Succeeding in the Age of Dissonance
A humble journey towards self-enlightenment
There this that pivotal scene in the movie Gravity when debris hits Sandra Bullock’s shuttle and leaves her tumbling through space. This image of spiraling through darkness is what I see when I reflect on my twenties. I refer to this period as my jellyfish years: Zero self-direction or determination. I realize that these kinds of dramatic Millennial diatribes have become a tale as old as time, or at least 2008. However, I still believe that there is value that can be added to this narrative. Whether you buy into the stigma surrounding younger generations, it’s impossible to deny the fact that the social landscape has significantly changed. Technology has created access and opportunity but also a culture that has become so saturated and confused by this chasm between reality and perceived reality. This may be why developing identity through a consonant relationship between genuine beliefs and actions continues to unravel so easily, just like it did for me.
I will admit that social media gave me a sense of self-importance and I was already creating a brand for myself before I even knew who I was. It only became harder to take the humble steps towards self-discovery after finding out via Facebook that a former high school classmate was gearing up for an IPO or had just given birth to their second child. People were doing real things, and I wasn’t. I was completely disconnected. I had become part of the contingency of twenty-somethings that gives Millennials a bad name; no different from my former neighbor who was still living in his parent’s basement. At least he had a job.
I’m a different person today, though, and not because “I made it” by conventional standards, that is still to be determined. The difference is that I now have a sense of purpose which we all know more than wealth and stature is the real golden ticket in life. This turning-point was not initiated by a profound life-changing moment but rather a quiet shift in inertia. This was arguably the hardest step for me, making simple, seemingly unimpressive choices to put me back in motion. I learned that quantum leaps rarely occur while waiting for the brag-worthy moments to happen. It is imperative to keep moving and learn to respect the minutia. Most importantly, though, it’s about figuring out who you are and becoming connected to something real.
Ten years ago, I read an article written about Sarah Blakeley, the creator of Spanx. I marveled at her ability to address a gap in the market by improvising with hosiery and ultimately creating a ridiculously successful empire. As a cosmetic junkie, I realized that I had an idea for a product that didn’t yet exist. I knew this because it was something that I desperately wanted and had searched every possible channel for to no avail. I became excited about this idea and told my parents, sisters and a few close friends. My more ambitious confidants took it upon themselves to help push me towards the first step: Prototype development. Of course, this went nowhere fast as I was still early in my jellyfish years. Last spring, however, at the age of twenty-nine, I began pursuing this idea again.
At this point in time, I had gone back to school and worked steadily through a series of internships and entry-level jobs. I had done all this a little bit later than my peers, but I had now accomplished some important goals, quietly and off the radar. These experiences had provided me with some valuable insight into my personality and aptitudes. As I feared, I wasn’t exactly the “grab the bull by the horns” entrepreneur that I wanted to be or had thought I needed to be to succeed. Instead of letting this get me into another downward spiral, though, I started thinking about the traits that I was the proudest of like my strong level of empathy and creativity. For my kind, it’s the social missions that fuel motivation. Still, I desperately wanted to create this skincare product and pioneer an innovative development in cosmetic chemistry.
I decided to move forward with my idea by outsourcing R&D and the creation of a prototype through a cosmetic lab that works with startups. At the same time, I began learning more about a new subset of socially driven entrepreneurs focused on “conscious consumerism.” I realized that my brand had the potential to become a platform for social change. This led me to begin working on a business model that combines social and commercial objectives. I have spent a lot of time studying the development of brands like TOMS, driven by leaders with the same cause-oriented nature and I have identified a need for this focus in the cosmetic industry. My goal is to incorporate a social utility into the purchasing experience that will provide consumers with intrinsic value and further a cause that has become very important to me.
I am still early into this skincare venture which is why I have debated over whether this is the appropriate time to write this piece A few years from now, I may have more credibility, but I will also have a different perspective. Hindsight is 20/20, and I don’t want to discount the value of what I am experiencing in this moment as I can’t imagine being happier or motivated than I am right now. For these reasons, I see this as a milestone worth celebrating and a message that I hope will inspire others.