T-1 week: Small breakthroughs

A weekly synopsis of my year studying the Masters of Entrepreneurship at the Wade Institute, Melbourne.

This week and a bit has been good for me with quite a few ‘firsts’.

31

When you turn 30 years old it’s a milestone which you celebrate but at 31 it’s a milestone where you kind of question everything that you’re doing with your life — especially when you’re like me and you aren’t as successful or accomplished (personally or professionally or financially) as you thought you’d be by then.

It was a very low-key birthday for me given my financial situation and I was really grateful for all the birthday messages I received from friends and family far and wide. But I really appreciated the effort from a couple of friends in particular who invited themselves around to my place, brought over some food which we cooked up, and watched the Australian Open. This meant a lot to me because I didn’t have the ability to do a bigger event (like I usually would) so to have the guys come over to keep me company without prompting was really just special.

I also got the chance to spend a fair bit of time at my family’s beach house for the whole Australia Day weekend. My dad got back from O/S and I picked him up from the airport, got some coffees and did a very grown up thing and cooked a great big lunch for him (inspired by my friends) before driving down to the beach house. Now cooking is probably not such a big deal for most people but for anyone who knows me — they know it’s a big deal because I never really cook at all. I also cooked up a pretty average spaghetti bolognese that night and together we had to fend for ourselves for most of that weekend because my mum was down in Tassie with my sister looking after her bub.

It was nice to spend some time down there, I got to spend some quality time with my Dad, looking after him and the house (after reading The Clean Coder, I’ve kind of become OCD again like my Mum or when when I was a child). We had a few chat’s in the car and dinner about business and both of our lack of exposure to good management practices and how it was something I was keen to get exposed to.

The good thing about Dad’s golf obsession is he is a part of club where there are some uber successful people and one night we had dinner there after one of his games and we asked that same question to one of Dad’s mates, who had run his own pubs before going bankrupt in his 40’s, took a job as a cleaner to pay the bills and then had the opportunity to run his own pub again where he made all his money in the 8 years between his late 40’s and mid 50’s. We got chatting about my year going forward and studying and about what made a business person reap outsized profits in a lifetime.

He said a few things which were pretty stock standard: “Earn more than you spend” — so many people get that wrong (including me on a personal level right now!) and “taking your opportunities when they come along” but the one that really stood out to me which took a while for him to think of as well was “Listen”. The people who he knew who made lots of money (irrespective of whether they were nice people or not) listened really well and took in everything. They may not share everything they know but they all listened and that’s something I’ve tried to take on board lately.

Talk less, listen more. Of course it also matters who you’re listening too as well! He also talked about ‘taking it easy this year, enjoying myself’ and measuring success as more than just dollars. That I could just “find some lovely lady who just wants a picket fence and that’d be happiness right there” Oh, if only it was that easy! There’s a part of me that understands that obviously but I don’t particularly care for picket fences, I do want a partner that makes me ‘sing’ though and that is rare for me to find.

On that note, another big thing for me was I was able to organise a time to catch up with my first (and biggest) love next month for coffee which was a momentous breakthrough for me. I was incredibly emotional about this, much more so that I thought I’d be and that in and of itself spoke a lot of how I’ve allowed myself to suffer in the past by not dealing with it.

This girl was(/is) my soulmate and I’ve missed her not having her in my life as a friend the last 8 or so years. I’ve had other people I’ve dated in the past tell me that I wasn’t over her (which I don’t think is true) but there is a whole heap of baggage I am carrying around because of the way I coward out of breaking up properly and with dignity (twice). I think I’ve definitely suffered from that, I haven’t forgiven myself for that because I think I’ve done a lot of damage for that, dishonoured many beautiful cherished memories and I haven’t taken responsibility for it. So I’m hoping that this is the start of a letting go, an apology in person, a warm and tight embrace and re-connection, and the beginning of love again for me with who ever my life partner may be in the future.

Over the weekend I also had a great time participating in a friends birthday tennis tournament where I got to meet a whole bunch of new people, drink lots of Pimms, laughs lots, and win the tournament trophy. I also got invited back a couple of days later for Australia Day at their place where we had some lamb on the barbie for lunch. This again was just so wholesome for me, reminiscing about our trip to Europe together, planning new (imaginary) scuba trips to Mexico, sitting by the pool and listened to the Hottest 100 and learned more about myself from the Myers Briggs Personality Tests. That book couldn’t have described my year in 2015 any better than in the paragraph related to ‘how I react to stress’.

