I Said Yes To A #Startup Job. Then I Walked Away

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know how much I love the start-up world. Its culture, people, and energy are intoxicating. Being on the front edge of innovation around so many smart, talented people is an awesome way to stay young and feel alive.

I've sought an opportunity to show what I can do for this world for over a year. I was so desperate for a shot to prove I could deliver I was willing to do almost anything. I completely bought into the cultural norm of giving before I received anything back. I worked for free and at my own expense to make myself and my skills known.

A week ago after all the connecting, networking, and grinding I finally got my shot from the founder of THIS idea. He loved my energy and passion. He bought into my ideas and willingness to work for free upfront and get paid once I delivered results.

I finally felt justified. I felt nervous, giddy, and sick to my stomach all at once. I was now being called on my words. I had to deliver. I had to create results. The potential implications zipped through my head. I knew I could do it and then turn this into something I could pass along to you as an example of success.

Then my life happened.

Two of my adult children moved back home each with their respective issues requiring the attention of me and my wife. 

A book project with a shorter path to profitability came to life which better suited my talents.

My college basketball referee career has turned into more than I thought it would.

I now had a choice to make. Given my age and the stage of my life, I had to decide what was most important. Family won like it should. Everyone already accepts my officiating career. I've done it long enough it has become the way by which people identify me. Staying there would not be an issue.

Writing a book could fit into any time frame. Creativity knows no clock. I could write at 3am as well as I could write at 3pm. Some would argue they get more done at 3am. I agree, but that's a different post for a different time.

Dealing with the frustration of building a product user base from zero while teaching myself the skills necessary to be successful is something fraught with failure after failure before ultimately winning. I'm not sure my wife and life could handle the stress of that along with the stress of kids.   

By splitting my focus in that manner, my officiating would suffer. I wouldn't have the drive and energy necessary to perform at the high level required to keep my basketball referee contract.

So I chose to walk away. When I called the founder to tell him, I sensed the disappointment in his voice. I knew I let him down. I may never get another chance like this. The more I think about this the more I realize what people always say about jobs, life, and start-ups: Market timing is everything. I wrote about that very idea HERE.

This goes to the heart of the issue we all face in our careers. I got offered a great opportunity full of possibilities, but it doesn't fit right now. This is often the reason given for start-ups to be denied funding after a pitch.

What am I really saying?  Timing and fit are everything. Janis Machala's thoughts at Seattle StartUp Week illustrate that example. "Not everyone's money is green in the way you want it to be green." I covered her in a post HERE

A few words on this founder: He's a great guy. He's the person in the start-up world for which I've searched a year to find. He gave me the opening I wanted based solely upon my passion, energy, and willingness to work. He believed in me when no one else would. This has NOTHING to do with anything he did or said. This is about me realizing I have things in my life right now that require my attention. Unfortunately, his business isn't one of them. 

You are a start-up. You are a business whether you want to believe it or not. I realized I couldn't force myself into a dream that would most likely end up hurting the rest of my life. Similar to start-ups who don't understand how their product and culture effect their decision will ultimately fail, I realized, hopefully before I destroyed my family, I wasn't up to the task. 

So I walked away from a shot at my dream.