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To Alaska and Back

Entrepreneurial pilgrimage

crossing alaska border

After 9 years of working for the state of West Virginia, I resigned and we drove to Alaska. These 45 days and 16000 miles changed our lives forever.

I love the following quote

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

One year before I resigned and headed north with Rebecca and the kids, my youngest was born.My Rebecca, wrote about our trip in her upcoming book.

“My bare feet are propped up on the dash, my husband is listening to some rabbi who sings rap and the other kids are chomping on grape bubble gum . It is June 27, 2010.

Let me introduce my family, beginning with my husband, Nikos. Born and raised in Greece, he came to the US to attend the University of Arizona, which is where we met. I was eating lunch with my friends up in the student union, and Nikos heard me talking and asked me where my accent was from. I countered “Uh, where’s yours from”? That was it. We were friends initially while I tried numerous times to set him up with what I thought would make fine matches. We’d go out to eat often, debate on every issue, and he had a wonderful gentleness about him. We are still good friends, we never run out of conversation, and bicker usually on a daily basis, at least for a few minutes.

Elizabeth, 11, is my oldest. She talks incessantly, has more enthusiasm for life than fans at a Superbowl game, my dancing butterfly and very busy. She made me a mother and I am in awe of her passion and spirit.

Then there’s my only boy, Nikolas, age 7. He has these huge brown giraffe eyes. Always the explorer, wearing his tall yellow boots from dawn until dusk, and lately he has been immersed in a manic search for amphibians. He can name almost any kind of frog, fungus, and insect. Elizabeth calls him my pet because he adheres to rules and likes to please his Mama.

My third and final, who was our sweet surprise, is Katerina. I cannot write her name without smiling. Back to that late morning in the waiting room, Sue had plunked down across from us and told us there had been a complication. She seemed worn out. When they had taken Katerina off of the bypass machine, her heart had not responded. She had lost over half of her blood and had required two blood transfusions. They added a pacemaker to get her heart going, and she was recovering. Our little Katerina had made it!

She is toddling everywhere now, very curious of her fascinating world and has taught me more about faith, the power of the human spirit and life in general, than I had learned in my thirty-seven years prior. Katerina is a month shy of 18 months and she is our incredible little Spartan warrior.

Katerina was born with two holes in her heart, one of which had taken up 75% of her heart. She fell into heart failure at two weeks of age, and her cardiologist explained that pneumonia or RSV would be devastating for her. She battled both successfully and just kept struggling. She liked her medicine and breastfeeding and all we had to do was get her to surgery at a safe weight. It was a dark time in our lives, eating away at us to know our dear baby girl was suffering. The impending surgery was a distant ominous reality.

Katerina was born in January, and it was unusually cold and snowy that year. I’d just had my c-section and my hemoglobin levels were around a six. We were forced to hike up and down our hill in a foot of snow which seemed to never melt, back and forth to the doctor and the hospital. I remember the times Katerina was hospitalized. I never left her bedside except to eat in the cafeteria with Nikolas and Elizabeth, when I felt Katerina would be okay for thirty minutes. I remember gazing out of the window of our small hospital room, watching the world continue as time stood motionless for Katerina and me. That window was drafty and I froze every night, which made me worry about Katerina’s warmth.

Another time she was hospitalized, we had spring weather; everyone’s mood was sunny and elevated like the temperature. Again, I watched the cars driving by, people taking walks with short sleeves and unpacked shorts, sound absent, left me feeling an even greater sense of isolation. Life continued and I knew mine would never if Katerina did not pull through her illness.

I remember looking down at my tiny and fragile baby girl, her breathing was labored and her luminous eyes seemed to desperately be asking for help, yet I felt helpless in alleviating her discomfort. How was I going to keep her healthy for all of those months until the surgery? I whispered to her that she must be strong and nurse often, and fight through her battles as a warrior. She focused on me intently and I instinctively knew she understood. The connection was profound.

Around four months of age, she stopped gaining and the cardiologist told us she would not live past six months if we waited any longer. Dr. Manning, the dear gifted surgeon saved her life. She wanted to be here in this world and she fought hard for it. Going through this ordeal has helped me to fully grasp what being alive truly means; facing fear and believing with my whole heart that God could guide us through, embracing the uncomfortable, loving whole-heartedly, even inching closer to understanding my place within the universe.

I am deeply sorry for those who have lost loved-ones, especially the most horrific, a child. I know you miss that child every single day of your life, and my heart aches for you. I understand your sorrow. Your child/loved one would want you to breath in life’s air again, laugh and revel in joy and love. Live the life they could no longer have today, because through you, in spirit, they live as well.

So here we are, a road trip from West (by God) Virginia to Alaska and back.”

7 years later, now in Minnesota I can honestly tell you that miracles and serial entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Analysis paralysis can be your worst enemy. 

Your breakthrough does happen overnight typically, but preparation takes time and planning. The right mindset takes months or years in order to replace the cubical blueprint that keeps most people afraid and terrified to go one week without a paycheck.

Choose your mentors wisely. Be aware of what you are bringing on the table and always get a second and third opinion on new business matters.

Nothing comes easy. A bad business plan will not turn into a good plan by pure magic. 

You are only as good as the last race you won!

Best of luck

Nikos

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