Music Mondays – Defying Gravity
If you’ve followed my blog in the past, you know that I have been noticeably absent from blogging. I post my latest podcasts here every Friday; however, I have yet to write something personal on my personal blogsite for a while. The truth is that my personal and professional lives have felt like two needy children competing for my attention, and if I ever thought about writing, I honestly didn’t know what I would say.
I made a personal choice to not write about the personal stuff. If you want to know more about it, you can listen to this podcast, but now I’m ready to share with you the professional stuff.
“I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game…”
As many of you know, three years ago, I left a promising career as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch with the plan to revolutionize financial planning. While at Merrill, I grew increasingly more frustrated that there weren’t more tools or resources to help people who had less than $250,000 in assets. The solution in the financial services community for this population is to provide them with technology in the form of websites or apps because they’ve determined that it costs too much to provide human resources; and this never sat well with me.
When I left Merrill Lynch, just about all of my co-workers said that there was no way that my business model would work. They said that there was no way people would pay me to help them with their money challenges. Most of my friends and family thought I was crazy too, and some still have no idea why I’m doing what I’m doing. About a year into my entrepreneurial journey, though, I realized that they were wrong, people would pay me to help them and they not only paid me, but they achieved amazing financial goals as a result.
“Too late for second guessing…too late to go back to sleep”
Excited by my success, I networked and tried to get venture capital money to continue to build out my vision and everyone with VC experience who spoke to me told me that there was no way that my model would work. I was told that my business wasn’t the type of business venture capital companies liked to invest in. I found this ironic since most VC’s expect a high failure rate; perhaps they have a high failure rate because they’re investing in the wrong type of companies?
Thankfully, a chance meeting with a former manager and mentor of mine led to a small investment, which was enough for me to launch the concept of The Financial Gym online. Immediately my client business grew, and I saw the potential for something bigger, so I went back to the venture capital pool, showed my results, and spoke about the idea of a physical gym where we could help people with money and create a fun community centered around financial health. Again, I was met with blank stares, as most of the start up money in the financial sector is reserved for fintech companies or technology based companies. If I had an app, I would probably already have over $1MM in seed money, yet I don’t need technology to get results, so it’s not a focus of mine.
“It’s time to trust my instincts”
Again, I went back to my first investor and shared my vision and even he rightfully said, “A physical location, really?” However, he is someone who has known me for over 10 years now, and he knows that I would never put my life savings and jeopardize my son’s future if I didn’t strongly believe that this was something that made sense. Within a few weeks, he invested the money to help build the first gym; and as of last week, the first financial gym is officially opened in New York City!!!
We have a long way to go with the gym and a lot of work ahead of us to prove that a physical location makes sense as a technology alternative; however, I’m excited about the challenge and excited about the team that’s building around me to help me accomplish this.
I decided to write this post today, because throughout this process, the song Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked, constantly runs through my head. If you haven’t seen the musical (you should) this song is performed at the end of the first act by Elphaba (aka The Wicked Witch of the West) in response to her critics who believe that she can’t achieve her dream of flying. It’s one of the most powerful moments in musical theater and I get chills whenever I think about it.
“I think I’ll try defying gravity…”
Elphaba is my hero. She didn’t take the safe or easy route; she took a dangerous and scary path because she believed in something greater. Gravity is a strong force and so are our harshest critics. The continuous negative responses or skepticism create there own form of gravity around you that sometimes you feel like you can’t even move forward from one day to the next. As an entrepreneur, you have to overcome that negative gravity every single day, and it takes its toll on you over time.
Many mornings I cried in the shower and many evenings I cried myself to bed wondering if I should just succumb to the gravity. I rationalized that my life would be easier and my personal journey less taxing; however, whenever I had those moments, I remembered my clients and the future clients of the gym who needed me to defy the gravity.
“And you can’t pull me down…”
Now as I sit here in the first financial gym writing this, I feel like Elphaba, soaring over everyone who said she couldn’t do it. It’s exhilarating and frightening at the same time. Yet, each time I defy gravity on my journey, it gives me the energy to tackle the next gravitational challenge put before me. I am renewed, I am recharged and I am going to continue defying gravity, and I hope you do too.