Friday, September 19, 2014

Staying.

On Monday I headed to New York for a party thrown by Fred of AVC.com (I think he's a VC on the side, too). Great time, great people, good to see Fred amped up.

I've seriously considered moving back. And why not? NY has a high concentration of smart, ambitious, thoughtful, creative people. Life there is worth the work it takes to live there. I'm more experienced, wiser, and a bit more cautious, and I can see that translating into something unique and special. I can see leading a later-stage startup, or changing entirely to work on social justice issues, which is where my heart is. 

And that leads me back home to Lancaster. Where my heart is. I've decided to stay.

Here's why--and I think these are obvious reasons. 
  • My family's here, and over the past nine years since I've been back we've become closer.
  • I've invested a lot of time and social capital in helping to improve things here, if ever so slightly, and having positive impact is something I've realized is an important factor in my overall happiness and well being. 
  • Chasing the big win no longer matters to me. I hear that siren song, and admittedly, it draws me in and I can get caught up in the idea of building something big, profitable, and hopefully world-changing, but I don't need it. I decided to reject that this week, again (in general--that's not related to BigLeap...we're hiring the product team here).
  • I realized this week...well, really it's something I realized quite some time ago but ignored it: I can't be happy if I keep pushing off the local economy vision I've been talking about but not doing much about outside of Startup Lancaster. Over 15 months ago I posted about my commitment to that, which I then ignored and got distracted along the way. 

While I'm comfortable moving away from any of these given modern transportation and communication, combined they compel me to commit to staying.

A friend of mine used the phrase "claiming my priorities". I like that; it's clear and expresses what I've needed to do for some time: commit to where both my head and my heart are.

For ten years I've been thinking about a singular goal: ending poverty in Lancaster. It's grandiose (surprised?), but we can get there. It's never simple, but we can boil it down to this: we need an abundance of jobs that 1) pay living or even thriving wages, from 2) companies that will allow employee ownership, and 3) for unskilled and low-skilled jobs.

We have vast resources in Lancaster County: plenty of capital to invest, for instance, but we currently invest it elsewhere; natural resources that support a rich food ecosystem; and committed, mission-driven entrepreneurs who see profit as a tool to solve big problems rather than to solely enrich themselves.

It's vastly more complicated than this, and requires the suspension of disbelief, open hearts, a love of humanity, tolerance for frustration, endless tenacity, and a stubborn embrace of hope.

When I decided to stay, everything felt better. I felt better about myself for finally making the commitment. It's been gnawing at me, especially now that I'm completely unentangled (both professionally and personally) and free to go do more relatively crazy things.






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