March 25, 2006

Looking Back on Unpartnering

Lots of partnerships are forming around Web 2.0 initiatives. Left and right, it's one for all and all for one -- or me for me and what about you?  You need only to have read Dave Winer or Rogers Cadenhead over the past several months to know what it looks like when good partnerships -- formal or not -- go bad.

I've been doing a lot of reflecting during these latest tech-biz-separations on my  partnering experience last year, a time I now lovingly refer to as, "Jeneane: The Lost Episodes," because I wish that business arrangement had never seen the light of day.

But it did. Because I did it. For all the wrong reasons.

Against the prickling on the back of my neck, I jumped in. I worked my spleen off for a year. And in the end, it was a year of my life that I wish I could get back, because I put it in the wrong place. Plain and simple--misaligned values, misplaced enthusiasm, mistrust, mismatch, miseverything. I wasted precious time and energy that I wish I could have back at 44ish.

My family suffered greatly during that year--for that I am the saddest and the sorriest.

It would be hard for anyone to explain how a bad business partnership feels, how it hurts when you open your eyes in the morning, and it gnaws at your gut when you're trying to fall asleep at night. It seems like there's no sensible way out because so much of you and yours are tied into the business. And there is no easy way out. In most cases it means letting go and taking a loss, then starting again on your own.

It's something that I think I needed to experience once in order not to walk the same road again.

I'm trying to look at my post-biz-separation success as testimony to having made the right decision--to having walked away at a lucrative time, at a moment when staying would have made smart financial sense, and leaving no financial sense at all. Walking away was scary. But not as scary as losing my voice--the voice I worked so hard to find here over the last five years.

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