A Double Life

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I have a secret to share: I’ve been leading a double life. For many readers of this blog, I’m Christopher Laney, writer. But there’s another side to me: Chris Laney, businessperson. I’ve always used “Christopher” on magazine bylines, mainly because there is a heavy metal rocker named Chris Laney who claimed that domain name well before I ever thought about acquiring it. To carve out my own space on the web, I had to use my full name.

It’s taken a long time to realize that those seemingly separate sides—writer and businessperson—are one and the same, and, in fact, in harmony. Years ago, I wanted to distance myself from the business persona, mainly because I had mundane images of it. When a business partner and I sold our company to another firm, I told myself I’d stick around for several years and draw a nice paycheck helping that organization integrate the old company while I transitioned my life to one of a writer.

I made great strides over those years, penning articles for increasingly better magazines, teaching a successful writing class, and even starting the novel I’d always threatened to write. When the time came that I felt I could no longer add anything to the parent company who bought us, I said goodbye, taking off a year to accomplish two goals: 1) to finish the novel, and 2) to lay the foundation for a new company that my future business partners and I could grow into a business that ran well with talented, trustworthy individuals we brought into the fold. Still, I felt I had to keep the two sides separate, mainly because I had mistakenly believed that being a writer and a business owner, were mutually exclusive. At least, that was the case until a past conversation flashed in my head and I discovered an epiphany within it.

It’s strange how we sometimes hear words on a surface level, but don’t understand their full meaning until later. When my friend, Kevin Swain, told me what I’m about to share, I focused on the wrong part. Not until later did it click that he’d conveyed something profound, something that stitched up a jagged tear inside me, uniting and healing two sides of myself that were trying to pull apart from each other. 

Kevin and I worked together at the parent company who’d bought my firm. Sometime near the end of my last months there, we drove together to a meeting. Kevin is also a pilot so we shared common interests. On the drive Kevin revealed that his father was the CEO of a large aviation company. Obviously, Kevin had my interest right there. But what he relayed next took a year or so to take root and grow. Kevin said, “Early on, I asked my dad, ‘What exactly do you do at your company?’” His dad, the CEO, said, “I’m a storyteller, son. I go out and share our story to get people excited about it.” Then Kevin went on to tell me interesting aspects of his dad’s company and the conversation veered to other topics from there.

Somehow, I missed the importance of the wonderful gem my friend handed me. I took it without giving a second glance and shoved it in my pocket where it lay hidden for a long time. But once my novel was finished and my partners and I launched our business, the gem later emerged, polished and shiny from the jostling in my pocket. Kevin’s words gave me the freedom within my business to be who I was: a storyteller. It aligned two sides of myself that had once been diametrically opposed in my mind.

Thank you, Kevin.

Having “permission” to bring my writing and storytelling abilities into our business has made a difference in its success. And I enjoy myself with it much more now. I could spend time giving you details on the business, but these writers have already done it so I’ll share their words here, and here.

As for the novel, I’m still pursuing publication through traditional means—agent/publishing house—and everyday moves me a step closer. I continue to improve and refine it so when the right circumstances align, the manuscript, and I, will be ready.

Something tells me I’m not the only one who has lived a double life. How many out there think “who I truly am,” and “what I do for a living,” are not in harmony. But time has shown me that once we bring into our professions, those things that make us great human beings, only then can we truly soar.

And Kevin is not the only person I have to thank for influencing who I am today. There are multitudes of others. Feel free to stop reading now if you wish, because the following is mostly for my benefit, to acknowledge the many wonderful people who’ve made differences in my life, both tremendous and subtle:

Thanks to my wife, Susan, who has shown how perseverance and hard work pays off when cultivating one’s talents. And for her unending support and belief in me. And my mom, Jane, who as a single parent, created a family life far more functional and stable than numerous two-parent homes I’ve heard about in later years through the recollections of friends and acquaintances.

My brother, Walter, whom I admire and envy for his supremely good-natured disposition, has always been ready to help me with anything, no questions asked. Congrats to him and Lindsay on their impending arrival in May. Thanks to my stepfather, Frank, who entered our lives with an equally good-natured disposition on life.

As for my two business partners, Shaun and David—two other brothers from different mothers whom I trust immensely, I’m fortunate to be part of your team. Thanks to Erika, Luke, and Kevin L., for their faith in joining us on this adventure, as well as for their friendship. Thanks also to Jenna, Laurie, Vikram, Cara, Bob, and many others who represent us well every day.

For Randy—my best friend growing up—and Tom—my best friend in college—I appreciate the many memories and how you both enhanced my life in multiple ways. Both these individuals are witty, clever guys who should be writing instead of me.

Thanks to Dena for her support and inspiration, as well as making me see writing and all its potential with a capital “W.” For Steve C., Ed, Laine, Rudy, Tom B., Tom H., Emily, and Betsy, your writing support has meant so much to me.

Chip, thanks for including me in your dream and journey in the development of The Creative Center and for giving me a safe haven to write when it was still the best kept secret in town.

A shout out to my flying buddies: Ged, who has shown me you can do anything you focus your mind on, and Scott, who always makes me laugh. And to their beautiful wives Kate and Tiffany. And to Clif, another flying buddy. Keep the great stories coming, Clif.

John, thank you for your friendship and excellent writing advice over beer—apologies to your lovely wife, Katie, for when I kept you out so late on several occasions. Thanks, Skip, for your mentorship on life and business over wine. And then there is Craig who covers everything else over martinis.

To my dad, Tyson, who is as much a “seeker” as I am—but doesn’t really talk about it—thanks for instilling in me the power of belief. Peter, you were the first to open my eyes to the power of being yourself. Steve W., your class was the first to help me realize the power of writing. And Jeff, your power is the ability to make sure I never take myself too seriously.

Thanks to Rich for being such a great role model, and to Bob, my oyster-eating buddy, and his lovely wife, Susan, I appreciate your generosity in opening your beautiful cabin to me more than you know. I’m convinced your mountain hideaway intersects a universal nexus where great ideas continuously flow, much like the hidden waterfall that gurgles nearby it.

To my sons, TJ, John, and Cort, all of you are becoming fine young men in spite of me just now getting an inkling of what it means to be a good parent.

And to all of you who read and support this blog, Thank You! I hope you get as much out of it as I do.