Matt Cheuvront runs a blog called Life Without Pants, which “is a place where no one is afraid to speak their mind, no one is afraid of failure, and self doubt is a distant memory,” as he describes it. I follow Matt on Twitter (surprise surprise), and he recently tweeted a new post, Words of Wisdom from a Newbie Entrepreneur.
He makes a point that his path may not be the one to follow, but he offers some good pointers. The first one, Identify and Understand your Worst Case Scenario, rang true for me since, well, I’m living it. No identification required.
Like Matt, I was “thrown toward” this path when I got laid off in April 2008. The markets hadn’t tanked quite yet, so there were still job opportunities but as that summer progressed, and the markets continued to sink, job opportunities evaporated rather quickly. It is a well-read story now, but I suspect that there are many others like Matt and myself who find themselves in this “thrown toward” situation.
Me, I was bound and determined to get a job, any job, that would allow me to remain in the city and continue my graduate school studies without having to take out student loans. I landed one short-term contract before all leads evaporated. My worst case scenario came true in October 2008: packed up and moved home after taking out an amount slightly above the minimum amount of student loans required to finish my degree. I spent all of 2009 coming to gripes with this new reality while working a contract job and attempting to start a business. The contract job worked out well for me, kept me occupied which, in hindsight, meant I didn’t think much about starting a business. I didn’t think much about “something tangible,” as Matt mentions.
He makes another good point about “9 to 5” work. There is absolutely nothing wrong with returning to “Corporate America.” I returned briefly myself. A note of caution, though: going back to “Corporate America” can be quite a shock to the system.
I also agree with Matt that there is no “right” or “wrong,” you just have to do what you want (or need to do), and it also helps to know what that is. Sometimes, too, it may not turn out to be what you originally thought. And there is nothing wrong with that, either.
It’s been two years since I was laid off, and though I am living my worst case scenario, I’m finding ways to make it work. As much as I loath being back in my parents house, it has the benefit of keeping my operating costs extremely low, if completely non-existent. I do not expect it to stay that way, but it does allow attention to be focused elsewhere instead of solely on money to pay bills. In addition to low (if non-existent) operating costs, my commute is incredibly short. My commute is a flight of stairs, which is far better than 1.5-2 hours I used to spend commuting.
With that in mind, I am inclined to agree that “worst case scenario” is almost always worse in your head than it is in reality. In your head, you are inclined to forget that you do have a support network, family, friends and colleagues, who can help in ways you may not have considered until reality knocked and said hello.
Whether you find yourself longing to start your own company, or whether you’ve been “thrown toward” it like Matt and myself, take some time to think it through. Find that “tangible” aspect, and go from there. Speaking from experience, it makes a difference.