The Other Hardest Part

Some say that the waiting is the hardest part.  Waiting is no fun, but the hardest?  I don’t think so.  Since I submitted the

Growing Gratitude project to Kickstarter for approval, I’ve gone to a party, breakfast with my friends and a pumpkin patch with my family.  The waiting is not the hardest part.  The hardest part, in business as in life, is that which is out of our control.  I can fill the waiting time up with all kinds of activities and forget, even for hours at a time, that it all hangs in the balance.  But taking something which contains a piece of me inside it and handing it over to be measured, judged, perhaps dismissed altogether…it’s excruciating.

That feeling of helplessness could do me in if I let it.   It helps me understand the choices that some students from my school would make.  Why suffer the discomfort of putting yourself out there when you could make a joke, play it off and check out?  The prospect of embarrassment and judgment is a lot to ask from kids who don’t have the life experience to illustrate the payoff of taking such risks.  I’ve got that experience and am still losing sleep and needing to write about it and checking my email every ten minutes!

Ok, so that side of me has had its airtime.  My other side (the one I amplify to drown out the other) is celebrating already!  Of course the Kickstarter folks will “get” the idea, “get” that behind the idea of my project are dedication and commitment to follow-through and that hosting our Growing Gratitude project on Kickstarter will be mutually beneficial.

The optimistic part of me that has allowed me to get this far on this adventure (into my fourth month with no income-earning job and having invested what must be at least 200 hours into fleshing out the vision and the practical steps to realizing that vision) has always believed.  She knows that the job at this point is to help people see what I see and feel what I feel about Growing Gratitude.  She knows that I can and that they will.

I am beyond excited to get the Growing Gratitude app out and on phones across the country, to see what becomes of this idea and how the vision gets stretched in other hands.  I had a daydream the other day.  It took place in this place called Colt State Park in Rhode Island where I lived for a while growing up.  I remember part of it being a strip of grassy park next to a seawall of big, white rocks where waves would glide up and explode.  In the daydream, I’m standing in that park and handing kites out to people standing in line.  They’re trying them out.  It’s tricky doing something new, and it’s windy out there, so there are some brilliant crashes.  Some of those folks give them back, but just as many try again.  I’m giving advice and sharing technique tips, but I end up listening more than I’m talking.  They’re doing things with the kites I’d never imagined.  It’s my kite, and they’re showing me how to use it.

And as we all get better and the show more spectacular, the line is getting longer.  But it doesn’t feel like a line anymore.  It feels like a party—or a festival.  And then I get it.  One of those moments like in the movies when the noise around you fades away and everything slows down so you can see it clearly and take in the whole of a scene, how the pieces fit together.  In that moment I get that they’re our kites, not mine.  And that when you supply the raw materials, like this app, part of the job is being a partygoer, stepping back and taking it all in.

Because it’s more about learning than teaching and more about sharing than selling.  And remembering that is just what I need to silence that other unwelcome voice.  If the folks at Kickstarter don’t “get” it, someone else will.  Giving up on this would be like giving up on us, turning off the wind and letting kites spin into oblivion.  And this party is just getting started.

Wondering what the Growing Gratitude app is all about? Good! Stay tuned, friends! In the meantime, sign up for updates on our website and check us out on our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!  You won’t want to miss what we have in store!

Eight(y) is Enough

What’s more important – what we know or what we don’t know?

I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately as I delve into the preparations for the role of tech. startup founder, small business owner, solopreneur, mompreneur, crazy lady.

I think about the skills I have honed in my personal and professional lives, the leadership qualities I have developed and the complicated interpersonal situations that I have managed and – in many cases – facilitated a solution to.  I think about all of that, and I get so frustrated that I can’t be that person here yet.  Instead of walking into a room of wily middle schoolers and helping them to refocus and to keep their eye on the prize, I find myself reading every day to learn things from absolute scratch and doing things I never imagined could be part of this adventure, like shooting and editing a video.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to learn.  But it’s so strange to feel so incompetent at so many things out here, especially when all I would have to do to see the take-charge me is to walk back into my school.  I’m not on a circular course right now, and my path is taking me further and further away from my comfort zone.  They say that’s where the magic happens (unless you get lost in the woods!).

The upside to this month’s journey has been the meticulous whittling of Growing Gratitude’s mission.  The office floor is covered in shavings and sawdust, and only the very heart of it remains.  When you do eighty takes of a video (while I am naturally prone to exaggeration, take me at my word on this one), what does not ring perfectly true really stands out.  I knew what Growing Gratitude was; that part was easy.  The surprise to me was the time I needed to take to sort out the nuances of what it isn’t and will not be.  The time spent there has been invaluable.

Saw, carve, file, sand.  Smooth it over with my fingertips.  Only the very heart of it remains.

