November 24th, 2008:

    Aruni,
    It’s all a trade-off. I’ve been ‘off the ledge’ for years now. Some years are great; others are really tough. Overall, I feel really fortunate that I’m able to do what I do.
    A couple years ago, a company I spent years building went under a year after I sold it. It was painful to say the least. I understand what you’re feeling.

  15. 15 Aruni said at 9:19 AM on November 28th, 2008:

    Hi Lisa – It’s a strange sensattion when something you’ve worked on for years of your life goes under, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your experienes…it’s always good to know there are people out there who can relate to you!

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