How getting fired ‘n rejected can be rainbows ‘n unicorns

Proof you can have a successful business with a sucky logo (or two or five)

On this eighth anniversary of the birth of Mac ‘n Cheese Productions, I would like to give you a gift and thank:

1) My ex-boss who fired me in 2004

Didn’t know what I wanted to do, just knew I didn’t want “boss” to be in my vocabulary any more.  Sat down on my couch and made this list of things I wished I could get paid to do no matter how ridiculous they sounded.  Fast forward to 2012: every bullet point on that list is somehow incorporated into what I do for a living.  And I pinch myself daily that my “job” is to meet, connect, and support amazing people from all walks of life.  Even got a random guy in my kitchen turned best friend turned Fiancé out of self-employment.

2) My gut

Which told me to ignore the “experts” and just Nike the bejeezus out of life —

  • Instead of spending time making a business plan, I decided to make a business
  • Instead of waiting to launch until I had a good website or logo (I’m still waiting on both), I announced Mac ‘n Cheese Productions to the world and said I’d figure stuff out as things came up
  • Instead of spending money I didn’t have on top-of-the-line equipment, business cards, and other “must-haves,” I bought the cheapest good-quality video camera I could find on a Best Buy payment plan that accrued no interest if paid off within a year, bartered my time and network for a copy of the $1000 editing software Final Cut Pro, and got free business cards via Vistaprint that left much to be desired design-wise but did what they were supposed to do which was tell clients how to reach me
  • Instead of creating a strategic plan and reflecting on where I wanted to be in five years, I focused on where I wanted to be that day and perhaps the next day, living in and for the now
  • Instead of continuing down the safe-path of doing what had been my financial bread ‘n butter (video production and teaching), because I had lost passion for both and found passion elsewhere (infecting others with the Life of Yes! disease), I took the scary leap of leaving consistent, guaranteed money for “who the hell knows how I’m going to pay rent next month, but who the hell cares cause I’m having so much fun and feeling like I’m doing good” money
  • Instead of bemoaning my dislike of the traditional ways of finding people to date, people to friend, and people to client, e.g. bars, classes that end when the class ends, and networking events, I created alternatives which became business ventures because as it turns out, others were dissatisfied too and willing to pay for value-packed solutions
  • Instead of bemoaning the lack of summer-camp’esque options for adults, where we unearthed our creativity, discovered ourselves, and forged deep relationships with people we had just met, an environment I missed greatly from my days at Boston College, I rented a bunch of cabins in Michigan and a fifteen-passenger van, and crossed my fingers that people would sign up for my Life of Yes! Retreat (they did)
  • Instead of letting fear and doubts paralyze me when I read the bios of the other speakers at CUSP 2012 (a conference on the Design of Everything) – inventor of the touch screen, author of three books, gold-medalist, child prodigy, Oxford and Harvard, testified before Congress – I chose to act confident and embrace the opportunity.  Resulted in a note from one of the conference’s curators, Without a doubt… your talk was my (and many others) most memorable and favorite. Priceless!, and tweets like —

  • Instead of getting the wind taken out of my sails when I got rejection notices from Excelerate, Impact Engine, the Unreasonable Institute, TEDTalks, IDEO, and a bazillion other things that I’ve applied for, when fellowship and grant RFPs made me feel like I’m not providing an impactful service because I’m not ending world-hunger or putting shoes on South American children, when traditional angel investors/VCs/businessmen in fancy suits made me feel small, stupid, and like I don’t belong at the adults table, I realized I don’t want to try to fit in someone else’s box, that my box is AWESOME and that “businessmen” could use a bowl of Mac ‘n Cheese

3) You

I wouldn’t have lasted four months, let alone eight years, without your incredible support.  Thank you for allowing me to continue to travel the self-employment path when my unemployment benefits ran out, when I kinda had no idea what I was doing (that feeling seems to never quite go away), when people were telling me I had to do it one way but that way didn’t sit well with me.

You coffee’d with me.  You attended my events.  You offered your services and skills.  You sent encouraging emails.  You referred me.

You made the ridiculous possible.

I haven’t spent a dime on marketing/advertising.  You share Mac ‘n Cheese with your friend who just went through a nasty breakup and needs some goodness in her life, you share Mac ‘n Cheese with your nephew who just moved to Chicago and wants to meet others, you share Mac ‘n Cheese with your blog readers who are the type who want to Nike the bejeezus out of life.  Your word of mouthy-ness is a gift I can’t even begin to attach a value to.  Priceless.

You send me the most heartwarming thank-you notes with sentiments like “Fear Experiment was the most transformative experience of my life” and “The world is a better place because you’re in it,” when in fact it’s you being a gift to life by being open and vulnerable and supportive, often times with complete strangers.

As a small token of thanks, I wish I could give you a $100 bill and a carrot-cake cupcake.  Or a can of Daisy Cutter if that’s more your thing.  But I don’t have that cash and the logistics of mailing you a pastry/pint of beer aren’t favorable.  What I do have is a large network which for some reason listens to my referrals and suggestions, and answers my calls for help.

So I’d like to offer you a shout-out.  An event you want to promote, a job opening, a job wanted, a service you provide, a car for sale, a charity you want others to know about, a call for a keyboardist to join your band, a book of yours you want people to buy…. whatever you want to share with the Mac ‘n Cheese network, I would love to share for you!

How to Redeem Your Shout-Out

  • Via the Mac & Cheese website, send me a blurb (a few sentences) for my newsletter and a tweet (140 characters or less)
  • Make sure to include links and/or contact info so people can find out more details/get in touch

And Bonus, Pass It On!

NextDoor Chicago has initiated an awesome Do Good movement, where they do good for someone, in hopes that that someone will do good for someone, and the Pay It Forward model will ensue.  If you redeem a Mac ‘n Cheese shout-out, consider joining the movement and

  • Buy your receptionist/boss/coworker a latte
  • Offer to wash the dishes for a week for your roommate
  • Give flowers to the postal worker behind the counter
  • Let someone who looks like they’re in a hurry go in front of you in the Jewel checkout line
  • ?????

Then share your Do Good on the NextDoor Facebook page and/or via Twitter using #NDdoGood @nextdoorchicago.  And here in the comments section!

Here’s a Do Good from Fear Experiment participant Sara Collins, in thanks for getting pizza and a journal from NextDoor when she started her Fear Experiment journey:  “While getting my car serviced today a man who was applying for a job there asked for my help filling out his application, since he had recently hurt his arm. I sat with him filling out some 10 pages of the application, spelling out his references’ names letter by letter…”

Deep deep thanks to ex-boss, gut, and you!!  You make me happy.