Views From A College Dropout’s Unconventional Life — Year 2
If you asked me where I would be right now a year ago, my prediction wouldn’t even come close.
I had the opportunity to apprentice under radio show host and business coach, Margaret Jackson. On top of business skills, the biggest lesson she taught me was about legacy.
What legacy do I want to leave behind in the world?
Margaret told me to highlight my top 3 items on my bucket list. I wrote crazy goals like
- Eliminate homelessness in the United States
- Innovate the education system
- Solve poverty around the world
Margaret looked at the rest of my (extensive) bucket list and started laughing to herself.
“Tam, you know there are people in organizations devoting their lives to ONE of these goals. How the hell in the world are you going to accomplish everything?”
Maintaining focus was the next crucial lesson. Mozart was known for music. Michael Jordan was known for basketball. How can I focus?
I threw away my bucket list and wrote a single goal:
Impact millions of lives with my message and through my actions.
Vague, I know. But it was much better.
I felt I had a story to share and wanted to spread this message to other young people. I did something I never thought I would try: motivational speaking.
I always thought motivational speakers were full of crap who just wanted you to buy their book, but storytelling is such a powerful thing.
I spoke at events like Independence High School, AIESEC, and Rotary International.
I even had a College Rejection speech go semi viral.
The best part was when people came up to you afterward and told you that your speech was legit.
While this path sounded pretty nice, San Jose City tested my ego when they invited me to speak at their Youth Conference. I said yes for the fame, not for the benefit of helping others, and turned the opportunity down two days later.
Summer came around and I went to work at Camp BizSmart, arguably the best youth entrepreneurship program in the world, held at Stanford University.
For three months, I revisited my love for teaching. Working 1 on 1 with teens and helping them turn their ideas into reality.
“You’re pretty cool for a grown up.”
— One random student
I reflected and asked myself, how else can I help more young people and teach them something useful?
That was when I launched my podcast, Outside Of The Classroom. I had the honor to interview amazing guests like Charlie Hoehn, Thomas Frank, and Ryan Porter.
The podcast was on the front page of iTunes for a short while and gathers a few thousand listens a month. Nothing amazing, but one is greater than zero.
How can I impact more people? What makes me happy? That was when the idea hit me: a book.
I hated reading and writing throughout high school so a book was never even one of my dreams. Who knew?
During this emotional high, I still felt like I wasn’t thinking big enough. Sure, I have a few thousand people reading my work, but how can I make an impact like Uber or Airbnb? Why am I thinking so small?
This thought (and my friend Jj Tang) inspired me to enroll in Draper University, a 7-week entrepreneurship program. But it’s nicknamed to be a “human accelerator.”
I wrote about my honest review of the program and lessons learned, but the most relevant takeaway was that there is no rush to start a startup.
It’s difficult, complicated, and will eat up your life.
And if I didn’t have a problem that I was so passionate about solving, why create a business?
Also during this time, I worked on the Community Team for the Lean Startup Conference. Everything was a huge success.
We even got to eat dinner at Eric Ries’ house!
These two experiences helped me realize my love for people and community. When I asked Sam Parr, founder of The Hustle, what rocketship company should I join next…
I didn’t know if he was serious, but I attended Hustle Con (their flagship conference) last year and loved everything they were doing. Their media company was already reaching hundreds of thousands of people. My role would involve writing, marketing, and building community… that sounds fucking perfect.
I started my job the following week and I am currently sleeping on Sam’s couch in SF.
We’re doing a trial period and if we both like each other, then there will definitely be a future. If it’s not a perfect fit, no sweat. On to the next venture!
The “What could have gone better”
My current friendships were greatly weakened after dropping out of college. As expected.
My life became so spontaneous, constantly experimenting with whatever sparked my curiosity. My friends didn’t know where I was most days and to be honest, I wouldn’t know either.
The good (and bad) part of life exploration is that you become so open to anything. I never had any idea on what’s coming.
Who knew Lean Startup Company would offer me a role? Who knew I would write a book? Who knew I would now be sleeping on the couch working for a new startup?
With my constant travels, I spent time with friends who were closest around me. Whether that would be my awesome co-workers, housemates, and even my classmates.
If this was the unconventional lifestyle that I wanted to pursue, I would have to make sacrifices and that is perfectly okay.
If I do end up living in San Francisco, I know that this was my chance to start (kind of) fresh. (If you’re in SF, hit up your boy Tam Pham)
They still don’t “get it.” No matter how much I try to explain what I’m doing, they think I’m wasting my time.
And it’s difficult to explain what I’m doing because even I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m exploring careers, passions, and life. Creating stuff. Trying new stuff.
Failing at new stuff.
I’m actually doing stuff! But my parents think this will go to waste without college and while I disagree, I totally understand their viewpoint.
I got some street cred become a “bestselling author” (which isn’t hard to do) and working for a few legit companies. That made my mom proud.
To be continued.
Health & Fitness
I’ve improved a ton in the past couple of months (after reading the Brain Fog Fix) but in the beginning of the year, I was super inconsistent.
It wasn’t the “I’m too lazy to go to the gym” kind of excuse, but it was more “How could I not eat out (for the 4th time that week) with my group of friends?”
And I said, “fuck it, why not?”
If I end up living in SF, I’ll start investing in a gym membership somewhere. Hopefully, it’s cheap. But it probably won’t be.
Exactly a year ago, I dropped out of college and everything has been a whirlwind. I had no (or very little) idea of what I was doing, no solid plan, no nothing. Just a gut feeling I was going in the right direction.
If I had to look back at everything I’ve been through, I’d have no regrets on my path. I truly believe that to find out what you really want to do in life, you have to find out what you don’t want to do in life.
Like Jeff Goins mentions in his book, The Art of Work,
“Clarity comes with action.”
Could I have gotten the same exposure in college? Probably. But the best learning experience for me was by doing.
This was the year of learning, personal growth, and exploration.
Today, my full focus is kicking ass with The Hustle. If you haven’t heard of us, think of a younger and cooler version of the Wall Street Journal. Or think Vice meets Fast Company.
I genuinely believe The Hustle will be a household name over the next five years, join in on the action.
Thank you to my buddy Heath Padgett’s awesome post for inspiration. For 2016, let’s kill it. I’m ready for you.
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