Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, September 17, 2018
That ought to get your attention. It got mine when I read “Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Roadmap to Getting Out There,” by Morra Aarons-Mele. Aarons-Mele is a self-proclaimed hermit. Her theme is that you do not have to be out there ambitious and hustling 24/7 at the expense of every other aspect of your life, in order to be successful as an entrepreneur. In other words, it is OK to take a breath.
She gives a talk called, “Why you likely won’t be rich and famous.” I am all in on that one. As you know, I do some mentoring and coaching, and nearly all of my charges are at least partially consumed, if not completely, with the idea and the pursuit of rich and famous. I have a client who is wickedly smart, but he has his hand in a half dozen deals, schemes and ideas. And he was making no money. I pointed out to him that the assignment we both had together was a simple one. He needed to admit that he wanted to get rich (he could live without famous), and as soon as he embraced his own reality and picked the one deal — the one opportunity that afforded the highest likelihood of wealth — then lo and behold, money began to appear.
Aarons-Mele tells the statistical reality — “most small-business owners or entrepreneurs make about $44,000 per year.” In fairness, a degree from Harvard or Brown (where Aarons-Mele went to school) does tend to tilt the scales, but her theme is that the lust (that is where she got the meme “porn”) for fame and fortune is deceptive, hard to attain, dependent to a large extent on luck, and in the final analysis, the price you will pay is greater and more costly than the gain you hope to realize.
She argues that the business schools, the incubators, the startup weekends have all created a glossy sense “that life as an entrepreneur is somehow better.” Of course the dark next sentence is — better than what?
She is the wonderful outlier who has the courage to stand up and proclaim, “you don’t need to create a unicorn.” In America there is a huge focus on scale. You do not get applause for a “small” business — but let me tell you that a nice small business that puts a few hundred thousand dollars in your pocket each year — is a wonderful business.
The statistics she quotes on entrepreneurs are “dire.” Failure is the norm. That is why she argues for “taking care of yourself.” Aarons-Mele calls herself an “extreme introvert.” She operates from a lovely home office where she “hides out.” She claims that she is capable of schmoozing, but she doesn’t need to relentlessly work the room. We have this image of the successful CEO as charismatic and committed beyond belief (Elon Musk comes to mind). Aarons-Mele argues for promoting a work/life balance. She is married and a mom, but the fantasy of balance is a bit of a con. It is a teeter totter — you are truly in balance only for a few seconds at every up and down.
Gallup did a study and found “that 86 percent of working Americans don’t mind being reachable on their smartphones, as long as they have more flexibility in their workday.” Workers want/need to go their children’s soccer games.
She supports promoting a personal brand, but that idea also borders on porn. The premise is that if you have followers, then you are more important. Fame is fleeting, and as Andy Warhol said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” It takes courage to resist that impulse. She supports using the digital channels for marketing yourself, but she wants us to “guard our time.”
Now let’s tell the truth. It is much easier to avoid the commute if you are making money writing a blog from your home office. It is that “privilege” which allows one to hide in the bathroom — especially if it has two sinks, a spa tub, a steam shower and a bidet.
Recently, I was asked what I wanted at this point in my life with my final software company. I said I want to “drop the mic.”
Rule No. 577: “The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.”– The Great Gatsby