"idealism, struggle, despair, passion, success, failure, and enormously long lunch breaks" *

July 12 2015

Standing up, I didn't know what to say. It was my going away lunch and I was quitting to travel and start a business. I flubbed a few words and haven't had a job since.

As a kid I won some small science fairs and spoke at graduation and then finished college early. I was a product of early access to computers and more than a few all-nighters. That company I was working for was imploding after a string of mediocre mergers and the dot-com bust. I just quit and didn't line anything up. 15 years later and I haven't hit the same level of income, but I have enough to own a house and have a great family.

You don't realize how much it's about personal development. Every weakness is magnified tenfold. You can get 20 things right and still fail on 15 others **. Over time it starts to make sense. Give me 20 years and I might have a hang of it. Until then, it's a nice simple lifestyle. I might be afraid to buy a newer car or take a week off, but I can set my own hours and don't have employees or a boss.

Good ideas aren't as important as tenacity. In college I spent 4 days straight on a class project. Friends brought me food from the dining hall. I would roll over onto my bed to sleep and lost track of time. The professor was impressed and suggested me for a job. Years later, I can see how one project lead to another and doors opened up. Though, my first two business ideas failed. First, I lost weeks of programming to a drive crash. Later, I remember walking into a supermarket with $12 that had to last a week. Then a friend of a friend needed some help and I got my first customers and things got easier.

Those were my finest moments. As long as you are profitable, you can keep going. At the worst I was earning $300/month. I lived on rice and beans with vegetables and the occasional block of cheese. At the same time, I learned another lesson. Make sure you handle taxes, business filings, insurance, and legal stuff properly. The state fined me $50 for being late on $12 of sales tax. I wrote a nice letter explaining how I didn't know about it and I was just starting out, but still had to pay.

Along the way I also learned to do things myself. We bought a cheap house and have been doing everything from wiring to car repair to roofing. It's fun but also necessity. Today my wife's car broke down. It's relatively new so it was dumb luck and already fixed. Having tools and experience from owning old cars made the surprise easy to deal with ***. Keeping the expenses down means you don't have to bring in as much income which makes everything easier.

Anyway, let me know if you have or want to start your own business. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts or share some of mine.
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PS: 48 hours ago, I nearly ran into a very large bear on my mountain bike. It shocked me into "real life". I debated posting it on Facebook and then looked back in case it was chasing me.

* "Life, the Universe and Everything" - Douglass Adams
** Make something people want, get the word out, keep expenses down, send out invoices, keep up with market changes, etc.
*** Quick tip: always buy the best parts you can afford and have some good tools.

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