Plan B(+)

I HATE it when she’s right, that side of me who starts every sentence with the word “but”. I imagine that sometimes when our greatest fears come true it’s just as bad as we anticipated. The good news is that I learned this week that sometimes it’s not.

by Karen Salmansohn at notsalmon.com

So here’s where we’re at: Kickstarter did not accept our Growing Gratitude project to be hosted on their site. I did appeal this decision (using the 150 characters allotted to me to do so), and I’m glad I did. Their original correspondence back to me gave no justification for their decision, but the appeal response did. From my perspective, my project was a perfect fit for Kickstarter because it was meant to get the apps launched, to build momentum around the idea and to leave the rest to me. From their point of view, because we need a website to create user accounts, this is an ongoing – not finite – endeavor and therefore does not qualify for their service. I could continue to argue this point (or cite projects that I have looked at this week which are not finite projects either!), but I have learned not to waste gas driving too far down a dead end street.

Onward and upward.

So it’s on to Plan B. I’m calling it Plan B(+) because, having spent weeks (I’m not saying months in order to keep my spirits up) preparing this Kickstarter submission, I am clearer and smarter about this idea and even more committed to Growing Gratitude than I was when I started.

Plan B(+) is going to be great…as soon as I decide what it is. As my friend Jay said, “Life is the waves, not the water.” Well, it’s sure been rough out here the past few days. I have always abhorred getting water up my nose, but it’s never made me get out of the water. Stay tuned, my friends.

The Other Hardest Part

Some say that the waiting is the hardest part.  Waiting is no fun, but the hardest?  I don’t think so.  Since I submitted the

Growing Gratitude project to Kickstarter for approval, I’ve gone to a party, breakfast with my friends and a pumpkin patch with my family.  The waiting is not the hardest part.  The hardest part, in business as in life, is that which is out of our control.  I can fill the waiting time up with all kinds of activities and forget, even for hours at a time, that it all hangs in the balance.  But taking something which contains a piece of me inside it and handing it over to be measured, judged, perhaps dismissed altogether…it’s excruciating.

That feeling of helplessness could do me in if I let it.   It helps me understand the choices that some students from my school would make.  Why suffer the discomfort of putting yourself out there when you could make a joke, play it off and check out?  The prospect of embarrassment and judgment is a lot to ask from kids who don’t have the life experience to illustrate the payoff of taking such risks.  I’ve got that experience and am still losing sleep and needing to write about it and checking my email every ten minutes!

Ok, so that side of me has had its airtime.  My other side (the one I amplify to drown out the other) is celebrating already!  Of course the Kickstarter folks will “get” the idea, “get” that behind the idea of my project are dedication and commitment to follow-through and that hosting our Growing Gratitude project on Kickstarter will be mutually beneficial.

The optimistic part of me that has allowed me to get this far on this adventure (into my fourth month with no income-earning job and having invested what must be at least 200 hours into fleshing out the vision and the practical steps to realizing that vision) has always believed.  She knows that the job at this point is to help people see what I see and feel what I feel about Growing Gratitude.  She knows that I can and that they will.

I am beyond excited to get the Growing Gratitude app out and on phones across the country, to see what becomes of this idea and how the vision gets stretched in other hands.  I had a daydream the other day.  It took place in this place called Colt State Park in Rhode Island where I lived for a while growing up.  I remember part of it being a strip of grassy park next to a seawall of big, white rocks where waves would glide up and explode.  In the daydream, I’m standing in that park and handing kites out to people standing in line.  They’re trying them out.  It’s tricky doing something new, and it’s windy out there, so there are some brilliant crashes.  Some of those folks give them back, but just as many try again.  I’m giving advice and sharing technique tips, but I end up listening more than I’m talking.  They’re doing things with the kites I’d never imagined.  It’s my kite, and they’re showing me how to use it.

And as we all get better and the show more spectacular, the line is getting longer.  But it doesn’t feel like a line anymore.  It feels like a party—or a festival.  And then I get it.  One of those moments like in the movies when the noise around you fades away and everything slows down so you can see it clearly and take in the whole of a scene, how the pieces fit together.  In that moment I get that they’re our kites, not mine.  And that when you supply the raw materials, like this app, part of the job is being a partygoer, stepping back and taking it all in.

Because it’s more about learning than teaching and more about sharing than selling.  And remembering that is just what I need to silence that other unwelcome voice.  If the folks at Kickstarter don’t “get” it, someone else will.  Giving up on this would be like giving up on us, turning off the wind and letting kites spin into oblivion.  And this party is just getting started.

