My Personal Journey

Did I get away with murder?

As readers of my blog know, I have had a high pressure career while being married to a man who also has a career, and raising two children. That’s the backdrop to something my father said to me last weekend which stopped me in my tracks.

Talking about a woman we know whose husband is divorcing her, my father said “Well you got away with murder!”

Wow. Talk about judgement from your Dad. Now it’s important to note my father is absolutely one of the good guys. He’s always been very supportive of my career and proud of my accomplishments, but even he carries the unconscious bias about women working.

When I was a new CEO, working hard, with two young children, my parents would often say “poor Bret” – feeling sorry for my husband that I was not taking enough care of him. They would feel bad for me that I was working so hard, and my mother many times said she wondered if she had done the right thing raising my sister and I to be so independent because the result was that we had stressful careers. I know she’d do it all over again because she believed strongly in women’s equality and I learned to ignore all the comments eventually because I knew they understood really. But when my father said I got away with murder I had to think again.

What exactly did I get away with? Staying married. Being in a partnership with a great guy. Raising two amazing children who are now powerful, fully functioning adults who I adore, and who adore me? Keeping my health despite a few trip ups along the way? Finding amazing young women to partner with in raising our children? Choosing to work with like-minded business partners in my own companies? Having a handful of friends to lean on when my schedule got too crazy? Raising dogs and cats together in peace?


And yet I know I have been silently judged by many people far more seriously than my father’s quip. Men in the workplace asking me if I would come back to work after my pregnancy, asking why was I working with young children at home. Asking me if I feel guilty, asking me what my husband thinks about my working, asking me if I could manage both children and my career. I have experiences a mile long – I could write a book but it wouldn’t change anything.

Maybe I did get away with murder. But maybe not. Maybe I lead a rich and rewarding life surrounded by great people who help and support me, and whom I help and support back. And, after a good debate last weekend, my father says he agrees with me.


Career Advice

The Passion of the Entrepreneur

Collyer’s mother: Beware of passion Hester. It always leads to something ugly.

Hester Collyer: What would you replace it with?

Collyer’s mother: A guarded enthusiasm. It’s safer.”

Classic lines from The Deep Blue Sea, and the sentiment of the England I grew up in. Passion, while interesting in poets, was a sign of weak character. One should always maintain an even keel, and in times of trial, a stiff upper lip.

But when you’re building a company, or developing a new product, or growing a team, passion is essential. It’s at the essence of what you’re doing.

Bringing a new idea or product to market takes a level of conviction that, until you’ve done it, you cannot imagine. Everything sensible tells you you’re going to fail. Good friends question your judgement, your parents question the risk, your bank account gets annoyed with you, your children complain when you’re not around, even your spouse may have days when they wonder if you’re Don Quixote.

But passion carries you through. The desire to see your vision come to life, the thrill of winning a market and customers, the intensity of seeing your product finally perform magic, the agony of losing a deal, the excitement of getting profitable, the frenzy of a liquidity event (selling your company or doing an IPO). The synonyms for passion are the every day experiences of entrepreneurs.

If you don’t enjoy the heights of heaven and the depths of hell don’t become an entrepreneur. Or a CEO. Or a fast climbing, ambitious executive. Because the intensity it takes to create something from nothing, or break the glass ceiling, or change the trajectory of a company takes passion, and with it the boil of your blood, or the chill of your bones that comes with the roller coaster ride.

For the true entrepreneur there is no choice. It’s a drive they cannot resist. A vision they have no choice but to pursue. And if you feel that drive you are one of the lucky ones. There is nothing like it. Except maybe passion.

The Deep Blue Sea stars Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston and is a gorgeous, sensuous and heartbreaking film about self destructive passion. Pour yourself a great glass of wine, settle into your favorite chair, hold your breath and immerse yourself.