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Last week was the first time in a long time I just said, “eff it, I’m not posting”. I could’ve still posted later like I had done for several weeks prior. However, I just didn’t. Maybe it’s time for a break?

The last several months have been a whirlwind for me with travel all around the world—including writing this post from Dubai. Meanwhile, I’ve sold my previous home. Closed on a new home. I’ve gotten married. I’ve taken on new roles at a new job. It’s a lot.

Meanwhile, I’ve felt so much less entrepreneurial in my current role. Perhaps because I’ve realized more and more that while I am in my current role in this startup, it’s crystal clear I am no longer an entrepreneur. Sure, I can be entrepreneurial. However, I’ve hung up my keyboard as an entrepreneur since selling Burner Rocket. Now, I’m just an employee.

I’ve felt so much less an entrepreneur. I have things to share, for sure, as I take on this “Solutions Architect” role while also taking on some elements of sales and some in marketing. However, it’s all… not mine. As I stare at a future that is quickly approaching with my new personal life changes, I must make the decision to stay on my current course as an officer of a ship, or find a new way for me to be the captain of one.

Whatever the next step is, however, I’ve reached a saturation point and exhaustion that has me saying I should cut back my posts here to at least bi-weekly if not stop altogether. Or, I go with something in between as a time bound hiatus or choose to post only when I want to (read: have material I feel should be shared rather than the obligatory weekly, or bi-weekly, post).

Life is changing. My role is changing. My views on how I pursue my life’s passions and ambitions are not changing. Though, these feelings are the same feelings many entrepreneurs face, especially in light of struggling to gain enough traction to stay the course and being able to do so—emotionally, socially, emotionally, etc.

Stay tuned. But also, reflect on where you are. How is your life changing? Are your ambitions and passions changing, too? Or, are your ambitions and passions playing second fiddle now due to some changes? Will you stay this course or do you have plans to change?

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been in Dubai as part of the Dubai Future Accelerators program, but the last week has been alone – that is, my colleague left for other appointments at home. It’s been a great experience continuing to spread my proverbial wings and practice entrepreneurship in its simplest root – performing customer discovery. It’s also meant I’ve had the chance to better understand the challenges, opportunities, and the delta between what our cloud-platform can provide and what the use case calls for. I’m having a lot of fun. However, it also means I must practice a lot of brainstorming in silo and keep an eye on both tactical and strategic objectives. That’s a bit tougher. It requires self-regulation.

Most everyday, I am immersing myself with the client and use case. I’m really employing my former consulting experience here while fine-tuning to the needs of a startup (read: entrepreneurship). Every so often, I get a chance to catch up with my colleagues back home. As a non-programmer, I must balance what is wanted, what is required, what can be accomplished with limited resources (especially time)… all the while managing expectations as a sales professional.

On my first day, I went deep into the process. From consulting, it’s akin to “stapling myself to an order”. That is, living through the life of what is happening to better understand the granular challenges. We were asked early on what the strategic goal was. It’s interesting to see how the challenges and desire for solution(s) can be misaligned seemingly. It goes back to the balance and identify of tactical vs. strategic objectives. It’s easy to get absorbed into the weeds of a challenge. When you’re deep in the weeds, you can’t see what’s truly happening or the cause of problems because you can also see what’s happening in front of you. That’s why it’s important to step up and out and assess what’s happening at the macro-level. This is a great reason why asking “Why?” five times is a great approach.

In some ways, it’s like having that “out-of-body” assessment as I mentioned a couple months ago in “Customer Discovery Through the Out-of-Body Experience”. Except, instead of asking the customer to do this, it’s for me to do it.

Working in isolation can be tough even when one can say working with the customer is team work. But the truth is the customer doesn’t always know the company’s capabilities, what are off limit, how this opportunity affects other opportunities, etc. That’s why having that second set of eyes and ears is so important. But if that’s not there, then it’s up to the solo artist (me, in this case at the moment) to have the self-regulation to throttle speed–speed up or slow down—as needed.

More of a self-reflection post, but an anecdote most solopreneurs can do well to consider.

