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All You Need Is Love – AdTech Realization

November 4, 2010 4 comments

Adtech NY 2010 was phenomenal for marketing learnings and networking; and I’m already looking forward to AdTech SF. Over the weekend, I will write a download on the professional speakers, exhibitors, trends and learnings. But for me, the best take away was as follows: Without a supportive husband, I would never have made it through the 4 days away.

Dan Schwabel posted a quote given to him by Marcus Buckingham in his Brazen discussion. The quote was, “balance is impossible to maintain so we should strive to be fulfilled instead.”

For those of us entrepreneurs; who build businesses and look at them as our children; who are so passionate about our work that people who “don’t understand” the love of business – often tell us to “find balance in our lives”. I’ve heard it hundreds of times. I’ve tried it 100s times. But I always find myself to feel like I’m being forced to “choose” between business and relationships.

So in taking the quote above, I realized – I don’t need balance – I just need to be fulfilled. And what fulfills me is having a husband who understands and loves me for who I am; inclusive of that undying passion that drives me to work, to innovate, and to build.

I was so sad at Adtech because while I was living that passion, I wasn’t sharing it with my fulfillment – I wasn’t sharing in with my husband. So I realized, I don’t need balance. “Balance” is for those who work 9-5 jobs. For me, the ‘fulfillment’ comes from sharing the values, the passion, the ideas, and the drive with the one person who fulfills me. My husband.

Fulfillment for me = the shared value of the importance of learning with the one you love.

Ryan Paugh asked me to write a post about “The Legacy I would like to leave”. My legacy will be to my children and to the others I love; do what you love, but ensure your partner loves it as well; share your loves and embrace them. The legacy is the teachings of how working with someone you love will leave you fulfilled.

Categories: Uncategorized

“Live to Work” or “Work to Live”?

September 17, 2010 6 comments

I’ve always believed in the companies I’ve worked for. Similarly, I’ve always believed in the bosses I’ve worked for. I’m unsure if this was “luck” or me seeking out people who inspire me and business models I take pride in working for, but regardless, I realized this past week I wouldn’t except anything less.

I never understood how people could work 9 AM – 5 PM, take a lunch hour, and go home feeling fulfilled at the end of the day. Perhaps it goes back to the age old verbiage, some people “live to work” while others “work to live”. I’m more of a “live to work” person. I had never really ‘discussed’ my career / career options with anyone except my husband and friends, and as I’m at what I believe to be a pivotal point in my career; I decided maybe it was time to speak with an expert. No, not a ‘shrink’, but a career counselor.

While I’m consulting right now; owning my own business, I do want to go back into the ‘working world’; I miss having a team and definitely miss having people around I can learn from. As the higher education industry is booming right now (perhaps not in a good way), jobs in the industry for innovators are aplenty. Every time I interview or speak to a prospective company about a future relationship, I get excited. I can’t help it; I love building things from the ground up. That said, I couldn’t figure out why I was always excited (at first) and the more I learned about each company, the less excited I became. I loved the people, love the ‘start up’, but my gut was repeatedly telling me, “STOP”. I couldn’t figure out why, but after reviewing my notes from the career counseling session I had, it was clear; it’s because I’m not passionate about anything I’ve been offered. There is nothing truly innovative, nothing new, and certainly nothing that will address the issues the for profit education sector is dealing with right now.

This is an interesting paradox for someone who owns their own consulting business as the way I make money is by working with companies and teaching them how to do things that I’ve done successfully in the past. The problem is; I don’t believe most of what the for profits have done in the past will be useful for the future. Certainly, the skill sets and experiences will help to be successful, but innovation is going to ‘win’ in this industry. So, for the past 8 months I’ve been working, doing what a ‘consultant’ does, made more money than I’ve ever made before; and I have a fiduciary responsibility to continue running this business until I do find something full time that I am passionate about. But I wonder, from a psychological standpoint, how one can continuously work on projects that I don’t believe have a solid chance of long term success?

Short term success? Certainly. Can I bring a business to profitability? Can I teach them best practices? Can I education them about marketing, call centers, operations, and give the best recommendations in TODAY’s world – Absolutely. But in this industry, ‘today’s world’ is rapidly changing.

