Tag Archives: entrepreneur

A Fork in the Road…

I’ve been radio silent on this blog since March of this year, the details of why I’ve been delinquent in updating this space with my thoughts will be sprinkled in my posts coming up in the very near future. However, in the most non eloquent terms: a bunch of stuff came up and many things in my life blew up, a bit of a roller coaster ensued and I had to make some decisions and deal with it accordingly. Some things were great….some things heart breaking to deal with. The biggest piece that effected me this year was a family health crisis. I mentioned my father’s change in health earlier this year. Well…things got worse…..the diagnosis was worse than expected but we’re getting through it. I’m happy to say his treatment is going well and as always his attitude continues to blow me away. He truly is an amazing man who inspires me more than he probably knows. I’m slowly getting back on track here, much to say and get out ‘on paper’ so I am going to resume blogging very soon. Just wanted to publish a quick update as I’ve had a few folks ask where I’ve been.

So hello, thanks for stopping by and I’m wading back in to publishing my thoughts…..stay tuned. 🙂

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The Matrix

I’ve never been a huge fan of the movie the Matrix per say, but if it’s on TV on a lazy Saturday afternoon or random week night….I’ll catch myself watching the whole thing. All of them too…doesn’t matter if it’s the first or the third installment, I always watch. I’m not sure if it’s because Toronto’s hometown boy Keanu Reeves is the star, the special effects or the content but there am I am 2 hours later wondering if Neo will survive/save everyone!

I bring this up because as I network with fellow entrepreneurs the analogy of the Matrix comes up quite often. I never really gave the movie much thought before but when you speak to folks who work for themselves whether it’s as a business owner, artist, writer what ever they ‘get it’ when you refer to the movie’s theme. We’ve seen what’s on the other side and what’s on the other side can be scary, exhilarating, challenging, rewarding, frustrating, disheartening, and wonderful at various times or all the time…going back to where we were is perhaps even more terrifying then anything else. I used to watch that movie and think: ‘just get plugged back in to oblivion, it’s seems more peaceful and frankly more picturesque…there’s daylight at least on that side!’  So maybe I never really got into the deeper message of the movie. It can feel like that on this side. I do remember back when I was in the 9 to 5 race. Yes, at times it was brutal, Mon to Fri, 6:30am wake up, pack breakfast and lunch, change of shoes, grab book for subway, run for subway, meetings all day, run for subway again, go home, have dinner, bed, repeat. It could also be quite carefree…reading or sleeping on the subway, lunches & coffees with friends on company time, laughs in meetings, gossip in cubicles, impromptu drinks after work with colleagues, epic Xmas parties, leaving work at work, free time in the evening and weekends, paid vacation and sick days. Things were pretty good. (I used to see the move ‘Working Girl’ and smile) My company for most of my 12-year tenure treated me very well. I wouldn’t say I was miserable I would just say I was getting paid well, getting through life and not really thinking about where I’d be in another 12 years. In fact 12 years (15 total in corp) went by in a heartbeat. I’m sure another 20 to retirement would go just as quickly. Should we go through life passing time though? Is that why we’re here?

Around 2008 things started to change…some of which I’ve already mentioned (i.e.: getting packaged out in 2009), but also I went through a big break up and started to read some personal development books, started to questions things, and think about where my life was going. This is when I started to get a glimpse into the other side….into this Matrix if you will. J I started setting some goals for myself and as I’ve documented in earlier posts I met a person who made me sit down and really map out what I wanted out of life. Once I did that things start to change, there was no turning back.

By 2011 I was introduced to Arbonne, the Swiss/Vegan certified health and wellness company that I would not only build a business with (one I plan to build into a very lucrative business for me) but this venture would see me stepping firmly on the other side of the Matrix and not be able to come back. My introduction to network marketing is what gave me my gateway out of the corporate 9 to 5 life I was leading. I devised my game plan and in rather swift succession here I am in Jan 2014 in a very different place then I was less then 3 short years ago. I’ll be writing about network marketing more as we go on but what I’d say for now is that it’s a different business model from the traditional one I came from. That doesn’t mean it’s of any less value it’s just different (I’d argue it’s the smarter business model). One phrase I hear a lot in network marketing is ‘if you want to be different you need to do different’.

