Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Start-up Experience #1: It's kind of emotionally exhausting

I have an ingrained resistance to writing about my personal experiences (not b/c I'm so protective of my privacy but b/c who really cares?), but since both Gareth Kay from Modernista and Jeff Flemings from Digitas have already posted bits about my new gig, I thought I'd add something from my perspective. (Plus I promised that I'd experiment with different ways of using the form.) What follows is drawn from journal notes I've been keeping since I started working at Mechanica, contrasting it with my past jobs, mostly in big agencies or agencies owned by big holding companies. You know the type.

Small business inspires a kind of protectiveness, an impulse to nurture. My tolerance for criticism is low; the opposite of my reflexive skepticism of large and powerful institutions to which I have belonged to most of my life. In the past, I started throwing stones with my first handshake, rattling cages and smiling grimly during my HR orientations, complete with instructional films about the fine linesof sexual harassment. Now, I find myself stepping gingerly, eyeing the horizon for possibility and risk. The fragility of the structure sensitizes me to every exchange. Corporate takes or trades time and hope and a piece of identity for money and some degree of stability (though increasingly little), but in truth it only asks for a kind of half-belief. The lies it demands are mainly lies of omission. Or even just pretense. You have to pretend to believe in an institutional identity (a culture, a spirit, whatever) that really isn't very different from many other institutions exactly like it, and in which we are basically functionaries. But you can also pretty easily ignore the machinery of corporate culture altogether and do your job reasonably well. Now, there is a pressure to create something, to live up to some abstract idea which only half-exists or has only half-realized it's ideal state. This job asks for faith, which I tend to lack.

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