No Way Out

“What’s ‘Blup-Gen?'”

I’m guessing you’ve never had that question asked of you.

I, however, hear it about once a week and always from a complete stranger.

“Blup-Gen” (accent on the Blup) is the way most humans choose to pronounce the vanity license plate on my car: BLUPGN.

They see the plate. They try and figure out what it means (only one person in 10 years has ever done so correctly). They finally give up and ask.

The answer, if you haven’t already guessed (or fallen asleep) is that BLUPGN is my attempt to spell out the name of my company – Blue Penguin – using the measly six-letter allotment granted to drivers in the Blue Penguin PlateCommonwealth of Massachusetts.

I admit that it’s kind of frustrating. Just a couple of more vowels would clear things up, putting an abrupt and permanent end to my ongoing relationship with the “What’s Blup-Gen?” people.

So why bother?

Is it because I’m trying to impress other drivers with my vehicular flashiness? I don’t think so; there’s a limit to how cool one can be while piloting a Ford Focus.

No my friend, I got the special plates back in early 2001 for one very simple reason: I wanted to paint myself into a corner.

Here’s what happened…

At the time, I’d been working as a solo professional for less than a year, having left my well-paid, comfy day job in search of “something better.”

I don’t like to brag, but in just eight months, things were going along … I think the word is … crapily. So much so that I was starting to wonder if I’d have to go back and get a job.

One day, I had a better idea: I’d eliminate Plan B.

Instead of “keeping my options open,” as my careful brain suggested, I’d deliberately close them all. I’d make it harder – not easier – to climb back into my former self.

Back to my car.

Driving around with license plates that nobody can decipher is odd. But driving around with license plates that reference a failed company is embarrassing.

The thought of having to pull into my driveway every night advertising a mistake helped keep me focused.

I looked for other “Eliminate Plan B” opportunities. I signed a one year lease on office space. I hired an attorney to incorporate my company. I had a blue penguin tattooed on my left bicep.

Okay, I made that last bit up; I don’t have a tattoo (I barely have a left bicep).

But you get the picture. I jumped, all in and with both feet. I stopped worrying about “What will I do if…?” and stopped thinking about my back-up plan. Instead, I got busy working on my new business.

Here’s the bottom line. As a solo professional, you’ll never do great things with one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator.

Ignore the well-meaning friends and family who advise you to hedge your bets. Scrap Plan B and just jump.

 

27 thoughts on “No Way Out

  1. Don Sadler

    To borrow a well-worn phrase from that sports apparel juggernaut Nike: Just Do It. I’m 2 and a half years into my solo professional career. After a layoff, I did exactly what Michael suggests: Closed all doors to plan B (a J-O-B) and plunged 110% into my solo career. It’s amazing the doors that open when you commit yourself wholeheartedly to making your solo business succeed!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz

      That’s a great story Don. Amazing how often I hear people describe getting laid off as “the best thing that ever happened to me!”

      I did my best to get laid off at the end of my last job but couldn’t seem to get in the way of the axe. Finally had to just leave!

      Reply
  2. Phil Ayres

    Made me laugh out loud (the office cat thinks I’m crazy). I have my own kind of BLUP-GEN it seems. I took on a few clients under a subscription payment model that has no easy way out (oh the joy of software). My only easy plan B is to service them evenings and weekends, which sounds like a pretty bad alternative. So it is time to make this thing work! Thanks for the constant reminder that this solo thing is never easy…

    Reply
  3. Aimée Yawnick

    Napoleon Hill refers to this as ‘burning the ships’. When you have nothing to fall back your mental commitment changes and your burning desire leads the way.

    Thanks,

    Aimee

    P.S. Loved your bicep joke it made me laugh out loud, thanks!

    Reply
  4. Manny King

    BRAVO! If I make it to Sept. 5, I’ll be 88 so you might say I’ve been there and back…several times. The only way I’ve been able to go any place is to keep both feet moving in the right direction…..straight ahead. Been a “fan” of yours for quiet some time and like what you do and say. Especially enjoy the BLU PEN. Thanks for all your help.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz

      88! Very impressive. Send me your mailing address Manny (michael@bluepenguindevelopment.com) and I’ll send you a super-cool birthday card when the big day comes around in September! Thanks for reading.

