The 4 Legged Co-Founder

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Last November a dog adopted me. This is not some cute word play but rather an accurate description how Charlie came into my life. I have told our “founding story” many times so suffice it to say that a dog, abandoned to the streets of New Orleans, rescued me. Charlie is not my first dog.  There was a family dog for a short time when I was very young and for several years early in my career, I shared the companionship of a Beagle named Cassady.

Because of Cassady, what Charlie has taught me over the last 9 months is more remembering than new, but no less valuable. I have worked for myself for over 15 years. During that time I have had numerous ups, downs and way downs. Such is the life of an entrepreneur.  What Charlie has reminded me is that entrepreneurs can really benefit from a four-legged co-founder. Charlie is mine.

While I play many roles for a variety of startups, my primary one for the last 2 years has been acting CEO for a music technology company. Going from coach back to player is something I have periodically done throughout my career. I frequently say that a lot of an advisor’s “been there/done that” value, in the fast moving world of startups, has the shelf life of milk. Occasionally returning to the role of doer is something that I believe has made me more valuable to the startups and investors that I work with. Doing versus coaching also reminds me of the challenges, both personal and professional, facing founders. Stress, depression, feeling alone and an unhealthy lifestyle are all too common among founders. Having a four-legged co-founder has personally helped me to better handle these challenges.

“It does good also to take walks out of doors, that our spirits may be raised and refreshed by the open air and fresh breeze.”

-Seneca

My day typically starts early and can occasionally run very late. There have been times that I have found myself sitting down at the computer with my cup of coffee in the morning only to rise again after lunch. There has been plenty written about how sitting is the new smoking. That makes my chair habits the equivalent of chain-smoking. I do however walk a great deal. Whether it is to meetings around the city or from my home into the co-working space a few days a week. But on those days with no meetings? Not so good. Now, regardless of the day, Charlie will have none of my sedentary ways. With Charlie by my side, my day begins with a walk through the park and I end each night with a long walk through my neighborhood.  Combined with several walks during the day, sometimes at Charlie’s request and sometimes triggered by frustrating conference calls, my step goal is always met.

In addition to being my fitness coach, Charlie also frequently functions has my emotional support animal. She is more than happy to play an endless game of catch while I try to work out some problem in my head by mindlessly throwing a ball. She also has the intuition to lay on my feet or with her head in my lap when she knows I’m struggling. Her empathy is a great mirror for showing me the mood I am in. The list of emotional benefits provided by pets is long and animals have been used to treat individuals with all types of challenges. “Founder” may not be a clinical diagnosis but it is shorthand for a big bundle of challenges from depression to imposter syndrome. There is a good reason the top co-working space here in New Orleans is dog friendly.

Being a founder is a hard but I believe that there is a four-legged hack that can help. Are you a founder with a dog? How has it helped you? Charlie and I would love to hear about it.

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