[Twelfth installment  – If you are new to this journey, start at the 1st chapter in my 8 months pregnant with 2 broken legs journey as chronicled in my book Say Bump and Take a Left, How I Birthed a Baby and a Business after a Huge Bump in the Road.]

Chapter 6
The Business
Can’t See the Forrest for the Gump

If you are too young to have seen the movie Forrest Gump, go download it on your iPad, Wii, PS3, X-Box or Internet ready TV, and learn a little about life and chocolate.  The whole theme of the movie is summed up in one sentence spoken by Forrest himself in the last 15 minutes of the movie, and describes perfectly my philosophy about my own life.

My life, and maybe yours, is a combination of random chance and destiny.  There is very little I can do to affect either . . . or is there?

If I choose to drive 90 mph down the freeway, weaving in and out of traffic, I am increasing the odds that death is my destiny.  Likewise, what are the chances of my taking too large a step out a neighbor’s front door when I can’t see my feet and have poor balance, and landing with two broken legs?  All of the situations I have outlined in this book happened because of a series of events, during which a change in any one decision could have altered the path of destruction.  As Albus Dumbledore says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” ~ J.K. Rowling. The same holds true in business.  And, each new choice has the potential to broaden your mind to a new experience.  Once broadened, your mind cannot diminish back to its previous blissfully ignorant state.  You are then ready and open to broaden even further, and you start to grow exponentially.  This is what separates the adventurous and, to me, the successful from the simply satisfied.

In this way, I believe that our own choices determine our destiny.

Every time I turn on the television or listen to the 20 something mom’s gossip while I’m waiting to pick up my nine year old, I have confirmation that my choices have kept me in this Robert Frost poetic version of life.  Not only do these unique choices apply to my personal life, but they have helped me create a very unique professional life.

As I mentioned, I went back to Blue Ribbon Personnel after the holidays of 2001, and settled back into my professional staffing role, more commonly and not so fondly referred to as ‘Head Hunting’.  I quickly discovered, however that I had completely lost that hunger and drive to sell people.  If I was going to sell, I now wanted to sell something that could not decide to up and move across the country two months after telling me that San Francisco is the perfect city in which to live, and the job I just presented them is the perfect job.  Really, head hunting is actually selling people.  I would find someone with specific skills and experience, sell them to a company looking for those skills, collect a good fee and then hope like hell the new employee could actually do what they and their previous employers and references said they could do.

Yes, I did check references.

I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I was no longer an employment trafficker.  I was actually overtaken by a new, blinding obsession, that is other than my obsession with my children.

During my pregnancy with Evan in the summer of 1998, I was so overjoyed and shocked that we had finally gotten an embryo to stick that I felt as if I had passed one of the hardest tests of the journey of life – procreation.  I went to my Windows 98 PC and tapped out a report card in Excel that looked like this:

I had seen sports shops in the mall that put designs on shirts for people, and thought, “I wonder if they can put this on a maternity shirt?”  Target had plain white cotton maternity shirts for $10, so I bought a couple and brought them and my report card printout to the mall.

The bored kid behind the counter said, “Sure we can do that, but it will take about half an hour.”
I wore my new shirt out shopping for baby stuff the next weekend, and got stopped so many times by people commenting that I didn’t get any shopping done.  Every time I wore the Report Card shirt, I experienced a repeat of the first.

I remember thinking, “I could pull out duplicates of this shirt from my purse and sell them to passersby.”

Before these thoughts could materialize into anything more concrete, however, I started feeling cramps and was hospitalized for early labor.

For the next three years I was quite preoccupied by my precious little son and several job changes until I was finally able to pull out my maternity wardrobe again when I started showing for my next pregnancy.

Early in this pregnancy at about four months, I had to take a business trip to Kansas City, MO. I had already started wearing some of my maternity clothes because I was at that “Is she or Isn’t she?” stage.

I wore my Report Card shirt on the plane, and a woman stopped by my seat after we boarded and said, “I’m so glad you are on this flight!  My husband and I saw you in the airport and I wanted to ask where you got that shirt, because my daughter is a teacher and she is pregnant.  It would be the perfect gift for her.”

Blinding, bright spot light shining in my eyes with a dawning obsession!

I told the woman that I had it made for me in a local sports shop, and that she could do the same.  She said that that was too bad and that she was hoping there was somewhere she could go to buy it.

The light as well as the obsession got so bright that I couldn’t sit still!

I pulled out my purse, searched for my planner, and started feverishly jotting down ideas for more shirts.  Here are a few results of that four hour in flight solo brainstorming session:

That night when I called my husband and son to say good night, I mentioned the woman in the airport, but didn’t say anything about my new designs or the obsession that had taken hold of me so strongly that I was a little frightened.

Then I lost my job.

Then I got a new job.

Then I broke my legs.

Then I had a baby.

~Mary Kathryn Johnson
Author ~ Entrepreneur ~ Mom