The Beginning of the End of My Flourishing Career: From Cutaway to 3Ring
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Blue Skies Magazine.
How do you cutaway once you’ve realized everything has pretty much gone to shit and your beloved canopy (or life, for that matter) is one big malfunction? As baby skydivers, we’re trained to look at the cutaway handle, then pull it, look at the reserve handle, then pull it, or some variation of that. The point is, it’s a very robotic thing once you actually do it in real life. However, if you’re cutting away like one of the Baldwin brothers, it’s a bit different. Some people just yank the handle and then don’t really know where the reserve is or what to do with it or how it works. Or in my case, you chop that bitch and the RSL does the rest.
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This is the story of how I actually cut away. Fade to “cutaway” montage from the movie that said “cutaway” one too many times.
We left off at January 2nd, with me sitting on the bench near the swoop pond at Zhills, having just decided that I’m quitting my awesome job in Austin and going after this whole living the dream thing.
Well, let’s rewind for a second, shall we? Flashback to November, a balmy 70 degrees (compared to 30’s in Chicago) and I’m all sitting at my fancy ass computer at my superawesome agency job in Austin. I ordered my rig earlier in the season and it wasn’t ready by the time I left Chicago, so I had it delivered to the office, because I was living in this gigantic swanky ass apartment complex and I didn’t want it to get lost. Obviously. So my rig arrives and I call Doug, the DZO at CSC, and we shoot the shit for a bit, mostly me squealing about how pretty my rig is. I had been working with Doug since the middle of the summer, so once CSC shut down and Doug wasn’t as busy as he usually is in season, the emails started piling up.
So we’re on the phone and I’m giving him shit about how there’s a good chance I’m doing more work for him than I am my clients when he asked me how everything was going since the big move. I ramble on about how I’m working like a crazy person, billing 300 hours in November. For the record, 300 hours = 37.5 8-hour working days. In case you didn’t know this, there aren’t 37.5 8-hour working days in November, or any month on the planet Earth, but that’s what I was billing. I was used to jumping Friday at sunset, all day Saturday and Sunday and leaving the DZ for the city on Monday morning. I had been in Austin for six weeks and hadn’t jumped yet. Unacceptable.
Doug: “So, that’s not exactly what you signed up for, huh?”
Me: “Honestly, I’d rather just work with you full time, and come back in the spring when season starts and take care of all of your marketing and stuff.”
I said that. To Doug. Sitting at my desk at my shiny new job that I had been at for oh, maybe four weeks.
Doug said that was entirely possible.
I hang up with Doug and call the boyfriend. He’s pumped. His wheels are turning. He thinks this could be a really great opportunity for me.
I hang up with him and call my parents. Mom and Dad listen and tell me to call them later when I get home. So I do. They think I’m insane. They say that there’s no way I’m ready for this and that I JUST got to Austin and I have an obligation to them and I should stay and that the skydiving industry isn’t a great place to start out on my own in the marketing world. My parents, who have never told me that I couldn’t do anything, think it’s probably the worst idea I’ve ever come up with in the history of ideas.
That was November. Bring it back to January and my dad has just told me I’d be stupid not to go with this plan.
I come back to my job in Austin only to get sat down for our Monday morning staff meeting and be told that the guy who recruited me (a huge reason I joined the company because he’s wicked smart), is leaving for another agency. This is the biz. People come and go. However, that day, I was going to let my team know that I was planning on departing in March. So my whole grand plan of how I’m going to have this incredibly difficult conversation just went to shit.
I ask the guy who recruited me (dubbed “The Quitter) if he wants to take an afternoon stroll over to Starbucks to chat. I start by asking him about where he’s going, what he’ll be doing there and his motivations for leaving. Then I lay it on him.
Me: “So, um, I’m leaving too.”
The Quitter: Laughing and shaking his head: “You’re… what?”
Me: “I’m quitting and moving back to Illinois to do the whole skydiving thing.”
The Quitter: “You’re kidding, right?”
The Quitter: “Well that is really fucking awesome for you, congrats!”
