Friday, May 13, 2005

Entrepreneurial Activism, Part 1

My dad was a born entrepreneur, still is, and has zero faith in big corporations that have no soul. As a young man, he got a job with Standard Oil in the accounting department. An older coworker, after having served decades with the company, retired soon after my dad started. His token of thanks for years of service and sacrifice: a watch.

"Like hell if I'm gonna bust my butt day in and day out for a stinkin' watch", my dad said to himself and struck out on his own.

I've always been independent like my dad, but never had a clear vision of starting out on my own. He's a numbers person, I'm an idea person, and I'm chronically allergic to details. So I followed in my mom's footsteps and entered a helping profession, which I toiled at for 15 years.

I was a teacher. Not just any teacher, a Spanish bilingual teacher until they outlawed that then I was just an ESL teacher.

I loved it for a while then lost belief in the system. I saw how politicians felt the need to dictate classroom practices, how less teaching and more testing were destroying the intellects of so many, and felt helpless against the growing apathy in the student body.

From first grade to high school with some college lecturing and teacher training thrown in, I gave it my all. But when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant and told that I had to move classrooms from a ground floor room to a third floor building with no elevator, I knew that it was time to skidoo. How 'bout just a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t?

Taking away that safety net left me with something I'd always had. Ideas.

Big ideas, small ideas, ideas for you, ideas for me, ideas for the neighbor down the street. After all, I could coax poetry from kids on the edge. I could tap into the creative genius of youngsters who society was preparing to write off. I got teachers to refresh their curriculums and dare to challenge their students in culturally, intellectually, and socially affirming approaches.

So now, with that career behind me, I still had my ideas. But who's gonna pay the bills? My husband has his job, but I got used to a certain amount coming in each month and needed to find a solution.

It took me a bit of soul searching and education to connect that creative spark with the ability to make money. Having worked as a teacher for so long, I never had to ask anyone for money. There was no cash register at the back of the classroom, I just collected my check at the end of each month.

Some of my teacher friends were shocked and disappointed to see me leave the profession. They still have the understanding that I used to subscribe to, namely that if you're not feeling the pain of the world then you must not be making a difference. Like, how dare you go out on your own and create happiness when so many are suffering?

Exploring my own codependent behaviors helped me to make the choices I had to make to feel good about leaving teaching and OK with starting a business. I spent my first year of coaching just going around and around with this issue.

I still see myself as an agent of change and perhaps I can make even a greater impact with the work I do now. For starters, I am much happier in this work. I don't have to yell at anyone, write detentions, make out report cards, call parents, etc. That was the part of teaching I HATED. I hated having to be a cop and hated the system for putting 40 kids who were all in dire need of extra help into one classroom, expecting me to turn their lives around and bring them up to grade level by January.

So here I am now, seeing that I can put a LOT of good into the world with Comadre Coaching. People visit my website for creative ideas, to seek help for their businesses, to launch their careers or jumpstart a flailing one.

I thought I didn't know anything about business, but it turns out that I spent 15 years in sales, marketing, and R&D with my classroom teaching. How do you make homework appealing?
Put a snazzy spin on it.
How do you get kids to read a book?
Promote it in a way that reaches their needs, their experiences.

And now it's becoming more and more apparent that the entrepreneur is the partner to those who work to better the world. In a recent converation I had with publishing expert Marcela Landres, we both agreed that entrepreneurial people are the activists of today. We are creating our own solutions, empowering others through our work, and raising the level of consciousness and caring in the business community.

I am just hitting the surface on this topic, with more musings to come.

Quick American Idol blurb:

Now that it's down to the top 3, I'm losing interest. But I must say that Bo is a great example of a person with a strong mission. At his original audition, he said he wanted to infuse more rock and blues into the mainstream music and that's exactly what he's doing. When was the last time you heard some puro pinche blues on Top 40 radio? I hope that doesn't mean we'll get rocker boy bands, Backstreet boys with leather wristbands, but change is always fun!

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