So the question for me is – how long am I willing to work for businesses I’m not passionate about? I’m delivering for the companies; but not delivering for myself. I am not fulfilled. I hate working from 9 AM – 5 PM. I hate not waking up at 2 AM with a great idea that I can draw up and execute on as I rush into the office at 7 am the next day. I hate not feeling the ‘fire in the belly’. But, I guess this is the life of a consultant. People pay you for your expertise, but you’re not necessarily building something that matters. I originally thought they money would outweigh the need to be passionate about a business. When the money didn’t excite me anymore, I told myself that the executives I was learning from would motivate me to feel passionate about what I was doing. Turns out, that hasn’t worked either. So, I continue in my quest for a meaningful role in a company I believe in and whose model I am passionate about. And I’m left with the question: Would life be easier if I could ‘teach’ myself to “work to live” instead of “living to work”?

No? What Does That Mean?

September 3, 2010 35 comments

I hate the Steven Stills (and later redone by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young) quote, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”. Does that not say to anyone else, “it’s okay to settle”? No way, not me – not for a moment would I ever settle. What do you do when someone says, “NO”? Up to age 11 or 12, I’m sure I threw temper tantrums. That was until I figured out what the word, “manipulate” meant; and became a master of manipulation…probably until age 22 or 23. And yes, I rarely heard “no”. I began working for two phenomenal businessmen around this time who were too smart to be manipulated. They just didn’t deal with it. I learned the best way to get what I want was to 1) Be honest 2) Demonstrate my value add.

Since that time, certainly I’ve had disappointments and heard that hated word, “No” while feeling the nasty claws of rejections; but surprisingly – minimal rejections thus far when it’s come to business. Up until this week, I’ve gotten every job I’ve wanted. One may read this and think, “ugh. egomaniac”, but truly – I did nothing to get jobs except be honest and demonstrate value add. Ok, so maybe I’m a bit of a schmoozer as well and I’m sure that helps, but again – that’s part of my personality – take it or leave it. This past week, someone “left it”. They didn’t want to hire me.

Just to be clear and not sound like a ‘kvetch’, I do still have my own company, a great life, I’m working for a phenomenal start up right now, so “business life is good” and I can’t complain; but I do want to use this as a learning experience. What can I learn from being ‘turned down’?

“Elevator pitch” version of the situation; great company, great mission, great executive team, (but in my opinion) only average senior level revenue drivers. I worked with one of the executives, found her to be brilliant and knew I could learn a lot from her – so asked if I could ‘help’ the company in certain areas at no cost; all I wanted in return was to learn from the executives. I am learning and certainly have not been asked to do any work at all; but as I’m getting deeper into certain parts of the company, I like the company. I see an absurd amount of potential and the people who are driving the revenue are simply not “revenue drivers”. They’re good employees, great analysts, great operators, but they’re certainly not the type that wake up at 2 AM with an “idea” as to how to drive revenue in different ways, develop a pro forma, and execute first thing in the morning. Franky, I’m unsure if any of them have played a revenue driving GM role or have even owned and managed a P&L before. Hence, I’m frustrated. I know the roles these individuals play and I am confident I can add more value. And Yes – this is my EGO talking; but I do believe I could rev this company up. So, I told the executive I was working with that I wanted to work there. AND I told her I would work there FOR FREE. These employees make base salaries…I would work on performance only. Response? CRICKETS! I got nothing!

Initial reaction was anger (bruised ego), but after a day or two I realized the important ‘take away’ here for me is the “why”. What’s wrong with me? My track record in this particular industry is flawless. My track record in start-up companies is flawless. Certainly I’ve made hundreds of mistakes in each business, but the businesses have all still prospered and were brought to profitability.

So, I figured I had 2 options: 1) Take a good look in the mirror and put myself in this executive’s shoes. Why wouldn’t I hire me? 2) I could just ask why she didn’t respond. So, I did ask (via email) why there was no response and didn’t get a response on that either. My assumption (which I hate making assumptions) is that she is an executive in an important company with a lot of work to do; she hasn’t had time to address. That’s fine with me (although at times I do believe I’m the center of the universe), reality at age 30 is that I’m NOT!

