Adam and I have recently become jobless. Well, not exactly. See, last summer he sold the company that has paid our bills for the last 13 years. From the outside that might seem like we hit the jackpot, like we finally won the long race. And in a way that’s true. But, like all things, this new situation has its own set of challenges.
We are in the midst of adjusting to the new normal. For one thing, we no longer have a steady paycheck. What we have has to be very carefully managed to fund whatever is next and keep us afloat for the next few years. Now, the clock is ticking down. That means that we have to use everything we’ve learned over the last few years to make good, sound investments. Once we know where we’re going to placing our bets the game is on. It’s just like the old startup days. Adam LOVES the creation of new businesses. Seriously, it’s like as addiction, and he sees opportunities everywhere. So, in true Anderson style, we didn’t start just one new company. We started 3 at the same time. So actually, we’re working harder than any two people without “jobs” have ever worked.
Back in the old days, when Adam would start new companies, I knew very little about them. I often didn’t even know he was shutting one down until it was already done and over with. In recent years I’ve really tried to educate myself more on how the money comes into our household so that I can better manage what goes out. It’s taken a lot to get us to this point. I had to really get my hands dirt to get a full understanding of everything, but I also had to learn to manage how I handled things. I tend to be so emotional and if Adam was ever upset or worried I started to panic. It meant the sky must be falling!
Adam and I are now partners in every sense of the word and I am a lot more involved. But some habits are hard to break. We’re back in a season of grind as these startups spin their wheels to see if they actually get some traction. It’s easy to be sucked back into the desperate, scared feeling that we’re losing our grip. It makes me want to tell Adam to go get a real job, for heavens sake! At least then things would be steady. But that’s not helpful and it’s not really what he needs. If I can maintain some composure and not be overactive I may actually be able to BE what my partner needs- a sounding board, emotional support, and reassurance that it’ll be ok. If I come at him like a spider monkey he’s going to clam up and he’ll never bring me anything important again.
Last week we had an incident, well, it was a series of event that lead to a come-to-Jesus. It started after several days of grouchy Adam stomping around the house. Most people don’t see that side of him, but we do. Anyway, we all know that when he’s like that it’s not personal, but it’s best to stay out of his way. Then one morning he said to me, “I’m scared that we’ve done all this for nothing. If things don’t fall into place in the next 2 weeks we’ll have to pull the plug on these projects and start over. What if I can’t make it work? What if I just moved our timeline from “secure for 5 years” to “secure for only 2 years”? What if I can’t replicate what I did in the past and I’m not who I say I am?”
First of all, in the old days this conversation would have never happened. Adam would never have shared with me with this level of fear and vulnerability. It would have seemed too weak to him. So right off the jump I recognize this new level of depth and respect he’s showing me just by bringing it up.
I sat for a beat, trying not to allow my thoughts to run to their usual place of panic (We’re running out of money? What are we going to do? How did he let this happen? How are we going to feed the kids and pay our mortgage? We’re going to be homeless! Who’s fault is this?………).
But, the other half of me wanted to fix it. My guy was hurting and scared. I could go rip the heads off of anyone who had been mean to him, but it wouldn’t change the facts. So, I looked at him and I said, “I want you to know that I’m glad you came to me and I want nothing more than for you to get the kind of support you need. However, I don’t think I’m the one to coach you on how to handle the business stuff. You’ve played the sage for so long that you’ve isolated yourself on an island of one. I’m so flattered that I’m the person you come to now, but my knowledge is limited and I’m biased. Let’s practice what we preach and add to our community. I’d be happy to help you find a new mentor to be your support animal. I can, however reassure you that a) we will be fine. We always are and I have total faith that you can do this, but b) you need to remember that your identity is not wrapped up in this. This is not all of who you are. And you’re not a fraud if it flops. You are loved with or without the business.” His face went from hurt by rejection to understanding to relief. Nailed it!
Adam and I are so different and the more we delve into our personality profiles the more apparent it becomes. But, one thing is clear, we work because we balance each other so well. Adam, like business itself, tends to run hot then cold. It’s so easy to get swept up in the currents and get overly reactive. Startup season is equally scary and exciting. It’s essential that we find the balance between patience and panic. As long as I have a basic understand of what’s going on I can match my reaction to his reaction. I can take a moment to assess his actual needs while checking mine so that I can actually provide some benefit.
We spent years doing it all wrong. We spent years not knowing how to really be there for each other because we lived on the defensive and operated from a place of fear. We still worry. We still get scared. There are still a lot of unknowns. But we’ve learned how to count on each other. For him, he’s learned to reach out when he needs help. For me, I’ve learned to stay calm and calculated so that I don’t overreact. Reflecting back on this conversation shows just how far we’ve come and just how much work we’ve actually put into this. We are proof that it can be done.