I stay up way too late at night running numbers for my new company. It’s incredible—me doing spreadsheets of financial projections—because I have dyscalculia, which means I was in special ed math and cannot do simple arithmetic, even now. But if you ask me how many people will take three or more seminars over the next four years, I can tell you the math I did to make that projection. Five-year projections come easily to me.
It’s just that I stay up all night doing it.
So when Matthew wakes me up to deal with pigs, the first thing I think is no. Not that I say no. He almost never asks for help with the animals, because I have no idea how to farm and we live next door to his parents, who have both been farming their whole lives, so of course when there is something important to do he asks them and not me.
1. Your partner’s probably not the best choice, but sometimes they’re the only choice.
He’s desperate if he’s asking me, so I get up. He says meet me in the pig lot. I am not even sure what that means, or if that’s what he calls it, because honestly there are pigs in every fenced-in place on the farm and he has a special name for each one and I can’t remember any of them. Big lot. Top lot. Back lot. Pasture. Forest.
On the way out I stop to look at my email. I can’t do this unless I know Matthew’s not watching. He’s super efficient in crisis and can’t believe how long I take to focus on a problem. He would not be happy if I am checking my email before pig fanfare but I need to know: How did Roger’s meeting go with the investor?
But there is no email from Roger, so I call and while the phone rings I put on gross pants for doing pig chores.
Roger reports, “First of all, the guy I met with could be a GQ model.”
“Oh,” I say, “If only I were in the market for a husband.”
“Forget it,” says Roger. “He’s married and his wife is Accessories Editor for Harper’s Bazaar. So you were never in the running.”
“Accessories Editor? Really?”
“Well. I told him I knew the ex-accessories editor from the 60’s, and she killed herself.”
“So you didn’t get any money, right?”
We have to sort the pigs that are going to market. Matthew has an idea about which are getting slaughtered today, and we have to lure them into the truck without luring the fifty others that are in that lot. Or fifty thousand. I don’t know how many there are. It’s hard to estimate pigs when they are all running around crazy which is what they do when anyone enters the pen.
2. Give each other a chance to help because helping each other feels good.
I have to distract myself so that I don’t think about how I’m ankle deep in pig shit. I start thinking about five-year staffing projections and a pig knocks me over. They weigh five times as much as I do. Or three times. Like I said, I can’t do basic math.
Then I think about the company name. I am not big on names so I told everyone else to think of one. They thought of Versta.com which used to cost $1000 so I used it in the deck and then investors all over NYC googled it to see what was there and nothing was there because I didn’t buy it yet, but the domain industry is so advanced that all the searches from NYC triggered some alert or something and overnight the price went to $50K.
So we have no name. And we have gone through so many names that the last time I pitched I noticed the deck had four different names on four different slides.
Matthew loves thinking of names. And he says he’ll think of a name, just not now. Now he is paying attention to pigs and trying to be patient with me even though my attention span is low. He says, “Move to the left” and then remembers I don’t remember my left and right so he says, “Toward the wall, move to the wall.” Then a pig gets past me because I’m not at the wall and it’s the wrong pig and we start over.
And over and over.
I’m sure he’s wishing his parents were here.
I am wishing I was good at names. I told him earlier that he can’t think of company names because they are hard. You need the name to be available to buy but you can’t just buy any name because you have to be able to rank first for that name when someone searches for it. So, something like realestate.ly may be available but if someone types in real estate, of course they’ll never find my domain. Plus it has to sound like lifelong learning because that’s what my company is about.
He comes up with businesslore, adventurelore, learninglore. I don’t know. So many lores. I said lore is a negative. It’s a word for story that brings negative connotations. I tell him not to help me. I tell him he’s good at naming Internet companies like I’m good at sorting pigs.
Then I discover lore.com is an online learning company. I don’t tell him that, though. Because it’s a dumb name for an online learning company.
And anyway, I’m getting better with pigs because I just sorted one while I was thinking about names.
3. Ask directly for what you need, even if it’s unreasonable.
Matthew is getting testy, so I have to pay better attention.
“Are you paying attention?” he asks. “I need you to pay attention.”
“I forgot my gloves,” I tell him. “I fell in the pig poop and I think my hands are getting stained or something. I will concentrate better with gloves.”
He guards the door to the truck while I start to get gloves. Then he realizes I’ll stop and check my email or something so he says, “Stay here and guard the door. I’ll get your gloves.”
Things are tense between us because I borrowed all the cash that he uses to run the farm. I didn’t want to take money from investors because they aren’t giving me a good enough deal. So I spent my own money to start building the company. Well, I told the investors that so I could keep negotiating and then I spent Matthew’s money. He calls it “working capital” but it’s supposed to be working for the farm, not his wife’s Internet venture.
So I try to be extra nice to him since I’m scaring him with glimpses of financial ruin.
I tell him nevermind about the gloves. I know he won’t find them because I didn’t put them back in the right place. Farmers always put stuff back in the same place so they can find it again. Probably this is true of money, too. Probably this is why people told him not to let me into his life.
“She is bad news,” is what everyone said, and surely they never even needed to imagine how I’d use his money to fund my Internet company before knowing I’d be bad for him.
4. Remember why you’re a good match.
Someone sent me a study that shows how a good indicator that a woman will be a high earner is if she marries a guy who is not a high earner. If Matthew made a ton of profit each year from the farm, I’d be living off of it instead of borrowing it to make more money.
We get the second and third pig onto the truck. I brace myself against the wall and let a pig slam against me without letting him pass. Matthew pats me on the back. “You did a good job. Thanks.”
He collects eggs, I make breakfast. We chat for ten minutes while the kids eat cornflakes.
5. Take time to do something that is not the business.
When I was younger and thought I knew everything and everyone was stupid and I wasn’t, I was hiring a sales guy who said he had to check with his wife before he decided about the job.
I thought he was a loser. Can’t he decide about the job on his own? But now I see that you partner with someone to be a team. You make decisions together to make a good life together, and if you each love each other you take risks together to help each person get what they need.
I need to fund site development. Matthew needs to get pigs to market. And we both need me to pay back the loan before he needs to buy feeder calves in the fall.