This weekend, I had a repair company come by to fix a couple nagging issues around my house. The first issue is repairing some water damage in my bathroom. The second is repairing a part of my ceiling in the living room that is sagging and was hastily patched prior to me buying the home (~10 years ago). I’m selling my home soon, and I want to take care of these little issues so buyers can focus on the grander house and not on possible “problems”.

The repair man started work on the ceiling by starting to cut at the portion that was sagging. But as a chunk of the ceiling fell down, he stopped. He proceeded to call someone, and then scratched his head while staring intently at the hole now in my ceiling. After hanging up, he looked at me, and informed me that he and the company are unable to repair (let alone touch) plaster ceilings. Wow.

Now, there are a lot of things that make this experience a great teacher in many entrepreneurial and business thoughts. Here are five.

  1. I’m highly non-confrontational. This can be detrimental to conducting business. That is, I did not maintain a strict rubric of how well the repair on the bathroom was made. Instead, I simply wanted to move him along and get along with my day. I signed the payment and review on his phone while he stood in front of me. Had I received the invoice and review separately, I would have likely given a lower grade while provided minimal tip, if any. I never even asked the repairman to re-attempt cleaning the bathroom that he left untidy. As a personal review, I need to be able to speak to folks like the repair to deliver an experience better matched to my expectations, much like I do with subordinates.
  2. On the bathroom repair, I was slow to react to a small nuisance (a bathtub to which water would splash out constantly). That small nuisance kept happening and became a problem (the pooling water seeped tile grout and damaged the drywall behind. Now, it had be dealt with. I think about this like technical debt when an engineer knows code is shipped knowing there are limitations and flaws. But for the sake of speed (in my case, ease), the problem is ignored until it becomes a bigger problem. No matter what, though, the debt must be paid.
  3. If you’re the repair company, what do you do? That is, as a customer, I now no longer have a patched up sag in my ceiling. Now, I have a genuine hole. It’s a much worse state than before, and one that I can no longer ignore as I sell my house. Before, it would’ve been a discussion point during a home selling negotiation process. Now, it’s a show stopper. But as the repair company who does not offer any type of plaster services, what would you to help me now that my situation has been made worse?
  4. Now that there’s a hole in my ceiling, what’s the next best option? In Atlanta, older homes are commonly built with plaster – ceilings and walls – vs. drywall in buildings today. This means plaster service providers are becoming more niche (expensive when a provider is found). Meanwhile, with my goal of selling my home, I want to spend as little money as possible. So, what’s the play here? Much like in startups, there’s goal to grow fast. But that comes at a price. Sometimes, there’s a hurdle like a buying objection that requires the team to quickly adapt. There’s a new normal now. To address that objection or hurdle, what do the solution options look like? How do those solutions affect your primary goal (e.g. building a repeatable process, scalable product)?
  5. How do I learn from the experience with the first repair company and apply the lessons to finding a new service provider? Though the first repair company came highly recommended, how do I take what I’ve learned to also try to uncover things I don’t know. That is, what can impact the results of fixing the problem when I don’t know what I don’t know? How can I ask the right questions and confirm the next provider is capable when the first try was poor?

There’s a lot that can be learned in everyday happenings that can directly influence the ideology and execution of startups. It’s one of the reasons why for passionate entrepreneurs the lines between work and life are blurred.

Look for these lessons. They start to help you understand the gaps you’re in.

The other day, a real estate agent came by to look at my house. In my house, shoes come off and stay at the door. My real estate agent started taking off her shoes and noticed my extension collection of shoes.

“Are all of these your shoes?”

“Yup!”

I have about 14 pairs of shoes at the door. I realize that as a male, I buck the trend of most. Most of my shoes are function-specific, though. I have shoes for:

  • Running
  • Lawn/ yard work
  • Black formal
  • Sandals
  • Brown business
  • Soccer turfs
  • Soccer cleats
  • Everyday
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Etc.