So….how is it here on this side? I could write about that forever and will at length on this blog! Some days (most days) I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Some days I think back to my ‘carefree’ 9 to 5 existence and think: “was that really so bad? I could go back, put in another decade and check out…right?”

“Or am I just romanticizing it now that I’m out of it and facing challenges”.

I’m sure this battle in my head will go on for a while as I build my business, stabilize my cash flow and grow. The only thing I can do is keep my vision of what I wanted in the first place front and centre…continue to build on that….and stay focused. When I look back at how far I’ve come I realize that going back is the wrong way—for me. They say (statistically speaking) only 3% of the population will travel down the road I’m on. I’m finding I am more then comfortable with that these days. I always felt like a square peg in a round hole for most of my life; why not embrace it?

There is only way I can go now…forward….on this side of the Matrix. It’s a brave new world, often scary but it’s where I’m meant to be.

 

 

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Just before I left my corporate gig last spring I was out visiting some extended family in the country. This couple is related to me via marriage (My aunt’s brother and partner but my aunt is my aunt via marriage…confused? No matter, family has little to do with blood in my experience). Bob and Liz are the most amazing people. They have been together for almost 40 years, they are not legally married but they are still madly in love and have built a life for themselves (including raising a daughter) in an idyllic village in rural Ontario. Both of them are originally from Scotland and like my own parents immigrated to Toronto to follow some dreams. Those dreams didn’t work out as expected so they moved to small town Ontario to start again. Bob is wood-carver, Liz is a potter, they are both known in the folk art community and they live in a restored limestone house in a beautiful village not far from Prince Edward County in southern Ontario. I always thought of them as this bohemian branch of the family, driving their big old Cadillac, Bob in his Tilly hat, Liz with her long hair/cool hippie vibe, creative and living life on their own terms outside of what society considers ‘normal’. I love visiting them and I don’t get out nearly as often as I’d like to but their house is so inviting, you never want to leave (a walk after lunch last spring resulted in freshly picked wild asparagus!).

 

As we sat down to lunch last spring just a few short months from my exodus from my job Bob told me a story I had never heard before. Bob, this Sean Connery look a like (with a Glasgow accent mind you), Tilly hat wearing, wood carving, outdoor loving man was in fact at one time just like me! In 1970’s Toronto Bob had been a salesman….in the automotive industry…..one of his biggest clients was the very organization I worked for! Bob had a company car and big sales account. Bob also had a serious drinking problem. People with drinking problems are not happy people; addiction is often a by-product of depression. (I would know, I come from a family filled with addicts but I’m happy to say one of them: my father, has been sober for 14 years, no small feat!) Life was not going as Bob had hoped and he and Liz decided to try something else.

With that, Bob drove his big company car with all the sales tools in the trunk to his office. He walked into his boss’ office and said (with his Glaswegian accent) “I’m for the offs!” Handed over the car keys and walked out the front door. Bob told me he didn’t actually even realize how he’d get back home as he was in the habit of driving to the office and wasn’t sure what streetcar to take. Bob had no plans, no idea what was going to happen next, how he was going to make money but he knew he couldn’t continue the life he was currently living. Bob and Liz found a dilapidated Ontario limestone cottage in a rural part of the province (a raccoon family was living there when they arrived) and started building a new life. They had no idea how they’d repair the house, or pay their bills, they just knew they wanted a fresh start. Bob didn’t even know he had any talents as a wood-carver; he discovered that by accident as he was repairing the house and started carving a piece of wood. Together Bob and Liz built a potter’s workhouse, a  wood shop, a home for them, their daughter and assorted pets (no raccoons) and the bills got paid/they got fed through selling their beautiful wares (Liz’s work was sold throughout the province and had a large following in Quebec, and Bob’s work is sold at rather expensive shops in downtown Toronto: I have one of his stunning Celtic crosses on my dining room wall) or trading work (i.e.: home improvement) for money.

Here all this time I thought this couple I had admired for their life of following their passion, bohemian existence etc had in fact not always been like that. They had at one time lived in the ‘big city’ and worked at ‘real jobs’ just like me! I was obviously a bit nervous about the journey I was about to embark on but Bob told me to just move forward. He said he could tell that I was ready, much like my cousin had said the year before (Her comment: it’s done, don’t worry about how….it’s already in motion) he told me just to step into this new life and not look back.

