Archive for April, 2009

Waayy down on small towns

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

We moved to the tiny town we live in for practical reasons: inexpensive housing and a 4-minute commute to BigCo which was based there in the middle of a cornfield. It was nice. No one locked their doors, people leave their cars running in parking lots in the winter, services are cheap, blah blah blah. I bitched about the lack of restaurants but overall it was okay; it was 45 minutes from one of my favorite mid-sized cities and we “went in” when we needed or wanted to.

Then first boy was born and I thought, well, this is the American childhood dream, right? A place where everybody knows your name, all innocent and friendly? I was worried about the lack of diversity, yes, and the alarming frequency of high-schoolers getting married at the local bowling alley, but houses were getting more and more expensive in my favorite mid-sized city and it was easier to “move up” house-wise in our little town.

Until it wasn’t. And what small towns lack, of course, is not just restaurants or summer camps or specialty stores. It’s not just options to do; it’s options to be. My boy isn’t even in elementary school yet but I’m asked all the time what sport he’s chosen. The kid took swimming lessons for 10 days last summer and it was a disaster. He’s a butterfly chaser, easily distracted, not sure why he’d line up and run to the far post if there’s something more interesting right behind him. In short, not ready for organized sports.

A dear friend of mine, whom I consult with over almost every decision I make said, Well, you don’t need to push sports on him, but playing something sure greases a lot of wheels here.

Yes. Sure. But he loves to draw. And he walks around talking to himself and examining bugs. He often pretends he’s a spy or a race-car driver. This little town doesn’t have options for that.

Summer approached. His options for any sort of activity was the aforementioned swim lessons (he failed his level, so he could repeat) and soccer. I want him to know how to swim.  Great.  But he has zero interest in soccer.  But he’s bright and imaginative and curious and he’d love to learn about nature or how things work or art.  Sorry, kid.  And I thought, enough.  We need to give this kid some options, some ways to explore and be who he is.

We had several house showings this weekend. We needed to get out of the house on Sunday. The only things open we could take two restless little boys and two exhausted parents were McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. And that’s what we did, eating greasy food none of us really wanted, the older one playing at the McD’s Playland while we tried to keep the little one from putting his mouth on disgusting child-touched surfaces,  and then walking the aisles at Wal-Mart, letting older boy window-shop the action figure toys.

And we realized: grown ups deserve options too. Small towns have their charms but I’m hard-pressed to come up with a single one right now. Yes, we’ll soon have to lock our doors. I’m willing to lock my door to have a life.

Time Off

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

I’m taking time off. Although the amount of cleaning and house-fixing in order to list it and (I hope) sell it, feels far busier, more tedious and ungratifying than working most jobs. However, I am off work, between jobs and I truly don’t have a single responsibility, professionally speaking.

It’s been a long time. I worked at our start-up before I left BigCo so I never had a moment off. As mentioned, my maternity leave while at the start-up was so short I don’t even mention it to other mothers, I’m so ashamed. And when I left the start-up, I suddenly had the most worrisome job of all: finding another.

So here I am, no work at all. Family time. Cleaning time. No where to be or work to do. I keep wanting to say things like, Well, I should go get some work done now. But that’s obviously a ploy to get away from the house and have my own time and wouldn’t go over well, since my husband has been home with our boys every day for their whole lives.

Maybe I’ll end up liking time off. I don’t know yet. It’s too foreign. And there’s too much cleaning.

The market speaks. I say, Okay.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Selling a house in April 2009: it’s not good.

The reality of selling a house in this recession has hit squarely. The parade of realtors have passed through and passed on the bad news: we will take a cold bath on this house. Only a handful of houses have sold in our town in our range in the last season and the comps are terrible. The realtors danced around, building up to the bad news.

It wasn’t necessary. We understand. Houses don’t have inherent worth. They sell for what the market will bear, what people are willing to pay. We paid more because it was worth more to us. Now it’s way more attractive inside but it’s worth less because fewer people are moving into town and wanting this type of house. I’m comfortable with that. It’s the way it works.

And I’m not doing high/low pricing. I don’t respect it in retail, I’m definitely not setting some price that I think is probably too high but list it there “just in case” the couple from the big city sees it and thinks, what a steal, we’ll pay full price! That’s a (very common) fantasy out here in the midwestern sticks. I’m pricing it to sell. Now. I want to start my new life.

Be better at what you’re wired for

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I read Dan Schwabel’s blog interview with Randall Jones.  Jones wrote a book called The Richest Man in Town and said that we do our kids a disservice when we tell them “you can be anything you want to be—anything you dream of being.” They believe you can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be so much more of what you are innately, genetically gifted at. Warren Buffet says, “I was wired to allocate capital.” He would have been a lousy fashion designer. Hartley Peavey of Peavey Electronics was wired to engineer amplifiers and musical equipment. He loved rock music, but he was a dreadful guitar player.

