Sunday, April 26, 2009

Relative Productivity

So…it’s been two weeks since my last post – and yesterday, finally, I was truly feeling on board with my new mentality – and moving forward on the aforementioned journey. I was having one of those days where I was really on – I was embarking on a weekend without any plans and I woke up early (highly unusual on a Saturday), went to multiple markets to purchase healthy groceries for a week’s worth of meals, hiked Beachwood canyon and ran a work errand –hooray!

Then I arrived home from my industrious day, and was on my way to further productivity – reading a new business book – when I caught the beginning of “Almost Famous” and poured myself a glass of wine. It was 5pm.

Now, I was really into my movie and my Shiraz – and I was remembering how great movies can be and how cool it is that I can enjoy a Saturday night home alone. And by the time I knew it, I had finished the bottle, moved on to Sex and The City reruns, and sent uncertain texts to girlfriends. By 9pm. How did it go downhill so quickly?

I am mildly shocked about this quick turn of events – how did I go from completely on-track to, “Could this be a problem?” in four hours time?

My friends were incredibly supportive – who hasn’t been drunk at home alone at one time or another? – but I knew it wasn’t an evening of good decision making when I saw the reaction of Peaches, my darling, but brutally honest housemate (cat). She had no mercy – just an exasperated look (seriously?!) and a retreat to the bedroom.

So I follow her – it is now 10pm and I’m about sober. I get into bed and pick up last week’s Time magazine, and flip to Get Rich Slow by Josh Quittner, an article that seems to corroborate my last blog about starting a new venture in this new era – “launching now will make your company stronger later.” And then remember who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. And I go to bed dreaming of writing, running a company and being fabulous.

So what is the moral of this story? That I’m okay with spending a weekend alone? That I'm kinda on the right track and getting closer to achieving my new intentions? That I shouldn’t start drinking so early in the day?

What I do know is that today I woke up early, had brunch, read the Sunday Times, hit the Farmer’s Market, hiked, saw a movie, cooked for a neighbor, and wrote this week’s blog. Not too bad on the productivity level.

I’m not sure if these activities hit any landmarks on the "new journey" roadmap. But I do feel good. And I did notice that there’s a New Moon in the sky tonight… which means that anything is possible for the upcoming week. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Recipe for Success in this New Era

I am embarking on a new project – and I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to begin. I know where I want to go and have a general roadmap for the journey, but I haven’t been able to take the first steps.

There are three easy answers for this problem: I don’t really want to do this project; I don’t think I will succeed at it; or I’m comfortable enough in my current situation that I don’t want to spend the time necessary to make it fly.

While there may be a little truth in each of those scenarios, I’m almost certain that it is something greater – something intrinsically linked to our new “American” reality - that is keeping me from moving…

Obviously there has been a huge shift in the past few months regarding business and future prospects in general. Credit is tight (or unavailable), businesses are cutting costs (mine included), and there is a general feeling of economic uncertainty for the near future.

As a member of Gen Y, I essentially grew up in the “Age of Excess” – blissfully cruising along, solidly set in the reality of what Kurt Andersen, in his brilliant Time essay The End of Excess: Is this Crisis Good for America?, calls “magical thinking.” I was raised not only to expect Victoria’s Secret underwear and Starbucks coffee, but also taught that I could achieve anything I put my mind to – and the resources I would need to make that happen would somehow be available.

I launched two businesses during this “magical time” – and although both took great amounts of time, skill and entrepreneurial zest, I was lucky to be blessed with access to easy credit, companies willing to spend on services like event planning and personal concierge services, and Web 2.0, which allowed instant credibility by having a pretty website and an online presence.

Now things have shifted, and the environment has changed to an unfamiliar landscape – one that I haven’t encountered in all of my 20-something years. I think what I’ve inherently been aware of is that launching a new venture in this more practical world will take a little more persistence, loads of creativity, and a lot more effort… and I think that is where my inertia truly lies.

Smarter planning, saving rather than spending, old-fashioned hard work: Boo. But I have a sense that success achieved in this new era may be sweeter than in times past. And so I will take the first step.

And I will be taking it knowing that this time around will be a little bit different – moving into more of an “artisan-enterpriser and less prospector-speculator,” as Andersen advises. However, I still intend to imbibe on small doses of that “magical thinking” I grew up on. I agree it’s a belief system that got most of us into this mess, but as a bit of a dreamer myself, I also know that I need a little of it to carry on with a positive outlook. And this time around I will be sure to pepper in heavy doses of pragmatism and calculated risk.

Maybe this is the updated recipe for success in this new era.

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