      Michael

      Reply
  5. Ray Ruecker

    Great article! I burned the ships and deleted every recruiter and job site website in my email and never looked back. I’ve owned a small company since August 2006 and don’t regret it. Cisco just laid of 7000 people to hit their quarterly numbers. And you thought working for a large company was “safe”. Puhleeze!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz

      Good for you Ray and I know what you mean. “Safe” is knowing what you’re good at, who wants it, and how to market it and realizing that you don’t need a company to take care of you! Congrats on your 5 year anniversary!

      Reply
  6. Laura E. Kelly

    Very funny and motivating article, Michael. My solo biz hasn’t really taken off yet and I realize now it’s because I haven’t jumped in with both feet. I will create a real plan and go for it starting Monday (looking for realistic momentum in September). Changing my LinkedIn profile descriptor last month was my first BLUPGN moment.

    And anyway, for those secretly thinking, “Well, I can always go back to a job,” the NY Times just ran a front-page story about how people who’ve been out of the corporate workforce more than 6 months might as well have “Don’t hire me” tattooed on their foreheads. http://nyti.ms/mOsqAz A sobering and motivating message to solopreneurs to recommit to their path.

    Reply
  7. Mark Robilliard

    G’day from Downunder and yet another great posting Michael – thanks. Similarly to Aimee Yawnick and Ray Ruecker, we decided to “burn the ships” last year and what a difference it has made. I stopped doing other work “on the side” and focussed on the main game – getting a decent return on our investment in our business. Some of my friends around the world are still in ‘corporate world’ and it’s definitely not getting any better in there.

    One of the things I found hardest (still do) was the feeling of isolation in working from the home office. Whilst I have every technological assistance and communication tool at hand, I found I was missing peer-to-peer connection outside of my immediate business. I stumbled across the network2network connection (website: http://www.n2nhub.com/) which I have found to be invaluable.

    Anyway Michael, we love your work and recommend you to all our new Sales Partners. I’m not sure I’m going to get COLACC (Color Accounting) as my number plates any time soon though!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz

      Great story Mark. Glad to hear it even works in the Southern Hemisphere.

      And I agree on the potential for isolation. I have it as a goal to have at least one coffee/lunch per week with a colleague. It’s been a good business-building tactic and it gives me that social jolt as well (plus it forces me to shave occassionally).

      (I’m now waiting for your COLACC photo too!)

      Reply
  8. Jane Sherwin

    Hi Michael here I am again, love the whole thread of comments as well as the BLUPGN argument. As I said, freedom may be the only thing that keeps you from going under.

    Jane

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz

      And welcome back again, Jane! I agree about freedom. I forget sometimes how great it is to just do whatever you want every day. Even on the bad days, at least it feels like you have control. Hard to put a price on that!

      Reply
  9. Katherine Andes

    Great story, Michael. What a brave guy you are! What’s kept me going was a desire not kill my dogs. I kept thinking, what can I do to cut living expenses? Getting rid of my two large dogs came to mind. Next thought: “Nope. Can’t kill my dogs … gotta make more money.” And I have!

    Reply
  10. Roger Magalhaes

    Boy…we have a LOT in comom…I’ve started my company as a part-time job and quit my full time job one year later (on the Labor Day weekend). It has grown from $25k in sales in the first year to $300k four years later. I think it went that way because when I was slow, I started to think of ways to improve it and generate more revenue, went to networking meetings and such, instead of thinking of going back to my former job (Cumberland Farms).

    Michael; you were right on the point…AGAIN!

    Best,

    Roger Magalhaes

    Certified Window Treatment Installer

    Owner & Managing Director

    Shades IN Place, Inc. – Franklin MA

    Reply
  11. Alan

    Hi Michael!

    A colleague/friend recommended your site, and I just pulled out the pocket notebook with “Blue Penguin Development –> subscribe to e-newsletter (recc. by Kim Reddington) (Michael _____?)” scribbled on it.

    Loved the No Way Out post. I feel the same way. Sent your URL to a friend who needs to read this post.

    Psyched to check out your site.

    Have a great day.

    ~Alan Seid

    Reply
  12. Joan Lyons

    Dear Michael,
    I don’t wrte a newsletter and I’m not a blogger. However, I love reading your e-newsletter for all the ideas I get to enhance my communication skills in recruiting volunteers for church ministries through bulletin releases and after Mass announcements. Your use of personal stories, sense of humor, and getting to the point in a timely manner is remarkable. Thanks for sharing your gifts and talents. I not only learn as I read, I’m enetertained as well. Bless you, Joan

    Reply

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