Succeeding In The Present As A Workaholic While Investing In The Unknowable Future

Wednesday, December 12, 2018
It was during her graduate studies (Masters of Engineering, Technical Entrepreneurship) that she invented Goblies, which has gone nationwide.

Goblies inventor Briana Gardell at a toy show.


‘I’ve always been a workaholic, like to the extreme. The work part doesn’t bother me,’ explained Briana Gardell, founder of Mezzimatic LLC, which makes a throwable paintball affectionately called a Goblie. ‘I’ll work a 15-hour or 20-hour day without an issue just because I know that I can walk away from my desk at any time and do whatever I want. That’s what I tend to do.’ To get a mini-recovery break, Gardell will watch some YouTube videos or go to the grocery store to get some food or pick up lunch. That 15 or 20-minutes is all she needs to reenergize.


Gardell says she’s always been a workaholic, including her school years. You could say it’s reflected in her grades. Try a 3.96 undergrad GPA and a 4.0 grad GPA, both from Lehigh University, which she attributes more to hard work than being super smart, not that she’s short in the brains category. It was during her graduate studies (Masters of Engineering, Technical Entrepreneurship) that she invented Goblies, which has gone nationwide.


Healthy Habits To Handle More Work

Sacrifices have been across the board, and Gardell readily admits, ‘Other people perceive my quality-of-life as poor.’ As for those sacrifices, she duly noted, ‘I haven’t really bought myself anything in years, like clothes-wise or cars or anything, so that tends to have a little bit of an impact. I don’t really need a lot to be happy.’


As for the work-life design thing, she said, ‘I would appreciate it if I could figure out how to take time to eat right or exercise, just to prepare myself to handle more work and more stress and incorporate that into my life. Especially this year with all of the stuff I have been doing, my self-care routine hasn’t been up where I want to be.’


What is striking is that Gardell would like to eat and exercise right … but only to be able to handle more work and more stress. Yup, she’s a quintessential entrepreneur.


Like A Rock Star Without A Song

Like others we’ve talked to, that desire to be an entrepreneur goes back to when she was much younger. ‘I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was in high school when I wrote my first business plan for a class,’ Gardell explained. ‘I was just really attached to it, and that wasn’t necessarily logical, because for a long time, I felt like saying I wanted to be an entrepreneur was like saying I wanted to be a rock star but I didn’t even have a song.


‘So I was always attached to it and always gravitated toward it, which is why I took entrepreneurship classes in college, and that allowed me to be surrounded with students who already had established businesses. That also fueled my fire greatly, to say, Look these are people my age who are actually doing this. In a lot of ways, in my opinion, in our culture and our society entrepreneurship is so glorified on one side with Shark Tank and you read the success stories, but when you get into an entrepreneurship program and there are entrepreneurs coming in and going out everyday, you get into a bubble and it doesn’t seem so crazy. You know people your age who are starting businesses, and making hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales, so it doesn’t seem so crazy.’


Justification Is The Investment

Jumping into entrepreneurship, Gardell knew she would have her fans and her critics. On the positive side, she had what she called blind support from her mom and step-dad, who are entrepreneurs and get it. ‘I’ve also gotten a full on taste of people asking why are you doing this, this is too risky, you’re sacrificing a potential career. But I justify that by saying people invest after college in becoming doctors and lawyers, and you kind of make investments your whole life to try to get to a career path. If there is going to be a time to do it, it’s going to be now when I’m so young and childless and not married.’


After a momentary pause, Gardell reflected, ‘That all sounds really easy to say, but emotionally it’s not always easy to justify to myself. Even now there’s still challenges justifying the level of risk. I think the funniest thing that I really notice now, the good stuff now is even better but the risks are higher.’ She then added, ‘You kind of become more immune to the outside stress influencers about your decision. I think it also becomes less risky once you realize you have nothing to lose and you’ve exhausted your own life savings, it definitely helps.’


