My Employer Terminated Me Two Weeks Ago So I Am Building My Own Office In My Backyard

And They Are Not Invited
by Jon Colgan
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I heard someone say the other day: "researchers found that the more you swear, the more honest you tend to be." No source cited, of course. But it sounds effing reasonable.

(And because I want you to believe everything I say, I will try to squeeze in a few F-bombs).

Now, before I continue, let me pause briefly to tell you how I effing got here.

• I started this and grew it over three years before I made one strategic error too many and had to effing close it down.

• Having been an entrepreneur for almost two decades (that includes the landscaping business I started when I was 12 and loaded my parents' push-mower into my mom's minivan and "ubered" to one of two gas stations whose ~acre of knee-high grass got the business from my dull blade every two weeks for what amounted to $10/hour, before deducting effing expenses), I was torn between diving back in to my next venture right away and going on a sabbatical to work for someone else for a change.

• I was conflicted by these two choices, and then I read this and decided to take a job with an older, wiser, more established startup who could offer me some semblance of stability for awhile--I do not really know what stability feels like; that is the effing downside of being an oft-romanticized "serial entrepreneur."


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• I learned a lot at this job: it is nice to be able to learn from someone else's mistakes when you are not burdened with managerial responsibilities. One really important thing I learned about myself, for example, is how to better recognize my effing blind spots--by recognizing when my employer's management seemed to not recognize theirs--and this might not have been a lesson I could have learned had I not gone on sabbatical from perennially being in charge.

• Then my employer encountered one of those pesky strategic errors with which I have had my own experiences (see bullet point number one), and they had to reduce head count to keep the effing ship afloat.

So here I am, sitting in my backyard as I type this.

To test out the space, I am currently writing this article from atop my deck, having drug out my desk and chair and strung up a mock roof with a tarp and strings tied to surrounding trees. So far: pretty effing sweet.

I built this 24' x 12' deck on the front of my workshop last year. So my plan is to use about 2/3 of it for the footprint of my office. I took some rough measurements and roped off an outline of where the office walls might fall. Then I placed my desk and chairs inside the ropes and got to work for the day. Given my startup background, consider this my MVP. There are no walls, only a suggestion thereof. And remember, the roof is currently a ratty tarp clumsily strung between nearby trees--just needed that to block the effing sun from my computer screen.

I even drug out my favorite rocking chair, which my dog likes to lay on. So my dog has actually joined me most of the day in my pretend-office, with only the occasional errand out to chew and roll on dead moles that were probably alive yesterday before he effing "disrupted" their "tunnel market."

The design for my backyard office.

I found a few images of designs that would probably work for me and finally settled on something like this:

The guy who designed this office sells kits for like $6,000. But I prefer to build from effing scratch, because I am addicted to creating things--sort of one of my life's themes; I have a problem. Anyway, I figure I can build something similar to this for under $1,000, using some materials I already have (bought those at Home Depot for 70% off because they were "ugly") and only buying a few new things.

Is this a want or a need?

Now, do I need this office in my backyard? No. In fact, I do not even need my backyard. But having a backyard and my own office in it is a life upgrade relative to the two hours of commuting I had been doing for much of the last year. It means I will get to spend more time with my family (who frequents my backyard) and more time being productive; and having that dedicated productivity space better prepares me for come what may and...perhaps most importantly...leaves me with fewer effing excuses for not being disciplined about how I spend my time--which is my chief focus this year: getting better at self-discipline.

While my backyard office will not pay for itself, having it will better equip me to pay for it, and other things in need of paying-for.

Optimizing your office is not trivial. This is why debates over open-office concepts versus individual offices actually do matter. An office is part of the necessary infrastructure required to work. And just like the full-metal-jacket soldier who knows his weapon intimately enough to dismantle and reassemble it blindfolded, and thus to wield it effectively in battle, an optimized office provides comparable security. And security is the only effing thing that creates calmness under fire.

Where am I going to go work tomorrow? Next month? Next year?

Uncertainty can be exhausting. I might not be able to foretell the what. But at least I can eliminate the where.


Like what you just read?

Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that figuring out how to succeed as an entrepreneur is far less linear than most of the blogs and books make it seem. In fact, most entrepreneurs will tell you that their path was patently non-linear, which is the single biggest waster of time and precious startup resources, and the result for many entrepreneurs unfortunately is a forced, early jersey-retirement in favor of going back to work for someone else.

If you liked this article, then you might like Teaching Startup: The Show, on which four entrepreneurs share their startup stories whilst somehow managing to barely talk about startups.

(I am the homeless-looking one with the blonde afro).

Our hypothesis with The Show is that the root cause of the entrepreneur's typical non-linear path is that finding in-depth conversations to join, with seasoned entrepreneurs, is about as hard raising venture capital (which means it hard enough to be statistically improbable). We did not like that, so we started a weekly show and started telling our stories. Tune in if you like.

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