In the almost six years since I graduated from university, I have lived in the Washington DC suburbs, a dairy village in Switzerland (twice), Philadelphia, and New York City. I've worked four different jobs in that span of time. I've also run a company, started numerous side projects after hours from my day job (and now have one that’s working), live in the best city in the world (and love Brooklyn), have an amazing girlfriend, and I make more money than I thought I would at this point in life. This is reality, not a brag.
Because of this I’m often told by people, “You lead a charmed life.”
This statement can be taken two ways, and it’s often meant as the latter when people say it. The first way is “Count yourself as lucky”, and I do. I consider myself one of the fortunate few in the world in that I live in a free country, love my job, love my coworkers, love my relationship, love my city, and I get to travel often to really cool places in the US and world. Almost all of my problems are, indeed, #firstworldproblems. But a “lucky” life for me could also have meant staying in Harrisonburg, VA and meeting the love of my life at 19 years old. That isn't the life I wanted.
However, “charmed” can also be used to say that you haven’t worked for something; rather fate determined that you would be where you are regardless of what you did. I have an issue with this.
Let me tell you why.
You Create Your Own Fate
Think about all of the rags-to-riches stories that we hear. I see and hear stories every day in New York City where people started in relative poverty and are now quite successful. CNN recently featured a story of a Chinese real estate magnate who is wealthier than Trump or Oprah. She was born poor, moved to Hong Kong at a young age, and worked factory jobs without speaking the language at first. She saved for five years to buy a plane ticket to London where she learned English, got a scholarship to school, attained her Masters at Cambridge, and got her first job out of school at Goldman Sachs here in New York City.
Zhang is smart, that’s for sure, but was any of this given to her? Did she stumble upon it? No. She worked for it.
Not only did she work for it, she worked towards a specific goal over and against the (likely) lack of support from her friends in her village who had never even dreamed of going to London to go to school and start a business. I will also bet that at least once during that period of five years of working, Zhang was tempted to give up her dream and just stay in the little village where she knew what to expect and wouldn't be taking any chances.
And that’s the lesson.
Acknowledge The Fear
People are afraid to try. You might not be (Zhang obviously wasn't), because you’re reading Medium and you work on the Internet and you’re probably an entrepreneur yourself. But Dave McClure’s Fear of Flying may resonate with you as it did with me. He says:
Far worse than hitting the ground, most of us are scared shitless of being able to fly high, stay aloft, and keep our arms extended wide as we climb into a big blue sky, reaching for ever higher heights…
Indeed, fear of flying is the most frightening thing ever for truly great entrepreneurs.
People are afraid to start, and after they start they are afraid to continue. Launching is hard and scary. What if no one likes your stuff? What if no one signs up or is interested? These are all valid fears and I’m dealing with them right now as I work on my projects, and even as I write this post on a new platform even though I have published literally hundreds of articles online and received much positive feedback. I’m afraid of a potential negative response, but also afraid of the unknown of what might happen should it be well received.
Acknowledge that fear. Acknowledge that you’re afraid of failing, but also that you’re probably afraid of succeeding. Which one is getting in your way?
Now that you’re on your way to realizing what’s truly holding you back, just ship something.
I’ve shipped several things in the past year. I shipped an outdoors enthusiast community (that never fully launched), a cycling community (that failed), and a few others that I don’t care to mention. I kept shipping though, and only after I shipped a hire a consultant page on my site and generated some leads did I realize that I was onto something, and that something has now turned into HireGun.
The point isn't what you ship or the size of what you ship. The point is that you ship. Then keep shipping until you find that idea that you’re passionate about, that makes you money, and that makes a difference in the world.
I’m not convinced that I've found this, but I’ll keep shipping things until I do.
I hope you do too.