Pants That Don’t Fit and Other Byproducts of Setting Priorities

Meandering around the office early this morning, I was about to dive into the candy dish when one of our developers came in from outside with a strange look on his face.

“Don’t use the upstairs bathrooms,” he said. “There’s a homeless person sleeping next to them.”

Minutes before this I was explaining to my co-founder that the reason we won’t be moving into a new space in a better location by the end of the year is because I’ve put negotiating a lease on the back burner. There are too many other pressing things. Now she was giving me the stink eye.

“I wonder if it’s the same homeless person who I saw doing a drug deal in the parking lot,” he went on. “I’m sure he’s okay. He was charging his cell phone. Let’s offer him some food.”

Priorities

I’ve had a hundred or so coming to Jesus talks with myself since officially launching a software startup. Balancing everything that comes at me every day is about as easy as walking a tightrope. The only way to keep things moving is to identify the top priorities, honor them, and let the chips fall. And holy shit the chips are falling. This morning they were falling next to the bathrooms.

Priorities are a funny thing, both inside and outside running a company. I’ve learned this year that there are plenty of things I want to achieve, but most of them are not priorities. Priorities should not be confused with goals or intentions. They are something totally different. And the only way to honor them, it’s to understand them.

A lesson in what matters

Earlier this year I was in the final phases of negotiating the sale of my PR agency. I convinced myself this was a priority in order for me to fully focus on Iris, my software.

I had employees and clients that I cared about deeply and wanted to see them secure and happy in a new company. I convinced myself that selling the agency was something I had to do. It was priority numero uno for 2015.

It wasn’t a successful endeavor. There were forces working against me that I didn’t see (insanely powerful lessons learned there), and thus, the acquisition I was considering wasn’t going to be a great fit. I considered starting over, with the same goal in mind, but a different path to get there.

This wasn’t scary or daunting for me to imagine, yet here’s how I knew that selling my agency was something that I really wanted but wasn’t actually a priority after all: I let go of it. I saw the opportunity cost of hanging on, and I walked away.

That’s the thing about priorities. You know how to spot them because you can’t live without them. And when you know what you absolutely can’t live without, you also know what you can.

Pants and prime office space

I have eight pairs of pants, including the dress pants that I haven’t worn since W. was in office. None of them fit. None. I’ve resorted to a trick I used when I was pregnant — looping a little hair elastic through the buttonhole for some “give.” You may have tried this at Thanksgiving.

Before Iris, being healthy and fit was a priority. I found a way to get up at least 5 mornings a week to run or go to yoga. I was a vegetarian. I loved to cook.

When I first noticed that I was gaining weight, I vowed to start running more than once a week and to eat healthier. But I never did. I eat what’s put in front of me, including meat, or whatever I can scrounge up in the kitchen. I’ve been known to scrape mold off of cheese and slap it on stale crackers. I work so late at night that I actually get hungry again and snack. I’m eating tortilla chips and hummus right now. It’s a surprisingly good combo.

I used to think that my mornings comprised a choice: work out, or sleep a few extra minutes and see my kids. Then I realized there was no choice: It’s door #2.

Owning up to my priorities is what helped me realize that I’m okay with my pants not fitting. I see my waistline as a worthy price to pay. I’ve also given up about 90% of the socializing I used to do. “Me time” is a thing of the past. My only true hobby, cooking, was given up as a sacrifice to the startup gods.

And we will continue to office in close proximity to some of the finest meth labs in the greater Phoenix area for the time being.

The kicker about the weight gain is that I can’t afford to buy new pants. I gave up my comfortable salary when I walked away from my agency.

In realizing what doesn’t matter right now, I’ve been able to whittle my life down to just two things that do: my family and my company. You might think that’s insane. Plenty of friends have told me as much and there was a time when these sacrifices wouldn’t have made sense to me either.

But that’s the thing about priorities — they’re personal. No one can choose what matters to me. No one can choose what matters to you.

All you can do is choose your priorities, honor them, and let the chips fall. You’ll be amazed at how balanced life feels.