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.
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: Aruni | Filed under: blogging, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, social networks, working mother | Tags: blogging, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, holding a day job, IBM, social networking, twitter, women entrepreneurs | 18 Comments »