Why I left Squidoo (and possibly the craziest 8 weeks of my life)
I've been asked by a great many people to elaborate on why it was that I chose to leave Squidoo. It occurred to me, however, that what I think they were really presumably asking is "Why would you choose to stop working with Seth Godin?"
I'm here to answer that and share some deep, personal insights from the past 8 weeks, a time period that in fact has radically turned my world upside down. I rarely if ever write long posts but today is an exception.
I came to New York City two years ago (July 17, 2010) on a gut feeling that I just knew I had to be here. You can see me celebrating my last day at Bank of America here and me actually leaving here.
I was on a tenacious journey to find what I felt was missing in my life. Having just re-united with my now almost 7 year boyfriend after what was a heart-wrenching, soul defining break-up, I left my business in real estate because I couldn't stand the sight of it any longer, accepted my losses in all the forms of which they came (credit card debt, emotional confusion as a failed entrepreneur, etc.) and left.
I thought I would take a break when I got to NYC and live off some savings so I could relax a bit. That worked well for exactly .0 days as I applied and got my first job as a marketing assistant within my first week in NYC.
Fifteen dollars an hour, a one room "apartment" in a massive house with 7 roommates deep into the Bronx (231st !) and an hour commute each way to work was my situation.
I needed more. I had debt from my last business I wanted to pay off and I wasn't going to live like that for very long. I began doing what I could to bring in extra income by pitching successful business people and really stretching outside my comfort zone.
Ramit Sethi, Tim Ferris and a slew of others all heard my knock on their door with my offers to help them with copywriting, social media, and what I now realize was sales. And I even got my first client off of Craigslist who paid me $60 an hour to help her with her digital presence and content.
It was right around that time that I realized I needed to change my primary line of work, that that same line of work laid me off, that we were accepted into a brand new-3x as expensive apartment and that Seth's apprenticeship opportunity appeared . You can see the original call to action here:
In search of accomplices
Starting in four weeks, I'm trying a different approach. A paid 7 month gig helping me build a significant new publishing venture (I'll be announcing the details of the venture here on Wednesday morning).
I'm looking for two or three people to work with me in my office outside of New York, engaged in every element of the project, from copywriting and editing to social media to business development to promotion. My goal is to offer you a hands on experience with full exposure to the market, to technology and to shipping great work out the door. When we're done, I think you'll be qualified to start your own gig or find a great job in media.
There's an online application, then an in person interview for a few people in mid-December and we start January 4th. Obviously, this means you'll need easy access to New York, valid work permits and fantastic verbal, technical and writing skills. I'm offering each person as much education as I can, along with a $25,000 stipend in exchange for their work.
If you know someone who can use the boost that this might offer (and can do the work) I hope you'll share this with them. Applications close on December 10th.
At that point in my life I had lost my original job and to make up for the abrupt loss, spent all my time freelancing for yes, you guessed it, $15 an hour doing everything from blog maintenance to social media to building websites for people.
It was November and I was down to almost $0 in the bank and knew that if I didn't make something happen that December, rent wouldn't be paid. And mind you, we had just moved out of our apartment in the Bronx to a beautiful one bedroom in Harlem. Our rent went from $300 a month to $1400; that was the bill we had to cover. It was Armando's birthday and I couldn't afford a gift. I felt like a failure and was frankly running out of options.
How was I going to pay for food? For rent? How was I going to admit this situation to my boyfriend, reassuring him that everything would be fine? Not telling him my hustle wasn't covering it? The bacon was not coming home ladies and gents... not fast enough anyways.
That morning, sitting at my original and first New York job, like a sign from the universe, I see Seth's post.
At first I wasn't going to apply. I told myself that there would be thousands of applicants and that I was way under-qualified.
But something inside of me said that I had to do it. I had to at least try.
So for a week I did everything I possibly could to create an application that showed every bit of my skill set and passion. I figured if I didn't compete on the resume side, you better believe I'd win on the hustle end. You can see that application here.
I remember crying with joy when people started to email me back and even get on the phone with me to talk about the application before I submitted it (I had emailed every single one of Seth's FeMBA students to find out more about the application process).
Cut to the end; I got the job. And I did really well as the VP of Partnerships at The Domino Project. I worked my ass off and pulled together some big wins.
I did so well in fact that Seth wanted me to come build out Squidoo's new magazine venture through partnerships.
This time last year I still hadn't found what I was so adamantly searching for. I went from a $15 an hour "nobody" (in theory) to a partnership and biz dev expert who worked with one of the greatest marketers in the world.
And yet, I was still clueless as to what I wanted to do with my life.
So I agreed to work with Seth who is an amazing, loving, brilliant mentor and boss.
I found building partnerships at Squidoo really challenging. As every entrepreneur will soon learn, there are two types of hard. The kind that is natural and the kind that sends up a red flag either because the venture is no good or because you're not the person to lead it.
And in my parting of the clouds moment, I realized I wasn't the person to lead it.
The "easier" thing to do would have been to ride it out, stick with it because all things considered it was a great gig, to hide essentially.
But that wasn't fair to Seth or the Squidoo team. I couldn't know what I knew and not share that with one of the people I respect most in life.
People often ask me what kind of person Seth is and I almost always say the same thing: he is exactly the way he is on his blog: compassionate, hyper-intelligent, generous and direct.
