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Paddling Against the Wind

My wife (Anne) and I were reminiscing about all the challenges we faced as a couple during the Earth’s Best start-up.

We laughed recalling the insanity of an Adirondack canoe camping trip our family went on during the timeframe Ron and I were racing everywhere to find more seed capital to keep Earth’s Best alive.

We had arrived at Long Lake late in the afternoon and loaded up our canoe to the gunnels with gear and food. Cora, who was about 7 at the time, was excited to be venturing off on another Adirondack lake adventure. The trip was an annual event for our family and a close group of Vermont friends who joined us for a long weekend of paddling and storytelling around the camp fire.

We paddled several miles down the lake to our favorite camp site. Everyone was oohing an ahhing at all the loons we were hearing and how warm the lake water was.

The truth was, I was harboring a secret and felt a deep heaviness as I paddled away from the shoreline and the only pay phone in the area. Circumstances beyond my control had forced me to schedule a phone call (this was before the cell phone era) early the next morning with a potential investor. Anne, while understanding, was also very disappointed that I had made another business commitment that once again would interfere with a rare moment of vacation time. She reminded me of our trip to the Jersey Shore (the year before) where I had spent so much time on an outdoor pay phone (the only one in the area) dealing with business stuff that I had a tan line in the shape of the phone receiver.

It could be argued that I had a choice to tell the potential investor that I was unavailable for three days while I recreated, but from my entrepreneur’s perch that was irresponsible and put at risk a possible opportunity.

So my only option besides not going on the trip was to accept the fact that I would have to wake up in the middle of the night and paddle a rather large canoe all the way back to the boat launch and the nearby pay phone – about a 10 mile round trip without a partner to help me paddle.

I tiptoed out of our tent and quietly untied the canoe. If it had not been for a very strong head wind, the nighttime trek would have been pleasant. Instead it was a fight to keep the canoe moving forward in a relatively straight line.

I spent most of my day in the canoe and on the phone while the gang was playing in the lake and devouring delicious camp foods. It was a sacrifice but that’s what entrepreneurs routinely do to have any chance of succeeding.

The more expansive point here and one to pay close attention to is that entrepreneuring can become undermining to the things that ultimately matter most – family, friends and health.

If you’re out there on the entrepreneur’s playground, take a moment and reflect on what’s happening in your personal life. Are you missing too many of those special moments with your kids? Are you losing touch with your spouse, too busy to be present with them?

Entrepreneurial success is not trading your family for your career. That is failure by any measure.

P.S. On that Adirondack trip, I ended up making that long paddle twice and leaving a day early. I missed a lot.