As for Option 1, I looked in the mirror and put myself in this individual’s shoes; whew – talk about a few days of insecurity!
Was I too ego driven? Too cocky? Was I coming off as not a “team” player? Perhaps I’m too ‘honest’ about my feelings towards what the business could be doing better? Or worse; does she just think I suck? I’m not ‘corporate’ enough? I could go on and on with these thoughts I’ve been thinking all week, which will probably serve to do nothing but make me upset (again). But really, at the end of the day, I feel like there must be something significantly ‘wrong’ with me if I’m offering to work on a performance basis (free unless I perform) and someone says “NO”.

So at this juncture, I wait for option 2; I wait for a response. And while the egomaniac, immature, 11 yr old in me would like to throw a tempter tantrum and know WHY I can’t have what I want…and the 18 year old wants to say, “Your loss”….the 30 year old will continue to try to learn from this and learn how to handle the age old issue of “REJECTED”!

Don’t be a Hater

August 30, 2010 Leave a comment

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Check out my Guest Post at Ty’s blog, TooXYZ

Discussing the differences between negativity, cynicism, and how to remain positive so as not to be seen as a bitch!

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Categories: Uncategorized

PEOPLE make start ups profitable. Period.

August 26, 2010 3 comments

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I’ve worked in 4 start ups and been successful 4 times. I define success in a start up as the company becoming profitable as well as a “going concern” business.

While my ego would like to think I can attribute these successes to my own intellectual superiority, I have become more of a realist. There have, however, been 3 constants to these successes and now consulting for numerous start ups, I’m shocked to find the minimal time and thought that goes into what I consider the initial recipe for success.

A strategic and well thought out human resource initial plan will

1. Hiring on 4 traits

Always list these 4 criteria in order of the ‘traits possessed’ for your potential hire:

Education
Motivation
Experience
Innate Intelligence

The order that will bring you a successful candidate in a start up world;

Motivation
Innate Intelligence
Experience
Education

What does this mean? It means that someone who is tenacious, ambitious, has unparalleled work ethic while also having the ability to make good decisions and think ‘outside the box’ is going to be far more valuable than the “MBA who has worked in corporate America for 5 – 10 years”. Certainly, there are roles for these folks, but not in the core of your start up executive, senior, or middle level management teams.

2. Sacrifice is KEY

Offer a very minimal base salary – regardless of the role. PAY FOR SUCCESS ONLY.

When you have team members that are confident enough in their abilities that they agree to being tied directly into accountability metrics to get paid, you have people who are ‘bought in’. Take the time to develop a monthly accountability plan. It may take you a couple hours to develop the ‘right’ plan and another hour to explain it to a colleague, but it will drive millions in revenue over time; as well as cut costs.

3. CUT THE FAT

Stop hiring people who do not have the ability to act in numerous roles. Oftentimes, I see start ups where executives can play numerous roles; they can develop and drive strategy on the marketing side, but also be an operator if needed – and most times a salesperson as well. Then when it comes to hiring senior and middle management, ‘executives’ seem to think that they should each have a vertical of employees reporting to them. Forget the vertical. Find senior and middle managers who can play multiple roles as well. YOU WANT TO HIRE MINI C.E.O.s.

For example, you don’t want just a ‘director of creative’, you want a creative designer who can design, code, has an e-commerce and technology background, can manage websites, QA the site, and has the operational background to project manage anything in your marketing department. Many start ups hire 1 “director of marketing”, 1 creative designer, another technology person. Find someone with all of these skills.

Another example; do not hire a “director of sales” or “director of marketing”…Hire a “director of revenue driving operations” or a “rain maker”. Find someone who can negotiate deals and don’t only use them on the business development side; use them on the marketing team as well – to work on marketing negotiations. If the individual is “innately intelligent” and “motivated”, they will pro-actively learn about all areas of your business (motivation) and adapt their skill sets quickly based on the knowledge (Innately intelligent). Combined with creative deal making and negotiation skills, you want your ‘revenue driver’ to also have had an operational background – who needs a sales / marketing operations person? Until you’re profitable – it’s a waste.

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What is Your Vision? Do We HAVE to Have a Vision to be Successful?

August 18, 2010 7 comments

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Last week I was offered a phenomenal Chief Operating Officer role in a great start up company. I was offered a decent starting salary (for a start up venture), but more importantly – a lot of equity. Even more important, I saw that I could learn from the co-founders and I believed in the product. One would think I would be ecstatic. I was, but there was something holding me back. I couldn’t figure out why I was not jumping through the roof and accepting, so I called one of the most influential mentors I’ve had, who knows me as an employee, colleague, and personally and he had one simple question that I couldn’t answer. What is your vision for yourself?

