Brad Feld

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Take A Chance On Yourself

Jul 11, 2010

One of the side benefits of blogging is the various inspiring emails I get from readers about different topics.  I got a great one yesterday that I thought addressed the question of “Why am I having so much fun with challenges in my personal life and at the same time am so bored with work.  And – more importantly – what can I do about it?”  This morning, the New York Times had a great article which compliments this titled An Entrepreneur Who Took A Chance on Herself. If you are going to take a chance on something, why not take it on yourself?  The email I received follows with minor edits to anonymize the writer.  I hope it’s as inspiring to you as it was to me.

Fair warning: I have considered emailing you before, but since you are in Homer with some extra time I decided to send you the ‘unabridged’ version of an introductory email.

I have been following your blog for about  month now and I find it to be both informative and entertaining.  I was checking it every couple of days or so until I read your post about swimming.  In the last 11 months I have gone from occasional jogger to triathlete.  Swimming was the part I dreaded the most.  After hyperventilating on my first triathlon swim last fall (1/4 mile) and nearly drowning on my second one (1/2 mile).  I did manage to complete both events without assistance, although during the latter event a canoe was following me out of concern that I wasn’t going to make it.  I really had to question if I should pursue triathlons in the following year.  Fortunately after practicing at my gym over the winter I became comfortable in the water (bilateral breathing, endurance, etc…).  I also worked on running over the winter and completed my first half and full marathon in early spring of this year.  A few months ago I upped the ante and completed a half ironman.

It was shortly before this event that I began to question why I was having so much fun with challenges in my personal life, but opting for the safe and narrow while at work.  I work for a large corporation and managed to go from having no degree to an MBA by completing 7 years of night classes.  After finishing, I considered pursuing my doctorate, but it didn’t work out.  I had been bored at work for the last few years, but really wasn’t sure why.  I assumed that when I got promoted things would work themselves out.  About this time a friend and past co-worker approached me asking if I would be willing to work and eventually lead with him on a software development venture.  Initially I didn’t see myself as a good fit, but decided to help out in any way I could (process development, statistical analysis, survey design, business plan, etc…).  After reading a few books on the topic of entrepreneurship, I began to get excited.  I went back to the partner and we discussed where I would fit into the business and since then I have mostly done strategic planning in my spare time over the last 3 – 4 months.  We are planning to show our first product in mid July to a small company.  If the product is successful I may actually be able to make a job transition over the next 6 – 8 months.

While not my primary motivation, the thought of working without the rules and restrictions of corporate oversight seems like an interesting job perk.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the rules and policies are there, and they serve their purpose of guiding the many at the cost of few.  I suppose that from a utilitarian or Spock-like perspective, they are in the best interest of the company.  In many ways, I have allowed the rules and expectations of my company to limit my creativity and performance.  The blame for this falls solely upon myself as do so many other self imposed excuses for avoiding the idea of following my passions.

I would like to thank you for helping me get some of the basic concepts of starting up and for serving as an example of living with balance (family, work, health).  While I don’t know what changes I can expect to experience in the coming year I have already determined that I am happiest and most productive when I seek to live with balance.  I don’t expect to be wealthy, in fact I am quite certain that my compensation will reduce dramatically even if the transition is successful, but I’ve already determined that I would rather fail at this than succeed at what I’m doing.