I use specific shoes to help me be at my best. My running shoes, for example, are just for running. I’ve used shoes for running and “everyday”, and found my feet to be cramped or hurting after long runs before. Then, my hiking shoes are also for when I go up north with my girlfriend during the winter months and there’s snow on the ground. These shoes are waterproof and have traction for the outdoor trails — very different outsole required vs. normal street. My bike shoes are strictly used in tandem with my pedals on my mountain bike. My soccer cleats are, of course, for soccer on natural ground. My turf soccer shoes have a different sole to accommodate the turf fields I typically play on for some soccer leagues.

 

I’ve become a bit elitist in my shoes. It’s obviously an expensive way to live; though, each function-specific shoe lasts that much longer than having a general do-everything shoe. Sometimes, a general shoe just doesn’t work or could cause injury in a sport.

 

I mention this story because I’ve noticed a similar trend in my nomadic work life. I’m the typical mobile worker. I am at Starbucks this morning. There’s no plug nearby, so I’ve decided not to use my Microsoft Surface Pro, yet. It only has a battery life of 4-5 hours now, and I plan to be here for a while this Saturday morning. I’m using my iPad (non-Pro), my alternative portable device, to write this post and hammer out emails. I love having this device as I can take digital notes vs. the written notebooks in the past which, as an archive, is hard to review.

 

My iPad started out with 30% battery life. I noticed my phone only had 14% battery life. I plugged in my Anker external battery which has two USB ports — one for each of my iPad and my Galaxy S9. Now, my iPad is at 59% and my S9 is at 42%.

 

My Surface Pro is my preferred mobile driver as it’s hugely powerful and can do everything I want for multi-tasking to my heart’s (and brain’s) desire. But I love using my iPad for very focused, specific applications. My S9 is a diversion with limited professional application when my other devices are unavailable.

 

But at home, I also have a 2013 MacBook Pro. It’s very powerful as well. It’s hooked up to a 28” external monitor. It sits on a stand to elevate to eye level while Bluetooth Apple keyboard and trackpad give me added comfort. The other day, I had my Surface Pro connected to a 24” external monitor next to my MacBook workstation, and I had my iPad out to take notes. But for the most part when I’m home, I use my MacBook because it’s got everything set up for long-term comfort.

 

Thanks to cloud apps, I can do just about everything seamlessly. I save a file on my Surface Pro in my Google Drive while at the coffee shop and leave the device in my bag at home. At home, I can access the file on my MacBook Pro to continue working. I took notes earlier on my Microsoft OneNote on my iPad, and I need to remember what that was, so I pull up OneNote on my MacBook, too. They’re synced together!

 

I leave home for dinner. While waiting, a client writes me an email that I see on my Galaxy S9 via the Gmail app. I can retrieve the file I was working on via the Google Drive app. Oops, did I save the file on my Desktop and not on the Google Drive? No problem. I can access my MacBook Pro via remote desktop. I’ll just log in and drop the file into Google Drive now.

 

Meanwhile, I need access to a team account that I don’t have the password for directly. My teammate’s out for dinner as well. But wait, I can log in still because I can use my LastPass account that has shared account details for the team. I can log in!

 

Oh, and I still have a Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus ultrabook laptop from 2012. But because it’s an ultrabook, its internal organs are slowing down these days. So, I don’t use it much. It’s still next to my workstation at home anyways.

 

When it comes to having options, having flexibility, having the tools to do things better, costs can rise significantly. It makes us that much better than if we were to go the generalist route, doesn’t it? In this digital age, how much of that can I legitimately start cutting? I’ve added subscriptions to help keep my development code private. I am archiving more files in the Google cloud. Thus, I must continue paying for growing storage. I have services that keep my sites up and running like this one. Those costs will have to continue lest I give up sites and domains.

 

Costs are only rising. When I decide to build my next company, my personal burn rate will be higher. Should I take on another role full-time before my next venture? Will I be more comfortable with the new lifestyle? Will my desire for “more” and “better” handcuff me to a new, higher-cost normal?

 

This is what happens when I clear my head in the morning and ask the deeper questions. It gives me a chance to evaluate my direction.