When I went into the office to share my thoughts about leaving Squidoo, my entire body ached. I was reminded of my first trip to Hastings-on-Hudson for my interview for The Domino Project where I literally was sweating like a man out of nervousness, excitement and fear.
Now I was once again sweating like the opposite sex and equally as scared.
When I shared my thoughts with Seth, rather than feeling like an interrogation compounded by anger at my thoughts of leaving, it was like sitting with a dear friend.
He leaned in, looked at me ever-so-supportively and told me that my "soul was telling me something".
I didn't leave Squidoo because of a tyrannical boss or some crazy business divorce. It was exactly as Seth had said; I just knew the time was up.
And he was in full support which brings me to a very important point I'm learning ever-so-rapidly in business.
People who really care about your well being are able to balance that with the best situation for their business. They don't sacrifice you on a cross as a justification for the needs of the business or by giving you the glory of being Jesus.
And the best of those people will care more for your well-being because they recognize that as being an integral part of the business' success (and because they are good human beings, period). I have found many successful business men justify polished manipulation as great sales or leadership.
Manipulation is never a sign of strength but of weakness. Don't let success or powerful men persuade you otherwise.
If they care, it will show.
Flash forward to today.
I found what I was looking for and ironically enough have not found one damn thing.
Let me elaborate.
In the past 8 weeks I have come face to face with my biggest fears and watched an entire re-work of my life unfold.
For the past 2 years, it's tormented me not knowing what my work was in the world. Close friends and mentors know how challenging it's been for me, as a builder, to not know what to create.
But deeper than that I felt blinded. I felt like I'd been staring at a never-ending white wall, one that I was so close to that my nose grazed it. We'd become roommates, that wall and I. Cohabiting the same space for exactly too long.
I knew intuitively what lay on the other side of what I now realize was a manifestation of my own blindness and yet had not the slightest bit of insight as to how to climb, blow up, go around, or burrow under it to get to my destination.
And it infuriated me.
I don't know what the exact cause of the shift was. Maybe it was because I stopped trying to fight the big wall I felt was impenetrable. Maybe it was because I stopped fighting period.
What I do know is that my willingness to see my life for what it was has led to me facing, dead on, my greatest fears, what I now know was the wall before me.
In the past 8 weeks the following has occured, most within the past 14 days:
- Stepped down from Squidoo. Abrupt ending, not a lot of room for planning. I went from working with Seth to being on my own without a definitive life plan. Now who was I?
- Tough conversations surrounding my relationship: better out than in they say. Two weeks before Straight Talk, an event I put together for start-up and corporate influencers, I had a serious conversation with my partner about the state of our relationship and if we wanted to continue or not. And if we were, what it would require. The answer was that we'd have to go about everything differently. No more pushing through it Lauryn.. there was a definite yin lesson to this (and yin is tough for me).
- Straight Talk: major event that I put on in FOUR weeks and let me tell you, four weeks is not a lot of time to put together a high level event in NYC. Just saying. This was my first time out on my own in a while doing big shit without a company to back me. I essentially thrusted my mission and myself into the spotlight in front of powerful people.
- Two men confessing that they loved me within the span of 2 weeks. One was a best friend of 7 years who told me we couldn't be friends anymore. He was like a brother to me. Not sure if you've ever been in that situation, but it's just really intense. Enough said.
- Roommate hell: nothing throws my world upside down more than family matters. I need to have a stable place to retreat to and unwind and recharge. Literally overnight, the room mate situation became hostile, angry and malicious where I had been identified as the defining problem in the apartment, whether I agreed to it or not. And it involved family which makes it all the more emotional and more complicated. Every fear I had of having to return to an angry home, being hated for no reason and somehow triumphing, all flooded my nervous system.
Somewhere between the declarations of love and the roommate hell that ensued, I had told myself I was willing to have my world turned upside down in pursuit of a higher calling.
I knew that to build the life I wanted, I had to be willing to drastically change my life and address my fears.
Who you are (fears and all) and your current ecosystem (friends, living situation, etc.) are the support system for the life you lead today, successes and failures.
My biggest lesson from all of this is that I had to learn to do everything differently. My natural instinct to push, go at it alone and build had to be tempered with trust, a yin energy and a true openness to change.
I almost had to stop trying and just let shit be. I had to turn to my community, my best friends, people who literally rode the wave with me and helped me steer clear of rogue sharks and pirates. I had to trust their eyes and my heart a bit more than my own vision at times.
The result is that I ended up getting exactly what I've wanted and had felt like that stupid wall was preventing me from obtaining:
- A fresh set of eyes and respect for my relationship
- Healthy living situation: my roommates are leaving and on good terms
- Liberation from my deepest fears: to talk to my boyfriend, roommates and potential clients, I ran up against an intense fear of rejection that goes way back to high school. I had to learn to be centered and collected amidst a whirlwind of emotions inside of me. I also had to embrace a new story, one where I was empowered as opposed to martyrdom of any sort.
- Purpose and clarity dammit!
- My own gig and increased income
- Peace and excitement
- The belief and reminder that yes, I can do it.
It's been a two year journey and I'm happy to say that I've "arrived", although I never really believe in permanent destinations. Maybe the more accurate word would be transcendence.
Yes, transcedence. That is what I wish for you, each of you, that you find the strength to let go of the choke hold you have on the life you no longer want but fear losing. And trust that your vision for the world is possible and that clarity and purpose and great relationships are attainable. You will only let go of control if you believe that the world you envision is within reach. So believe. You can do it. now go.