For those who would joyously march in rank and file, they have already earned my contempt, for they were given a large brain by accident when a spinal chord would have sufficed.

Albert Einstein

Well, first of all, happy Independence Day to all cousins over the water.

But (s)elfishly, this posting is about a more personal independence. Three years ago today, your imp founded a company, having told the bosses where to go (with no small grinning glee). It was accidental that it happened on this day, but there you go. And like all important anniversaries, it makes you think. In this case, about…?

  • the fear at the point of jumping
  • the concern in the parents’ eyes (coupled with nervous laughter)
  • the back-slapping confidence of friends
  • the blind and single-minded (laser like) determination that it would work, that if in a three-month notice period, you couldn’t make it work, then you were nowhere near as good as you thought you were…;)

I’ve gibbered here in the past about work-life balance (argh: foul phrase) – about the importance of trying to make work pay for life, and believe whole-heartedly in enabling people to find ways of making their passions pay for their lives. I had always admired people who worked for themselves – it seemed a terrifying thing to do. It can be terrifying. But as my dad wisely said (I’ve got no dependants and no mortgage – not because I’m rich but because I rent), “failure will be ending up on our sofa: how bad is that?”

I went through some interesting inner conversations: what was I scared of losing? What did I have to lose? I had been working a 70-90 hour week, on-call 24/7, for an organisation I cared about passionately, but increasingly for people I didn’t respect. I’d ended up in hospital for a week after an overworking-related seizure and thought I had neurologically lost my ability with language (you might guess that for the imp, this was not a good moment), unable to find the words for simple things like the stereo. I’d gone very skinny and very (worst of-) Bridget Jones and I cried on Sundays because I’d spoken to no-one all weekend, unless it was to an angry journalist. So what was there to lose?

Working for myself – and not employing anyone else – has been one of the best decisions I have ever, ever made. Not building the empire is an important part of that – I can’t be responsible for someone else’s mortgage; and I don’t particularly like managing other people’s time. If there’s no work, I want to go for a run; not create it, file, or have to make cold calls. Those things have to be done (I spy the in-tray, with its legal and tax paperwork), but at my pace.

The interesting thing – and one that still annoys me, although I should just let it go – is that people say how “lucky” I am. It’s not about luck- I don’t have medical insurance, I don’t get free loans, I don’t get paid when I go on holiday, I have to generate the work, and if I’m ill and can’t work, hard cheese. As I’ve said before here, if you don’t have obligations to others (kids, a mortgage the size of Vesuvius), then working for yourself is less of a risk. It’s about asking yourself where you could fall to without your current security blanket (and how secure is that?), and what you’re prepared for. You don’t go marching off into the woods with nothing but a t-shirt and a chocolate tea pot, do you?

Anyway, please join with me in this happy third birthday – huzzah for independence!