I had a great weekend visiting with family and friends in Utah. Twice per year we attend General Conference – two days worth of LDS meetings where we listen to spiritual leaders talk about how we should be better husbands, fathers, and brothers and sisters to the people in the world around us. Very inspiring.
My family and I also usually spend some time with my parents. My parents have always been very involved in my life. My mom helped me get my eagle scout, and get my first business in high school off the ground (painting hop scotch on driveways. yep). My dad attended many a teacher-parent meeting that weren’t during the scheduled times (I was that kind of student).
But when I quit my job in mid-2009, the future and the economy looked bleak. I remember a conversation with my dad where he seriously questioned if quitting my job with no incoming revenue stream awaiting me was a good idea. These were sound criticisms. I didn’t have a great plan. The idea I planned to work on fell apart in 3-months.
But after about 6-months, (and a couple of closed deals) when it was clear we wouldn’t starve, his advice changed to “You’re doing it. You can do it.” It’s now been about 18 months since I quit and while talking with him this weekend, I mentioned a doomsday scenario where if worst comes to worst I could go get a job again. He then responded with the most direct and true thing anyone has said to me in a long time: “You can never go back.”
He then proceeded to tell me a story of when he was working for a major advertising agency in Florida. He asked for a part-time leave of absence which allowed him to pursue a real estate development project he was hoping to land and would eventually quit his job to pursue. Unfortunately the deal fell through and he had to return to work full-time at the agency after about 6-months.
The problem he said was that he had tasted how good the outside and self-employed world felt like, and returning to the agency only left a huge whole in his professional stomach. My dad eventually started his own agency which boasted many successful accounts including Jack Nicklaus’ golf courses in the Southern United States.
Standing in the driveway this past weekend, he explained that I could never work at a big company in the same capacity as before because I would never be satisfied. As a result and regardless of the obstacles, I would just have to “make it work and figure it out.”
As entrepreneurs it’s natural to want to hedge. But hedging is a sign of an inexperienced talent. If you don’t burn your boats, you run the risk of always leaving that door open. I’ve received advice about not hedging many times by well-known CEOs. But this is the first time it’s really sunk in.
Not that I ever planned to go back, but the small chance of it happening went to zero chance within about 10 seconds.