Being Fed Up With Stress Helps Manage It

We did ask Gardell if there are a few particular stressors rattling around despite that ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. ‘It’s more financially since I’ve put everything into it,’ she explained. ‘What if I was blind to something within a contract, the ramifications of that. If I don’t handle a sale correctly. There’s a difference from selling to 30 stores and having a $2 million purchase order, the risks are higher. Honestly, the stress, it’s just as intense in the beginning as it is now. I think now I tend to handle it a little bit better just from being exhausted from dealing with it before.’


While she handles the stress better now, Gardell does think that how to deal with the roiling emotions should be integrated into the classroom. ‘It’s definitely not addressed at all in my opinion,’ she said, ‘to the point where I was thinking there’s got to be something in entrepreneurship classes about how to handle stress. It’s definitely just not addressed. I’ve been able to seek a lot of personal relief by just talking to other entrepreneurs and being in my co-working space.’


Afraid To Make Plans

Circling back to those 15 or 20-minute recovery breaks to watch YouTube videos or grab some food, we wondered if this workaholic had taken any weekends off or even a vacation since launching Goblies. ‘I’ve noticed one thing about the quality of life thing,’ she answered, ‘I’m definitely afraid of making plans over the weekends because I’m not sure what’s going to come up or how much work I have been able to get done, so I’m kind of hesitant to make plans.’ At the same time she acknowledged that post-college you have to make plans with friends ‘because you can’t just walk out your door and there are all your friends.’ She has taken some weekends off, to see her old roommates, for friends’ graduations, and now weddings. But you get the sense they are far and few between over the last two and a half years.


‘Definitely going forward I dream about continuing to take weekends,’ she said. ‘I think weekends are enough for me because it stresses me out too much to think of leaving work for a week and not handling things.’ There you go, the very thought of vacation is stressful. She then reiterated, ‘Weekends are worth the recovery. And also sometimes being able to sleep in, especially like on Saturday or Sunday, to be able to catch up on sleep helps a lot.’


Stay Invested In A Few Close Friends

One weekend with old roommates. Friends getting married. Afraid to make plans. This all brings up how her entrepreneurship endeavor has impacted personal relationships. Relationships have suffered, she acknowledged, but her good friends get it, as does her mom, step-dad, and boyfriend. ‘What I do now isn’t really different than how I acted in high school or college. The people who know me and talk to me, know what I am doing and why I am doing it. They’ve known every tiny little risk that I was taking and every potential success that was coming through, and they saw the ladder that I was climbing, that there was a way up. … So they saw all of the dark clouds and the sun.’


So Gardell’s few close friends have been witness to the hard work and sacrifice, and have stuck by her. For her part, it’s those few close friends she does work to keep relationships with. And that’s something you hear about being important: Invest in your closest friends, keep those relationships healthy and fulfilling. ‘At the end of the day I tend be good at that,’ she said. ‘When I need to be there I’ll be there for important things, for important milestones, especially with, like, I have a lot of friends who are getting married, with the showers, and important things like that, I’ll be there.’


Being OK With Not Knowing The Future

We asked what she and the other entrepreneurs at her shared workspace might banter about around the proverbial water cooler. Her answer involved a blunt reality: ‘Just like you can make mistakes and lose like hundreds of thousands of dollars.’ But they keep it in perspective by talking about how other people get jobs, save money, it seems less risky, but they can lose their job. ‘Life is risky in general,’ she concluded. But for entrepreneurs the risk factors and propensity for risk are very much different. ‘It’s a big jump on outlooks on how to live life, and some people just don’t understand this kind of approach.’


With Gardell clearly having the passion to be a serial entrepreneur, we asked her where she envisions herself in ten years time. Down the road, she could see outsourcing some of her responsibilities but keep the company small and manageable. That might allow her to pursue some ideas percolating in her head. ‘Once you stretch the rubber band, and knowing what paths you have to take,’ she said, ‘it’s so much easier to get something off the ground, especially with the connections I have now.’ Nevertheless, she’s not sure what the future will hold. ‘I’m okay not knowing where I’m going to be in 10 years. I just know that what I’m doing now is definitely investing in where I’m going to be in the next 10 years.’