My vision (in my mind) is simple; I already have the perfect husband – then add to the picture 2 kids, a dog, 5 bedroom house on the ocean in South Fl, and CEO of my own company. Well, that all sounds plausible in theory and I’m CEO of my own company now; although I’d like to be CEO of a $30-$40 million dollar business so we have some growing to do.

This is where my mentor gave me a dose of reality; he said, “Jamie, my wife and I speak literally every week about how she feels she’s not giving enough time to our children.” His wife is the Chief Administrative Officer for a major company, extremely bright, ambitious, and absolutely adores her children. So, they’re both fantastic parents and it would “appear” they ‘live the dream’, but it also sounds like the “having young children” and “feeling like you are doing a good job as a mother” is STILL something that can be an issue.

I’ve spoken to others whom are extremely successful in business and have fabulous children / home lives and my findings; the mother has usually taken off of work for a year or two after the baby is born or one of the parents have their own business where they keep their own hours.

So, it would appear from all “data” and “anecdotal” points that my vision is flawed…but it can’t be, right? There must be hundreds of women who have been successful in their careers and still feel like they’re giving their children enough time. Isn’t that what the feminist movement was all about?

So let’s assume, for 1 second, that I cannot be a CEO or COO of a large corporation AND be an attentive mother; then what? Do I put my “career” vision on hold for a few years? I can certainly continue to work as I’m working now and make great money and spend time with my children, but I miss having something “to build” and I miss having a “team”.

Is it possible to NOT have a vision relating to business? And if so, can I be successful without that vision?

I am confident, possibly too confident that I will succeed in whatever business endeavor I undertake. I have the experience and the track record there; so can my ‘vision’ only include things that are personal? I see myself being successful at whatever I want to do – can my vision just be broad right now? Can it be, “be successful?”

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Bill Gates: Proponent of Higher Education Online

August 8, 2010 2 comments

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At the recent Technonomy Conference, Bill Gates talks about the need for more online education. He states there “will be” five times more college courses online and that this is the only way for the schools to provide education to everyone who wants and needs it. The first minute of the video speaks more to the younger scholar; K-9, however the other 2 minutes of the video show his support for bringing our traditional schools online.

While very short, what I like about what Bill Gates stated, is that he obviously knows that online education is NOT for everyone and makes this clear. He states that college courses online are for the ‘self motivated’ learner.’ This is an important point that many of those outside of the online higher education industry miss; in order to succeed online, students must be self motivated and certainly disciplined.

Bill Gates said what everyone is saying and only a handful of state schools are acting on: We need to take tuition that’s $50,000 / year and figure out how to provide it to everyone who wants it at a lesser price – even stating that placed based activity will be five times less important than it is today.

Not only do I agree with Mr. Gates in his projection, but also in his open admittance that online education is not for everyone.

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Are All Failure’s Purposeful?

August 7, 2010 4 comments

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An old boss / mentor of mine told me that everything is purposeful. I remember the first time I heard him say this; I was 24 years old, we were in month two of a start up, and I had worked on all the mappings in our database. Based on the way I had mapped something, we were $200,000 more “in the red” than projected and only saw this once the end of month P&L came out. He was so angry, I thought he would fire me…but he called me into his office and asked one questions, “what did you learn from this?” I told him what I had learned and he explained he was not angry because “everything is purposeful” and “it was purposeful that it happened at such an early stage of the business and not 6 months later when we were driving 20 times as much traffic to our website”.

I’ve never really forgotten that conversation and as the years have gone on, every time something negative in my life occurs, I think to myself, “this is purposeful”. While this has helped me through a lot of hard times, I also sometimes wonder if this is just an ‘excuse’ when I make a mistake.

I was watching the video below and it brought me back to the ‘benefits’ of failing. Certainly, we all fail; and certainly if we listen to anyone successful, we hear how they have grown so much more from their failures than their successes. This made me wonder if every time we ‘fail’ at something, it’s purposeful – there is a reason involved. I can go through my life, or at least the past 7 or 8 years and track back everything I “considered” a failure. Certainly, something positive has come out of each failure, but is this because it was “purposeful” or because I have a tenacious personality and ‘made something positive happen’? I’m interested in your thoughts on the video as well as examples of times a ‘failure’ in one thing has NOT led you to something positive in another. Please do share as I cannot come up with anything at this time and I’m still thinking, thinking, thinking. Everything I think about, I’m able to “spin” into a positive; but am I “spinning” or are things really purposeful?

