I hate to shave aka the story of how I quit my job

beard Image courtesy of apdk on flickr under cc license

Today was my last day working full-time for someone else’s large corporation, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to tell my story of the past 18 months.

A little background

When I was a kid, I started a variety of ventures that all went lots of nowhere, but I still really loved the idea of organizing people for a common goal and leading them to success that changes their lives. I started a company in the second grade by saving months of allowance and assigning positions and responsibility to a dozen other students. Unfortunately, we never figured out how to make money and I quickly ran out of cash. In the 6th grade, I tried selling Blowpops on the school bus at very competitive rates but was shut down when the driver informed me that selling things on the bus was not allowed.

In what could be a long story, my work experience during college led me to believe that corporate life was for me. One day in the winter of 2009, I was getting ready for work in front of the mirror. It came time to shave, which is something I hate to do. After staring into the mirror for a few minutes, I decided that I needed to make some changes in my life, if for no other reason than so I could put myself in a position to remove shaving from the appearance requirements where I worked.

My 27th year

Over the course of the next six months, I went on a mission of self-discovery. I realized that I was drawn to startups in a very material way, so I started learning. I put up this blog to share some of my deeper thoughts about life and the things I was learning. Most importantly, I immersed myself in ways that I never thought possible. Suddenly I didn’t want to play video games anymore and I was arguing with my wife to cancel the cable TV package. I stopped attending K-State sporting events and started taking vacation time to go on trips to further my side projects. I dove into things that were way over my head, spending lots of time on things like Mashtun, which is now dead. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I should have, but I learned what I did wrong. As they say, my bad judgement has turned to experience.

About two months ago, I realized that things were not going to end well with Mashtun, so I doubled down on simplifying my life. I started getting out of the house more and talking to other people more. I found some problems in the process we went through while trying to sell our house and started rolling some ideas around in my head. Luckily, my agent didn’t like several things about the process as well, and she encouraged me to take my ideas a little bit further. Finally, after talking about it one geek night 7 weeks ago, I got the encouragement I needed to start thinking about it as a business.

What has happened in the last 7 weeks is what people refer to when they say someone is lucky. In the past year, I have increasingly tried to put myself out there and contribute to my local community, my region, and those that ask me for help. It is easy for me to do things for other people because I think it is my responsibility as an engineer to give back, knowing that we all stand on the shoulders of our predecessors.

While I dove into this new project, other things started to fall into place. I found a market that fits my personality very well. My car, which had been up for sale since last September, finally sold for a fair price. Then in a matter of a few nights, some of the big, high-level strategy pieces of this new project started to fall into place. I decided then that I needed to quit my job and pursue this full-time, lest I look back later on in life and feel regret for not trying. Despite the fact that I would have to live off of savings, I was convinced it was the right decision.

A few days ago, karma gave me a big high five in the form of a very fair offer for our house, which had been listed for sale since March. Now, assuming everything goes through well, we will have a positive monthly budget, and I will have even fewer things to worry about besides building a business that helps people live better lives.

While I appreciated my time at Grundfos, the constant pull between exciting side projects and day job that required shaving was a big source of stress in my life. At times it contributed to some serious mood swings because I wear my heart on my sleeve. It was difficult for my friends to deal with, and very tough on Brandi. I wish I could have made it easier and been more like myself. Now I have replaced that stress with pressure. Instead of being anxious and strained all the time, I am focused and ready to perform.

Looking forward

ShownHome is still a big risk, but it is the right thing for me, at the right time. At the age of 27, I made tons of mistakes, I learned how being biased towards action pays dividends, and I put myself in the position to build the future I want. There are still lots of holes, and I have so much more to learn, but I am ready to go. Being 27 was about discovery, expanding my network and my mind, and putting myself in a position to take bigger risks. My 28th year will be about taking action, making some mistakes, learning the hard way, having some success, and doing what I love on my way to becoming a whole person.


Time to start recruiting

Try as you will, you can’t escape the startup roller-coaster.  September was an awesome month, bringing new connections to other entrepreneurs and some positive and negative feedback about the business from brewers.  It started in Bloomington, IN where I was blown away by the amazing people in the startup community, hit a speed bump when I got into a car accident in Denver, and then concluded with a paradigm shifting experience right here in KC.  However, right around the corner, October was preparing to test my dedication to Mashtun.  I had a trip for my day job that left me feeling more underwhelmed than ever about my future in the company followed by news no founder wants to hear.  My co-founder and friend of many years has decided to part ways with Mashtun before we take the next step.  It left me with lots of mixed emotions.  I am glad that I know him well enough and that we are both strong enough people that he wouldn’t lead me on knowing he won’t be able to ramp up as I continue to dedicate more and more of my life to the future of this venture.  However, I am obviously upset that I am losing a top quality individual and someone that knows how to beat me in a debate.  I think it is valuable to have someone that can disarm you, especially when you like to debate and argue like me.
That said, I have done a little bit of soul searching and decided that I still want to do this.  I still believe in the mission.  It is an important challenge and has many high obstacles, but there are many rewards if we are able to find a way to liberate craft beer consumers and grant them the freedom to choose their products without restriction.  I have taken to describing myself as 75% hustler and 25% hacker (100% crazy), and I am prepared to take up some slack in the hacking department to try and build the product.  However, I have a very acute appreciation for the fact that I will run into severe time constraints and need someone else before long.  To that end, I am beginning my search for a new technical co-founder now so that I have plenty of time to get to know them and vice versa.  I don’t want to be in the position later where I don’t know someone well enough but I am forced to take someone because of the situation.
So, if you know someone that might be interested in joining up, I would appreciate the introduction.  I strongly believe in finding good balance in all teams, so I am listing some things about myself that you might not know.

  • ADHD
  • I am the 75% guy.  I need people that are better at following things through.
  • I am vision builder and tend to be abstract, but my engineering discipline taught me how to handle details.
  • I encourage alternate opinions, but I argue hard for my position when I feel enough information has been presented to make a conclusion.
  • I hate passive aggressive people.
  • I love beer (duh?)
  • I am passionate about building the right culture.
  • If I don’t know enough about a subject, I will research it until I can speak and act with confidence.
  • I am intense.  I wear my heart on my sleeve.
  • This is an evenings and weekend gig for me at the moment.
  • I am an open person.  If you ask me a question, chances are I will answer it.  I don’t believe in half-truths or white lies.

In a perfect world, I would prefer to spend a little bit of time chatting with people.  At some point, I might ask them to make some small contributions or demonstrations of their ability, and I would expect that they would ask the same of me.  Over the course of the next several months, this will hopefully present the person to work with next.