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Risk means losing your balance

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  To not dare is to lose one’s self.”

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish Existential Philosopher and Theologian said that.  I love Keirkegaard’s work because he explores our emotion and choice when we as people face big life decisions.

“Facing a big life decision” is a fancy way of saying making an choice that will change my life.  We say a decision is important because it alters the current balance our life in a substantial way.  Once we’ve made a big choice, there is no turning back.  Choosing where I eat lunch isn’t typically a life-altering event.  There isn’t a lot of risk involved.  Choosing to live in Santiago Chile when I was 20 changed my life forever.

Choosing to start a new project, or start a new business carries a great deal of risk with it.  If things don’t go as planned, the business could fail.  We could fail.  Whatever the outcome, it can take time to regain a sense of balance.

Earlier this week, I wrote that I am moving out my parents’ house because it will make my life less stable.  The goal is to lose my footing in order to not lose my dreams.  I am choosing to take a risk, and I feel afraid because I know that might fail.  The fear can get in our way if we bow to it.  Recently, I’ve decided that if I’m feeling fear then I’m doing the right thing and pushing my comfort zone.  It means I’m making progress.

Here’s another quote from Kierkegaard:

During the first period of a man’s life, the greatest danger is to not take the risk.

When I feel afraid, I remind myself of this.  I am 25, and I don’t have much to lose.  With each year that passes, I have more to lose.  Now is not the time to wait for something to happen to me.  Now is the time risk failure in order to make something happen.

Two weeks ago, I was talking about risk with a mentor of mine, and she reminded me that taking a risk is like riding a Segway.  Segways won’t move forward until the person riding them risks losing their balance and leans forward.  Segways move when rider leans forward past the point of being balanced. Right now, if you stood up and started to lean forward, once your center of gravity passed your toes, your body would fall forward.  The human body is programmed to prevent you falling on your face.  Once you lean too far forward, your foot steps forward and catches you.  You’ve almost fallen, but you’ve also taken a step forward.  If you didn’t lose your balance, you would have stayed in the same place.

The Segway works the same way.  Only once the rider leans forward and loses their balance the gyroscopes kick in and the Segway moves forward.  The farther forward the rider leans, the faster the Segway moves.  It’s natural to feel uncomfortable when you lean forward like this. If you’ve ridden a Segway, you know the sensation of almost falling over right before you start moving.  After a few times, most people learn to trust that the Segway is not going to let them fall flat on their face.

Instead of a wheelchair, I rode a Segway all 4 years of college.  My arthritis was very bad those four years, and  I rode the Segway to class every day.  I forgot how scary it was the first time I rode it.  Leaning into the risk and trusting the Segway became natural.  Trust was my segue through the pain of walking and helped me graduate from college.

The YouTube video below is me riding my Segway across the stage at graduation to accept my diploma.

Taking a risk is the only way I know to segue from one stage of life to the next.  And once I get comfortable with one risk, it seems like it’s always time to take the next one.

What is your Segway?

I hope this helps.

Austin W. Gunter


PS: Kierkegaard also said that “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”  Here’s to your anxiety.

Cigar and Spirit Pairing iPhone App

I had exactly three retail jobs when I was getting my degree at St. Edward’s University.  Because of that I do endorse the common wisdom that everyone should pull a stint in retail or the service industry.  This holds true in my experience because I took exactly two positive things from my time shilling under florescent lights.  The first is knowing that I want to make my money based on what I accomplish and the knowledge that I have; trading hours for dollars isn’t for me.  Learning that I had the power to choose to make money with my identity was a cool thing to learn.  This paid off in the work I oriented myself towards.  See, Changing Minds to Change the World.

I kinda feel like Entrepreneurship is a great big sandbox for grown-ups.

The other thing that I took away from retail was an extensive working knowledge of premium tobacco: that is, I am a walking Cigar Encyclopedia.

Yes, while my friends were waiting tables, I was becoming a college-aged cigar aficionado.

While I love knowing my way around a Cigar humidor, I wasn’t optimistic about turning this experience into cash.  That may start happening soon.  Jei Gaither, one of the Tech Ranchers and founder of App Ranch, pitched his

newest iPhone app ideas: a cigar and spirit pairing app, with user-submitted pairings.  He’s got the development underway and I’m creating the initial pairings.

I’ll let you know when we get a Beta out.  Then you can read my poetic descriptions of my favorite cigars.  Expect

such literary gems as: I was pleased with the cigar’s dynamic nutty brown texture reminiscent of Nicaraguan soil that finishes clean as spring dew.

I hope that helps.

Two Jobs in a Down Economy

Two Jobs in a Down Economy

Two Jobs in a Down Economy, Is that greedy?

One of the more challenging things about graduating college in 2009 was finding a job in a down economy.  Our economy’s outlook was so severe that even George Martin, St. Edward’s University President, spent most of his graduation address on some hard facts about the reality we faced once we walked the other side of our stage, diploma in hand.  He didn’t pull any punches.  By flipping our tassels to the “college graduate” side of our caps we were stepping into an uncertain future.  Our diplomas might be worth very little on today’s job market.  We looked around at each another, decked out in our robes and new clothes, each of us started thinking, “grad school looks more appealing” thoughts, and, “getting service-industry” thoughts, and, “living with mom and dad” thoughts.  None of us knew where our jobs were going to come from in the coming months.

I’m six months out of college now.  Three of those months I spent in limbo.  But since the week before my birthday in August, I’ve been working two jobs at Austin-Area start-ups.  I’m in the minority of my classmates.  Even my valedictorian with the double major is working at a burger joint, I hear.  I consider it a blessing.  I’ve been getting paid (not much, but seriously) to work and LEARN how to start a business from people who are actually doing it.

I’m working as a part of a small sales team to do market research while we open the sales pipeline at company called Conformity.  Conformity has made huge leaps in Cloud-Computing security.  They have developed a platform for Identity and Access Management across multiple Software as a Service Applications, like Salesforce and Xactly.  This ability is a huge deal for a publicly traded company that must adhere to federal SOX compliance standards.

I also work for Tech Ranch Austin, the entrepreneurial accelerator that is going to network Central Texas Entrepreneurs and create value through education and bootstrap resources.  The Tech Ranch was started by serial Austin entrepreneurs, Kevin Koym and Jonas Lamis.  They started the Ranch as a way to involve themselves in as many local start-ups as possible by providing one-of-a-kind resources to accelerate ventures as a compliment to the Venture Capital model of start-ups.

How did this Writing and Rhetoric major get jobs at start-up companies?  I have no idea. I do know that my rhetoric classes have come in handy working with Don, my sales manager, as we constantly refine the sales and marketing pitch.  Surely my passion for communicating has made me an asset at Tech Ranch.  My writing degree has made me the go-to guy for certain kinds of content at both places.  What I do know is that the education I’m receiving at the hands of two sets of entrepreneurs is laying a foundation for future ventures that I may start.

I’m not sure where I will end up yet.  But I’m sure that my future will materialize shortly.  At the moment, I’m too busy to worry about it too much.  After all, I have two jobs to work.

Hope this helps.