My Turn to Face Reality Part One

Again, here’s the book that made me start thinking this. It’s the first time that I ever looked at business ownership and entrepreneurship from the perspective of an investment banker/venture capitalist. I mentioned in Facing Reality that this book “forced me to look at my business career and my life in an entirely new manner.” I HIGHLY recommend reading this book if you are considering entrepreneurship as a lifestyle.

I wish that this was easy. In a way, it is a great relief and in another way it is creating the opporutunity to re-create and (re) begin(?) my business career (see re-invention ). I usually don’t disclose all this pesonal stuff, but I’m writing this for my benefit so I can figure out what’s next in my career. If someone should read this and help them NOT quit their job too soon, lose their spouse and/or family, the roof over their head, etc. (and you think I’m kidding), then I’ve done a good thing.

It’s time for me to sharply take a look at who I am and what I really have been doing. I am not without personal accomplishments, but my business accomplishments are on a short list. This re-invention process has been something I have been working on for a couple of years now, but tonight I am feeling the need to pick up the pace a notch.

I seem to be making a whole lot of new friends, so now MIGHT be a great time to re-introduce myself…and I’m about to find out (the hard way, as usual). First, my name is Michael Neely and I have fancied myself an entrepreneur for many years now. I’m the guy who bet the farm and lost…a few times. I basically wanted to become what I thought was an “entrepreneur” from what I saw in the movie “Wall Street.” After all, everyone was making LOTS of money, staying up all night, getting wasted with a lot of beautiful women running around half-naked…hell yeah, sign me up!

I got out of the Navy in 1989 and jumped straight in…with all of my money and absolutely no training. Then again, in 1989 there wasn’t any training (still isn’t), internet, personal computers, cellphones, iPods, iPhones, or anything else the “Technology Revolution” has bestowed upon us. My main motivation was not working for anyone else. This has proved to be a mistake (learning experience).  Needless to say, I failed miserably in my first business attempt and returning to college was not an option any longer.  A few years later, I financed my life and businesses by waiting tables in restaurants, you know, like the late JFK Jr. SAID he would have done IF he ever lost everything in the Barbara Walters interview in 1991(?).

After a few more years, I racked up about three more complete business failures as sole proprietorships.  By the way, they don’t make a “smiley” for this emotion.  Due to my second to last business failure, I left my hometown of Birmingham, AL and headed to south Florida (where my mother lives) to put my life back together again.  I got into the commodities and currencies options and futures “business,” except the companies I was working with were “less than ethical” (and that’s being kind). After making absolutely no money and, once again “betting the farm,” I found myself working at Chili’s as a server in Coral Springs, FL and sleeping on a picnic table in 2003. I worked with Fast Company magazine’s readership network as a volunteer coordinator (means “not getting paid”) for the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Special Interest Group at the Palm Beach Community College library that was open to the public. This kept me somewhat sane over the next couple of years as I got into the habit of keeping a roof over my head.  I got to write (rant) about business ownership and meet some cool people (albeit, through the internet) like Steve Farber
and Barry J. Moltz. I moved to Atlanta with my last $20 in January 2007 and, with the help of a few friends, the re-invention has been an ongoing process ever since.  I stopped getting wasted a couple of years ago and finally started taking care of myself and my career.

Yesterday, I thought I’d put together my entrepreneurial resume as if I would go out and finance a company. After staring at the neatly typed screen for a couple of hours, I came to the conclusion that I’ve never had a success. There have been other hints that I haven’t achieved the success I desired (trophy-wife, Ferrari, etc.), but this was the first time I had a “NO BULLSHIT” viewpoint of whether I’d been successful or not. The weird reality is that instead of thinking in terms of “risk/reward,” I was thinking totally in terms of “risk.” It’s like someone told me years ago that I would never be successful as an entrepreneur (ex-wife, ex-girlfriends, ex-employers, ex-friends, ex-family members, ex-dog, etc.) and I have been following their orders, taking on as much “risk” as possible for no apparent reason (reward). Some of that psychological, self-fulfilling prophecy stuff might be right after all.

I have devoted myself to personal and professional development and study over the last two years and Carol Roth’s book, The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks, and Rewards of Having Your Own Business, has been a part of that. If you do just one thing and think of the Return on Investment and Return on your Time investment realistically, you MIGHT have a better “run for the money.”  It would be better to buy the book, so you don’t have to sleep on a picnic table one day.

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