I’ve tried to write this post about a dozen times over the last year and just could not find a rhythm for it. Back in 2014, I wrote a blog post titled “When you’re married to the boss” and ended it with:
Success is the real vulnerability in Entrepreneurism – because once you prove you can, you have to keep proving you should.
Fast forward 5 years and last April we made the announcement that Aaron had successfully sold his company of 15 years. Elevator Up was acquired.
The reactions were varied, but mostly confused, if I’m being honest. People were excited for us in an arms-length sort of way. There were a lot of jokes about being able to retire now, and what were we going to do with our millions of dollars, which, I have no words for. The idea that we made bank was implied, it was a huge leap for people to take and they didn’t even look around for warnings – they just jumped; we haven’t, and won’t discuss the financial side of this sale. But in the very quick assumption by most people looking in from the outside, we immediately felt lonely and vulnerable.
Selling the company wasn’t an overnight decision, it didn’t “just happen”. Back in 2014 we had started talking about what the future of his company looked like. Could he see himself doing the same thing in 5, 10, 20 years? We were constantly having the conversation about what’s next? Not just for the business, but for our family, for us.
Aaron felt the weight of the burden of proof every single month. The company grew, which was amazing, but so did the monthly nut it took to keep things going. Demand for higher wages in a midwest lifestyle, more flexible work schedules, more more more. Being the owner, we learned long ago, meant we weren’t confidants or friends – although we always tried to be there for whoever was working on our team. We invited them into our home, we fed them, we cared deeply for the people who chose to spend their time with us, in any capacity.
Next week Aaron starts a new chapter, he will be an employee again, and this also confuses folks. How can he go from being the one in charge to being “just one of the many” underneath someone else? You’re asking the wrong questions. You’re assuming he’s never had a boss before, he’s never worked on a team, instead of just leading one. His new role has plenty of autonomy for him, but the last year he’s been able to spend at home decompressing from the last 15 years, going to therapy, being available to our kids and learning how to be bored has been the real gift.
We are beyond fortunate enough to even have had the opportunity for Aaron to take a gap year. We’ve been frugal, we have no debt, and Aaron has been a wonderful provider for our family. But selling Aaron’s company (and later the same year, his other companies) had very little to do with finances.
It was time. Aaron was burnt-out. He was angry, tired and weary. He was suffering. I learned a very valuable lesson almost 16 years ago when my dad died of cancer; Aaron and I were in our first year of marriage and we were expecting a baby: Life is too fucking short, you guys. It’s not about the dollars. It’s about the value in your life, and Values.
Have you made memories? Did you love someone well? Do you even know how to say yes? What if you just said no? Maybe, just maybe the answer isn’t always what everyone else has done, will do, is doing. Quite possibly, it’s the wackadoo idea in the back of your mind. The dead-end road you’re curious about, the sign that says “open”. What are you even curious about? What lights you up like the 4th of July? Do more of that. Read about it, learn about it, do it for free, volunteer for it, cheer for it. Become its biggest fan. One day you’ll find yourself in the game and it will have all been worth it.
Every day that closes the gap between this year and the next adventure, I get a little more emotional. Right now with all the social distancing and quarantine happening for Covid-19, Aaron’s more accessible than ever. Right in the back yard, near us, close to home, here.
And next week he’ll be out there. Over there, away, gone … again. I used to tell my therapist that the best way I could describe how I was feeling as the wife of an entrepreneur was this: we (the kids and I) were standing on a dock watching Aaron sail away on his big idea. It was hopeful and exciting and there was a plan for the ship to return … but the longer it went on, the farther he went. And instead of being able to see the ship from the shore, eventually it got so far away that we couldn’t make out its shape against the horizon. We were left behind.
The ship came back this past year. It docked, he disembarked and we had the reunion of a fucking lifetime. He came home.
And it was good.