Ch 4.2 - Startup Parenting and Lockdown Startups

Greetings after a couple months hiatus! It’s more and more difficult to “find” the time to write and reflect on what seems so far gone. Yet flashbacks do still hit me, and there is still a story to be told. I’ve decided to stress less about my prose and shove more media in front of your eyes.

(Just want to reiterate, we’re not too public with our family photos… we appreciate you keeping them off your social media.)

My last installment reviewed my base beliefs on money, intention, careers, and all that. In this chapter I’ll dive into how that all contributed to what our lockdown life was like with a newborn baby.

Lockdown Startups and Startup Parenting (Apr/May-ish 2020)

So superfast refresh of the last e-mail: I spent a decade traveling “broke” and fearing money, not desiring to possess it. But these last few years, I’d started seeing myself on the other side of the personal finance mentality. As someone who uses money to move forward, not depends on its presence for my well-being (though what can I say, I’m still a Westerner hey).

All this time, I’d failed to put two-and-two together about what work equates to in reality once you want it: stability and, if not careful, comfort. I’d shunned putting myself towards “making money” because it felt like the end itself, not a means to an end. Lately though, I was finally desiring an outcome that could only be achieved with money. I was beginning to see what, when mixed with work and “business,” money can be about when you’ve got a purpose (fatherhood) and a deadline (also fatherhood). And thanks to my years traveling with a camera, I now also had a mission.

So perhaps it comes as no surprise that right about when the baby was due to be born, I had an idea that combined all my previous experiences, my years of travel, my hobbies, and what I considered my passions.

Work and Politics

I put together a few documents and a landing page to start conceptualizing my vision for others. I could achieve my goals if I had the money to inject into it, I thought. But I’d need money to make money. Challenging my comfort zone, I uncomfortably approached someone close to me and asked for a convertible loan to invest in my mission—or as I saw it, the business expression of my purpose. After the bohemia, the social entrepreneur, the yogi and wandering bard, I was compressing the space and time of my reality. In lieu of magic, as my life was becoming more rooted in material necessities, suddenly there was only space for building something real. That’s the space I was in, leading into the birth of Aquiles. Communicating visions to express my inner beliefs that transform desire into reality.

Meanwhile, Lau is a lot more straightforward in affairs of money, like a flowchart: Do you want stability and comfort working for yourself? Yes. What are your talents? Studying and sharing. What are your passions? Yoga. Easy, start a yoga teaching business. So in 2018 or so, Lau and a friend started a yoga school for teacher trainers. They studied resources from around the world and created a curriculum for the Spanish-speaking world—one of the first, if not the first. She taught instructors in the yin yoga practice—she did, at least, until she became pregnant by yours truly and began to move her life off to another continent.

But as fortune would have it, a pandemic struck the planet and her business partner had no choice but to bring the course onto everyone’s favorite online video conferencing software. Guess who suddenly had a job again? The course wouldn’t start for another couple months (July) but there was still plenty to do refining the course material and curriculum, not to mention record video lesson presentations for their students. That was her space in the early days of Aquiles. They reviewed content, made videos, posted on social, and prepared for the course.

My tasks were a little less clear. My objective consisted of putting together a new company and using the investment money to build a basic platform, an “MVP (Minimum Viable Project)” or “proof-of-concept” that would eventually lead to, when everything else boils away, a job and consistent paycheck doing the things I love. I wanted to find a business partner that could help onboard some new clients for video work. In the era of the smartphone, anyone can capture their own story and put it out into the world. But how can you communicate that to the world that during a lockdown anyone can capture their own video to tell their own stories? My mission of the years before was amplified by government-mandated societal shutdowns: decentralize societal narratives by empowering individuals to tell their own stories.

(I think it’ll become clear in this piece, if it hasn’t already, that the style of government practiced in Argentina did not sit well with me. If I had still been in the States, I would imagine it would have been no different—though to be clear, coming back to California after nine months of lockdown in south America made me very grateful to be a citizen of the USA. In any case, I believe in people making their own informed decisions and being given the space to make those decisions; which is not something I saw often practiced during 2020. Businesses suffered due to governments believing that they’re decisions were the best for everyone, and government influence suffered when clickbait media overblew this pandemic situation to previously-unvisited heights. But the Argentine government continued to double down when it was also quite clear that those decisions weren’t working, and the upper classes such as the president himself were caught in illegal maskless social gatherings. I’m not sure why ego has to be such a presence in modern politics, but apparently it’s all the rage. More on Argentine lockdown politics in another chapter.)

We started building an app and a web platform to go along with it. (You probably received an email earlier this year when it was officially launched. The whole thing has gone through an overhaul since then, and hopefully soon it’ll be time for a new launch announcement.) I had daily calls with developers, freelancers for hire, and even potential clients. I wanted this to be a business, sustainable and independent. I found several clients doing media production work that could pay the bills—and eventually be the first users of the platform I was having built, I thought to myself. In those early days, I didn’t realize how easily those clients could overtake my bandwidth for accomplishing anything in the computer realm, but I would soon learn.

