On April 30, I went to see Colin Hay in concert. If you haven’t heard of him, he was the lead singer for Men at Work, the 80s band best known for their song “Down Under” (“I come from the land down under”). Since his days with the band, Colin has launched a fairly successful solo career, which includes a song on the Garden State soundtrack and a couple cameo appearances on the TV show Scrubs. (Okay, yes, I also happen to be a Zach Braff fan.)
This post is not to promote Colin Hay, although I would recommend you check out his music: it is to thank him. Thank him for making me realize that the only thing standing in the way of my dream is ME.
One of my favorite songs by Colin Hay is “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin.” If you casually listen to the song, it appears to be somewhat of a love song. But when you truly hear what he is saying, you realize it is much more. I did not realize that until I saw him perform the song.
As he strummed the opening guitar medley, Colin reflected on the days when he was an international music superstar playing in front of tens of thousands of fans. Now he finds himself at The Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut performing for a few hundred. He asked, rhetorically, “If I never make it back to the lofty peaks of super stardom, is playing for the likes of yourselves, is it good enough?”
Just before he broke into lyrics, he answered his own question with a very abrupt, “No.” And then, Colin moved seamlessly into the song, starting, “Any minute now, my ship is coming in. I keep checking the horizon…”
Colin’s unexpected commentary caught my attention, and so I listened to the song deeply and from a very different perspective. As he started the second verse, “When I woke today, suddenly nothing happened. But in my dreams, I slew the dragon…,” I began to reflect on the last year of my life.
In May 2007, I made the decision to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship. I was going to combine my passions for running and the environment through my company Atayne. During the summer I started to build the foundation for Atayne and fulfill my final obligations with my (now former) employer, RedPeg Marketing.
As the summer came to an end, so did my days working for someone else. I picked up some consulting work to help pay the bills, but I was now officially dedicated to building Atayne. I spent the next few months reading, researching, networking, writing my plan, and participating in business plan competitions. Except for the hour and a half each morning for my daily run, nearly every waking hour was spent building Atayne.
By the late fall/ early winter, I had started to meet with several potential investors. Whether it was friends, family, angels, or small private equity and VC firms, people loved the idea and thought the plan was very solid. The more meetings I had, the more I knew I would get the seed funding I needed, and in just a few short months Atayne products would be in markets across the country. When I combined this feedback with the fact that Atayne had been a finalist in the two business plan competitions I entered, there was no doubt in my mind that “my ship is coming in.”
However, in the late winter/early spring my attitude started to change a bit. I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with my situation. It was March of 2008, and I was approaching the year anniversary of the genesis of Atayne. I started to question myself and ask almost everyday what I have accomplished during this time. Many days the only answer I could provide was “I moved into a basement and wrote a business plan.” It did not seem like I had moved forward much in the last 10 months.
I started to come up with every reason imaginable why I was in this situation, from lack of money or a business partner to not finding the perfect materials or manufacturer. While these things definitely had an impact on my situation, they were not the root cause. None of these excuses or the many others I came up with, were the real reason(s) I did not have product, a website, or even a prototype in hand.
As the song came to an end and Colin left the stage, I realized what was problem was. I was “waiting for my real life to begin.” I was looking out to the horizon waiting for the Atayne ship to come in. Instead of living in the present moment, I was living where I wanted Atayne to be a year from then. I was just waiting and hoping for something to happen to take me there, to take me to my real life.
I don’t think I am alone in letting this happen. I think we humans (or at least Americans) get so consumed by the future that we forget to live today. And then we look back on our lives, and wonder, “Where the hell did it go????” We also fear taking big steps into the scary unknown, so it is easy to find lots of excellent reasons to wait and hope for the ship to come in – versus taking the plunge.
In the few weeks since the concert, I have made more progress with Atayne than I did in the prior three months (website content drafted, first sample being tested, this blog started, prospective angel dinner planned with a clear “ask” to be made). I am now well on my way to officially launching Atayne in July ’08. Please look out for us on the web (www.atayne.com) or in specialty running stores in the Washington DC area.
So thank you Colin Hay. Whether or not that was your intended interpretation, you opened my eyes and made me realize my real life is now.