Thursday, June 07, 2007

from Hot Shit, to oh, crap

Don't let anyone fool you. Starting a new business is hard like Christmas*. Working from home, while enjoyable, has all kinds of interesting challenges. Hustling new business, then trying to figure out how you're going to manage the business you've secured, is both painful and exhilarating. Managing the operations--the budget, the benefits, the banking--is tedious and trying. Figuring out roles when the players are husband and wife, and both people need to try to teach each other and learn from each other at the same time is like embarking on a whole new relationship, all over again. Learning a new industry while trying to balance all of this is an awesome way to freak yourself right out.

Would I go back and do things differently? Hell NO. This is the most strenuous path of Self Discovery I've ever forced myself to traverse. But still. Every day I'm helping myself to a big ol' slice of Humble Pie, while convincing our clients our agency is a one-way ticket to Awesome Town. I'm just saying: this endeavor is not for the faint of heart.

Professionally, I'm good at a lot of things. In fact, I've come to appreciate things I was really good at in my role at Ticketmaster, that I took for granted when I was there. Like, I'm good at learning the players in any given situation, noodling out what motivates them, and figuring out solutions that can satisfy just about everyone with a minimum of, you know, pissing every one off. I used to think these feats of diplomacy and finesse were annoyances in my day; I've come to realize they were a big part of my job, and I did it really well.

I'd also worked my way up to a fairly Big Fish status at a company that doesn't have very many Big Fish opportunities. Ticketmaster doesn't hand out Director titles like candy, but I had one. I'd be lying if I said everyone loved me, but my region's numbers were solid, year over year, and I set a high standard of excellence to those I was charged with leading. There were those I worked with who, for whatever reason, tried to keep me down or make me feel like I was Less Than. That's an unhealthy way to work and one of the reasons I was fine with leaving. But mostly, I was Hot Shit at Ticketmaster, and I didn't care if no one believed me when I told them, because hi: look at my region's sales and superior promotions. Think whatever you want, I'm taking credit for that.

Today, I don't get credit for being an Entrepreneur! A Business Owner! It's not enough. I have to walk in, say "This is what we're going to do for you, please PAY US." And then? I have to deliver, or they'll leave us for the next new agency. I have to deliver work that, in some cases, I've never done before. I'm learning about streaming video links and digital EPKs, and storing site after site in a stretched out memory bank every day just so I can maximize the coverage my clients get on every DVD they release.

Some of the work is remedial. Some of it is tedious: follow up, follow up, and follow up some more. I went from Hot Shit, to oh, crap: I have to do work I used to give to an entry-level coordinator, and I can't even be a snob about it because I'm still learning.

And yet, I'm surprised every day. With every new thing I learn, I still get to teach something to Mac, or my clients. Very cool. Sometimes, when I've been struggling with something for a week, I'll discover that the client was struggling with it too, and what I've gotten done is actually more than they expected. Groovy. The littlest things have become the biggest thrill. Best of all, when I score a hard-to-get placement and squeal, "YES!" from my desk, Mac runs in and celebrates with me. I didn't have that at the old gig, and it isn't just fun, it's intoxicating.

Most surprising of all, is when I realize that I've put myself in a position of Struggle in my life, once again. I'm not actually a huge fan of Change, but in the last 10 years, I've moved cities twice, thrown myself into 5 different jobs that were just a little out of my reach when I started them, gotten married, adopted pets, bought and renovated a house... all of these things aren't just big, life-changing endeavors, they're freaking WORK, man. They are work, and while they all came with either short or long-term benefits, that doesn't make the struggle any easier.

Then again, all of the moments of struggle in my personal history have yielded huge returns in personal growth. I've learned about myself, and what I can take, and what I can do if pushed just a little further. I've learned about how I relate to my family and friends, and how I can make those relationships better. I don't always apply what I've learned, but hey--odds are good I'll throw myself into the deep end with some other life-changing challenge again before too long, and I can learn to apply it then.

It reminds of my favorite poem, "Ulysses," by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It's a poem I read in high school or college, and it was one of those times when enjoyed just one of many profound impacts that art has had on my life, and my approach to life. It's a really long poem about Ulysses, an aging king who had survived many adventures** and challenges in his life, and found himself in his golden years unwilling to rest and just relax. A couple excerpts, and I'll go (although, seriously, read the whole thing).

"I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life!

". . . tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

*This is a saying in the McLean house because of a story one of our Seattle friends told us, in which one of her young, "special" students was struggling to make a Christmas card for her parents, and after messing up her card for the third time pouted, "Christmas is HARD!"

**The Odyssey--ever heard of it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Dinah, I just read your last three posts, and they prove what I`ve always said about parenting: "Sometimes they make you proud and sometimes they make you humble!" But seriously, you nearly ALWAYS make me proud. You go girl! Remember, "Good enough is never good enough". Ha, ha! I still can`t remember that I said that. Love you, Mom