I don’t know where I’ll be in 40 years. I don’t necessarily know where I’ll be next year. I do know this: with each day that passes, with the people I meet and the opportunities that come in front of me I know that the path I’m on now is the right one. I can’t see the end destination yet and I’d rather not know, I’m focusing on enjoying the journey (a tough habit to cultivate I must admit). I also hope that one day in the future when I speak to someone who didn’t know me when that they are as surprised as I was to find out Bob’s past when they find out mine: another case of mistaken identity. That sounds perfect.

What’s in it for me?

What’s in this job for me?  How will these roles round out my resume? Who can I align myself with to move ahead in this organization? How can hiring this person make me/my team look good? Ever thought like this? I have.

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t love my job, it wasn’t my ‘life’s work’ if you will. That said, I stayed with one organization for 12 years because the great people I worked with at times made it not only bearable but fun (I would add that it was the other folk I couldn’t stand that drove me out….but in that sense I owe them some gratitude for that) A one time colleague and now good friend called this week in mid revelation: She may not be able to stay in the corporate world either. She is about to start a new role in an area of interest to her so initially this job was an occasion to get excited and celebrate. However the start date is upon us and already she is a pawn between two senior leaders in a pissing contest over ‘turf’. A war of words over who had the authority to choose my friend and a rather unprofessional grilling via telephone to see if she can really do this job…is she really smart enough? (READ: As smart as these two ‘geniuses’ is what they really mean) Did I mention my friend already has the job? Has already signed paperwork with HR and a start date has been agreed upon? This sort of egomaniacal posturing in my old corporate world drove me crazy! This notion of “I’m the savior of this department and I will decide if you’re smart enough to work in my empire’. Did I mention this empire is often simple a product category, or a line of business and not the whole company? No matter.  It’s all about the positioning in the end. Hey, I’m all for leadership at any level, taking pride in your chunk of the business no matter how small because it does matter to the overall good. However there is a big difference in pride of work, raising a team’s spirits up to deliver their personal best/team best VS thinking you are solving world hunger by brow beating your team into double-digit returns at the expense of moral, increasing stress levels and in general just acting like an asshole. The posturing, snarky comments and raging egos: all behavior that is encouraged to get those double-digit returns (They make movies about it: see Wall Street, Boiler Room etc.). I was often met with a smirk or scowl when I made the comment that at the end of the day if you worked in the business of merchandising/marketing for retail (which I was in): You’re in the business of getting people to spend money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need. Period. No world hunger solution, no cure for the common cold and no lives were saved in the making of this week’s retail flyer. Trust. Now you can pretty this scenario up with speeches about building trustworthy brands, understanding your customer, serving your customer, blah, blah, blah. Hey I’m a happy retail customer spending money I don’t have on crap I don’t need but I recognize that and here’s the truth: if you don’t get them to buy your commodity them you’re out of business!!

 

So where does that leave you and your career? I don’t’ know. I can only tell you where it led me: A totally different approach, change in my mindset.

I love what I do now. My whole business (all three streams of income) is about how I can serve you, help you, what can I do for others. I don’t scrutinize based on your bullshit interview skills (no disrespect-I was extraordinarily good at bullshit interviewing) , or your fancy degree (I have a one of those too). Multiple degrees don’t always equal ‘super smarts’ either: some of the smartest business people I know don’t have a higher education and I’ve met a whole lot of average folks with MBA’s who think they walk on water but couldn’t come up with an original thought to save their life! I love that in my daily interaction now I come across all walks of life from all levels of education, class, and background. I love that I’m either helping people work from home & build a million dollar business or find some calm for an hour in my yoga classes or helping an old friend build a start-up company into a force to be reckoned with. I basically live to help others now. I’ve met more bright, positive people with creative ideas and had more support in this last year from so many amazing people then I had in my 15 years of corporate life. The best part…the opportunities keep rolling in and my businesses keep growing.

A shift in mindset is a powerful thing. During my whole corporate career it was a focus on ‘how can I get ahead’, ‘what’s in it for me with this role’, ‘how can this person help me’? By shifting gears to supporting others, helping them succeed-you will be amazed at what happens.