Stop Chasing Your Past. Start Building Your Future.
I’ve spent the better part of my young business career fighting off ghosts from my past. In retrospection, I think it’s a natural reaction to try to improve upon past failings and letdowns. I have a drive to show to myself that I can do better; that I somehow have to prove to Time that past results are not inticadive of future performance, but are rather the exception.
That’s what I did in building a Model United Nations company and student entrepreneurship company. I wanted to prove to the aether that I was a great Model UN debate coach and mentor. I wanted to prove that I truly understood the process of starting a company. I wanted to prove that I could replicate my model.
But, who cares?
It turns out that I do not, at least not anymore. And that crushing self realization led to my decision to wind down and close my first two companies, persue other projects in the interim, and go job hunting in the fall.
I’m about six weeks into my five month experiment period, and I find myself having fun again — waking up is no longer a process during which I have to beg myself to get out of bed, the day is no longer spent dreading the sound of an email notifcation, and nights no longer include lying awake in bed for hours until exhaustion finally knocks me out.
A few weeks ago, I caught up with my former Program Director for the Young Entrepreneur Challenge. I have a ton of respect for his story and approach to being on entrepreneur.
He was curious as to my recent decisions and wanted to hear my the story. As we were talking, I mentioned my plan to start looking for gigs in the fall, not thinking much of it. That was the plan afterall, no need for a second thoughts.
Until he said to me,
“I know we really haven’t ever worked together for very long, but you don’t strike me as someone who really wants a ‘real’ job.”
I remember being told in college that discovering what you don’t want to do is just as important as finding what you do.
I don’t want a real job. I don’t want a commute. I don’t want a company email and extension, or a 401(k) retirement plan, or a retirement plan. I don’t want to build someone else’s vision or play a “key role” in a “dynamic work enviroment.”
I know what you’re thinking: I’m about to backpeddle and return to the sink hole from which I only 45 days ago escaped. Or maybe you’re thinking that this whole episode was a marketing ploy.
Well, I’m not and no, it wasn’t.
I’ve healed and learned and reflected and am putting pieces back together. It’s part of the human experience that I’ve frankly tried not to experience. I hate to use the analogy, but the hamster wheel spins so quickly that you quickly become stuck in it. Unfortunately when my legs tired, I collapsed and was tossed on my ass. Metaphorically speaking. Or something like that.
While I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop reflecting on the past, I must come to terms with it to move past it.
It’s time to starting building the future that I want.
I haven’t worked out how all these pieces fit together just yet, and I’m not going to drive myself insane trying to. But here are the some of the new decisions that I’ve made and some that I haven’t:
- I’m not closing down the All-American Model UN Programs. It means too much to me, and I’ve received too many letters and calls asking me to keep it alive. But I also can’t keep operating like I was — I need help and I found it. Starting in August, I’ve made an offer to hire a Program Director, who will take over daily operations. I’ll continue to stay on as the Managing Director, answer questions from parents, help to develop our technology, and travel with our teams (I’m not going to turn that down!). Since I’ve come to terms with its closing, I’m more open to taking big risks with All-American now because I have nothing to fear if they fail.
- I have not made a decision about what to do with Whiteboard Youth Ventures. I would love to hire a Program Director here, too, but don’t have enough confidence in future projections just yet. My initial thoughts are to turn the website in a bigger resource center to try to drive more organic traffic by focusing on tutorials, articles, and videos for high school entrepreneurs. TBD.
- I’m convinced there is a market and willingness-to-pay for Battlecups. This project is 100% going to launch with a pre-order campaign goal of 800 units. I will be redesigning the website and pushing social content soon. I see this as a side hustle that hopefully shouldn’t need any dedicated support or daily operations.
- I’m going to miss my July-1 deadline for FollowAlong. And this time, it doesn’t have to do with the tech! The irony. It’s taking a bit longer to develop content — something I’m actively looking for help with — and I still have to submit it for approval to Google Play and the Apple App Store. Longer term decisions will be based on experiment results.
- And finally, I’ll be transitioning from an advisor to a minority owner of Kickback Pants. I realized for this project to get off the ground, I’ll have to put much more time into it, and the only way for me to justify an increase in time was to own a portion of the company.
This is what I want to do. I want to be involved in a number of projects and startup ideas. I want some of them to fail and die quickly. I want to juggle my schedule and look forward to everything on my calendar. I want to hear my email notification and get excited about someone messaging me.
So that’s what I’m going to do.