The Stare-down

It’s been a big couple of weeks around here. People like to talk a lot about fear – why we feel it, where it comes from, how to stare it down without blinking first.

That’s the kind of couple of weeks it’s been (the trying-not-to-blink kind).

I’m not sure how other people work with this kind of thing, but when I have an important move to make, I don’t take a step if it doesn’t feel right.  I have this kind of hard-wired sense of inertia that does not let me go down a path to see if it’s the right one.  It’s like I already have a sense if it’s wrong and go no further.

So I had been working on the business plan with gusto, diving right into the world of mobile apps, trying to wrap my head around where the market was, is and will be, reading what I can to try to pick the brains of those who do what I will be doing.  And I’m proud to say I kind of love doing that.

But the more I read, the more I understand that, in entrepreneurship and in life, only a very limited amount of useful knowledge can come from the written word (and if you give reading the same weight as experience you truly don’t know what you don’t know).   Time to get out there and experiment, get my hands dirty, leap based on my best guess and then pick myself up when I belly flop and climb back up the ladder.  The reason I have not yet made more progress in this direction is a crucial one: $.

And therein lies the staring-fear-in-the-face-and-not-blinking, even raising my eyebrows and scowling a bit.   I’ve got to make a move.  That’s all there is to it.  And I’m finally in a place where I can.

If you’ve been following for a while, you may recall that I was considering crowd-funding as a possible source of my seed money.  I gave Kickstarter some serious thought and even worked on a pitch before dismissing the idea out of fear.  I was afraid that someone would steal my idea and make the project happen quicker themselves and I would be out of luck.  I still think that’s valid – some gutless person or company with no great ideas of their own may come along and think they can do what I am going to do and beat me to it.  That might still happen.  What I realized while having a mind-bending conversation with my entrepreneurial friend Jay is that, while someone else might have the resources to put something together more quickly than I can, it won’t ever be what I have envisioned.  It couldn’t be.  When you have an idea that has roots in your very heart, that’s not the kind of prototype that can be stolen like in a spy movie. Once I understood that I gave fear my “teacher look”, and it bowed and retreated.  Game over!

So, in the spirit of having funding that aligns with the goal of my project which is, in a nutshell, growing gratitude and community, I’m pursuing a Kickstarter campaign.  This project will ultimately depend not only on my belief in it but others’ as well – and the willingness of all of us to invest in our vision of what Growing Gratitude is to become.

The task at hand for me right now is to put all of this – plus details about Growing Gratitude – in the Kickstarter pitch to start to reach out to those with whom this idea will resonate.  I am hoping to enlist your support when we get there.  I get now that my feeling protective about this idea has less to do with wanting to be the all-powerful CEO of the Growing Gratitude empire and more about being a fierce momma who will do what it takes to keep her creation from being co-opted by those who don’t see its true worth.  What a relief to discover that business decisions can – and should – be managed like personal ones: in alignment with our values and with ever an eye on our goals.

Don’t Look Down!

I tend to think in metaphors. Right now, the imagery I am using to put my current situation into perspective is that of a rock climber. I’ve been bouldering for months by myself. It’s tiring, but around each turn there are unexpected finds that I would not have come across had I not been alone with my thoughts. My project idea has survived a few different reincarnations already, and I need to keep moving and protect the space in my head to get there.

Now I’m at the base of this mountain. It’s breathtaking – and terrifying. I’ve been able to get a little ways up by hoisting myself on fairly easy, obvious footholds. The branding process is complete, and our logo is perfect. It inspires me and is my vision for the company. The COMING SOON page on our website is in the works. I am off the ground but not high. Falling from here would injure my pride more than my body.

The next stage in the journey requires ropes, harnesses and expertise. I’ll need equipment which takes money – more than I have, of course, or this blog post would be irrelevant. The dilemma is one which is familiar to small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. The options are these: put my family’s house up as collateral to get an SBA loan, lose some autonomy and take on investors or put the project up on Kickstarter and risk someone else taking my idea and launching it before I can get funding together. I have posed all three as negative, though each one certainly has its advantages.

I know that people in business take calculated risks all the time. They use their understanding of the context surrounding their situation to decide whether to leap or to wait. And I suspect that they often do not regret having leaped at an inopportune time if that experience makes them wiser the next time around. Live and learn. But when you don’t have a string of successes beneath you to buffer a misstep, the stakes feel higher.

When the house where my kids sleep is on the line – or I risk losing the opportunity to pursue this dream altogether because I shared when I should have kept it close – I want to pull the ropes tighter, lean towards the rock and steady myself, wait until there’s no wind at all and think hard about my next move. But when in life does that strategy work out for anyone? In life, as in rock climbing, looking down is counterproductive and pointless. Eye on the prize – ever upward – and forward march.

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