Tag Archives: Last Lecture

The Start-up Widow

This is the second of my posts relating to Randy Pausche’s wonderful Last Lecture. He said that while it’s great to achieve your own childhood dreams, it’s wonderful to help others achieve their own childhood dreams.

For the last eight years I’ve been a start-up widow. You’ve heard of golf widows? Well, I’m a start-up widow.

Jed started itechne eight years ago here in Sydney. Today the company has over 150 clients across the nation and we’re about to move to Colorado to launch the company and its core products in the US market. So Jed’s not getting much downtime.

In fact, we sat down together for a cup of tea yesterday and he said to me (jokingly) “Hi, who are you?”

I’m glad that these days I can laugh with him over that, instead of resenting it. I think there’s a special maturity in realising that supporting your spouse in achieving a childhood dream doesn’t detract from your own ability to achieve. Or your own worth or value in the relationship.

After eight years of being the start-up widow, I now wake him up in the morning with a cup of tea and the words, “Get up! Multi-nationals don’t run themselves.” (That’s sort of a joke… sort of.) I no longer monitor the dinners he misses or times he gets up at 4am to catch a plane interstate that I know nothing about. It’s all part of the reality of being a start-up widow. I wish I’d have known what to expect in the beginning.

Being a start-up widow has been lonely a lot of the time. There are no start-up widow clubs, forums or chat rooms. No flylady for start-up widows. My mother thinks I should be sainted. I think my friends believe I’m superwoman. But that’s not the case at all. For the first four years I spent a lot of time really upset and resentful. There’s still a mark on the wall from an apple I threw at Jed’s head one day. (He deserved it.)

There are numerous ways of dealing with the reality of being a start-up widow. Now I think I’ve found it. I have found my own areas of success. I went back to Uni and completed my Bachelors degree as well as a Grad Dip in VET. I’m a great teacher and student, and pretty darned fine mum.

Recognising my own strengths is something I would never have done without being a start-up widow. It’s pretty hard to be married to a guy who is achieving a childhood dream without wanting to realise some of your own. So while I have had very little involvement in the hands-on creation of itechne other than signing on the dotted line, making tea, etc, I’m holding it all together at home and being inspired by what Jed’s accomplishing. I’m inspired to do even better at something I knew I’d be okay at.

My first Graduation

My first Graduation

I am fulfilled in seeing him working every single day on something I know he loves, has commitment to, and passion for. It doesn’t matter if the destination is reached or even guaranteed – if you get to have a spouse who is doing something every day they have a passion for, then that’s better than anything. And it rubs off. It makes you want to achieve more. It challenges you, in a positive way, to aim higher.

Awkward and ironic thing is, that makes the spouse want to aim higher too.

So now I’m packing up our house, and looking at selling it. I’ve taken leave without pay from the best job I’ve ever had, and I’m leaving some kids and dogs behind in Australia while we go launch ourselves on the USA. (Don’t worry, the kids are staying with family here. I’m not just letting them run wild.)

Bec and Max are staying in Australia

Bec and Max are staying in Australia

Maturity in being a start-up widow means I’m prepared for what this move involves. I’ve got my own plans for the US – and I have no expectations of Jed other than he’ll work his butt off. When being the start-up widow means I get to share some of that passion, then I’m a pig in mud.

I’m “Hung on a cliff, in search of something big.” (Thanks Neil Finn, for writing the best lyrics ever.) Even I don’t know what the ‘something big’ is. And to all those people who are telling me how “lucky” I am to be doing this, I say “well, what’s stopping you?”

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Vale Randy Pausch: Decide if You’re Tigger or Eeyore

After the passing of an inspirational man, Professor Randy Pausch, I’ve decided to write a number of posts on what struck me in his Last Lecture. If you haven’t seen this lecture, I wholeheartedly recommend getting a cup of tea, and taking an hour to watch it. Then watch it again a week later. There are myriad messages in it.

The thing that teared me up with this lecture was this statement: Decide if You’re Tigger or Eeyore. How do you go through life? Randy says he has fun. The Dean at the university asked him to ensure he told people to have fun, and he says it was like asking a fish to talk about water. He knew no other way.

I found real resonance with that. Just like Randy, if you meet me IRL you kinda know which way I lean – I’m Tigger.

As I discovered last semester, for some stuff I simply don’t know how to be anything other than Tigger. My personal relationships, my work and teaching – for the most part I’m Tigger. Joy of Life, that’s me.

One student challenged me to be “normal” for just one class. She believed it wasn’t possible. She was right. Why? Because I don’t know what “normal” is! I really tried, too!

Even the (very quiet, sedate) dentist commented last week “You are always so enthusiastic, it’s really catching.” Then this week when we saw him again, he was almost bouncy himself. (Admittedly, that was a little scary.)

I figure hey, why be gloomy or even just emotionless and methodical in anything you do? If you find the fun in stuff, then doesn’t that rub off? Even if it’s not inherently a fun activity? For example, there’s nothing more fun than squashing the recycling with my 8-year-old to try and fit it in the bin.

But sometimes I have put conditions on my enthusiasm. And that sucks.

When we first launched our startup in Australia, I was the fish-wife. I complained every step. Eight years later, it has (touch wood) been doing great here, but I really didn’t help it along. I lacked the vision and the faith, and instead felt the fear.

There is security in fear. It’s calm and reliable being Eeyore. 

Now we’re going to the US, I’m exactly the opposite. And there are many reasons for that, which another post will explore. But it’s not because I feel a greater sense of security. With a start-up you can do everything right – in fact, better than right – and still have it fail.

I’m positive about it because I’m finding my security elsewhere and choosing to not be fearful. I’m not Eeyore. It’s a choice, just as Randy said, “Decide if you’re Tigger or Eeyore.”

It’s when you let go of fear that you get the vision. Tigger has vision.