Sunday, November 10, 2013

The first rule of Eat Club is, we do not talk about Eat Club.

The second rule of Eat Club is, WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT EAT CLUB!

I look around, and I see a lot of you eating.

Which means a lot of you have been breaking the first two rules of Eat Club…

Okay, I apologize to those of you not familiar with the movie Fight Club, but every time I get an email from Eat Club, this bastardization from Tyler Durden’s monologue goes through my head – I couldn’t hold it back any further.

What is Eat Club?  They take lunch orders over the web, offering a number of different options, and they deliver a meal to your door.  The company I work for now buys us lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Most of those lunches come through Eat Club.

The point?  Well, the point is about one of the unusual dynamics of working for a startup.  I’ve never had a company regularly buy me lunch.  There are so many things I’ve experienced here that are so different than any work experience I’ve had before.  As I look around from my little desk amidst the overcrowded office, another difference becomes clear.  90% of the employees are roughly the ages of my kids.  I don’t know if this is common among start ups, but based upon the way we work, I have to believe that, to a degree, this is young person’s game.

A fundamental element that makes startups different is the entrepreneurial spirit behind them.  Like small established businesses, they can bear a strong imprint of their founders, but there is a temporary feel about this.  And this temporary sensation can be positive or negative.  But the temporary sensation is truly a part of the experience, at least mine.

Money comes from Venture Capitalists and clients, doles out to different aspects of the company to seed growth.  One area might get great attention, the other might be temporarily neglected.  There is a constant state of speculation.  Will it work?  What made it work?  Can we repeat it?  Is the road we are going down the right road?  If it isn’t, what does that mean?

The truth is, at least in my little corner of the startup universe, there is never a day when I wake up and know what I will do today.

Well, except for one thing:  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I know I will eat well for free.  I know that around noon will come the delivery person with the bright orange bags that contain the lunch I ordered earlier in the morning.

Three days a week, I’ll have a good meal, and if I’m not too busy, I might have it on the big balcony with some of my coworker, and enjoy the mercifully temperate northern California weather.

So, I guess now I’ve broken the first two rules of  Eat Club.  I hope Tyler will forgive me.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Taking Chances

For years, I watched a company, where I had worked for many years, shrink.  The big old converted warehouse, which had once had problems fitting all of its employees, now had huge, empty rooms as far as the eye could see.

The possibility that they would close the offices I was working in had steadily grown to a sure bet.  Still, I had held onto the hope that this company would be the place I would retire from.

I finally had to be realistic about what my future might be.  I had to become one with the odds that today would be the day they called me into personnel and say, "sorry, we won't be needing your services," or possibly, "we'd like you to move to our New Jersey offices."

Neither of these prospects thrilled me.  And this isn't a dig against New Joisey, I just can't see living in the New York metro area. Just not my kind of place.

I knew many who had been part of the systematic diaspora that the company I was working for had created over the years.  Through them, or a kindly recruiter, I could find a company where my years of experience could be leveraged so I could continue to the end of my career on “cruise control.”  Certainly, I could find a job where all of my experience would put me in a nice, cozy office keeping a company’s marketing and merchandising aspirations growing.  Meanwhile, I could continue to channel the ambition that still remained in me toward my creative loves of writing and music and art.

And somewhere between all that, find some space to watch my kids get their adult lives into full swing, and enjoy the company of my amazing, creative wife.

I’d worked hard for thirty years, and built up a pretty nice list of accomplishments.  I knew others my age who were taking more laid back positions as they moved into the latter years of their careers.  Sounded good to me.  I was tired.

An opportunity presented itself to go to a company that was a vendor I worked with.   They were a small company with big aspirations.  Given my state of mind, I should have had some sort of reservations.

A move across the country at the age of 51?  Uprooting everything I had known for the past 17 years with a wife who was having some major health issues?  The rigors of selling a house, buying another house?  Going to a start-up business, and the attendant risks that came with it? 

But then again, I should have had doubts when I joined the Army at the age of nineteen.  Should have had second thoughts when I married at the age of twenty.  Should never have just resigned and uprooted my family from San Diego to move back to Idaho, when I didn’t have a job lined up.  Should have played it smart, and taken a cut in pay to have a job locally in Idaho, when the company that was contracting me from afar said they would no longer need my contracted services.  I had nothing on the line at that time.

I’m not a gambler in the wagering sense.  Taking a chance on slot machines, or the cards, or the horses, or the wheel, or the dice, just doesn’t hold any appeal.  But as I look back on my life, some of the things I do seem like I’m gambling.  Certainly, some of the things I have done had a numerous possible outcomes, not all favorable.

So, I picked up the dice…