The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

Back in 2009 my company, Alagad, had what I think of as The Big Layoff.  We went from about 13 employees and contractors down to three people in a matter of a fifteen minute phone call.  This wasn’t the first round of layoffs I’ve had to do, but it was the hardest.  I loved the people who worked with me.  I cared about them and their families and I felt as though I had personally failed them. Frankly, I did.  I’m sure that I could have done more to protect them, their jobs, and their families.  That said, they’ve all gone on to bigger and better things and I’m extremely happy for them.

In the year or so leading up to these layoffs I was constantly assaulted with panic attacks. My chest would seise, I’d get tunnel vision, my mind would shut down everything except worry.  White hot worry. I worried about the people who worked for me and the overwhelming responsibility I had to them.  I worried about paying my bills.  I worried about my family.  Through the support of my family, the remaining employees, and the miracle of modern pharmacology I somehow made it through that period.

Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t completely fry my nerves. I wonder this because I am again tearing Alagad down.  Three weeks ago we were faced with the very real fact that we would likely go out of business.  Both my personal and business accounts were overdrawn and we couldn’t make payroll.  Again.  We had to leave the PEO that provided our health benefits and payroll service.  The walls were coming down.

So I held a call with all four of us, three family members and one employee who may as well be family at this point.  We talked about shutting down and what that would mean.  Throughout this experience I felt calm.  Not happy, but calm, collected.  Worried too, but not like in 2009.  I sincerely felt as though I had done everything I could and that, if we failed, no one could blame me for not trying.

What’s interesting to me is that I don’t feel the same panic I did in 2009.  I don’t feel like a hole is being burrowed in my chest.  I can breath and sleep. I’m not entirely sure why.

I imagine that when death is imminent – when you are terminally ill – that a certain peace and calmness comes from that knowledge.  I imagine that you release your desperate grip on everything that holds you to the physical world. Nothing can harm you now.  There are no more consequences. You transcend fear.

That’s where I am. Nothing can hurt me now. And strangely, because of this, I am free.  I can do anything I want.  I can take tremendous risks without fear.  I am like the terminally ill patient who decides to live each day as if it were their last, because it might be.

Much to my surprise, out of that phone meeting was born an entirely new strategy we’re calling Alagad 2.0.  I’ve detailed it on an all-new website and will spare you the details here.  Suffice it to say it’s not the traditional way of running a software company.

I feel like the terminally ill patent who is given experimental treatment.  It might save their life, but might just kill them even faster.  There’s only one way to find out and I’m comfortable with this.

I can’t lie and say that I’m entirely at peace.  I still worry.  We don’t currently have health insurance and we depend on our prescriptions for our mental well being.  Many have criticized our new approach saying that we don’t understand the business.  But others have suggested it’s might actually be a good idea.

Maybe I’m just delaying the inevitable, but I’m ok with that. The picture that has emerged to me is that there is in fact life after death.  It’s a rebirth of some sort – a renaissance.  A new start. I look forward to it with an open and calm mind.

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