Saturday, November 24, 2007

Starting as we mean to go on

We had our second ever “Julep Immersion” program last week – and we now have more than doubled our team. It’s very exciting to have such talented, warm, and amazingly professional vernisseurs and parlor hostesses join us.

Pulling together the Immersion program and accompanying materials, I had to pause and reflect on how much my theory of nurturing a corporate new-born shares with my beliefs in nurturing a human new-born.

In both, the first few weeks are purely about survival. Sleep is a luxury, not a right. Showering is optional, coming as it does, at the expense of aforementioned precious sleep.

When you emerge from this period (hopefully mostly in tact), then you begin the audacious task of creating your identity, who you are, in this new role.

One useful piece of advice that I got from an otherwise insufferable book called “The Baby Whisperer” is that one should “start as you mean to go on”. Meaning, if you want your baby to be able to fall asleep on her own, you should start out that way – putting her down in her crib to fall asleep.

Having watched countless friends and colleagues struggle to put their five year olds to bed without having to lie next to them motionless in the dark for hours each night, this seemed wise to me.

With our first child, we started as we meant to go on. That is, he was always put down on his own for his naps and at night. No matter how far the relative had traveled to see this baby, rocking him to sleep was absolutely out of the question. Because that’s not how we meant to go on.

Then I had my second, and last child. Suddenly, the world was different. This was the last time I would hold a baby of mine. This was the last time I could comfort a newborn. “Start how you mean to go on” went out the window for “enjoy this as much as you can because it’s never gonna happen again.”

In my Julep world, I am torn between these two philosophies. A good friend of mine advises me to think about the sustainability of all of my practices. “If you can’t write personal hand-written cards to every employee going forward, then should you start out that way?” she questions. “Someday, someone is going to say, ‘She used to write hand-written cards, but now she doesn’t anymore.’” It’s not starting as I’ll be able to go on.

This view of the world reminds me of Harry explaining to Sally that he preferred not to pick up his girlfriends from the airport, because inevitably, he was going to stop doing that at some point, and then he’d have to endure the “You never pick me up at the airport like you used to” conversation. He was a man intent on starting as he meant to go on!

But I believe in trying to be as supportive as possible in the given moment. I want to go to the airport today, and I want to be able to do it for as long as humanly possible. Maybe someday, I won’t be able to, but Sally is one smart cookie (as are the people who work at Julep). Surely, by then, if there’s a good reason for not being able to make it every time, she/they will understand?

The brave souls who joined the first Julep parlor in our first year are going through so much – I feel like we, as a group, should be able to enjoy the upside of being a small, close team because we’re living through some of the challenges of not having a tested infrastructure.

I guess what I’m realizing is that our first parlor is both the first and the last for me – it’s the first, exciting time we’ve brought Julep to life, but it’s also the bittersweet, last time I’ll be able to be there so fully on the ground, helping and seeing every new development each day.

So I’m walking the line – trying to build systems today that will make future parlors easier, while enjoying the uniqueness of what’s happening at this particular parlor today. Trying to start as I mean to go on, wherever possible, but also treasuring what is happening now, as much I can.