What was true is no longer true.
I’ve been doing a lot of speaking and writing lately. Speaking and writing both trigger me to think about ‘narrative’, which leads to reflection about what has transpired in my life so far, and how I’ve been transformed by it.
One major theme has come up lately in all my personal storylines, small and large: closure.
I’m on my way home, preparing to set out on the next journey. In the framework of the Hero’s Journey (pictured above, with credit for the image due to Clever Prototypes LLC), Joseph Campbell codified the human mythological narrative as a circular journey of consistent, ordered steps that the prototypical hero goes through.
If you’ve never heard of the Hero’s Journey before, a good primer can be found in this TED-Ed video by Matthew Winkler.
In recent reflection, I’ve come to believe that the last twenty years of my life have been a complete hero’s journey. I see decisions that I made at the very beginning pf that journey that had lasting implications throughout the following twenty years. At the beginning I was a college dropout with little direction, very little means and the newly acquired responsibility of being a father. In the midst of so much uncertainty, I needed an anchor to focus on for what felt like a lifetime of work ahead of me.
My anchor was a single objective: “to be successful as a father.”
That can and should mean different things to different people, but for me, I defined it as:
- Being there for my children
- Being able to provide for my children, for the long haul
- Making my children proud
While I consistently had micro failures in all three categories, on aggregate I believe over the last twenty years I’ve achieved this objective. And with that I’ve completed this journey.
And here is where the lightbulb went on for me over the last month of looking back.
There were all these things that while I was on my last journey, I believed were “ultimate truths”.
I believed deeply in working incredibly long hours (I worked plenty of 18 hour days and pulled more all nighters than I care to remember), sacrificing cash compensation for equity to acquire assets that would grow in value over time, and putting health (physical and emotional) on the back burner and elevating my commitments to others.
These were the strategies that I used to achieve my journey’s objective.
Those strategies drove these tactics that I employed:
- 2000 – 2001 – Wait tables 7 days a week and teach myself how to code in down time.
- 2001 – 2007 – Go from junior programmer at HealthStream to Director of Technology at Emma Email Marketing in six years. Transition from writing code to technical leadership. In spare time start podcast on the PHP programming language and become a recognized evangelist for PHP around the world.
- 2007 – 2009 – While going through a divorce, begin entrepreneurial journey by starting two companies, one developing tech products for startups and one making films. Both will fail.
- 2014(a) – Become CTO of a venture backed startup named Moontoast in social media marketing and social commerce that will open offices in Boston and San Francisco, put me on the road every other week. Pivot 3-4 times, join a graveyard of probably a hundred other companies just like us who made the mistake of building a business entirely on Facebook. Fail.
- 2014(b) – While being CTO of startup, on nights and weekends build first tech accelerator in Southeast United States, Jumpstart Foundry with Vic Gatto. Co-create the program with him. Do it all on faith, no meaningful equity in the companies that are invested in. No wealth creation, but a bridge out of Moontoast is built.
- 2015 – Now
- Vic and I acquire the rights to the Jumpstart Foundry brand and both work on the business full time. We build other brands along side it, primarily Health:Further. We go from a tech accelerator to a healthcare innovation catalyst with a venture fund business and an industry engagement business. We bring along other investors and key partners (namely Dave Vreeland and Steve Tremitiere) and put over $30M under management and 80 companies in the portfolio to date, as well as a network of thousands of healthcare innovators around the world. Going Well.
- At the request of its founder, Chris Jones, I join the board of Nashville Football Club as its Chairman. Within 12 months, we navigate the organization from a non-profit to a for profit with David Dill and Chris Redhage (the name changes to Nashville Soccer Club) that acquires the franchise for professional soccer in the United Soccer League (USL). Within the next 18 months, we sell a majority of that franchise to John Ingram and merge ownership interests on a successful bid for Major League Soccer (MLS). We are now playing our final season in the USL and preparing for our first season in MLS next year. Going Well.
Those were all tactics. Pro soccer was never the objective. Becoming a venture capitalist was never the objective.
Being a success as a father was always the objective.
But twenty years have passed and my babies are now young men. While I will always cherish that role, my boys are now 20 and 18 years old, and that journey is done. And as a result of that journey being complete, I am transformed.
I am not the same kid I was in 1999. Not at all. It’s time for a new journey.
On this new journey that is just starting, my objective is to inspire good people to develop their self-efficacy.
I can tell my objective in life is changing because my belief in the strategies and tactics that I’ve used for the last twenty years are changing dramatically.
I have no desire to work all the time anymore. In fact, I’m actively thinking (all the time) about how to shrink the hours of the day that I spend “working”. I am prioritizing sleep, exercise and creating (things like The Grind) way above “work” right now.
I have no desire to work solely for equity, at least not equity in a company. Personal brand equity, absolutely. Equity in someone else’s company, nope.
I’ve got the equity I want in my companies, and I want to focus on growing them. Now when I think about work, if it’s not growing my companies, it has to be all about cash. And not cash in exchange for my time either, because again, I don’t want to work that much. My time is expensive.
Finally, my health / wellbeing has easily become the most important thing in the world to me. It was not for the last twenty years. It is now.
Acknowledging the end of one journey and the beginning of the next, after twenty years, has shown me something profound.
Objectives drive it all. Not goals, objectives. All the strategies that we embrace and believe in, and the tactics that flow from those strategies, are driven by the objective. The axioms that we live by can change dramatically when our objective changes.
There is no single set of strategies for success. It completely depends on your journey’s objective. And the beautiful thing is… if we are lucky, we can have multiple journeys in one lifetime.
I hope this has given you something to think about on your current journey.
Have a grateful day .