I also started weekly video calls for entrepreneurs and small business owners needing to suddenly learn how to make video content for the internet. Their businesses had done fine pre-2020, but the lockdowns suddenly gave them reason to learn to get with the times. I also hosted a livestream where I would explain how to sort through video footage and edit. All the content and activities were summed up on a community front page, where anyone could sign up and be a part of it.

It’s unfortunate that the whole concept was designed for society 10 or 15 years ago. These days, there is very little online peer-to-peer community outside of corporate walled gardens (Facebook), ego-driven gamification (likes) or profits (in this sense, crypto). I knew I’d take the project into cryptocurrency eventually, but first I wanted to have something for people to use.

This was my background “job” throughout our entire nine months in Argentina.

Workspaces

Lau likes to camp out when she prepares to work. She has a bigger bladder than me, so when she prepares her workspace she sets down a pitcher of water with a glass, and a mate with a thermos alongside her laptop. She doesn’t need to get up every 15 minutes like me to use the toilet.

Me, I use simply a water bottle with my mate and thermos. I prop up my computer on a laptop stand, and next to it set an extra travel monitor on whatever I can find. I connect an ergonomic Bluetooth keyboard a trackball mouse, and I have to sit on a ball. The ball we found right before the lockdown started, at a fitness shop in town. I had yet to discover the Amazon of south America, Mercadolibre)

Suffice to say, the newborn could sleep through a train roaring through the house, so it was no problem putting the sleeping Aquiles down in between our workspaces throughout the afternoon. (If you thought I was a hippy concerned with radioactive frequencies from electronic devices, now you know better.) Oh, how we would soon miss those days of easy naps.

But sometimes I had calls and livestreams, so Lau would go upstairs to the desk. We got creative with his napspace, there.

Routine(s, ) Manifestations

Yes, Aquiles took lots of naps. And so did a healing Lau:

I mentioned my re-discovered taste for nice tasting foods in an earlier installment. As the moments passed in those early days, there was little I could do to support Lau and the baby aside from making sure everyone was well-fed. I found myself making a lot of gluten-free pizza.

You’ll also notice the vision board beneath our plates… when we realized this whole lockdown shamthing probably wasn’t going to be finished in two weeks, we had asked our AirBnb host to stay an extra month. (We also asked for a discount, as the peso had risen against the dollar, and we’d been paying in dollars. Which, she accepted.) But what could we do after that final month? Even if the embassies opened in June (which we both hoped for but secretly doubted), it would still take time to process visas, passports, etc. So, after a weird process together where you’re not quite sure what the world will be like in the allotted timeframe, Lau and I decided to mentally prepare ourselves to be here until at least October. We would re-evaluate then, but for now it would allow us the mental peace required to get comfortable with a child and as much routine as we could muster.

Timeline decided, the next process came fast, the one required to find our next home. I think this one best sums up Lau’s and my differences, or perhaps simply the classic difference between masculine/feminine, the classic She Said, He Said: she insisted we had to keep on the lookout, constantly searching for a suitable place to live so we could comfortably pack it away in the back of our minds. He, however, stood by his philosophy picked up as a traveller: it’ll be fine. Don’t neglect it, but it’ll figure itself out in its own time, when it’s time, and we’ll save ourselves the stress of concerning ourselves too much now.

Neither of us really had our way with our personal idea on how to settle this, but a balance was struck. Naturally, our methods did have a means of interacting in much more empowering ways than stress and anxiety on the matter.

So what did we find ourselves doing? We made a vision board, of course. We drew out the dream house to live in in the near future, one with a pool and a garden with fruit trees, a room for an office, space for yoga, a social kitchen and patio jam space, a safe neighborhood for the baby, etc. We didn’t skip anything we valued, though we tried to keep the features (like total square feet, size of the pool, number of fruit trees, etc.) humble.

From there, I was able to let it go, knowing that our subconscious would take care of the rest. Lau though, ever the pragmatist, would casually browse AirBnb’s local feed while baby napped and Jordan was working or exercising.

Our two techniques together worked. One morning, after not having checked the app for a few days, Lau opened it up to find the perfect home, at the perfect price, at the very top of the local feed. We ended up living there the rest of the year and making good friends with the owners. It was next to the freeway though, which is something we never specified in the vision-ing of our board.

More on all that later, though. Point of the story, is I think we make a good team. Which is how we felt when we journeyed outside in the early days of masks. This was the very first day it was required to go into shops with them:

As government restrictions raged on, and we dreamt of our home, and this beautiful baby boy started to perceive the reality surrounding him guided by these two compañeros, we continued to dedicate hours per day to our work projects. Lau less than I, of course, but I had never imagined such a hard-working post-partum human female… she got more done around the house and with her business than I suspect most women would care to bother with. She continues to impress me even today, as she is pregnant again and still kicking ass.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next time as we talk about lockdown family time and sneaking through side streets to get to Sunday luncheons.

Jordan