Adjusting the Sails

I can’t believe it’s been nearly 4 months since I’ve written a word here at Life Without Pants. As much as you may have missed me, I can assure you, I’ve missed you – and this place – much more.

But I haven’t “gone” anywhere, I can assure you that. More than anything, I’ve been busy changing (in a good way), thinking, tinkering, iterating, and adjusting the sails to chart a course for what’s next.

I read this from my friend Sarah Bray a while back:

“I am embarrassed to keep changing, to keep moving, to keep adjusting the sails. And I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I want everyone to think I know what I’m doing…that I’ve figured it out somehow. But I don’t, and none of us do, and it’s beautiful. So where’ve I been? Right here…”

We (collectively) are deathly afraid of reinventing ourselves.

We build up a platform that’s successful and/or we settle into a place that feels comfortable, and at every opportunity we have to potentially do something better or greater, we retreat back to what “has been” – what’s less challenging, what won’t rock the boat.

Care more than you need to.

“Care. Care more than you need to, more often than expected, more completely than the other guy.” - Seth Godin

I spent one morning last week sipping a Cortado at my favorite local coffee shop, working through a stack of business cards I had collected from a recent conference I attended.

A few hours later and after more than 50 emails sent, I started getting some replies. Inevitably, as personal as my emails were, I received several responses that prefaced their response with, “I don’t have a budget to work with you right now”.

This wasn’t shocking, of course. I, too, have been “solicited” mightily over the years after attending an event. But it got me thinking about the way the “real world” works – and how transactions have jaded us from building valuable relationships.

Time is precious, to be sure, but if we’re only making time for conversations and partnerships that have a “return on investment”, we’re losing sight of the benefit in making real, genuine connections.

We keep building.

“It’s really hard. It’s intense. It’s a struggle. It’s ambiguous. It changes a lot. It’s all consuming. It’s a lot of sausage making. It’s working weekends to hit numbers and dates. It’s stretching people beyond their comfort zone. It’s insisting on doing it better even when it’s already pretty good. It’s being brutally honest about gaps and weaknesses. It’s one day you’re headed in one direction and the next day another, because the first move wasn’t the best move. It’s being ok with things not working because that creates opportunities to learn how to fix it.”Jason Goldberg, CEO, Fab

I run a startup. We’ve been around almost four years now and without a doubt the past 12 months have been the most difficult. I’ve talked before about managing the entrepreneurial ebb and flow and recently the roller-coaster has felt more like the Grizzly River Rampage (that’s a subtle reference for my fellow Nashville natives but to the rest of you, it means it’s been exciting, but to be honest, downright terrifying).

I’m not the best.

I’m not the best.

Neither are you.

I know that I’m not the best at what I do. You can work with other branding and design companies that have more experience. You can read the words from other writers who are far more eloquent and well versed than yours truly. You can follow leaders who have spent far more time earning the trust of their tribe. You can go for a run with someone who’s going to push you a helluva lot harder than I’ll ever be able to.

But if I dwell on this – if I dwell on my inability to be the best, I’d be giving up on striving to get there. If I only ran with a group I could leave in my 8 1/2 minute mile dust, I wouldn’t get faster. If I didn’t push myself to lead my team at Proof with confidence, I wouldn’t earn their trust. If I hadn’t bought a domain and started scrawling my ideas – if I never had the guts to hit “publish”, well, none of you would be reading this.

Future Perfect.

I was a nerd. Growing up, I chose marching band over sports. I opted for chat rooms over roller-rinks. I rifled through Goosebumps books and spent every Saturday night watching Snick.

Like most nerds, I eventually broke (or should I say, attempted to break) out of my shell – went off to college, spent a year drinking copious amounts of cheap beer, and did everything I could to deny my nerdy roots.

Somewhere along the way I combined my knack for all things nerd and my outgoing personality to become the man I am today. A married man with an amazing wife – a marathon runner – a business owner. Every part of who I was has shaped me into the person that I am.