Screw Oedipus and Make your own Prophecy: Starting a Company Against All Odds.


Why don’t we go and break the rules already?

Twice a month my mind wanders to that scary amusement park attraction where all of the floors are uneven, the lights are dark, puke and popcorn coat the limited air molecules, and every wall is lined with reality warping mirrors, transforming something like a simple cardigan into a horrible nightmare.  In my version of this room, the floor is sticky with sour honey and all around me the warped mirrors display everything that could possibly go wrong with my company. I see myself all alone in the middle of the room, big eyes crying in fear and shock; my face frozen in a permanent silent scream.

I have only ever seen this place in a quick flash in my mind because I immediately crush it with blasts of gold sunshine. I narrow my eyes and my brain explodes with the positive images I see every day: the rolling mountain tundra of Ardahan, where baby horses learn to run; the amber valleys where bees lift their wings to the sky, tumbling over the cliff edges into sun, warmth, and swirls of pollen.  I imagine people walking the route and watching eagles play in the marshes, and sheep climb into the yaylas of Savsat. In my mind, I stretch open my arms and I roar (in perfectly comprehensible Turkish dialects that are understood by every Turkish, Kurdish, Azeri, Armenian, and Georgian village that I work in).

There is so much of my story I cannot tell. But here’s a glimpse. When I started this adventure one year ago, I had the chance to see a few living examples of what my future might look like if I pursued this. They didn’t look good. There are many people who have tried to do something incredible here before, and they have failed (and note, they all spoke perfect Turkish; they had years more of experience than I do, and thousands of dollars more support). I have studied closely the reasons why they have not succeeded, the stairway to their demise, and every night I both pray that I will not follow in suit, while also accepting my weaknesses and my inevitable mistakes. I think Oedipus’ greatest error was that when he saw his future hamartia, he worked his whole life to resist it and then ended up fulfilling the nightmare prophecy. Instead of worrying about what I don’t want to be, I have made the conscious decision to focus on what I know I am fully capable of; what makes me the best person to do exactly this; what are the obstacles that I know I can overcome, and what will be the things I know I just can’t tackle alone. Having seen what I have seen, and knowing what I know, although it has been the hardest thing I have ever done, I have embraced the insanity required to do something like this and I am diving in headfirst.

Here’s my ultimate conclusion: to really succeed in something that feels like it’s rule-breaking out-of-the-ordinary, where you have to fight to ignore the whispers of doubt swirling behind your back whenever you leave a room, where you seem to have all sorts of odds counting against you – 

well, you have to be nuts.

And you have to be ready to go all in with everything you have. Because if there is a part of you that permits doubt, prophecies, and weakness to

win over your thoughts, you will end up in that dark room in the amusement park surrounded only by the mirrored walls of your fears.

About Cat

Catherine de Medici Jaffee is a National Geographic Young Explorer, a Fulbright Scholar, a Luce Fellow, the Founder of Balyolu: the Honey Road, and a lunatic about honey culture in the Caucasus. Raised on a farm in the Colorado Rockies, Cat grew up loving animals, dirt, and altitude. Her dedication and passion for animals, agriculture, and women leaders has launched her across the world as a Luce and Fulbright scholar: to raise Aigamo ducks in Japan, to research yak trade caravans in Sikkim, and to study rural women’s migration in Turkey. In particular, Turkey - with its fish hung like laundry from windows, its 9,000 species of flowers, and its delicious honey - continues to lure Cat back to its borders. Cat’s love for Turkey, the mountains, agriculture, and women’s leadership blend together sweetly in her new venture Balyolu and her blog Inspired Beeing. You can most frequently find her jumping on a mountain, running from angry bees, cooking in villages, hitching on dirt roads, or joking with Turkcell about her internet woes. Cat is joined by her partner in crime Claire Bangser, artist, photographer, writer, and globe wanderer who believes in creative storytelling as a way to powerfully connect people across mental and physical borders. From working with small-scale women farmers in Mali, to documenting peoples' lives along a 2,000 mile bike tour in the US, she finds that every person (and bee) has an important story to tell and much wisdom to share (speaking of Wisdom, Claire just published her first book, Ride Somewhere Far. Check it out on our Link Roll). These days, you're most likely to find Claire upside down, yodeling from a mountaintop, making tragic mistakes in Turkish, or eating meat for Cat.

Posted on May 1, 2012, in Business and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Years ago I heard someone ask a race car driver how to keep from hitting the orange cones. He said, “Don’t stare at them.” Good advice, thanks for the reminder.

  2. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The overall
    look of your site is excellent, let alone the content!

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