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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

Saturday, April 01, 2000

LA Unconfidential #1

L.A. Unconfidential
April 1, 2000

I've been in Los Angeles for seven days. It still feels like a business trip. The suitcases and the hotel are pretty much the same. The work is intense. My office is like a lot of client sites from the recent past. But, tonight, I called the house that was home for the last two years and the answering machine doesn't have my name on it anymore.

For those with whom I've been less than complete in my recent explanations, I left McKinsey, moved to LA and joined a start-up business -- a dotcom -- in the field of integrative medicine. After five days on the job, I almost know what "integrative medicine" is. Sylvana didn't come with me, sensibly concluding that LA is no place for someone who's in a pleasant place. But

I've moved the rest of my life: nine pieces of baggage and some portion of a container to follow me by ship. I'm committed.

I'm also having fun. Every day is a roller coaster, emotionally and commercially. In the morning, I realize just how huge this embryonic business is going to be. By lunch, I'm sure we won't make a fraction of our targets by the next funding round. By the time I leave to grab a burrito and fall into bed, I know we've got a shot again. Each day, those same reactions, in a different order.

Reading articles about the craziness of start-ups didn't give me much of a head start on the reality of it. However different I thought it was going to be from the structured work life I left, it's more different. And McKinsey ain't all that structured. Sure, I wear whatever I want to work, and I haven't taken my earrings out since my last week at McKinsey but, otherwise? It's not what I expected.

The disconnect was that I expected it to be something at all. That's what's most different: there's nothing to pin down. There's no way to say what it's like and how it's different from what I've known, because it morphs daily. That may be true in the first week of any job. In a start up, however, you know it's going to be that way indefinitely.

That said, it's not nearly as disorienting as I feared. Going with the flow is a core skill, a necessity, as you're busting ass to build the boat at the same time. I like that. Deterministic models of business never held much water, anyway. It's pretty damn fun to figure out, on the fly, what you can influence and then stick you're finger in as many holes as you can find.

I also "get it" for the first time-the biggest business challenge that I've written and spoken about with so many clients: the unsolvable question of how much time you should spend fixing what's broke versus leapfrogging it and making it obsolete. How much tactics, how much vision? Great conceptual question. A royal bitch at a start-up. And fun. So far, I don't think I've screwed up our future. Yet.

Funniest work conversation so far: I called up an old friend to ask if she'd be interested in working for us. I explained the kind of thing we needed at which I thought she'd be great. She said it sounded good. I went into some details of how she might work long-distance and so on. Then, she said, "Well, cool, why don't you talk to whomever you need to talk to and you can let me know." After a pause, I realized that my norms had already changed dramatically in just a few days. I said, "No, you don't understand. I just hired you."

Los Angeles is pretty much what I expected: a strip mall built for 10 million people. But the Mexican food is fantastic. I still fail to understand why such simple food is done so badly by the culinary savants of Sydney. Most cities come off pretty badly when compared with Sydney, so at least LA has fabulous fish soft tacos.

As for my life outside of work, predictably there isn't much yet. I'll have to find a place to live and then start pretending like I do actually live here: buy a bed and wait for the container to arrive and go from there. In the meantime, I've got my nine pieces of luggage around me. As a set, they pretty accurately represent me: three bags of clothes and general stuff, two custom-built metal cases filled with camera equipment and the negatives of my recent portfolios, and four cases of red wine (Australian and Italian). It's sort of a bulky CV of my personal life.

For those of you who know Sparky (Sparker, Zuzanna Skyvarova, Banatchi, Cruise Director, The Zip Queen), she was in LA this week and we had dinner together Friday night. I was muy (pronounced "mwee") chuffed to get a girly goss with her all to myself after such a long time without a fix. Our dinner bill was about 20% food, 80% margaritas, and she nearly missed her plane. I got her just pissed enough that she asked me to MC her wedding in Prague?with a translator. Fortunately, our IT Development Project Manager is Czech, so I'll get some tips on culturally appropriate sentiments I can butcher in Czech.

For those who attended any of the messy going away events -- and they were all pretty messy -- thank you again for making my last couple of weeks in Sydney so memorable. There was never any chance I'd achieve my goal of appropriately thanking all the people I've been so fortunate to have in my life in Sydney, but you made it wicked fun trying.

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