This video, the Harvard 2008 commencement speech by JK Rowlings, is not only an entertaining speech; but certainly talks about how ‘failing’ leads you learn things about yourself you wouldn’t otherwise have learned. It’s a sense of empowerment. I’ve failed numerous times, but unsure if I’ve ever had a revelation as big as JK Rowlings.

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

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How Humble Do I Have to Be?

August 1, 2010 12 comments

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Three words I hate hearing most: “You’re soooooo lucky”.

Really? Am I? Was it “luck” that caused me to get where I am today?

When someone speaks those three horrid words to me, let’s talk in the context of ‘business’, I typically bite my tongue (shocker), but sometimes I’ll ask them, “Really? How many weeks did you work 90 hours straight? Because I pretty much did that for about 5 years. And oh – by the way, when I was working those 90 hour weeks, I also spent 1 hour each day reading articles, books, and surfing the internet – always trying to find new ideas, fellow innovators, and ways to better myself…”.

At that point, people usually come up with an excuse; yes, unless one is dealing with an illness – I call it an excuse. Either they were “working on their relationship” or they were “having family issues” or any of the other reasons one can think of for not kicking their own ass into the office, there was always a CHOICE that was made. Individuals make the conscious choice to prioritize their friends or other relationships before their jobs; they make the conscious choice to read “fluff” (I love fluff, BTW), like Candace Bushnell, versus reading books by Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell. I don’t believe there is any ‘perfect science’ to becoming successful, but I am a firm believer in creating your own luck. My fellow blogger, Ty Unglebower will argue with me in-depth about “Skill vs. Luck”, but when looking at studies of various entrepreneurs and whether their success has depended on Skill or Luck, scientific evidence points to skill.

I am also a firm believer that if you have a skill (which may be innate – and some may look at that as “luck”, hence the nature vs. nurture debate) and do nothing with it, you are doing a disservice to society.

People have always told me I’m tenacious and ambitious. I would argue that my success is based on Skill + strategic ambition. What I mean by strategic ambition is this; don’t be myopic in your endeavors. Most people think, “If I’m ambitious and work, work, work, and bring in the most revenue or sign the biggest deals, I’ll make more money or I’ll move up in life”. Wrong. That’s only one piece of the puzzle. Sure, it’s the easiest to see coming out of college and there is certainly a correlation between bringing in revenue (or reducing costs) and moving up in a company, but what else does it take?

Certainly, I would say a large piece of success is dependent on the people you surround yourself with in the office as well as in life. As I wrote in a past post, I’ve taken pay cuts to work with or for certain individuals. By surrounding yourself and only working with people who will better you, make you think, expose you to new ideas and management styles, you are learning every time you interact with that individual. Choosing the right mentor and being pro-active enough to secure that mentor is a huge part of being ambitious. It takes time to build a relationship with the right person; it takes patience; and you have to be strategic about ‘who’ you pick.

Another important piece is the desire to for continuous improvement (learning). As cliche as this sounds, if you’re not moving forward, you are only moving backwards.

Many people talk about “balance”. I agree we all need balance in our lives, however there is a time for balance and a time to go “all in”. If you make the conscious choice to go ‘all in’ (working 90 hours / day for example), you WILL lose out on other aspects of your life. When people say, “you’re so lucky”, they fail to realize the losses that come with that proposed “luck”. Friendships and other relationships are ruined. Most people either lose or gain a lot of weight as they either have no time to eat or eat too much. When people talk about ‘balance’ and the importance of balance, I agree; but I think there is a right time for you to balance your life and some of us choose to be extremists. Whether you agree with it or not, again studies show that the more time someone puts into their job, the more money they will make and the higher likelihood they will have of moving up in a company. Again, it’s a conscious choice.

What I have learned is that by ‘giving things up’ in the short-term, you not only reap the business benefits in the long-term; but the long-term personal benefits as well. If we go back to relationships again – any relationship is work. If you have been through work experiences that teach you that “hard work pays off”, you will associate work with success. hence, you are more likely to work harder on your relationship.

