I think this is one of the few times ever I lifted weights, definitely not my thing.

A Story About Finding Your Passion In Life— BTS #2.

This post is part of my Behind The Scenes series. <<Start with BTS#1

The first step towards having your dream job is to figure out what your “thing” is.

Your true passion, something you wouldn’t mind losing sleep over, that one “thing” you wake up for that keeps you motivated all day.

It’s only when you are that excited that you will have a shot at becoming better at it than anybody else.

Don’t get confused. It is not about figuring out what you want to do with your life; instead, its about figuring out who are and who you want to be.

If you don’t take time to do this, you can still end being an engineer or doctor, it is just not going to make you very happy.

By now you are probably wondering “how do I find this one ‘thing’?” There is only one way to find out — start doing. This is only way to learn and experience what you are good at and what makes you tick.

Here is a summary of what I did which lead to me becoming a talent developer. These are just the highlights, there are a ton more which only lasted days , weeks, or didn’t even make it past the idea phase.

Button Workshop, an online platform for customised buttons.

This is actually almost the exact set-up I used.

Button Workshop was the first official venture I started when I was 19 years old and still studying. It was an online platform where you could upload designs and order buttons. The service was aimed at creatives and upcoming bands.

What I learned :

Manual labor sucks. Making a few buttons is entertaining, but once you have to make a few thousands during a weekend it stops being fun.

How was it a step closer :

I saw Button Workshop as a way for creatives and bands to leverage their talent and reach into generating revenue. Now, 10 years later, I have teamed up with Metatalk, to launch www.creatorscreate.com which be doing exactly the same concept.

We Masturbate, breaking the taboo about girls and masturbation.

So random story, I was on a date very recently and she told me that she used to be a big fan of We Masturbate. Pretty sure we are going to be best friends forever.

We Masturbate was the first ever project I launched with Bert Dries, better known these days as Musketon. It all started with a regular teenage boys conversation about how girls that masturbate are way cooler than those who don’t.

So we decided to end the taboo about girls who masturbate in an effort to make this world a better place.

Just a few weeks after we launched a myspace page for We Masturbate Myspace, it got picked by local TV. Our attitude those days was, “once you have an idea just throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.”

We turned the concept into a community of over 30,000 girls in a pre-Facebook era, while selling shirts and sweaters as merchandise.

Eventually we ended up going all in on We Masturbate for about 2 years. Then, we both finally managed to get girlfriends and they politely encouraged us to sell it.

What I learned:

  • You don’t need a product to sell, an pretty empty box will do.
  • How to build a brand and a community using social media.
  • Bert made up his mind that he wanted to become an illustrator.

How was it a step closer:

The network we built was more important than all the skills we acquired.

If you are out there doing stuff, even it is something really random like We Masturbate, you will get you noticed.

Those connections lead me directly to everything that follows bellow.

Death, Shred!, a streetwear brand.

Still one of my favourite designs by Matthew Skiff who is now a lead designer at Primitive Skateboarding.

A t-shirt brand is the first business for many people. While it is very easy to start, it is damn hard to turn it into a real profitable business. Death, Shred was founded by Yves Daniels and I joined him for a few years to help the brand grow. We managed to get it sold in stores and we did some international trade shows.

What I learned :

There is a big difference between creating a brand and a business.

It is one thing to have a lot of reach and to look cool as fuck. But to turn it into an actual business where you make money is a totally different game.

How it was a step closer :

Death, Shred! was one of those adventures where I realized that talent isn’t just something you are born with. Even if you have the potential you need to be working hard and be surrounded by the right people.

The Farm, an advertising bootcamp.

The girl in the picture is Stefanie, who won our edition and got to do an internship in London.

The farm is a three week advertising bootcamp by BBDO, a big advertising agency. At that time, I just finished (read dropped out) studying physics.

Physics is not even closely related to advertising, but I managed to leverage my We Masturbate experiences into getting a coveted spot in that years bootcamp.

Basically you get to experience what it is to work in an advertising agency — working on actual projects and not sleeping.

What I learned :

I never want to work to work in an advertising agency.

For me, advertising is way too distant from the actual product. Advertising is just gift wrapping existing products and pushing it into your face. I prefer to add extra value for the customer which is much easier on the product level.

How it was a step closer :

It was a good insight in the advertising industry and allowed me to get a deeper understanding of what brands are looking for. I’m still creating campaigns with brands with the talent that I work with today.

Netlog, a job at a big start-up.

Netlog was one of Europe’s biggest start-ups at that time. It was a pre-Facebook social media platform. Our We Masturbate page was bigger than brands like Coca Cola which is how I got noticed. They offered me a well paying job a few months after I quit school.

They hired me as a product manager because they saw potential in me but they weren’t really sure what it was. In retrospect, I don’t think this was the right position for me and I also wasn’t quite ready for it yet.

What I learned :

Working at a big company isn’t for me. I just want to create awesomeness, so I don’t have time to deal with corporate politics and bureaucracy.

How it was a step closer :

Sometimes knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as knowing what you want to do.

YTLF, a conference for and by young talents.

At that time Twitter was still really cool and having a good hashtag was really important for an event. So we started with the acronym #YTLF and eventually gave up finding a meaning for it.

I had the opportunity to create a conference from scratch. For me, it was a game changer to get a real budget and enough freedom to actually make a difference. I’m pretty sure I will do this again someday, just bigger and better.

What I learned :

Even if you hate something, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. My initial feeling after the event was disappointment. I saw how it could have been so much better while people attending the event were actually really psyched about the conference .

It is important to always aim for the best result. However, it is equally important that at some point you have to learn to let go and move on to whatever is next

How it was a step closer :

It was my first time working on talent development, even though it’s on different scale that I’m doing right now. It made me realize that talent development is what excites me.

William Spencer, my first NYC adventure.

William is a skateboarder and stunt double, so when he wasn’t working on the movie we went on random adventures. Good times.

I met William through Death, Shred! and we hung out a few times before in Europe and LA. He was working in NYC at the time, as the stunt double for Andrew Garfield in the second Amazing Spiderman movie. William was looking for someone to help him with building his brand and his online presence. He was nice enough to fly me out to help him with all of that.

Those 3 months in NYC after all those years of random adventures is where I realized the importance of spending time to reflect back.

What I learned :

I can do this.

The realization that working on all those projects has taught me a unique and valuable skill set.

How it was a step closer :

I realized that there is a need for talent developers and that I could be great at it. This is also when I came up with the name.

NOW

It took me almost a decade from my first official venture until I started working as talent developer a few years ago.

I added this summary to illustrate that there is no easy way or a short cut to finding your true passion.

That doesn’t mean the fun only starts when you find it. All those projects were challenging and exciting to me. I got to learn and experience a lot. Working on each project brings you closer to your passion which will actually be more fun!

It is going to take a while so start today!

My takeaways :

  1. Find your passion through doing various tasks and jobs.
  2. Manual labor sucks.
  3. You don’t need a product to sell, an pretty empty box will do.
  4. I never want to work to work in an advertising firm.
  5. If you want to create awesomeness, you don’t have time to deal with corporate politics.
  6. Even if you hate it, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.
  7. There is no easy way or a short cut to finding your true passion.

Thanks so much for reading! If you enjoyed it, would mean the world to me if you shared it with someone. :)