The Long Way Back

Every so often, I fall back into an old habit that I picked up while in university.  Midway through a project or when things are slow, I would apply for a job.  Didn’t have to be a fancy job or even one that I cared about; I would walk in, sit down for the interview and ace it.  That would be that and I would get on with the rest of the project feeling better about life in general.  

Recently, I found myself in a position where I was applying for jobs – not because I was falling into that old habit, but I truly thought that getting a 9-5 / salary position with a mid-size firm was what I needed.  Turns out that the job market in Ontario isn’t too hot right now and companies are not willing to take a risk on someone who hasn’t had a “real job” since he was 17.

I didn’t know it when I started, but I chose the path less followed – the one of the entrepreneur.  I’ve been through three periods of time when it was sexy to be an entrepreneur in the mainstream media and two periods where it was unsexy (that tended to be the time when Google would hire a huge glut of disenfranchised entrepreneurs).  I can generally see the look on my parents and my significant other’s face as I get peppered with questions about “what do I want to do with my life?” and “am I happy?” – as the frequency increases then I know that A. the overall economy is getting worse, B. someone else of my generation in their sphere of influence just got a new job, and C. they are genuinely concerned for my well being.

The path I chose to take

I was fortunate that early in my life I had three role models / mentors that helped frame the way that I thought and drastically skewed my outlook on life (for the better).  The skills and expertise that I have developed while working and unintentionally volunteering with startups, has given me the ability to quickly assemble, mobilize and deploy resources while at the same time constantly evaluate whether the project that I’m working on will come to fruition.  In the past, I’ve been a bad judge of character and caught up in the hype of a project, but I’ve become less hyper and slightly jaded in my old age.  I still maintain a total inclusion policy for entrepreneurs, believe in a non-zero sum game philosophy and the whole “give before you get” mantra, however I know that I have the attention span of a two year old and have commitment issues.

I do know that if I had gotten a 9-5 job out of university my life would be easier (less ups and downs) and I would have a more inward / selfish focus.  I also know that my life would not be as rich and I would not have had the experiences and lifelong friendships that I’ve made over the past thirteen years.  

You meet some interesting characters along the way

Over the past two weeks I have been looking into the startup scene in Barrie, Ontario and working with a few of the local players to develop more of a community.    Personally, I was inspired by Brad Feld when he came to Toronto late October for his book launch organized by StartupNorth and I’m using (ok copying) his ideas about organizing a community around startups and their entrepreneurs.  At the event, one person asked a question about how to decide what events to start with to mobilize a community / get involved, and Brad electrified the audience by saying “You don’t need permission from people who are currently ‘in the community’.  Talk to people, find out what they want and bring them together.  Just do it.”

One of the first things planned in Barrie is an Open Coffee Club to be held at The Creative Space on Tuesday December 4th at 8am.  You can get involved and get more info from the  Barrie Open Coffee Club Facebook page.  This event is open to entrepreneurs, investors and those with entrepreneurial spirit (intrapreneurs, socialpreneurs, etc).  Startup Weekend is set to launch May 3rd and the plan is to have a series of events such as workshops, hackathons, and creative events to get the startup players formed into more of a community before then.  So come out December 4th and give your input!


Barrie Open Coffee Club: