Why I’ll never succeed in business

Today I was offered share in a company while I worked the StartupPrincess swag table at the Seth Godin lunch for Haiti. (Think of that as background information, not name-dropping). A man approached me, saying he felt impressed to tell me about his great idea for a Twitter/Facebook-type networking site that would fill a niche for online moms.

I said that sounded good, in fact there are already several (probably hundreds of) great sites out there (including #gno and TwitterMoms.com on Twitter and pages on Facebook, and Today’s Mama and the Motherhood, and various ning social sites, not to mention local message boards and forums and pretty soon it was clear that he didn’t have a clear vision for his company, and he hadn’t done any market research (how sad is it that I think I used that term correctly in a conversation) to see what’s already out there and what he could offer different and special.

What he does have, basically, is the domain SuperMom.com, and the conviction that this could be big, really big. And you know what? It could be, with the right person (a woman who happens to be a mom probably), the right vision, the right strategy, a higher purpose (donating 10% to charity or something), the right relationships with social media gurus, and time and luck.

He wanted me to be that person. I said I’d work on it if he’d pay me. He offered me a share in the company (which is basically, share in the domain SuperMom.com), which might be an opportunity, I suppose, if I could make it my passion.

But it’s not, and I can’t.

I told him about Kalli’s quilting bee I went to last month and Sue’s new blogger charity posse and how the “networks” I participate in are all “organic.” I’m on Twitter, yeah, but only because I enjoy it and there are fun people on there who have interesting ideas or happenings to share. (Yes, a lot of it is beyond banal, but how about this tweet from @QueenScarlett yesterday: 5YO:I like going to Church to have a play date with Jesus. Me:What? 5YO:Church is His house. It’s a reverent play date & Jesus is not whiny.)*

Then I said, to be honest, (prepare yourself): The name “SuperMom” is kind of off-putting to me. I have no interest in being a SuperMom, or an AlphaMom or a Type-A Mom. I even lost interest in being a What About Mom? Mom, though sometimes I think of going back to that.

He still insisted that that person with the vision could be me. I demurred, told him about the social media club of slc and Utah Valley, where he could go and meet people who might be more visionary.

He handed me his business card, told me to think about it, and let him know if I was interested in being a part of the next big thing.

I’m interested, all right, in what people do and think they can do online.

But I lost his card somewhere on the ride home.

Here’s what I learned at the Seth Godin thing, for Lauren (@supermomcentral), because I told her I was writing a post about said event, and this post really isn’t much about that, except to say that I know it’s important to have passion, if you want to succeed in business (life). Seth Godin says if you can write down what your job is then “they” can find someone to do it cheaper. And that public school is a scam perpetuated by factory-minded people who want to produce a compliant, obedient, not-thinking-for-themselves workforce.

And that fear is what keeps us from doing great things, from creating great art (the kind that is being awesome at whatever you do because you’re doing it your way). And then he said that the emotionally hard work of being an artist (again, not a painter but a DO-er, a Create-or, etc) is doing it even when you don’t feel like doing it, which I need to think about a lot because I haven’t felt like writing or doing anything lately, and I like to blame my evening pregnancy sickness for that, but really it’s probably also fear — fear of failure, and also fear of success. (Which is nonsense, because really, who fears success?)

The other big take-away I got will be the subject of my post “Lessons for being a Mom from Seth Godin” if I ever get around to writing it, but since I might not, the upshot was I started thinking that probably I can be an artist as a mother, I can do it the way only I can, I can do it my way, a way that can’t be written down in interchangeable parts. I can stop demanding blind obedience (not that I am successful at that) and instead encourage making good choices and trying new things, and I can see that the messier my house is, the better, because it means those kids are DOing something.

A lot of what Seth said sounded like Ayn Rand to me, and I wonder if that means I didn’t get it at all or if he is a not-so-secret Galtist. Because he talked a lot about giving and generosity, but it sounded like non-coerced giving, not namby-pamby “giving back.”

And finally, Seth actually asked me a question, but I didn’t know the answer. I did, however, know the answer to the number one question asked at events like this: “Where is the bathroom?”

* If you’re on the fence about Twitter, (and Seth Godin today said it was terrible, that it was what kept people from creating their art (not arty art but whatever it is that you do that no one tells you to do), but you could say that about any distraction that has the potential, if misused, to become a time-suck), consider this:

Fun Happenings that were a direct result of Twitter:

That time I spoke at BYU about Twitter because Kelly King Anderson asked for a substitute on Twitter.

That time I met @sahans on Twitter, who happens to live just 30 minutes away and then she fed my family one night and another night we got to go to the Timpanogos Storytelling Winter Concert for free because she knows how to Direct Message me on Twitter.

