Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DohJe and the Path to Wisdom

As a startup, DohJe is faced with interesting challenges daily.  Thus far, we have been self-funded, self-reliant, and happy about it.  A few months ago, a fantastic entrepreneur and Stanford graduate, Vanessa Callison-Burch, let Amanda (DohJe CEO) know about an innovative award opportunity.  The Wisdom Award is “designed to further develop the great ideas that help people learn and share awareness, wisdom, and compassion.”  Vanessa’s endeavor, What Matters Now, provides websites for people affected by serious illness or injury and was one of three 2012 winners.  She urged Amanda to take a chance and apply for the award.  We decided to give it a shot.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “Wisdom”?  A bent-over elder with silver hair and cryptic answers that all make sense later on in the journey?  I have the silver hair, but wisdom is not something I can say I own just yet.  Wisdom is more than intelligence and more than experience.  Wisdom comes when knowledge and experience meet up with good judgement.  As Amanda and I filled out the application for the Wisdom Award, so many truths were brought to light.  I've highlighted only a few of the many things we learned during the process.

Iterate Until It Hurts.  Occasionally, you can write something and it comes out fully-formed, as intended and perfect.  But so often, the first draft is only a hazy glimpse of the brilliant idea.  It does take several iterations of the same concept to really get to the meat of what you are trying to say, just like my College Prep Comp teacher lectured in high school.  However, going over the same bit of text 97 times may be a bit insane.  And two perfectionists working together equals many, many, many iterations.  The end result is something that we are very happy with, and have used bits of each piece already for other purposes.

Collaboration Makes It Better.  I am guilty of not sharing responsibility.  I don’t share because I like things done a certain way, or because I just don’t trust anyone else to get it done properly.  I like control, or the illusion of it anyway.  In this award application process I have learned to let go just a little bit.  It’s the collaboration of ideas and styles that allow the message to reach a much wider audience, appeal to a larger group, and resonate with the people necessary to take DohJe to the next level.  Working with an equally stubborn soul has shaped our vision, our mission, and our daily practices in a dramatic and positive way.  Instead of accepting compromise, we strived for unanimous approval and wrote pieces that contain the best of our ideas without any dilution.

Writing is Writing.  Composing these descriptions and goals for the Wisdom Award has been like writing a song that fits with a particular message.  Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the passion, but once it’s found, the process is the same.  Writing the song or writing the battle plan or writing an award application is an oscillation between creative and concrete thinking.  And again, compromise does not work here.  The best writing happens when the entire group is on-board and ready to rock.  Good thing Amanda and I were in a band together.

Working Remotely Makes It Work.  Some of you already know the benefits of working from home, of telecommuting, of conference calls across the country and around the world.  But this world is completely new to me.  Prior to DohJe, I had always been physically present to do my job.  Technology has allowed my friend and I to work on a document simultaneously, all while chatting and arguing and posturing.  There was no lag-time between the thought written down and the edits that came after.  Back and forth, back and forth, until the words on the screen suited both of our wills.  Thanks, technology.  We literally could not have done it without you.

So what’s the takeaway here?  Going through a difficult process almost always proves to be a worthwhile activity.  Even if we don’t win this award, the experience has been beneficial, and we now know ourselves and our goals so much the better.  I challenge each startup crew, entrepreneur, idealist, and inventor to go through the process of applying for an award or grant, and see for themselves how much better they become.  It may be subtle, it may be dramatic, but it will be different and it will be better on the other side.

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