If you have worked and been pro-active enough to find a mentor; likely you would recognize that a connection with an individual is important enough to change a life. Once you have had a successful relationship where you are being taught, learning to take criticism, sometimes even “tough love” (like a mentor) and see that it has led to something positive…you are more likely to be able to take criticism and / or ‘tough love’ from other people in your life. You will likely not just be able to take it, but do something constructive and better yourself (and your relationship) by making changes.

Tying back around…is there such a thing as ‘luck’? Probably. But when you make your own luck in one aspect of your life, you learn how to bring it to other areas. If you are one of the people who are reading this and disagree with me, try what I said above…try it in one aspect of your life or your job. And if you’ve already tried it once, try the steps again…and again…at a certain point, you will find your way and you’ll then understand that there isn’t luck. There are decisions; and each decision comes with sacrifices. it’s up to you to decide what’s most important and when the right time is.

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Reality Check – Are You a Hypocrite? I think I am!

July 20, 2010 13 comments

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After five years of success in what I termed to be a “large” corporation (about 10,000 employees) and then four successful start up ventures, I thought I had learned a lot. In my experiences, I had learned far more in any start up than my friends or family that worked for REALLY large companies; 50,000 employees +. Hence, I’ve spent the last few years training management teams on my experiences; specifically, how to quickly become successful in the start up world. Once again – very successful. I unconsciously made the decision that there was one way to do things – the “start up” way. By making this decision, I had unknowingly turned my back on the “large” corporations as I always incorrectly assumed that “their way” was corporate; ideas needed sign off, plans took too long to be written, there was politics to deal with, and frankly, corporations seemed to move to ‘slowly’ for me.

At the same time, whenever someone has asked me what has made me successful, my response has always been, “I’m open minded. I know what I don’t know. But mostly, I just love to learn; every person I meet is like a commodity and if I stay in contact with them, it’s because I believe they are a commodity that will allow my knowledge portfolio to grow”.

I’m a hypocrite. If I was so open minded, I’d be willing to work with / for these 50K + employee companies. I wouldn’t only work with start ups, but would also look to learn from high level executives in HUGE businesses. I would learn to relinquish control and learn how to play in a different sandbox.

I frequently meet with executives from all companies, small to large, to get their feedback / advice on how I’m doing in my business. I ask for suggestions as to how I can better myself. Thus far, everyone I’ve met with has said to me one of the following things: 1) “You’re an entrepreneur. You’d be wasting your talent if you don’t start your own business” 2) Continue consulting; you have a wide range of skill sets that are transferable over most sales and lead generation industries. 3) Continue working with start ups and imparting your knowledge there. You have the visions and know how to execute and bring a company to profitability quickly”.

While all of this is ‘nice’ to hear, I still always felt like I was ‘missing’ something. The advice given above is nice to hear and certainly from a monetary standpoint works very well. But again, I still felt the “fire” was missing – the passion was not there as it had once been when I had connected myself to one brand or company.

I had dinner with a brilliant executive last night who finally made me realize what I was missing. I had turned into the one type of person I hated. I was the one that was being closed minded. I had been so successful and enjoy the start up world so much, that I had closed myself off to the thousands of other possibilities to learn. I put all “large corporations” into the same ‘box’ and in doing so, had missed what could have been some phenomenal learning experiences.

For those of you successful entrepreneurs and ‘start up’ junkies who read my blog, I’m wondering…has this happened to any of you? Have you ‘turned yourself off’ so much to the “corporate world” that you think you may be missing out on learnings? I’m trying to decide where to go from here. It’s interesting, because I always said, “If you’re comfortable, you’re dead”…and what I realized last evening is that I AM comfortable in the start up world. While every start up is different, different product, different strategy, etc. the pattern is the same. I’m comfortable with that pattern. In order for me to grow, learn, and get out of my comfort zone – I would need to go to a large company and ‘learn’ how to play the game, learn some patience with slower processes, learn how to NOT always have to be in control. Or I could continue doing what I’m doing, make great money in start ups and enjoy them – but would likely not learn as much. It’s a catch 22, but I’m wondering what any of my readers thoughts are on this and if anyone has been through a similar point in their life? If so, seeking your opinion / advice!

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