Entry 5

Entry 5

Entry 5
A weeklong electronic journal.
Nov. 22 2002 12:47 PM

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

8:45 a.m. Dropped off Gordon and Joe at school. Remembered that I need to buy my mother a birthday present. My parents have been great through this. I've always suspected many "risk-taking entrepreneurs" were not taking quite as many risks as they might imply. I've lost some money on this venture, but I've always known that my extended family would prevent anything truly disastrous from happening to me, Amy, and the kids. Having a safety net makes it much easier to do acrobatics.

Advertisement

9:30 a.m. Met this morning with Temple of Understanding, a group founded by Eleanor Roosevelt. We're helping them with a grant proposal geared toward setting up a large number of interfaith dialogues online. Trying to set up conversations that attract not only interfaith dialogue regulars, but also people who have concerns or confusions about other faiths.

10:30 a.m. The office is starting to look more normal. Because we used to have so many more employees, we ended up with many surplus chairs and computers. It looked like you'd walked into the scene of a horrifying furniture massacre. Everywhere you turned were upside-down computers, mouses with forever-tangled wires, and of course the Hideous Orange Chairs—with arms missing, springs broken, and gruesome stains. But a couple of weeks ago, we started selling the furniture. Most of the rooms look normal now. There's one final, haunted room, full of the last remnants of the earlier era.

12:30 p.m. Lunch with a book publisher interested in doing Beliefnet-branded books. I can't say how much more I'm enjoying doing this than I did fending off bankruptcy sharks.

2:30 p.m. Preparations for tomorrow's un-bankruptcy party proceeding apace. Elizabeth has requested nominations for "Lowest Moment of Bankruptcy" and "Best Fantasy of Beliefnet, November 2004." The karaoke idea thankfully didn't win out.

Advertisement

3:30 p.m. Woaaa! Our president, Sujay Jhaveri, says we'll probably be profitable for November and December. This means that September was not an aberration. We're here to stay!

4:30 p.m. I need to work on my toast. Perhaps I should toast Judge Bernstein, who presided over our case. We were very proud of the fact that he was the Chief Judge, as if that made us a cooler bankruptcy. He's a very smart, intimidating guy who looks like Michael Milken without the toupee. Sitting in the courtroom with all our fellow deadbeats, looking at his stern face, made us feel humbled but also in good hands.

I could toast our extremely skillful bankruptcy lawyers, Yann Geron and Robert Nosek, or John Mcilwraith of Blue Chip Venture Company, the VC who stuck with us. And, of course, the whole staff. But I've already given so many emotional frog-in-my-throat toasts about what an inspiring group of people they are, I'm not sure they really want to hear another one.

Maybe I could walk through our collection of "Dewey Defeats Truman" comments from people predicting our demise. Fortune magazine actually reported that we'd shut down. But that may seem too bitter or ungrateful. I guess it depends how much we've had to drink.

I certainly don't feel bitter. I don't really feel ecstatic either. I just feel happy and satisfied. Part of it, I have to admit, is that I feel more in control. Though I was co-founder of Beliefnet and the editor, I became CEO only a few months ago. I like being in charge. I get use of the company plane, a daily massage, and a Beliefnet-owned house in the Hamptons. (OK, OK, just kidding.) Seriously, I now have no one to blame but myself if we don't succeed, which is daunting but wonderfully clarifying.

Besides having a happy, healthy family—which I've got—I can't think of a greater blessing than having a job in which you really like your co-workers and feel like you're doing something useful. People often ask me how working at Beliefnet has affected my own spiritual life. I play that pretty close to the vest. Since we're so intent on being a safe, neutral ground, I don't want the site to be associated with my religious practice, though I have written about how my interfaith marriage has convinced me that being exposed to other faiths can heighten your appreciation of your own. At a time when most people are focused on the damage done by religion, I feel lucky that we get to witness on our site the countless ways that faith brings hope to people.

5:15 p.m. The last of the orange chairs are going away! Toni Demarco, the director of finance, sent around an e-mail announcing that a liquidator is going to give them to a battered-women's shelter, so they found a good home. A bittersweet moment. I think maybe I'll keep one, as a souvenir and a reminder—this time, make it work.

Steven Waldman is the editor in chief and CEO of Beliefnet, the leading multifaith religion and spirituality Web site. Before founding Beliefnet, he was an editor or writer for Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and the Washington Monthly.