I chose not be hired in college. Two years on, I’m glad I did.
Engineering is a 4 year factory. The end of which is a ritual known better as ‘placements’. Mine was a strange one at that.
I remember the jargon. ‘Dream’, ‘Open-Dream’ and the fabled ‘Core’ companies. As my last semester had begun, so had the tense backdrop of getting those offers while they came by.
These jobs had 2 distinct types:
- Every other engineering discipline, changing to be programmers
The good ones got the first boats. The ones who did actually learn things back inside the classes. This also meant that I can only but wave those boats good luck and spend more time at the canteen. Eventually, even when I was in tees and pyjamas, the ‘Big 4’ guys ended up actually rolling out the fabled offer letter towards me. It was more salesmanship than anything else. I studied Telecommunications for 4 years to become a Risk Analyst from a 13th floor office? I later went on to realize, telecommunications was more redundant than what I had initially thought.
But then, once I had this offer with me, I actually did have to choose. Do I go ahead with my then Startup and face the hurdles, difficulties and uncertainties that go behind building the same? It wasn’t like I was on a rocket ship and on the other end of the spectrum was a desk job that promised travelling and was a position that my peers had sought too, which mattered.
Of course I chose to do the less wise of the 2 options and dive head first into my entrepreneurial goals. I was strongly impacted by what someone who was in a perfectly successful position told me:
“ I’ve become a passive participant in my life, one that rotated around something that meant very little to me. Each day was on repeat, each cycle of twenty four hours where the sun rose and set was virtually indistinguishable from the next. Although there were some subtleties, Monday would make itself known by how defeated I would feel and Friday would offer some reprieve with its promise of an early finish. I’d look out from my desk at the busy street scene in central London and wonder what everyone else was doing, and if anyone felt the same. Go and get what you like, today. You can’t go as fast, tomorrow.”
Those first few months at sea were disconcerting. Where should I go when a vast expanse of ocean lay ahead? After some time, I got used to the sudden changing of currents, the resistance and fear. Because it also meant that I got to see the beauty of the wide ocean, and feel the excitement every time a distant island would come closer in to focus. I got to feel, maybe for the first time, how extraordinarily liberating it was to sit within this traveller’s paradox. That taking control of my journey meant giving myself wholeheartedly to the unknown. The escape from the nine-to-five was initially about survival. I’d played around with the ingredients in the months leading up to the escape; courage, vulnerability, creativity, resilience and intuition but I had no way of knowing whether the cylinders would fire together.
Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week
There are many times since making that big decision, where I’ve had to make bolder ones. At the time, you don’t imagine that there is anything bolder than an act of leaving. Boldness becomes a habit that, in the end, doesn’t define you at all. At the beginning, it was necessary to anchor myself to new versions of the old horizons and took reassurance from the steady way that the sun would always rise and set in the same predictable way.
That first year was like a badly written story. Not because it was a bad story, but because each chapter was written on the fly. There were pages added in transit at airport lounges, words scribbled drowsily in bed whilst on the edge of burnout and illustrations slipped in during the throws of creativity. There was no consistent voice, no clear path and no narrative destination. Which in the end, made that first year such an excellent story by its own right.
By the beginning of the second year, there were signs affirming my direction. I began moonlighting on my next, and working towards academia that I would go on to hold dear to me.
And how quickly two years have gone by. I have lost, as often as I have the things that I held on to. My ideas, my work on my ventures, and people around me. In between the same, I gained plentiful in new people and ventures. These experiences are a deeply important part of what defines us.
You don’t need to go dancing in the woods or hand over your keys to become a responsible agent, that’s what the hippies tell you to. All you need is the courage and curiosity to answer your call. That is, you realise it is time to inherit a greater life. If it is impact that tempts you, then follow it. After all, maybe we need a bit of a higher purpose to convince us to begin this wildly dangerous but deliberate journey of a lifetime.
What’s your tread?