Why I’m a Narrative Violation

Chris Herd
Jul 10, 2019 · Unlisted

Before founding a startup I was talking to London based VC firms about potential roles, large US Startups about management positions, MBA in the States and a few unicorn founders in the UK about joining their businesses while sitting on the board of a social enterprise managing £80m of housing stock for 3,000+ tenants. I rejected those opportunities in recognition that money and credentials are not the most efficient route towards changing the world. Instead, I wrote a manifesto document on my thesis of where the world is headed and received angel investment from the founder of a British unicorn to forge my own path forward.

I’ve managed multi-million £ construction projects in some of the most challenging environments on earth, negotiating complex supply chain agreements that got bespoke products, furniture, and office materials from China to Ghanian oil Fields, leading teams of 30+ workers remotely. I grew a future focussed blog to 33,000 followers, helped a number of VC backed startups with their growth across the UK, and was asked to write blockchain focussed books. I was the first person in the world to hypothesize about hostile takeovers, M&A activity of blockchain projects, leading to discussions with a number of hedge funds.

The thing is, I have no skills that the normal person doesn’t have. Everything I have done it 100% replicable by anyone.

I’m a narrative-driven person. Every single good thing that’s happened to me has come from a conscious choice to write 750 words every single day over a 2 year period, and to do things that other people talk about doing but never follow through with. I learned to act where others pause and progress when others tread water. Luck has played a huge part, but it would never have found me if I wasn’t putting myself in the position to stumble across it.

I shared what I thought, I sought truth by rigorously dissecting every principal and belief I help — often writing from the antithesis of my beliefs to spot holes in my reasoning. Narrative and stories, married to global accessibility and dissemination are the greatest force multipliers in the history of the world.

I’ve wielded those tools to connect with the most powerful people in the world, that is my superpower.

I come from a family of addicts. My Grandmother died from a multitude of conditions related to smoking, something she could never kick even though she had type 2 diabetes and went through numerous amputations, daily dialysis for the best part of a decade and eventually a lung condition which caused her to pass away. Grandfather died from a combination of pancreatic and liver cancer brought on by alcoholism that persisted throughout his entire adult life, while my auntie has been warned if she touches another drop she’ll follow the same fate.

The hardest choice I’ve ever made is to remain in control. This led me to recede away when I was younger and refuse to fit in. I was cognitively aware of my families genetic disposition towards addiction and obsession at a young age, so I sought to control it. I recognized the demons of this character flaw and hacked them. Every year I give something up I feel I’ve come to depend on too heavily, need or don’t like how it makes me feel. In the last 5 years that has meant no french fries, smartphone, alcohol, potato chips, television for at least a 12 month period. My propensity towards obsession and addiction remains, but they are directed in a way that helps me achieve absolute focus on things I control. I obsess over understanding and growth in the most obscure topics, I’m addicted to improving a tiny amount every single day.

My family lost everything when I was 12, we went from vacations to exotic locations every year to my parents having to clear out my own and my sibling’s bank accounts to keep a roof over our heads. My Dad went from operating the regions most famous fast food eatery to driving a Taxi for 9 years. Our entire narrative changed, and the biggest advantage I’ve ever received was forced down my throat — constraints. Struggle, strife and stress are great gifts because I chose not to be a victim of circumstance. I figured out excel at 7, I utilized those skills to identify the best times to work as a taxi driver to earn the maximize earnings, then we analyzed the demographics of specific areas in the city to identify the best places to position their new fast food restaurant. He now owns 3 shops and is wealthier than he’s ever been.

I thought I was going to be a professional soccer player but got a bad injury before I realized I was never going to be good enough to make it. I was smart enough to focus on academics with the same passion I had for sport but was stupid enough to continue chasing the dream which forced me to stay locally rather than pursuing more prestigious degrees at more renowned universities. I did make it to the lower leagues of Scottish soccer — I’ve bootstrapped my startup while continuing to play as a Semi-pro to pay the bills — but I sacrificed more than I should have which is why this is likely the worst decision I’ve made to date.

I knew I didn’t want to be an architect 6 months into second year, which is mildly inconvenient when your 1/3 of the way through a 6-year degree. Fortunately, I had this profound realization that Architecture’s the best business degree in the world. I know what you’re thinking, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

Every business is just reinterpretation of historical precedent with the integration of modern technology. In the same way Airbnb redefined travel, Uber replaced Taxis, Microsoft improved upon mainframe computers. That’s exactly what architecture is. I knew I was smart enough to coast through the remainder of the degree and rather than study what I was meant to I read every single thing that fascinated me instead.

I developed the 1,000-hour rule: rather than wasting 10,000 hours on 1 topic to be better than 99% of the world, I spent 1,000 hours on 10 things to be better than 95% of the world at 10 things.

This was the smartest decision I ever made, to give myself the freedom to explore a world of opportunity that would have been closed to me had I switched degrees. I saw academic institutions for what they were, a remnant of the past that will perish, and exploited the opportunity.