I love this.  We do everyone a disservice with this attitude and it’s rampant, especially with children.  There’s way too much encouragement for everyone to just work harder, try more, stick with it and success is yours, no matter what the topic at hand.  Not true!  That doesn’t mean you don’t strive to improve yourself, sure.  But even when you spend a ton of time and effort on xyz, chances are you’re still pretty crappy at xyz-ing, and now you feel worse because it’s clearly your fault–you must not have worked hard enough.

I will never be an analyst.  I will never be a painter.  I will never be a boxer.  When I finish cleaning my house and feel satisfied, no one will ever say how immaculate it is.  But I can be all sorts of things that are beyond me right now;  I may need to learn a little more or a lot more, to practice new skills or to rethink my whole approach.  They’re stretch goals but within reach.  I’m wired for product, for marketing to women, for thinking like a customer, for nurturing people I care about, for making decisions, for juggling multiple goals and activities at once, for motivating people to all row a certain way.

Sure, I can be anything… that requires those things.

Personal brands circa 2025

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

I registered my sons’ names as domain names.  I thought I had bought them both earlier, but realized I only had one purchased.  They have fairly unusual names, so there was no real rush but I want to make sure they have them.  Who knows what their personal brands will become when they’re college age?

(The older is still preschool age, so I have limited experience in this but I do know this:  they don’t really become a certain person or personality as much as they simply reveal themselves, a little bit at a time, as time goes on.  It’s all there upon birth, I really believe now.  Just every new capability or experience or skill reveals the raw materials in new ways.  Whatever their brands become, 100 bucks says I could predict certain key aspects right now.)

But it’ll still be fun to see.

My personal professional life

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Still getting used to the blogging forum and how visible it is.  I still keep thinking that I’m writing to, well, I don’t know, a select group of six people who know me, like me and fill in all the blanks.  Or people who don’t know me at all and are interested in pontifications on e-commerce or start-ups or job hunts or life in corporate America or whatever I figure out I’m writing about.

Still trying to figure out what I most want to write about.

I have no control over who’s reading, from what aspect of my life.  I wanted to originally write about my job hunt–how badly people interview candidates, the puerile questioning, my favorite headhunter and why he’s so effective, the incredible confidence that I felt this go-round at times, and the frustration of being rejected by a recruiter’s assistant who thought I was too old to “get” the way hip companies are using social media.  But I was also trying to publicize this blog a bit and realized–duh–the people I wanted to quote verbatim were in the position of hiring or not hiring me.  And if not those specific individuals,  they could well know the people who ultimately held the job I most wanted. My industry is incestuously small.  So nix to that.

I wanted this professional.  No musings on my children, as much as I like to muse on them.  (They’re really cute, by the way.)  No rambling about my life and the mistakes I’ve made or the personal triumphs I managed to pull off.  Certainly nothing embarrassing–if I can’t look good on my own blog, where else do I have a chance?

And even in the professional space, it has to be positive, right?  I needed a job, after all.  Posts are forever.  What if an old boss starts reading?  What if the associate I hired years ago with the extremely distinctive tic sees the link to this blog on Twitter?

I’ve worked a lot.  I like to work.  Given the life choices my family has made, I have to work.  I have far more friends from my working life than any sort of personal life.  I took about a 9-minute maternity leave when I had my second baby.  My co-workers over the years are my closest friends, save for family and my best friend from high school.  So even when my focus is on my professional life, it becomes personal quickly.  It’s a complicated endeavor.

And I’m still trying to figure it out.

The reason why it’s a cliche…

Friday, April 10th, 2009

…is because it’s true.

Getting a job is all about relationships. About care and feeding of the existing ones and developing new ones. I worked really hard on my job hunt but what that means is that I worked really hard to be out there and visible and heard that I was looking, to be in touch, to be aware of what was going on out there in various companies, to listen to what every single person I knew had to say on ideas, leads and introductions.

It’s all about the people. Thank you, people!

Relief!

Friday, April 10th, 2009

A decision has been made and we know where we’re going and what we’re doing. I’m so relieved and happy and grateful. Now, back to living my life instead of planning/strategizing my life.

A Quiet Period

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I’m no Wall Street m&a but I feel like I’m observing a “quiet period” in which I can’t speak to the public. The decision is becoming clear–it was becoming extremely clear–and then some late-game wrenches threw themselves in the works. These are such good problems to be having but they’re still stressful. Things rarely go according to plan, eh?

Yes, it all worked out.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

3 great opportunities. In this economy, I feel beyond lucky. In October when I was so scared and thought I might not be able to support my family, I kept saying, I’d be okay if I knew it all worked out eventually.

It’s not the same. It’s not what I wanted. Not what I ever would have imagined. But it worked out.

Now. I need to figure out what to do.