Wondering what the Growing Gratitude app is all about? Good! Stay tuned, friends! In the meantime, sign up for updates on our website and check us out on our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!  You won’t want to miss what we have in store!

Eight(y) is Enough

What’s more important – what we know or what we don’t know?

I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately as I delve into the preparations for the role of tech. startup founder, small business owner, solopreneur, mompreneur, crazy lady.

I think about the skills I have honed in my personal and professional lives, the leadership qualities I have developed and the complicated interpersonal situations that I have managed and – in many cases – facilitated a solution to.  I think about all of that, and I get so frustrated that I can’t be that person here yet.  Instead of walking into a room of wily middle schoolers and helping them to refocus and to keep their eye on the prize, I find myself reading every day to learn things from absolute scratch and doing things I never imagined could be part of this adventure, like shooting and editing a video.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to learn.  But it’s so strange to feel so incompetent at so many things out here, especially when all I would have to do to see the take-charge me is to walk back into my school.  I’m not on a circular course right now, and my path is taking me further and further away from my comfort zone.  They say that’s where the magic happens (unless you get lost in the woods!).

The upside to this month’s journey has been the meticulous whittling of Growing Gratitude’s mission.  The office floor is covered in shavings and sawdust, and only the very heart of it remains.  When you do eighty takes of a video (while I am naturally prone to exaggeration, take me at my word on this one), what does not ring perfectly true really stands out.  I knew what Growing Gratitude was; that part was easy.  The surprise to me was the time I needed to take to sort out the nuances of what it isn’t and will not be.  The time spent there has been invaluable.

Saw, carve, file, sand.  Smooth it over with my fingertips.  Only the very heart of it remains.

Best Laid Plans, Blueprints and Babies

Over the years, I’ve often heard people remark that change is hard. I’d smile and nod but think, “Not for me it isn’t. I love change.” What I meant by that is that I love movement, variety, experiences that challenge what I had previously held to be true and the sense of renewal that change often brings. That feeling of starting over and the heightened creativity that comes with it. I draw energy from traveling, moving houses, the chance to do something innovative and experimental at work.

But I’m getting to know the other side of change, the hard side, and I have to say it’s not my favorite. If this is what the change-is-hard folks have been talking about all this time, I so get it. Change is fun, exhilarating, refreshing. It can also be uncomfortable, unsettling and foundation-quaking.

I network online with small business owners, many of whom have kids—and some of whom who, like me, have kids who are not yet school-age who are at home with them. My assumption is that many of them had more traditional outside-the-home jobs before having kids and then made the decision like I did to forge a new normal for the sake of their family. I wonder, though, if they went through any periods of yuck. Working in a regular job with a fairly prescript definition of success has its advantages—one of them being that, when things don’t go well one day, reflecting about why and what to try the next day is straightforward. I am finding that to be so different out here on my own.

Maybe it’s the fact that I have about 15 irons in the fire and an 8 month old daredevil who is learning to crawl just to get closer to the flames. I felt like I was not accomplishing enough each day, so I started writing a more detailed daily agenda to help focus my work. The result of that has been that I am now acutely aware of the tasks I don’t get done, and they’re sitting there on a list for me the next day. Along with the next day’s, of course.

Building something from scratch is quite an experience. I feel like the architect and the builder sometimes, and I feel like I spend as much time redrawing the blueprints as I do creating something that will ultimately form part of my finished product. Our timeline is on point – the Kickstarter campaign is ever closer to its launch, and the app and website development are in progress (right now!), so I certainly have something to show for the time I’ve spent here.

But, in addition to working my way across the timeline of what I need to accomplish before our official Growing Gratitude app launch, there’s another long-term goal to add to the list: make my peace with the hollowy, heart-quickening feeling that this kind of endeavor – and the change it brings with it – inspires. Learn to recognize the feeling, call it, then minimize it and move on. We’ve got work to do.

The Stare-down

It’s been a big couple of weeks around here. People like to talk a lot about fear – why we feel it, where it comes from, how to stare it down without blinking first.

That’s the kind of couple of weeks it’s been (the trying-not-to-blink kind).

I’m not sure how other people work with this kind of thing, but when I have an important move to make, I don’t take a step if it doesn’t feel right.  I have this kind of hard-wired sense of inertia that does not let me go down a path to see if it’s the right one.  It’s like I already have a sense if it’s wrong and go no further.

So I had been working on the business plan with gusto, diving right into the world of mobile apps, trying to wrap my head around where the market was, is and will be, reading what I can to try to pick the brains of those who do what I will be doing.  And I’m proud to say I kind of love doing that.

