Transitioning to tech and finding passion in work again.
I quit college and gave up a full tuition scholarship. In retrospect, I was depressed and confused with the direction of my life. I look back and realize I was bored and not the least bit excited about the prospects of the next 4–6 years in pursuit of a degree I wasn’t sure I wanted. At 19 with no real skillset, education, or life experience, I started making a living doing the only thing I knew how to do at the time — working really hard. I carried shingles on my back, swung hammers, worked assembly lines — basically doing whatever I could to get by. Sometimes I found myself so dispassionate about what I was doing for 8–12 hours a day and fearful I’d somehow be stuck there. Those fears always motivated me to quickly look for new opportunities and for some time I bounced from job to job, always attempting to improve my position; through knowledge and skills I had learned along the way. I think many people seem to find themselves in that position what can feel at times like a vicious and unproductive cycle — spinning your wheels.
I’ve been a carpenter, fire fighter, army medic, realtor, salesman, entrepreneur, and a few more in between. I’ve delivered babies and seen the eldery take their last breath. I’ve built buildings, sold buildings, and operated businesses in them. I’ve one-call closed 5 figure deals and led large sales teams. I even tried growing and selling wheatgrass. With each of those ventures I eventually found myself dispassionate and again wondering what I was going to do with my wretched self. I knew that I wanted to do something exciting where I could work remotely and travel. Somewhere fast paced so I would stay engaged and be forced to improve. Gotta be the tech industry right? Not long after I became conscious of those desires I was introduced to the Co-Founder and CEO of a blockchain software development firm. Parker and I began talking about how I might add value to the company and a few months later I joined Co-Founders Parker and Adam (find their writing and more about decent here) and their first hire and so I began my first remote position in the tech industry as Director of Operations at decent.
Here are my reflections as I approach 6 months working remotely with decent.
Over the next months I was on-boarded and introduced to the fascinating and sometimes wild world of crypto, blockchain, and startup culture. My first exposure to startup life was via a cross country hackathon on a bus, suitably named StartupBus. Over the next 3 days we developed our project, iterated, and practiced our pitches at incubators and maker spaces along the way. Finally, we arrived in New Orleans to pitch our projects and the code we prouced was examined. Though my team did not make it to finals it was an easy loss to take because StartupBus (at least to me) was about identifying and executing on what is actually important, learning that the startup scene is incredibly inclusive and diverse, and to allow myself to experience the power of serendipity and sometimes just let go. When you’re surrounded by so many passionate and talented individuals interesting events and opportunities rise to the surface that are a distinctly unique from the pedestrian interactions that are so common — if you are open to them.
- Interact with people you’d normally never talk to. Gaining the perspective of someone dissimilar from you allows you to think about the world and events in new better ways, or maybe reaffirm a counter belief.
- Don’t be afraid to push your comfort level. Forcing yourself to grow your skill set and knowledge base opens a world of new opportunity. Some call this tapping into “flow” or as I theorize, most people simply enjoy the challenge of rising to the occasion and growing as an individual. It feels good!
- Challenge your beliefs. Chances are your belief and value system is made up of a variety of influences from your family, friends, news, etc. Some good, some bad. Either way, experiencing new ideas and events allows you to think about your own reality in a new light and adjust as necessary.
The Learning Curve
At the bleeding edge of technology everybody is constantly learning and I am incredibly grateful to be part of a technical team that is constantly communicating, sharing information, and expanding our understanding. The learning curve is not yet so steep in a field that is only 10 years old. Surrounding yourself by those more skilled than yourself and a veracious quest for legitimate information will help you quickly learn much of what the “experts” already know allowing you to close the knowledge gap. Learning leads to insight which leads to a better understanding of the world, and I’ve found the momentum that is created there can be unstoppable.
- Surround yourself with intelligence. Intelligent people like to share and discuss new ideas and concepts. Simply being involved with those discussions you will begin absorbing quality information.
- Seek out the best information available. Half truths or just plain misinformation are everywhere. Seeking truth and expertise ensure you’re not filling your head (and time) with bad or incomplete data.
- Long form medium for the win. Most content on the internet is created to get your attention and simply miss the mark on presenting thoughtful / well developed ideas. Complicated concepts simply cannot be unpacked and explored in a 3-minute Youtube video. I’ve found the best resources for insightful and accurate information to be found in long form media such as Medium, academic papers, and podcasts.
Know What You Want (or at least have a vague idea)
I wrote this article with a friend of mine in mind. I see them struggling with many of the same feelings I experienced during my low points in my search for work that would fill me with energy and excitement. Unfortunately, I think this disgruntled feeling is more common than people like to admit. I don’t claim any expertise or extraordinary talent, but I do know what has worked for me, and I practice these principles constantly.
- What you focus on expands. I journal almost every single day. I write down 3 things I’m grateful for, my long term goals, and 3 must complete tasks for that day. It works for me, and acts as a daily reminder and reflection about what is important and where I’m going. I can then reflect on my performance and make adjustments as necessary.
- Try a lot of things. I used to be fearful of leaving a job to try something new, and if I had a regret about my past employment it would be that I allowed myself to become upset and depressed for far too long before leaving a position that clearly wasn’t satiating my needs. While older generations may see my extensive and sometimes short lived tenure in a variety of industries as a sign of inconsistency, I like to believe that those learning experiences have given me a unique perspective and the ability to comprehend a wide range of concepts.
- Take healthy risks. I realized recently that I enjoy a certain open ended-ness. What I mean by that is in every other industry I was able to envision the next 20 year timeline in that field to a certain degree of clarity. Most legacy businesses have a very tried and true trajectory and the absence of the unknown (and the excitement that comes along with it) made these positions very unpalatable for me. I find such innovation and creativity in the technology sector. It’s almost impossible to imagine the possibilities and creations that await, and that invigorates me.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to give me feedback on Twitter or by Clapping for this article (doing this helps other people like you find my writing)
— Chief Zen Officer