Around this time every year for the past 8 years I would go to Hawaii. My brother and sister-in-law purchased a timeshare there and the cousins are all close in age, so we got invited to go. It started out as a one time thing and just kept going. We only had to pay for our flight and food while we were there and with a full kitchen, we ate many meals in. It was affordable. The first couple of years we did all the tourist stuff. Catamaran, snorkeling, surfing lessons for the kids, checking out the North Shore, Ziplining and hiking to waterfalls. Then things started to change. At the end of 2008 I was flying to Oahu with a connecting flight to Maui. Upon arriving I received an urgent message from the CEO I was working for. Thinking there was some urgent Web Development issue, I quickly called him back. He informed me that the whole development department was disbanded and I would have to clean up a few projects when I got back. He apologized profusely and told me that we lost our factoring, so keeping the department going was unsustainable. I was devastated.
For the next few days I was stunned. I had been working 12 hour days running a Web Development Department, taking my daughter to day care, going into the office, working all day, building a team, picking my daughter up from daycare, eating dinner, working in the evenings, falling asleep on the couch and then doing it all over again the next day. I couldn’t relax. Here I was in Maui, one of the most beautiful places on earth and all I could do was worry about what was going to happen next. I started to think about what my next move was going to be. I knew that my CEO was right, it wasn’t sustainable. I was in the worst shape of my life, overweight, stressed out and tired. With a new car, new camper and taking vacations in Maui, I was the most unhappy I had been in years. Things had to change. I wanted to keep building websites, but I knew there had to be a better way. The process needed to be simplified and provide great value. Whatever this new idea was going to be, it had better be good, because the U.S. was entering one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression.
I decided to use my time in Maui to reflect on my career in Web Development. I started keeping a journal and just really thinking about what I liked and didn’t like about building Websites. We had been doing more and more Web Development with WordPress at the time and that’s when it hit me. What if I only built websites with WordPress? No more supporting Drupal, Magento, X-Cart and other fringe applications. How about completely simplifying by offering one solution that can be customized to fit your business. That was it. That was the moment I went all in on WordPress. Over my remaining days in Maui, with some new clarity, I not only decided my new direction, but that I was also going to live my life differently. I needed to be more present with my family, focus on my marriage and spending quality time with my daughter. I knew this new direction was going to be challenging, but I knew where I came from wasn’t working either, so the only direction, was forward.
That instrumental moment in Maui created the tradition where at this time every year I reflect on my life and my business. I look back at the projects I had been working on, the people I had been working with and am very critical of myself and how I could have done better. In addition I take note of the people that have been instrumental in my life and have given me opportunities and taken a chance on me. This is very important. When we live our lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the stories as to why things happen or didn’t happen. It takes a lot of work to be self aware of these situations and to not fall into the blame game. We ourselves are ultimately responsible for our own careers and happiness and if things aren’t going the way we expected them to go, we alone are the only ones to blame. Remember, with every experience there is a lesson to be learned. A deep lesson about yourself and the people you are working with, interacting with and encountering on a daily basis. Your ability to react is what shapes that experience. Essentially, notice when things are going good and enjoy them, when they are going bad, take note on how they could be different and when you fail, be humble and analyze how they went wrong. Thank you to everyone who worked with me, took a chance on me and spent time with me this year. You know who you are and I am truly thankful for that experience in my life.