I should have been a surfer. In another life, I was born on the beach and grew up surfing, with a surfer’s philosophy ingrained into my being.
One of my rules is, “Ride the wave to shore.” I can remember when I first put this in writing, I was sending an email to someone on AOL—probably around 1999. I don’t remember the specific situation, but the context was about seeing something through and enjoying the journey along the way. I’ve ascribed to this philosophy for a long time.
Riding to Shore
On Thursday, my team and I were laid off, as well as nearly the entire organization that supported IBM’s Global Entrepreneur program. I got the news on Thursday morning, and then had calls to inform my team throughout the day. It may sound awful, but frankly, we knew it was coming; it was only a matter of when. One person even responded by saying, “oh that’s happening today? I thought it would be Monday.”
I believe in riding a wave to shore. Sometimes it’s the wave I meant to catch, sometimes it’s a different one. Sometimes it’s everything I thought it would be (and more), and sometimes it’s a let down. Sometimes, I get thrown from the wave before I can take it all the way in. But no matter what, it’s the wave I’m on, and taking it all the way to shore is the best way to get the most out of the experience.
In 2012, I was a part of a startup that was in the SoftLayer Catalyst program, receiving credits for servers, plus mentorship and connections from Josh Krammes and his team. Later, I joined the SoftLayer Catalyst team as a Community Manager in 2014, covering the Rockies region, and soon began covering everything from Portland to Pittsburgh. In 2015 I took over managing the US & Canada team. I hired a number of people, lost some good ones to attrition, and built out a well-rounded group. In 2016 we fully integrated into IBM and became the Global Entrepreneur program. And in 2017, the whole team was laid off.
I can truly say, I rode my wave right down to the shoreline. Now it’s time to paddle out and catch the next one.
If you’ve never surfed, then you don’t know the least sexy, rarely shown, and most frustrating part of the sport: paddling out. Waves crash over you, you duck-dive under them, then frantically paddle with your arms and pathetically kick your feet, duck-dive another wave, paddle harder, and paddle and dive, and paddle and dive, and then look back, and it feels like you’ve barely moved at all. The hardest part is the very end where the waves start to break, the undertow is the strongest, and if feels like you’ll never get past it. You’re choking down seawater, barely holding on to your board, and then with one last dive… you’re through! Past the breaks, you can take a breath and float peacefully on the rolling waves of the sea.
Despite my longing to be a surfer, I have actually tried it a few times: in Bali, Indonesia and Ditch Plains, NY. In my brief experiences, I can tell you this: paddling out is hard work. There’s a reason you don’t see overweight surfers.
I rode this wave to shore, and now I get to decide if I want to paddle out in IBM’s waters again, or in someone else’s.
There is an opportunity to paddle out inside of IBM again, and it’s one that would enable me to continue to fulfill my personal mission: to transform the world through innovation and entrepreneurship. To make a move internally is not impossible, but it is work. It’s the unsexy sort of work that requires determination and a some convincing. Waves of doubt crash over you, as you paddle out through familiar, but different waters. Waves of fear crash over you as you put yourself on the line, opening yourself up to rejection.
Through it all, you have to keep your eyes on the prize (another one of my rules) and do the hard work that’s required to catch the next wave.