The lessons I’ve learned as a middle class, millennial, minority entrepreneur Pt. 1
Embarking on a new business venture, like we’ve all heard, is no less than insane. Like many other entrepreneurs before me, I left a great career with a cushy salary and a 401k. I lived in the booming city of Austin and lived a lifestyle that I could not afford. My supervisor at the time was drawn to me. Giving me hoards of unsolicited advice. At the time, I had my head so far up my own ass that I could not see the value. He was a young white male supervisor in a tech position at a local college and also owned his own business. I was an even younger, hispanic male from a small town, thirsty for life, hungry for adventure.
I spent hours working on my physical, mental and emotional health. I practiced and competed in muay thai, attempting to keep my life clean and disciplined. I struggled with addictions, indulging anything to keep my adrenaline up high. I quickly learned that my weaknesses needed to be conquered. I began psychotherapy in my early 20’s and it helped me understand things about myself. One therapist said I was an “adrenaline junkie” and that I should harness this power into something positive. I still struggle.
So why leave this amazing city with endless opportunity to go back to my hometown and start a business? Entrepreneurship.
This is one thing that I do that gives me an indescribable thrill. Its a feeling that is almost insatiable. It can be positive, it can be negative. But if I can hone this “art” into a system that can be replicated, then I do believe I can change lives for the better. That thing, is entrepreneurship.
Being an entrepreneur has almost lost it’s significance. Everyone is now an entrepreneur. With the popularity of Shark Tank and social media giving us more insight into the lives of real “influencers”, anything is possible. And its true. But lets be real. There is a major difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur. So much so that even the great Seth Godin mentions that difference in a podcast interview on the James Altucher Show. And here’s the thing, I’m not the best at being a CEO. I’m actually quite disorganized. I love order and discipline, but I have so many ideas in my head constantly fighting for attention, that I’m constantly feeling overwhelmed. I have major issues with focus. I have all my life. Which is something that other successful entrepreneurs struggle with.
So why do something you might not even be good at? Purpose.
I recall at a young age, admiring the notion of being a business owner. I saw my father work for the government almost his entire life, first as a U.S. Marine and after 35 years of government service, retired as a high ranking officer from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. But every once in a while, I’d see him try something different. He tried a flower shop, a newspaper, then a magazine. Had he not worked full-time at his government job, I believe he would have led an entirely different life. Hearing “business owner” always rang loudly in my ears. My first job as a busboy gave me the opportunity to see a local business man run his restaurant. He moved through his establishment oozing with professionalism and masculinity. He touched tables, expedited plates, and when something wasn’t done the right way, he’d roll up his sleeves and show someone the proper way to clean a toilet. I respected him. A whole lot. I wanted that same kind of respect. I wanted to please customers and make sure everyone got paid and tipped out.
After years of wandering as a musician, then as a student and finally as an IT support technician, I finally made a commitment. I moved back home to start a business. Something I felt compelled to do.
Now, back in 2010 I’d actually tried to join the Navy. That’s how lost I was, but that’s when I started planning my exit strategy from the exciting world of Information Technology. And when I say strategy I mean, a decision. There was hardly any strategy. I simply called up the one person I trusted the most, my father, and said, “Hey, pops. We should start up that magazine again.” And he agreed. Without hesitation.
With little to no business background, I had no idea it’d be the blind leading the blind. Nothing could have prepared me for the last 5 years of my life. I admittingly felt safe, and that this was the best move for me. I’d be closer to my family, I’d follow what I’d always wanted to do, it was a win-win.
We had very little capital. We had no experience with business operations. No journalism, sales, marketing, advertising, management background. But we launched. And it was ugly.
Learning how to work hard.
Growing up seeing my father live his life totally dedicated to making sure his family was taken care of was, at the time, only comfort for me. I had it easy. He worked hard long hours even after growing up poor, working the cotton fields as a child, he worked even harder for his country and his wife and children. You can’t buy that kind of motivation. You can’t hire a coach or read a book to instill that kind of grit in you. That kind of determination comes from the need to survive. His purpose was family and survival.
Something that most American millennial, middle class minorities will never experience because our parents did all the hard work.
And we have our own kind of hard work ahead of us. The digital “grind”. Battling others for attention to build our own brands. To build our own egos. The more people “like” our stuff, the faster we rise to the top.