Monday, June 23, 2008

Slow & Steady

The choice I face today as an entrepreneur is how far/how fast. What are my requirements, my needs, my hopes, my expectations? I'm at a pause. Not that I'm standing still. It's more like I've hiked to a vantage; I'm taking a few deep breaths to survey the scape around me.

We made this choice as a family to leave behind HELL.A. (the "hel" is silent), to find a nice place in the midwest, where we could afford to be home owners again, near family (at least my inlaws), near the water (so we could go sailing again sometime), where the air is cleaner than we had, where the pace is gentler, where neighborhoods have sidewalks, and neighbors say "hello" to each other, and lend out garden tools just because. We've found that place. We're very happy here, enjoying the spring (despite the frequent heavy rains).

But where to, and when, and how? A week ago, I submitted a grant proposal for funding to support the work I'm already doing. I've been honing and focusing my efforts. If I get the grant, that buys us another year or two (at least for us alone, though it won't allow me to hire employees). I'm working on my patent application. Patents are like diplomas, they're nice to have but relatively meaningless in themselves.

What I need is a product. What I need is a plan. I remind myself of a debate that I've summed up before as the opposition in outlooks between the composers Haydn and Dvořák. Haydn for his part viewed the essential task of music, its mark of genius, to reside in devising a fine melody. Dvořák considered the melody the easy part, believing rather that musical genius was in the treatment of a melody, not its creation.

Both of these masters were abundantly skilled at producing memorable melodies. I find myself more in the latter camp however. It's interesting to note the differences of their circumstances. Haydn spent a career as a court composer, sustained, supported, directed by a wealthy patron. His freedom to compose derived from his relative lack of worries. Dvořák toiled. He picked up temporary and part-time gigs, applied for grants and stipends to permit his continued efforts.

They present not only a difference in philosophy, but a difference as models for an entrepreneur. Do I wish to seek the comfort and stability that comes from raising capital (or taking a job), in exchange for releasing some of my creative direction, or do I wish to continue along a path of great freedom, in exchange for releasing financial comfort and stability? In the end I may reach the same point. Both masters' music lives on.

There are as many journeys as there are feet to tread them. For now my path lies before me. RocketMom is here to hold my hand, join the discussion at times, offer her advice. She begins to say we rather than you (as in "maybe we're not ready to hire someone full-time" or "we can wait a couple months to see if we get this grant"). I like that.

Perhaps I'm a bit afraid that if I leap too fast (by seeking investors now), the research and its applications will get away from me. It's not so much that I fear delegating, that I'm afraid to share decisions, that I don't recognize that others may be better qualified or equipped than I to make certain sorts of decisions. It's more that I don't wish to be hasty. It's just not yet time. There is no rush.

Ah... I think I'll take that path over there down the mountain. I like the way it looks.


What Now? said...

That is so interesting about Haydn and Dvořák. D. and I just bought a house and settled down in part because she decided to go the Dvořák route. That path has some challenges but also real freedomes.

Lilian said...

Yes, that's a fascinating metaphor.

I love the part about RM saying "we"! This is definitely your (plural) project and life.