Becoming Those Around You

This post originally appeared on my blog a long time ago. You can find my new writings on travel at The Boarding Call. Also visit my personal site, kchau.co

Remember how your dear mother always told you to choose your friends wisely? Guess what, she’s right. Believe it or not, the people you choose to surround your life with, have a huge influence on your direction.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn via Thomas Schranz

Belonging is an innate part of human nature. It’s exactly why clubs, groups, and sadly, gangs, exist. It’s also why the term ‘getting out’ exists.

Many people will tell you that you should lead your own way. But I believe that is how some get lost. The feeling of belonging is often so strong, that it blinds you of the greener grass. Whether it is or isn’t.

Getting out

I’ve ‘gotten out’ many times. First out of a terrible group of high school friends who had low ambitions. Next, out of the egotistical and dog-eat-dog world of healthcare and science. And most recently, out of the 9-to-5 ‘enterprise’ world.

It’s a huge luxury to be able to think and say “Wow, imagine where I would be had I stayed at x”.

I’m writing this blog post because back when I was a freshman in college, I worked at the big box electronics store Fry’s. I went there today, and it’s been at least a year or two since I last went.

It really struck me when I saw many people I still recognized from my time there. I began to wonder why anyone would stay at that shithole (sorry) for so long. These are people with sales skills, people skills, and generally good communication skills. Why are they still working there? Is working retail really their life long goal? Hell, if it is, there are better retail places you can work (Costco).

Belonging really is a double-edged sword.

Life ambitions

Every so often, I do a reality check on where I am, where I want to be, and how far I’ve come. I want to be able to regularly gauge the pace I’m going at, and how it compares to what I think I should be going at.

You are going on cruise control until something hits you hard enough to knock you off balance, even a little bit. But it’s enough to force you to take a step back and evaluate your life. You can create them artificially as well. It all plays into where my ambitions lay.

Starting from my grade school days, I’ve always had big ambitions. My particular elementary school had a ‘Ventures’ program. Where for a two days a week, instead of doing typical schoolwork, you get to do a ‘job’. You earned simulated Monopoly-like money. These ‘jobs’ included things like restaurant, bank, courthouse, and police. However, there was one thing that was very lucrative, and appealing, entrepreneurship.

(Quick break — I did a search and found a link on it, apparently it’s now called MicroSociety)

Though my memory on this is a bit fuzzy, I believe opted for the restaurant role. But left shortly after realizing that my friends going for the entrepreneurship route were making way more bank.

My first taste of entrepreneurship

The main goal of the entrepreneurship route was to build physical things, and sell them. You were given a small budget to order supplies and start building things. The other kids were doing things like embossed leather bracelets, sewn bean bags filled with beads (I still have one around here somewhere), and bird feeders made from peanut butter and other things.

I built little box-trays from popsicle sticks, decorated them with ribbons and paint, and sold them for ‘$30–40’ each. I would make 20–30 each week and sell out at the weekly marketplace. By comparison, the other kids doing the ‘normal’ jobs were making ‘$10–12’ per hour.

By the end of the year, there’s this thing where you bid on positions to play in a school-wide baseball game. This was when I found out that I was ‘filthy-rich’.

I’m not sure how that experience rubbed off on me, but it must have. I got lost by hanging out with the wrong people in high school and college. But I managed to find my way back to where it feels right deep-down.

I surround myself with big ambitions

The influential people I chose to be around have huge ambitions. Sometimes larger than mine. They want to change the world for the better, and leave their mark. They want to be remembered not by who they are, but by what they did.

At Divshot, most everyone codes. Though I’ve tried before, I’m actually giving a serious attempt at it now.

Since working out of WeWork, I’m always near people who are doing their own things, that’s starting to take an impression on me, and I’ve taken up a new side project.

Andrew, the person who gave me a chance in the startup world and has been guiding me since, is finally moving to NYC, and though I’ve always wanted to move to SF or NYC, that urge is now greater than ever.

With news of all the recent startup exits, I would have thought “Wow, that’s awesome, I wish I could do that”, in the past. But now all I think is “Why not me? What’s stopping me from getting there and how do I break down that wall?”

Tomorrow

Everyday, I try to break down the walls that are stopping me from achieving my goals. Whether it’s one brick at a time, or one wall at a time. I’m doing it.

I want to be able to help anyone who thinks they can’t ‘get out’. Even if you think you can’t, reach out anyway. I’ve made it easy with this pre-written, fill-in-the-blank email.

I also would love your feedback, so send me an email.

Discussion on HN

This post originally appeared on my blog a long time ago. You can find my new writings on travel at The Boarding Call. Also visit my personal site, kchau.co