The weight of the world on a shovel

Zaron and Dad moving some dirt
This past weekend I spent a lot of time in our front yard shoveling dirt, sand or rock for hours on end. There were not many moments where I was not thinking of the upcoming 9 months for me and my family. Noooo, we don’t have a baby on the way (at least not yet), what happens in a few short days is that I will only be working for 10 hours a week as a consultant on my primary client’s site. The rest of the time I will be working on my startup company.

This is a difficult transition for me as I have been employed as a consultant for more than 13 years without the faintest lull in work the entire time. I consider myself extremely fortunate for all the opportunity that has managed to lay itself in the path of my ambition through these years. Although the contracts I have received have been a result of hard work and determination, I still do not feel an overwhelming sense of comfort in placing the fate of my family in the unknown future of my own creation.

For the first time in my professional career I will have to think twice about going out for a round of golf or out for a drink with friends. The reason: money will actually be that tight. It is not for a lack of tangible work in the market place, rather, I have self-imposed these constraints to force me to become the entrepreneur I know I have the capacity to be. The process to get to this point has been eye opening! Until my wife started a budget for us 2 weeks ago I didn’t have a true sense of how much it actually cost to live. Now that I have that perspective, I can honestly say I’m a little irritated with myself for being so loose with the purse strings all these years.

By mid aftenoon of the first day of shoveling I was being allotted far too much time to think. With each shovel of sand I could feel the weight of my worries being transferred from the pile on my right to the pile on my left. With each heap of dirt I moved I could see the seemingly insurmountable barriers piling up ahead of me. And with each mound of rock I moved I could feel the weight of the world slowly creeping onto my shoulders. Nobody knew it other than me, but by the end of the day I was almost in full panic mode.

The next day I started in a bit of a slump. I knew I was going to work through the immediate task I had in front of me, but I also knew there would be far too much time to think, once again. I needed to do something constructive with that time “alone in my mind”. I started thinking of all the people who had accomplished great things in life. This helped to some degree, since many individuals who have aspired to great things had come from reasonably humble beginnings, though there seemed to be some component of their success that had to do with timing or leverage that eluded me.

For whatever reason I found myself stuck on the word “leverage” for hours on end. That single word played over and over in my mind for no apparent reason. I began thinking of all the ways leverage played a part in the success for so many (Bill Gates, Sergey and Larry, the other Larry [Ellison], Warren Buffet, etc) and of the different ways leverage presents itself… timing just happens to be another form of leverage. I soon found myself thinking of these all-knowing and all-powerful individuals as just people who had a long enough stick and a rock to put it on. The world seemed a whole lot smaller in that instant.

It is said that with a long enough stick you could move the earth. Now I’m thinking that as far as sticks go… a shovel seems to have been a pretty good start!