“Well, I want to learn how to become a better entrepreneur,” I told him, sitting on the plush couch in his office. My mind wandered over and found momentary stillness in the soothing sound of the trickling water from a Zen fountain near his chair. My eyes couldn’t help but fixate on his record of career success, depicted in glossy magazine articles and prominently displayed on the wall. He smiled and looked at me with curious, supportive eyes. He then leaned back in his chair and said: “Tell me more about your parents.”
I didn’t come to NYC looking for a coach, or a therapist or a fix. I came here because I needed a change, a new place to find myself, to push my limits and to connect with people who would challenge me. I told people the real reason I came here was because I wanted to play the big game. I wanted to be “successful.”
I had experienced the thrill of entrepreneurship in Columbus, Ohio where I had attended school and had (and still do today) a very strong belief in my ability to at least generate opportunities for myself. So I wanted to do it in a bigger way in NYC, as I imagine a lot of people dream of doing. But deep down I was lost, very lost. My mom had just died after a battle with breast cancer, and despite recurring bouts of tremendous grief, I had somehow managed to convince myself that I was more or less “over it.” I wasn’t. I’m sure everyone but me could tell just how lost I was, especially a guy like Jerry Colonna.
I connected with Jerry in early 2007. When I first moved to NYC, I was an overly eager networker. I attended just about any event I could find that was related to tech, entrepreneurship, web, even web 2.0, which now sounds so archaic. Bouncing from one event to the next, I found myself at a NextNY Panel on Angel Investing where Jerry was one of the panelists. I’m not exactly sure what about him stuck out for me, although I do remember him mentioning he was doing less investing and more teaching, mentoring and coaching. I felt a compelling sense of urgency to speak with him. Unfortunately, after the event was over, he was mobbed by people, and I didn’t get a chance to connect with him.
Upon returning home I did a google blog search for “coach board member Jerry Colonna.” I found a business owner who had written about his experience of having Jerry both as a board member and as a coach. I emailed him, he forwarded my email to Jerry, and Jerry got in touch with me. We set up a meeting.
When I was learning to ride a bike, I remember being so angry with my mom. “Why can’t you just tell me how to balance,” I would shout at her. I was convinced there was some trick she was simply was not sharing with me. I can only imagine how hard it was for her to watch me fall, repeatedly, and try as she might, be unable to tell me what to do. As I learned, and we all know, balance isn’t a trick you learn by watching or listening. It’s a skill you acquire by feeling.
I had to fall. Get back up. Fall. Get back up. Lather, rinse, repeat (except, a lot dirtier) until I felt it for myself.
That’s how my coaching experience has been with Jerry. He never told me what to do. He was just there, alongside me on that bicycle of life, supporting me while I was pedaling hard . He also made sure I was OK after a fall. He shared his stories of falling and his stories of success. He gave me permission to cry. And sometimes, he cried with me. He never told me how to balance in life, but he told me how I could get up after a particularly big fall. He also taught me how to make amends with the falls, how to connect and find support in others and how to open myself up to the full richness of life.
As I sit here today, over six years later, I can without a doubt say that meeting Jerry was one of the most important moments of my life. Thanks to Jerry’s coaching, support, guidance teaching AND my work I can claim to be a better man. More importantly, I now have the tools and perspective for continual improvement. I’ve found more balance and meaning in my life. I’m more energized and less burnt out: I have a loving, open, supportive relationship and partnership with my wife. I can find more joy and beauty in the ordinary moments. I can find richness and beauty in the falls, the pain. I still miss my mom, but at least now I’m aware of the pain instead of hiding from it. And perhaps most importantly, I have the desire and ability to extend that help to others.
About two years ago, Jerry connected me with Kevin Friedman. It was a casual, agenda-free meeting where Jerry floated the idea of exploring ways in which he could help more people. Since my first meeting with him in 2007, his coaching business had grown quickly and the client requests exceeded his capacity. He found it challenging to keep up with the increasing demand. Cojourneo evolved from that conversation and was ultimately born a few months later.
Fast-forward to last month. A friend asked me, “So what is the big picture for Cojourneo?” and, for the first time, I felt like I had a really clear answer: “If I can help just a few people experience the growth and richness I find now in my life due to my work with Jerry, then it will be an enormous success.” I want to support the 24-year-old lost Dan.
That’s what we’re aiming to do.
And by the way, somewhere along the way, Jerry managed to make me a better entrepreneur, too.
-Dan Putt, Cojourneo