All of the times I have discussed meeting at Barry’s in Spanish Fork for Malibu Chicken and the best French fries in the world, and yet the one time I drove down there I was too grungy to ask anyone to meet me on Twitter.

That time I heard about the #gno at Seo.com and I took Chrysanthemum and we ate pizza and laughed with @jet_set and @petitelefant.

That time I attended the Wasatch Woman of the Year luncheon and got all inspired because Pam Baumeister asked for volunteers on Twitter.

That time I attended the Start-up Princess Seth Godin lunch because KKA asked for volunteers on Twitter.

I can’t list all of the Utah people I follow on Twitter because I am lazy, but here are the ones who were at lunch today. Just go to Twitter.com and add these fine folk: @jillkaufusi, @sahans, @inevergrewup, @sweetlifeinth, @JoanieAtwater,@emihill, @makeitworkmom, @wasatchwoman, @startupprincess, @bigbags, @thomallen, @newspapergrl, @cuteculturechic, @JylMomIF (I didn’t see her but I’m believin’ she was there), and if I forgot anyone it is because I am a terrible person and you should forgive me (if you even see this because probably if you read me, and if I know that you read me, I would probably have remembered seeing you there today, and so really it’s your fault. Not that all of these people read me religiously, but they should.)

You should also follow @LauraMoncur, because she is the first person in social media that I met in Utah, she’s really nice, and she makes a living online. I know! Crazy, huh?

I told Dick he better mention me every few minutes in Vienna

On Sunday night we went to dinner at my parents. Halfway through my mom said something about how we always end up talking about this, and I said, “Twitter? We always talk about Twitter?” And she said, “No, breastfeeding. We always talk about breastfeeding.” Which is really silly since none of us is breastfeeding right now, but I had just mentioned that a blog friend of mine (@TopHat8855) gave a speech about breastfeeding at BYU at the same time that I was talking about Twitter.

My point was that it’s a small world, and while I’m glad that I don’t always talk about Twitter when I’m with my family, I do apologize for always talking about the other thing, and I especially feel awkward that it seemed like last night Dick and I talked about ourselves nonstop. We probably do this a lot anyway, but tonight my sister is having weird stuff with her boyfriend (she’s been divorced 6 months, and very vulnerable still), so I’d like to think that we talked about Dick’s car buying process and Susan’s preoccupation with food and my relief at not having the frontal lobe disinhibition that was on House last week without pause in order to smooth the rough conversational patches.

Here’s a recording of my Twitter talk. Dick made it into a podcast, and introduces it, and I mention him too often in an 18-minute period to qualify as any sort of feminist, but the truth is that I rely on Dick for a lot, not the least of which is technological know-how, as evidenced by my embarrassing inability to fix the resolution on my laptop screen once it was hooked up to the projector for this presentation (in case you’re wondering, Dick says you right-click on the screen and go to properties. I don’t know what setting you’re supposed to choose then, though, so hopefully I’ll always have Dick beside me).

[audio:http://idratherbewriting.com/podcasts/twitterforbusiness.mp3%5D

(Click on the play button above to hear the Twitter podcast. And here’s the accompanying handout of links and references)

I’ve always felt comfortable speaking in public, probably because I started doing it in church at age three, and for my parents a couple years before that. When I was in college, I didn’t enjoy writing much. It was okay, and I enjoyed critiquing other people’s writing, but I preferred tests to papers. There’s something about the absolute right or wrong of a multiple choice question that trumps the subjective pleasure or lack that a written passage evokes.

But this past week I realized how much blogging has changed things. I volunteered to give this talk, and a few days later, as I was putting together my notes and links, I wished I could just write a post instead of standing up in front of people. Suddenly it seemed easier to express myself in writing rather than in speech. And isn’t that a kick in the pants?

My advice to mothers everywhere

Don’t get sick. Ever, but especially during the Christmas holidays, and especially when first one, then another, and finally the last of your children gets sick too. Just don’t. Because if Momma can’t take care of herself because she feels like lying down and dying, it’s a fair bet that she won’t feel like taking care of the projectile vomiters around her. (And the soiled bedding and jammies and carpet and car.)

If you do have to get sick, make sure you have a supportive, understanding extended family, who won’t hate you (at least to your face) for spreading germs instead of holiday cheer, and a husband who can be prodded into duty.

I think we’re finally on the mend, and no one has ended up in the ER on IV fluids like Sally did four Christmases ago.

