8 Sep
2010

The Happiness Project Works It Out – August Recap

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I was holding onto a secret that I wasn’t quite ready to share. But, as of yesterday, the secret is no more. I’m leaving my steady job during a huge economic downturn…to start my own small business venture full-time!

So, why am I not throwing up yet?

I have to admit, the combination of excitement and freak-out I’m feeling at this moment is pretty high.

This year I’ve really been focusing on upping my life satisfaction and I have to say, it’s been working. It’s not that rainbows are shooting out of my, um, various parts, but it feels like I’ve become a more centered, happier girl, particularly in my personal life. But, what I hadn’t quite faced yet was my work. It’s somehow fitting that my goal for August was to “start from scratch.”

Don’t get me wrong…I work at McCombs with a great crew—-an underpaid-but-doing-it-anyways group of people who produce pretty compelling content. The problem is that it just wasn’t me. I actually enjoy writing, but only on my own terms–creative writing, particularly of the first-hand-account variety…and I don’t like following guidelines much with it. While the thrill of completing a multipage, challenging profile on someone seems to energize my colleagues, I am the opposite. Even in my high school journalism class, I gravitated towards the ad sales and layout, probably so I wouldn’t have to write as much prescribed copy.

I...have...the powerrrrrrr! Okay, so it was He-man that said that, but Teela was no slouch.

And, importantly for me, I found that being at a business school isn’t a suitable replacement for being in the actual business world.

This wasn’t always the case. As an undergrad (and later grad) student of business, I felt very connected to the world of commerce and loved that feeling. Being relegated (as I felt some days) to writing up the successes of others got to feel damaging to my own self-esteem. Why hadn’t I tried my hand at a business? This feeling was an anchor, though, just bringing me down. Instead of feeling inspired by the stories, they became small beatdowns, which were solely self-conceived and doled out. Business success is not a zero-sum game but I felt always at a loss when it was going on so happily around me, without me. Though I know healthy and well-managed companies buy products, hire people, create new opportunities, and contribute to the wellbeing of everyone, raising all boats as it were, it didn’t feel that way when I was watching from the docks.

“When a nation of shopkeepers is transformed into a nation of clerks, enormous spiritual sacrifices are made.” William Orville Douglas

This quote came up during a recent Communications staff retreat, thrown in as a part of the faculty presenter’s slide deck, and it really rang true for me and gave me a much-needed dose of courage. I know I am lucky at work. And yet, I felt in some way like I had made a spiritual sacrifice…that I wasn’t being Elayne enough. It’s nothing to blame on the workplace itself, or even the job, really.

Looking deep into myself and seeing what I am like, what I enjoy, it’s a few things:

  • Being in charge of something that I care about and can nurture over time, from the big picture, down to all the little details
  • Taking calculated risks for excitement
  • Feeling self-sufficient and worldly
  • Being able to share my talents with an audience I can connect with
  • Feeling somewhat inexpendable

In short, I want to be a one-woman army for a bit, with a network of advice and support from others who have been there. Not a clerk. Not a communicator. I want to be my own general.

All I needed was an idea to work on–which, as it happens, I had already gotten during the holidays last year and had set aside, like a pile of hemming, to do “later.”

Well, it’s “later” now. I’m not going to sit on the sidelines of business anymore, wondering when the coach’s going to put me in. I’m just going to go out there. So incredibly exciting.

My biggest surprise so far has been the outpouring of support from everyone…and I mean everyone…even my bosses! I am really floored, and touched, that people are so excited to see me try my hand at something so challenging. And perhaps a bit crazy.

I’ll be blogging over the coming months about my startup experience…so far, I’ve already formed an LLC, bought machinery, set up a business account, and have begun to find mentors. Each of those steps definitely merit a blog post (or two) of material…for example, we went to New Mexico over Labor Day weekend to buy the equipment from a 73-year-old guy in a trash-strewn area  of literal desert. Quite an adventure, with many more on the way, I’m sure.

What’s the biggest risk you ever took? And did you even think it was a risk at the time?

8 Comments

  • I can’t wait to read about your adventures with this new business! Your accounts (throughout Sassy Ginger) are so compelling, and the excitement in this post is palpable. Good stuff to come!

  • This is so great! Congratulations and I hope everything works out for you. 🙂

  • I know exactly what you mean about “watching from the docks.” I had to stop going to film festivals for a long time, and I hate to admit that I have even stopped following the successes of some of my dear friends from school because my fragile (yet large!) ego couldn’t take the insidious prodding about my own lack of accomplishment.

    That’s a hard thing to get past, and your solution is definitely healthier than becoming a hater.

  • This is the best news EVER Elayne! I’m so thrilled for you and am dying to read your start-up war stories. Everyone knew you had this kind of courage…we were just waiting to see what you would do with it.

  • Congrats, Elayne! That is so exciting! Looking forward to reading all about it 🙂

  • Congratulations, Elayne! You have so much tenacity, passion and vision – even when you’re feeling down – that I feel sure this is a great fit for you. I truly hope you are fulfilled and successful. Good luck with everything, and enjoy your new freedom!

  • i’m happy for you elayne! i hope you enjoy the entrepreneurial experience. may your business blossom into something awesome 🙂

  • May fame and success be yours! best wishes with this journey- I have complete confidence in you. looking forward to peeking in from time to time to ‘read’ more.

So, what do you think?