In November of 2005, my colleague Megan Lamb called me to ask if I wanted to start a new venture with her. I was 32, and didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted in life. I wasn’t completely sure that public relations was my thing. What I knew definitively was that I was going to say yes. Megan and I had only worked together for about six months, but she’s one of those people you meet and know you want to work with forever.
The conversation went like this:
Megan: I’m planning to spin off a consumer technology focused agency and I’d like you to do it with me. We have a three month project to start.
Me: What happens after that project?
Megan: Well, we’d need to get more clients or turn that project into something bigger.
Me: And if we don’t, will I still have a job?
Megan: I don’t really know.
Me: Well then. We’ll find new clients and kick ass with the project.
And with that, Cutline Communications was born. This was arguably the biggest and scariest risk I ever took. So I leaned in. All the way in. I had to; I knew that if I didn’t I might not have a job.
Our first project was with a global brand and I helped manage mobile PR. I slept next to my phone so that if anyone needed me I would be there. I would take calls in the middle of the night from people around the world. I had no idea what it meant to build a company, to create jobs, to establish and cultivate a culture, and to have a life. What I did know was hard work - so that’s what I did. Along the way we added people and clients to the team. We worked alongside them, and led by example. We instilled in everyone the idea that open and transparent communications were keys to success and that we would both win and fail together. We did so with heart and never losing sight of the fact that people were critical to our agency’s future. That became the basis of what would become our core values. And then a funny thing happened: life.
My brother died tragically and unexpectedly. My world came to a crushing and crashing halt. I locked myself in a room at my friend’s place and forgot about work. I cried so hard I gave myself bruised eyes. I took time off. I leaned back. All the way back. And something truly beautiful happened: I learned that when you surround yourself with people who share your work ethic and values, it’s OK to lean back.
We all go through phases in life. Sometimes we lean in -- we give our all, we do it all, we find our groove. Then sometimes we lean back -- we let other people help us, we give what we can, and perhaps we lose focus.
You know what? Both are completely OK. With every issue I’ve faced, I’ve come out stronger and a better version of myself. In the end, that’s what we’re searching for: the best version of ourselves. How you get there might not always go according to plan, but if you embrace both life’s opportunities and challenges, you might just learn something new about yourself along the way.