Owning a Tuxedo is how I eventually bought an Oyster Farm.
Cora, my wife and I are often asked how we bought an oyster farm. Her glib answer is “he and our partner drank too much wine”. I tend to smile and agree. But, in the last three years since with bought the farm with our partners, I have come to realize that most people are asking a completely unrelated question to the actual mechanics of buying an oyster farm.
They aren’t asking about the intricacies of the Asset Purchase Agreement, the valuation process, or any of the normal M&A activities that comprise a deal like this.
What I think they are really asking is “how did you make such a significant change in your life happen?”
Cora and I spent the vast majority of our professional careers in advertising. She on the client side and me on the agency side. It was a wonderful life. We built careers and then a company. Cora has always said she married me because she knew she’d never be bored. It’s a rather interesting reason to marry someone…but it’s worked so far.
Early in our marriage we decided that it was a great habit to get into of never turning down an invitation to something without a really good reason. Early on, we were invited, at the last minute to attend a Black Tie event because a friend had two extra tickets. It was then that I ran out and bought my first dinner jacket (tuxedo). Over the next three decades (yes, it lasted for that long) I wore it to a great many events we were invited to at the last second.
It taught us a lesson: we had to both be ready to accept a change in plans and we needed to be prepared for it. This is the first critical aspect of being ready to make a big change in your life:
Be Prepared and Ready for change.
Changing dinner plans at the last second generally is not a big deal. When you have kids it becomes a bigger deal because there is greater complexity. Thus, we always had a list of sitters we could call…generally one was free. Many times we had to reach deep into the list and a few times had to be creative. When we decided to start our first company, as a side gig, the investment was small. But it was in an industry that we were passionate about: sailing. We didn’t risk much, just some savings. We didn’t give up our jobs. But the risk was there and the change was significant.
As we got more experienced, we got more comfortable with the risks of change. By 2008, we were ready to risk significantly to start, build and grow our ad agency.
The second lesson in building the life you want is this:
Start Small and Build Confidence in yourself.
When we started our advertising agency we went into an industry we already knew a lot about. We both had a solid reputation. We knew the players and knew how to move within it. The big change was that instead of collecting a paycheck we were signing personal guarantees that would have taken everything we had ever earned or could ever earn (I’m dead serious…it freaked us out!). It was a big risk. We both had to take deep, long breaths. We discussed the risks at length. But we were comfortable with big change and we had built confidence in our ability to make smart decisions.
When we sold the agency we took the risk of moving to a tiny town of 1,100 people in which we knew 0 people. We liked the idea of moving to the country, owning a house on the water, and getting out of LA. We could afford to take the risk. We were comfortable in the change and the risk.
Within two years of being up there we had begun to learn about oysters. We were doing some ecommerce for a local oyster farmer that produced a fantastic smoked oyster in cans that we helped sell on Amazon. We became voracious readers about oysters and the bay upon which we now lived.
It is much easier to learn today. We are no longer limited by libraries. What we don’t have online we can order. Information is richer and more readily accessible than at any time in human history. Use it.
By the time our partners came together with us to buy a farm we knew this was what we wanted and had a basic understanding of the operation of a farm.
We also knew that we were passionate about it. The more we wanted to learn the more we became excited at the prospect. Often times interest flags. Doing the homework allows you the time to process the impending change. We have walked away from a lot of projects because we ran out of interest as we researched and read. And that’s third lesson we have gained in enacting the change you want:
Read, Learn, Research and give yourself time to ensure this is what you are passionate about.
Passion is critical. You should never change your life unless the change you want is something you are so passionate about it keeps you up at night. It drives you. It is almost all consuming. If you aren’t; then the change will be a mistake.
Change takes time, energy and passion. Make sure you start small and build momentum.
Don’t forget to buy a tuxedo. If you do, then you too might own an oyster farm.
If nothing else you’ll look better than all the people in rented ones…and you’ll save money in the long run.