“Let’s get together for a drink and catch up. It’s been too long,” said Sterling Williams, CEO of Sterling Software, as we connected by phone. It had been too long, way too long. He was building multi-billion dollar companies. I was in the second year of struggling to build an angel investment business. He was succeeding. I was failing.
Wise, Decisive, Articulate
Before we met, I was thinking, “Maybe he’ll hire me to run companies for him again.” He was my safety net, and he wanted to meet.
I said, “Let’s do it.”
We met at The Tavern in Phipps Plaza Atlanta. With its oak-paneled walls, beautiful hostesses, and waiters in their starched white shirts, it felt just like a board meeting. Rich and overstated. This was a power meeting. “I miss this,” I said to myself.
It was great to see Sterling. He was a man who had it all and was at the top of his game. He is a business leader I hold in high regard. Wise, decisive, and articulate. He always does what makes sense for business, and he does it fast.
“I miss being a part of Sterling Software,” I said. “You created an amazing team which you kept on the razor’s edge of performance, and your stock price reflects it. Congratulations!”
Missing the Fast Lane
“So what’s been happening with you?” he asked.
I told him about the investments I made. The companies I was working with. The challenges I faced in business and in life, including my struggle with alcohol which ended in AA and my new faith in Christ.
He told me about the success of Sterling Software and my former peers. It was all good. It took me back. Yet I was reminded there was something missing in it all for me.
I remembered it was all about the money and recognition for me. I loved it for a while, but over time, it wasn’t enough. There was an emptiness about it.
I Was a Different Man
I knew I would never be happy there. If I ever went back, I would be selling out. I had changed since being a part of Sterling Software. I was a different man.
Most notably, I now served a different Lord with different values and was operating from a different playbook. If I went back, it would be for the money and the security the money would bring with it. That’s it.
We finished catching up. I left The Tavern. As I pushed open the door to the parking lot, it hit me. I really can’t go back. This angel investing business has to work.
When Sustainability Happens
Sustainability only happens when you are all in. In that instant, I was fully committed to the success of my business.
I learned sustainability is how I was going to survive for the rest of my life. From that moment on, my energy, my every thought, my every decision was focused on sustainability.
My New Life Motto
I was now making decisions with sustainability as the filter. No more crazy ideas or theories. This business of angel investing was going to work.
With no backup plan, I was forced to make the right decisions every day. The strategy, the approach, always had sustainability foremost in mind.
I got there by thinking like Sterling Williams. My motto became “Be practical. Act quickly.”
It worked. I burned the ships. It will work for you too!
Also published on Medium.