Photo: Sam Teich / Levo

Happy Birthday, Levo

This article was originally published on Levo.com.

How has it been three years?

On November 14, 2011, “The Levo League” was incorporated. Amanda and I had just launched a beta test with thousands of our friends and fellow young professionals, and were just beginning the journey of exploring the question: “What can we create to facilitate this cliff dive that occurs between college graduation and the entry into the Real World? There’s no reason this needs to be so terrifying.”

This has been hands down the most difficult endeavour I have experienced, and a true test of love, passion, and resilience. Of course, life is multi-dimensional. Levo’s birth happened to coincide with a time when my personal life fell apart in ways that alone I thought would break me. One day, it might be worth writing a book to reveal the ups and downs of the sausage-making if only in the spirit of reminding fellow entrepreneurs that yes, it’s supposed to be this hard. There’s no silver bullet, and whatever rhetoric you may have heard around that’s bulls***. Because you feel lonely in it and you feel that you must be doing something wrong unless you speak with other entrepreneurs and realize it’s the name of the game. When you’re experiencing the difficulties and you look around and you see others unicorning on social media and talking about how everything is perfect, you beat yourself up and tell yourself you must be the worst entrepreneur of all time because you’re sitting in a conference room trying to figure out your new product pricing model. Right now I’m still so deeply in it that it’s too soon to take a step back and share the journey, warts and all.

Starting a company is messy and it’s grey. I have, at any given time, 20–30 percent of the information I need and about half the time I want to make a decision. I have zero time to look back on 99 percent of the ones that are in the past, because there’s already a new generation of hairier, bigger ones to address.

I’ve met the best people I have ever met in my life–people who I smile around and learn from and who have made me a better person. People who have inspired me and led me to see things I never would have believed before. People who remind us of the greatness human nature can showcase. I carry a special gratitude in my heart for you, Amanda, and for our partnership in birthing this company, no matter where it goes. I thank my stars every day that I have the opportunity to work with my direct reports on Levo’s executive team (in order of hire: Nicholas, Tiffany, and Shannon), those who support me (hi Alex!), and the rest of our team along with our investors and advisors.

I have also met the worst people I have ever met in my life–people who have had zero ethics (I don’t state this lightly), especially when they thought nobody was watching (I was) and when they thought even if somebody were watching nobody will remember (I will). It’s a mixed bag adventure in a territory with no rules and no barrier to entry. As Gabrielle Bernstein, who I had the pleasure to connect with on Sunday, mentions: no matter the environment, you control the energy you put out there in response. You choose if you want to be the light. That is your sphere of influence. And you get better and better at listening to your intuition about people.

I’ve learned more than I could ever hope to learn in three years, most importantly about myself and what I’m capable of. People say that starting a company feels like the birth of a new entity and comes along with the feelings you would associate with that. There’s a fierce instinct of protection that I have discovered in myself with respect to Levo and our community that I’ve never seen in myself.

I must be a massochist because despite the scars and the open wounds, I have love for it. I go to work every day with a skip in my step. I draw energy from the e-mails that you write requesting new Local Levo cities or sharing stories about how you asked for a raise and got it. You f***ing got the raise. You did it, and that is the virtual dopamine transfer that lifts me to overcome the next thing. I hope that you have experienced moments like these with each other, virtually or in person. That’s the point of a community, and the point of being stronger together.

This is a very personal note and one I’m uncomfortable publishing, and have now hesitated over four times before hitting send. I hope that you find it brutally honest in a helpful way. It’s my first step in sharing what’s behind the curtain as we reflect after three years, and reminding you that you are the best part and you are what we are most grateful for. Every single e-mail, tweet, and post that you share with us about your career is heard. We’re listening, and we’re going to keep running into the storm to bring a better and better solution into the light, faster than you may be slipping down into self-doubt or confusion around what the right path might be for you and how you should optimize getting there in a way that connects you with others on the journey.

I am listening and I am overwhelmingly grateful to you, three times over.

We are listening and we are overwhelmingly grateful to you, three times over.

You are who I will be thinking of today.

You are who we will be thinking of today.

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