But the more I read, the more I understand that, in entrepreneurship and in life, only a very limited amount of useful knowledge can come from the written word (and if you give reading the same weight as experience you truly don’t know what you don’t know).   Time to get out there and experiment, get my hands dirty, leap based on my best guess and then pick myself up when I belly flop and climb back up the ladder.  The reason I have not yet made more progress in this direction is a crucial one: $.

And therein lies the staring-fear-in-the-face-and-not-blinking, even raising my eyebrows and scowling a bit.   I’ve got to make a move.  That’s all there is to it.  And I’m finally in a place where I can.

If you’ve been following for a while, you may recall that I was considering crowd-funding as a possible source of my seed money.  I gave Kickstarter some serious thought and even worked on a pitch before dismissing the idea out of fear.  I was afraid that someone would steal my idea and make the project happen quicker themselves and I would be out of luck.  I still think that’s valid – some gutless person or company with no great ideas of their own may come along and think they can do what I am going to do and beat me to it.  That might still happen.  What I realized while having a mind-bending conversation with my entrepreneurial friend Jay is that, while someone else might have the resources to put something together more quickly than I can, it won’t ever be what I have envisioned.  It couldn’t be.  When you have an idea that has roots in your very heart, that’s not the kind of prototype that can be stolen like in a spy movie. Once I understood that I gave fear my “teacher look”, and it bowed and retreated.  Game over!

So, in the spirit of having funding that aligns with the goal of my project which is, in a nutshell, growing gratitude and community, I’m pursuing a Kickstarter campaign.  This project will ultimately depend not only on my belief in it but others’ as well – and the willingness of all of us to invest in our vision of what Growing Gratitude is to become.

The task at hand for me right now is to put all of this – plus details about Growing Gratitude – in the Kickstarter pitch to start to reach out to those with whom this idea will resonate.  I am hoping to enlist your support when we get there.  I get now that my feeling protective about this idea has less to do with wanting to be the all-powerful CEO of the Growing Gratitude empire and more about being a fierce momma who will do what it takes to keep her creation from being co-opted by those who don’t see its true worth.  What a relief to discover that business decisions can – and should – be managed like personal ones: in alignment with our values and with ever an eye on our goals.

First Gear

My few weeks after the last post have gone like this: get up and get the boys ready, take my 4-year old to preschool, play with my 7-month old until he goes down for a nap, then race upstairs and work on my business plan until he wakes up, whether that’s 45 minutes later or 2 hours and 45 minutes later. I do the same in the afternoon if he takes a second nap. And then again at night if I’ve still got my wits about me.

I have been poring over research and blogs and professional association lit about the smartphone app market, where it’s been and where it’s headed. Who risks how much and how often to try to get their ideas out there like I’m working on doing with mine. How people collaborate – or don’t – and where to meet investors if you don’t live in Silicon Valley. It’s all fascinating to me, in a real and unlikely way. And while some people breathe business because money is, for them, the endgame, I see it all as means to an end.

My mission in this whopper of an adventure is gratitude for the 21st century. And while I’m not going to go into many more business details just yet, I believe it’s the worthiest of causes.

As a parent, does anything irk you more than moments when your own child could not be less grateful? It gets me right in the gut. Really. I do not love the prompting – “What do you say?” – how that feels as a parent or how inauthentic it feels to the recipient of the obligatory thank you. And it’s not just a matter of those two words, of course. I think gratitude is a way to view the world, a humility we don’t see enough, a way of grounding ourselves which cuts right through the noise of this modern life. It’s so much more than just two words.

I love taking time like this to think about the root of everything I’m doing. While the need to help provide for my family is strong, as is not wanting to bellyflop in front of basically everyone I know, the electricity which powers reading tech blogs and typing like a madwoman in my 90 degree office is the understanding that I have the chance to put something into the world that it may not have had without me and something it will be better for. I say that with belief, not arrogance.

And belief in an idea is basically all I have right now (unless you count the bones of a business plan which will surely need revision once someone else takes a look). But if behind one door there was $50,000 and behind the other the steadfast belief I feel that this can and will work, the choice is easy. While the funding is what I need to move forward, it’s my belief in this project which will help me navigate when the funding falls into place. So I am frustrated and impatient…and grateful.

(Hey there, Mother of Mayhem reader. First of all, my most sincere thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. It really means a lot to me. If you’d like to follow along on the more public, business face of this adventure, I invite you to visit our Coming Soon page, our FB page, and to follow us on Twitter . Stay tuned for more rock-your-world gratitude adventures!)

Life in the Driveway

That feeling: the skin-too-tight, heart-too-fast, want-to-scream-and-holler feeling I get when I have to wait but can’t. By can’t I mean I will wait but not without my body staging a protest. Patience is a virtue but not one that I possess most of the time. I am able to conjure up this elusive quality when working with kids and when needed as a counterbalance to my ants-in-his-pants husband, but that’s about it.

