Monday, May 2, 2011

Circling the Edge

He leaves the meeting, his stomach turning summersaults, his head aching, his eyes and throat dry as English wit. His day had started out so full of hope and promise, of potential ready to be made manifest. They'd be impressed by his insight and understanding. They'd be inspired by his plan. He'd leave the room with all the funding he needed to make it a reality.

The night before, he'd stopped at Burlington Coat Factory and picked up a three-piece navy-blue, pinstripe suit made of real wool, not polyester. Standing in his best dress shoes on an overturned milk-crate placed in front of the hallway mirror, he'd pinned the upturned pantlegs into place. He'd carefully cut away the excess material, used a warmed cast-iron frying pan to crease the folds, and then hand-stitched each leg. He'd wanted everything to go perfectly.

"Perfectly, what a joke," he tells himself. "Who am I to think that someone would invest in my business plan. They were all right. A man's got to know his place in the world."

Making the elevator lobby, he presses the only available button, down. He swallows slowly, trying to keep his stomach in check, hangs his head and closes his eyes waiting for the "ding", the gong, the hook. At the sound, his stomach involuntarily convulses, threatening to erupt like Mt St Hellens, but he resists it, steps through into the car and repeatedly presses the "L" until the door starts to close.

He leans against the back wall breathing heavily through his nose, trying to calm his body. If he can just make it outside and get some fresh air, he'll be fine. He closes his eyes waiting for the satisfying sound of the doors sealing shut and the ensuing quiet of an empty elevator car.

Thud. A rush of air as the doors bounce back open. A hand followed by an outstretched arm followed by... one of the investors. She steps into the elevator, gives him a smile (or is it a giggle), presses the "L" and then turns to stand next to him.

He fixes his eyes on the floor-numbers stretched above the door as the car begins it's descent, but is distracted by her hand as she reaches to pull the red emergency stop switch.

"That was the worst presentation I've ever experienced."

She must be speaking to him, right?

"But I think you may have a great idea and a solid plan."

Maybe not.

"I assume you've heard of the 'elevator pitch'. Well, I'm gonna give you a chance to make one, for real. When I flip off this stop button, you've got from here to the lobby to tell me what you want to do. What's the problem you're solving? Who has it? What's your solution? How does it help the people with the problem? Why is it better than the alternatives?"

She's definitely talking to him.

"OK, ready or not, you're on."

She disengages the emergency stop and the elevator continues its descent.

Without thinking, he reaches out to stop the elevator.

"You're not just screwing with me, right? This isn't like a venture-capitalist hazing ritual or something?"

"No, I'm not screwing with you. Look, forget about your presentation and everything that's happened today, and just tell me what it is you want to do and why it's a great idea."

She flips the switch.

The car descends.

He closes his eyes. He steadies his breathing. His mind begins projecting his vision, a movie he's seen thousands of times, and as it does, he describes what he's seeing to her, a description that is crystal clear, succinct and inspiring.

Sometimes your best performance, quickly follows your worst, that is unless of course, the worst performance leads you to quit.

Happy Monday,

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