In which I follow Steve Jobs' advice and follow my heart …

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In which I follow Steve Jobs' advice and follow my heart …

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A couple of days ago I posted this video on Facebook. It’s about fear, and not letting fear drive your decisions:

Four months ago, Yellow Pages Group shut down Canpages, where I had been working to reinvent local search in Canada. That work got flushed down the toilet, and our entire team was shown the door, which started months of searching for the next thing.

Initially, it seemed to be going super-well, but leads dried up, and it got more challenging. Then a particularly juicy opportunity with a major corporation opened up, and I went through four rounds of interviews, only to get dumped at the last round because I didn’t “have enough big-company experience.” That was a bad moment.

My wife Teresa and I have never had any real financial worries; we’ve been frugal and done well, thank God. But emotionally it was taking a toll. So I refocused on my own consulting business, which I had let lapse for a few years. And that took off.

For the past month and a half, I’ve been working insane hours. I was giving 20 hours a week to Click4Time, a startup focused on the online appointment-booking industry, I was increasingly writing for VentureBeat (one of the top tech/biz/startup blogs on the internet), I was working to get a coworking space, SwitchCube, off the ground, and I was working on a variety of contracts with partners like CGA-Canada and the Trust Tour. From the stresses of the job search I moved to the stresses of too many demands on my time, and the stresses of not really being sure where I should be and what I should be doing. And the stresses of still looking for the real actual job that I dreamed was out there.

It was easily 60-80 hours a week, and it was too much. Something had to give. And that something was almost me.

However, after a lot of soul-searching, that something turned out to be Click4Time. The startup is in a hot space and there’s a lot of potential, but there’s a ton of work to be done on the product itself. As acting director of online marketing, I was spending most of my time actually working on the basics of the company website and core product. Last Sunday I pretty much made up my mind to “fire the client.” But I didn’t act on it until Tuesday, when I told Lance, the CEO (who was great about it).

And it was a very tough decision. It was guaranteed money – not tons, but some, and 5000 shares a month, which are currently being sold for $1 apiece. In addition, it was the guarantee of a 6-figure salary if and when the company closed a significant investment – which seems to be getting closer, by the way.

That was the fear part: the fear of losing out … the fear of not having income … the fear of a certain lack of status. That’s why the video above spoke to me so deeply.

I’m a Christian. I believe in God. And I finally agreed, kicking and screaming, to take a leap of faith. Because my passion was VentureBeat.

It’s a funny thing. I always wanted to be a journalist when I was a kid. And I thought I would be one while I was going through university too. Then work came as a staff writer, then marketer, then technologist, then minor-league executive and management. And the dream faded, I guess. But never really died.

The work I was doing for VentureBeat was the best part of my day. At night I was writing, and it wasn’t work, in a sense. It was fun. It was enjoyable. So I decided to follow Steve Jobs’s advice: to follow my heart. To stay hungry. To stay foolish. To have faith that everything would work out if I just did the thing that felt right, even if it was financially stupid, even insane.

So I did it. I quit Click4Time. And I mentally committed to VentureBeat. And everything changed.

This week has been just unbelievably amazing, with good news packed on top of good news:

  • I got great news – my stories had done better than I thought they had and I had a bigger traffic bonus ($$$) than I expected.
  • I got great feedback – super encouraging words from Heather Kelly, senior editor, and Dylan Tweney, executive editor, and others at VentureBeat – that I was doing well. As Heather put it: “kicking ass and taking names!”
  • I very serendipitously did a couple stories that hit excellent traffic numbers
  • I was – even as a freelancer – the top writer on the site on Wednesday. (Of course, a bunch of our all-stars were on vacation or not posting that day. Still!)
  • I picked up an amazing story based on a Shark Tank episode that Teresa, my wife, had PVRed. It was a great feature story about a guy who created a startup based on drawing cats and scored an investment from Mark Cuban.
  • I got an email from Mark Cuban (!) adding comments to that story.
  • I got more great feedback from VentureBeat staffers, and I had two stories featured at the same time on the home page. And I had the main feature story yesterday morning. And all three of my latest posts have been selected as Editors Picks!!!
  • Then Dylan, who brought me on at VentureBeat as a freelancer in the first place, added me to the writers’ email list and the shared doc which is all the stories that VentureBeat staffers are working on … bringing me more into the fold.
  • And there was some more good news as well, which I can’t share yet.

In other words, a complete avalanche of good news. Unexpected, undeserved, unexplained. And a lot of clarity and faith and evidence that this is the right direction, that this is where I should be going, that this is what I should be doing. I haven’t had that in a long time, it feels like.

I’m super-thankful, and super-humbled.

And I remember Steve Jobs’ words at the Stanford Commencement speech in 2005. In somewhat random order, here are a few bits that especially impacted me:

You’ve got to find what you love
The only way to be truly satisfied is to do great work
And the only way to do great work is to do what you love

Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid thinking you have something to lose.

You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

I’m following! And I’m selling out for what I know I should be doing.


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