Unfortunately the decision with the other guy who played a role in my recruitment (dubbed “The Stormy Cloud”) didn’t take it so well. I waited until my friend had worked out his two weeks and then I told my teams that I was outta there. I took another afternoon stroll over to Starbucks with one of the guys who was technically my boss.
Him: “So, let’s chat about why you want to leave.”
The Stormy Cloud: “Well, I am beyond excited to be pursuing an opportunity with CSC, where I learned how to skydive, and I’ll be working with them doing their marketing, PR, social media stuff, etc.”
The Stormy Cloud: “It sounds like more of an obsession than a career move.”
Me: “Well I’m very excited about the opportunity to combine all things social media and marketing with all things skydiving. It’s pretty much my dream job.”
The Stormy Cloud: “Well I think you’re making a huge mistake.”
Everyone else in the office that I had quickly made friends with in my 3-month stint were beyond excited. Like, so floored they couldn’t stand it. People who wanted absolutely nothing to do with jumping out of planes, who hadn’t known me for very long, saw that this was pretty much a dream gig for me. There were many a cocktail had in celebration.
There was one last dude to tell, and that was my actual boss. He wasn’t on any of my teams, we didn’t really work together, but he is totally heads up. We’ll call him “Sunshine” for the sake of talking.
Sunshine: “So, I hear you’re leaving us. So soon!”
Me: “Yeah, I’d be stupid if I didn’t pursue this opportunity.”
Sunshine: “Seriously, Syd, now’s the time. If you screw up, you screw up, but this sounds like something right up your alley.”
Me: ::wave of relief:: “Thank you! I’m excited, obviously a little scared and kinda sad because Austin is pretty much the best city ever, but excited.”
Sunshine: “Now let’s talk about your decision. Make sure that you view this as ‘total opportunity’ – the knowledge you’ll gain, what you’ll put into it, how much you can get out of it, and how this plays into your overall career goals.”
Me: Thinking: holy shit, I’ve known this man for three months, spent maybe eight working hours with him total and he’s helping me see the big picture instead of bashing my decision. This guy is freaking brilliant. I am so lucky to have this dude in my life right now.
So the office knows I’m leaving. Now it’s time to get down to business.
The big picture? I’ll start my own company this year, and while I’m working with CSC, I’ll start to build relationships with people who could be potential clients, I’ll figure out what my product offering will be, and eventually, over the course of the year, start putting out feelers for additional clients. This ends up working out perfectly because in my role with CSC, I’m an independent contractor, so technically, CSC is my first client. Not a bad gig right out of the gate. Thus, my RSL. I chopped that job knowing that I had a backup plan that would deploy pretty much immediately and on its own.
I was thinking of all the different ways I could incorporate skydiving into my company name. I had a bunch of bad ideas for a company name before I decided on 3Ring Media. 3Ring is pretty much perfect. It incorporates the skydiving side, as well as the actual sentiment of how 3Ring is a result of me cutting away from my former life in the agency world, and setting out on this new adventure. A whuffo friend of mine said “oh, like a circus?” and originally I was a bit miffed by it. Then I realized, yes, a little bit like a circus. 3Ring Media is my company. My circus? Love. Skydiving. Life. So, on January 17, 3Ring Media was born with the help of my friends at LegalZoom.com. I got my confirmation email that the company was legit. I didn’t know what it would grow to be yet, but it was official.
So fast forward to present day: 3Ring Media is growing. Every day is a new adventure at CSC and I’m learning a whole boatload about this industry, the people in it, and where I could potentially go with this. I’ve divided the services that 3Ring offers into a “skydiving related” and “everyone else” kind of deal. On the skydiving side, focusing on event/boogie coordination, social media and marketing education (I don’t mind doing the execution but I’m much more inclined to teach you everything you need to know about it to do it successfully, like social media boot camp), and eventually, coaching. I earned coach my rating earlier this season and I’m still working on developing and improving my skills so I can be a total rockstar with students.
All I know is I want to help people, small businesses, DZO’s, whoever – get up to speed on all things social media and marketing. There is too much power in the tools available today to not be taking advantage of it. Oh, and I’d like to earn my AFF rating someday. But I should probably make time for skydiving if I ever want to get there.