It’s incredible how good it is to feel almost-normal after feeling like death. I feel so ding-dang human after a couple days of gatorade and saltines, and just now a bath, that I’m actually excited to start cleaning up the holiday haul. Also, if there was any uncertainty as to whether I need to lose some weight, the fact that my clothes are fitting better around the waist after just 48 hours of the Mary-Kate diet is enough to convince me.

I meant to post our Year in Twitter a couple days ago. You know how they say that you won’t wish, on your deathbed, that you’d spent more time at the office? Well, if you Twitter, you’ll find, at the end of the year, that you don’t wish you’d Twittered more about the office. A lot of this web 2.0 and social media crap is of debatable value (my mother would say it’s not even very debatable, I think), but it prompts me to record some of the {amazingly precocious} things my children say. I mean, my kids are well above-average, I think you’ll agree:

Dick & Jane Year in Tweets

3 April. Putting in my contacts. Hear a slurping sound. Spot is drinking out of my contact case.

10 April. Took phone apart to see battery model number. Ran to help Spot in the tub. Susan brings phone parts to me and says “Spot broke your phone.”

17 April. Sally: “My forehead feels like cheese when you rub it like this.”

19 May. Sally (brandishing a screwdriver): “Abracadabra.” Susan: “That’s not a wand, that’s a TOOL.”

26 May. Dick is ‘off chocolate.’ We drive past Wendy’s. Me: “Let’s get Frosties. Oh, I forgot.” Tom: “No, let’s stop – I’m only off hard chocolate.”

7 June. Dick doesn’t know why the kids are bothering him so this evening. I don’t either. That’s how they always act.

18 June. Turn around to see Spot whaling on Grandma’s dog. Spot quickly smiles and puts her arm around the dog. Right.

27 June. Told girls to get their tookeys to the table. Now they’re walking backwards with bums up, saying, “My tookey’s dragging me to the table.”

8 Jul. Took kids to Grandma’s for a couple days. Unfortunately, I have to stay here with them.

9 Jul. Susan can swim 15 feet! Face IN the water. Oh, and use a diving stick as a microphone.

13 Sept. Susan and Spot singing a number song in the back of the minivan. Sally: “It’s fun to hear Susan and Spot learning together.”

15 Oct. Telling girls about a party at Aunt Marcy’s house. Susan: “A party with LOTS OF FOOD?”

4 Dec. Sally swept the kitchen floor today. “I want to be a good girl.” Aww. “I want Santa to bring me lots of presents.” Points for honesty.

I hope your Christmas was cheery and healthy!

Jane

WFMW: Twitterpated

2 years ago . . .

Dick: Jane, you should start blogging. I’m about to find the cure for cancer with my blog, and another blogger I know is about to establish World Peace.
Jane: Nah, blogging looks so narcissistic, and time-consuming.

1 1/2 years ago . . .

Jane: Maybe I should start a blog. I could write about the kids. And ignore the house. And become the next Helen Keller, only not blind, and not deaf, and not an inspiration to people everywhere.

2 months ago . . .

Dick: Jane, you should get on Twitter. Twitter is micro-blogging: you stay connected with people, build relationships/networks, find World Peace.
Jane: Twitter is the lamest thing I’ve ever heard of. If you like someone enough to want to know what they’re doing all day, don’t you already know? I mean, ’cause you’re on the phone or the IM with them?

1 1/2 weeks ago . . .

Jane: Dooce is on Twitter?
Dick: Lots of really cool people are on Twitter.
Jane: And you can follow whoever you want?
Dick: And Barack Obama will follow you back. But not Dooce.

Dick and Jane are twitterpated with Twitter. You can follow me right here. If you’re not ready to get an account of your own, you can subscribe to the feed of WhatAboutMom‘s “Tweets” — short (140 character max) updates on what I’m doing/thinking right now.

You can also follow the mama bird diaries or Daring Young Mom or Mom101 or TaraThinks. If you’re on Twitter, tell me your ID. I want to follow you, to the ends of the earth. It’d be cool to have a listing of all the Mom-type Twitterers. Maybe on my sidebar . . .

I like following Dick and having him follow me. I get to keep up with what he says to his colleague-type followers (especially those attractive female colleague-ish Twitterers) and he gets to keep up on all the startlingly brilliant things our kids do in real time.

If you have an iGoogle homepage (why wouldn’t you?), you can get the BeTwittered gadget for your homepage, so all those Tweets are at your fingertips, right next to your Google Reader and your Gmail and your To-Do List and your Wikipedia gadget. WHO NEEDS TO EVER LEAVE THIS CHAIR?

Twitter is what works for me today. I’m kind of scared to see what Dick suggests next month. Microchips? Telepathy? Date Night?