January 1 is a lousy day to start something new. There are too many expectations, too many clichés, too many obvious pitfalls. If you’re going to start something new, doing it on New Year’s is like getting married on Valentine’s Day, in Vegas, to a stripper. With a cocaine problem. Who took your ATM card to go get some flowers. A couple of hours ago.
So of course, I’m starting something new today!
After almost two decades working for other people, I’m setting out on my own. Later this month, I’ll be starting my own business, doing iOS and Web development.
There are lots of reasons for this, of course, the usual litany. Half the people I know have the entrepreneurial balls to run their own businesses, and I’ve wanted to start something for as long as I can remember. But I’ve also wanted to, y’know, eat. And sleep. And pay the mortgage and have insurance and support at least some of the children around here who claim to be mine.
But sometimes events conspire to create an opportunity that’s too hard to pass up. Sometimes it happens on New Year’s. And sometimes it happens because of a podcast, of all things: Merlin Mann and Jeff Veen talking to Dan Benjamin.
Jeff was talking about being frustrated at Google, with the culture and his inability to change it. He said he spent two years trying to get a seat at the table, and finally decided that the best way to create the culture he was looking for was to go and build it himself: “I can make my own table.” (For the TL; DR crowd: start at 37:30 for a head-spinning discussion of corporate values and culture.)
There’s something about that story — among all the stories I’ve heard over all the years — that resonated. It was the last, tiny little push, after a series of hard shoves in the back and sharp kicks in the ass, from literally dozens of people whom I admire and trust and desperately want to be like. I’m not even going to attempt to name them — the list could double the size of this page and I’d still forget someone — but I’m grateful to each and every one, whether they know I exist or not.
It comes down to this: I’ve been sitting at someone else’s table for almost twenty years, and at some point they started serving comical plastic chew toys, because they’re cheaper than steak and most people don’t seem to notice.
But I can make my own table, too. Today, I start.
Who knew that the way to action was furniture-based metaphors? I was originally tempted to be less ambitious, maybe make my own stool. But that, um, sounded wrong.
And so here I am: Excited, nervous, with a two-decade head of steam built up and nearly insurmountable opportunity to channel it into. This company will be mine, cobbled together from my successes and my screw-ups. The soft, insulating layer of other people’s rules is gone and anything is possible. I get to choose my own work and create my own culture. I get to make something meaningful and I get to own it. It’s my table.
I should probably get some coasters.