So it’s been a strange week. I would have thought I would be dancing around the house, grateful to have hour after hour of time spent dictated by my own needs and those of 7-month old Elias. Not so much. This week became a family staycation, and that has meant all of us spending time together at the zoo, pool and various other outside events. It really has been fun, but I’ve had to come to terms with this change of plans as this was not what I had anticipated.

This was going to be my business plan week. I was going to do for that all-important document what I have not yet been able to do for my dissertation which is prioritize it above all else until it’s done and excellently so. I know from my experience with my dissertation that thirty-minute blocks here and there are more frustrating than productive: it takes so long to get in that head space that allows me to block everything else out. It feels like jumping on a moving train almost – and working up to the speed needed to launch myself on board is both exhilarating and exhausting.

[Alert: metaphor switching back to original, overarching metaphor] So tomorrow, it’s on. This car, which has been in neutral and spreading the exhaust of the idle, will now be circling the neighborhood until I can get a handle on this business plan. But I believe in the power of momentum. It might be a bit like creating a map while on the road, but many explorers did just that, no?

I’ll Follow the Sun

Middle school. The last day of school. You could power a medium-sized city if you could harness the energy here today. Looking at kids in the lunchroom, it’s almost as if I can see the molecules in their bodies, spinning in random, haphazard fashion—aimlessly but at breakneck speed. It is something to see. (Bring earplugs.)

I try to focus on these abstract, scientific interpretations because I am not yet ready to sink into the reality of my decision. There is nothing more self-centered that believing that things can’t go on without you. And that’s not exactly how I feel. I know that someone else will be helping kids cope with friendship rifts and broken hearts, making calls to social services and playing cheerleader when kids and adults are carrying loads that seem to be more than they can bear. But part of me still wants to be the one handling all of that, partly because I don’t have a clear view of my future life right now. And because I was good at doing all those things, and it’s satisfying to be in a situation doing things we’re good at.

I explained to my 7th graders yesterday that when I am at school it feels like there’s a hole in my heart because I’m away from my kids and that, come August, there will be a hole in my heart where they (my school kids) should be. But I wonder if that’s true. I feel like the few emotional situations that I dread are usually less horrendous and long-lasting than I anticipate in all my fretting about them. I’m not sure if this will be one of those.

Last week my husband suggested I go get a massage. I’ve been on edge, getting migraines, not sleeping well. I declined the massage because I was afraid of letting go of my stress too soon. This school year I had a baby, went on leave and then came back (reluctantly). That was a lot but not all. One of our students died in February, and we spent much of the rest of the year grieving and trying to regain our bearings. Then, in April, a female student went missing. A few days passed with no word from her—luckily, she reappeared, safe and sound. Then there are the daily heartaches that anyone who works with kids is familiar with: broken families, abuse, so many other non-academic situations which interfere with learning and—one of the hardest for me to help kids manage—getting through to adulthood without believing that hurtful things said about them are true.

I guess I just feel like I had the choice between quitting my job to attend daily therapy sessions or forcing all that emotion down as far as it would go. And I haven’t let it out since. So when my husband suggests I get a massage, I don’t visualize relaxation. I see myself breaking into a thousand pieces. And I can’t afford to do that yet.

My plan is to walk out my sadness and grief from this year and my uneasiness about what the future holds for me – walk it all out in the sun, wandering with my sons around our neighborhood, listening to music and letting all of the emotions seep out through my skin a bit at a time. Let it all swim out of my body with my sweat and evaporate out into the universe in particles so tiny they are harmless.

Let the (Hunger) Games Begin!

I quit my job today. I guess resigned is a more appropriate description, as I went to speak with one of my district supervisors in my best heels and holding a carefully crafted letter. If you feel conflicted about quitting your job and want help with a resignation that indicates that you’ve long wrestled with that decision, seek me out. It’s not a skill I hope to use often, but apparently it’s one I possess.

I don’t have another job lined up. I think we’re still in a recession. My business is still several months away from any sort of official launch – my business is waiting for my end-of-the-school-year busyness to subside.

On the way home, I couldn’t find the right music to match my mood. I needed something jubilant with an undertone of a stunned OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod. If you know what kind of music would complement that, please let me know.

I have jumped. I have climbed. And while I am a big fan of the cannonball (check out some previous posts if you don’t get the reference), there’s that lingering belly flop fear. Still, part of me knows that this may have been the hardest part, and it’s done.

Let the (hunger) games begin! And may the odds be ever in my favor.