Pre-gaming for Wade

This week I also finally accepted my offer and enrolled in the Masters of Entrepreneurship. It was exciting to be one step closer to finally starting, getting all the admin done and getting some clarity around the subjects and electives for the year. I was particularly excited about the chance to do ‘Accounting for Financial Decision Making’ as one of my electives, and also an Business and Economics internship as well. These are two areas I really wanted to bolster in my knowledge and experience aside from all the entrepreneurship stuff.

Through Wade I also got one of the ‘firsts’ as I got paid for a speaking gig! I’ve done a few talks before and I really enjoy it but I think I will only do paid speaking gigs going forward. When you come in for a paid gig your mindset completely changes, you become more professional, you want to do a good job and you make an effort to present yourself and what your topic as well as possible and you feel more valued.

On this particular occasion I was part of a panel interview with James — a successful lawyer turned investment banker, turned angel investor — talking to secondary school teachers about entrepreneurship. The talk itself was fine, I got to meet a successful entrepreneur and I had fun but both James and I agreed that it was probably of limited value and I don’t expect that there will be any changes in the school that will come from the talk. It is very difficult to teach or motivate people about entrepreneurship when their whole professional experiences encompasses working in a steady state institution.

Which leads me to another highly bureaucratic environment where this week I have the chance to put forward a proposal to the University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics Alumni Council which I’m a member of. The proposal could be a breakthrough technical solution for communication to students and alumni going forward and remove some long-standing problems the faculty has had promoting and reaching the Alumni community.

I’m cautiously looking forward to this because I think I’ll be able to get support for it after talking to the Chairman of the council during the week. She expressed her optimism and support for it and I think I’ll be able to run the project largely independently and at the very least gain more practical experience using and documenting the process of using Google Design and Research Sprint methodologies.

Through Wade I also some free tickets to above all human where I learnt quite a bit and got to chat with Ali Rayl and met a whole bunch of new people in the tech entrepreneurial ecosystem — ex ThoughtWorks, Redbubble, KPMG. I also saw observed how some the relative ‘celebrities’ I know in the entrepreneurial space went about their business ‘hiding’ underneath their caps just trying to be anonymous. It was also great to see a few friends and familiar faces from Startup Weekend, York Butter Factory, MAP Accelerator and GA Melbourne and a few others traps around Melbourne.

One of the things that slapped me in the face during the conference was a successful (white male) friend telling me I needed to “White Man It” more after I was self-deprecating over my writing skills and journaling. That was quite a novel thing for me (not that I have a problem pumping my own tires) but that it actually had an expression: “White Manning it” — the absolute belief that you’re fucking awesome and better than anyone else, and taking what ever you want no matter whether it’s yours or not. Ha! quite the statement and probably only something you’ll hear at a tech meetup!

On a totally unrelated note, next week I’ll also get the opportunity to meet up with the partners at Corrs Chambers Westgarth who gave me the scholarship to study at Wade. I’m really looking forward to that as I have a few connections in that space but it will be good to meet some of the top brass there. Hopefully I can make a good impression and they’re comfortable that they haven’t wasted their money on me!

Coding

I didn’t get around to as much coding as I would have liked in the last two weeks (5 hours) because I’ve been writing a lot (29 hours) and reading about Javascript (8 hours) trying to understand things better.

But one of my other ‘firsts’ this week was I made my first diff…and it was to the MDN Javascript documentation! I was particularly excited about this because I never thought I’d do that but I have done enough JavaScript to know that I could add a bit of value to the existing documentation and it was accepted! That was a nice little confidence boost! I’m kind of suffering through the ‘cliff of confusion’ or ‘desert of despair’ at the moment.

I struggle quite a bit reading about programming because it is incredibly dense and detail oriented and I can’t skim read it like I’m used to. I have to concentrate and read a lot slower because literally every word describing the code and concepts are meaningful. The code examples given are also written with so much brevity with such small differences it’s sometimes really hard to follow sometimes and understand the concept being taught. Saying that I just need more experience, and have to keep reading over and over again until I get it.

Another ‘first’ for me this week was I tried live streaming my coding sessions on twitch.tv after the recommendation from FCC. No one showed up to watch me code but it was interesting getting into the habit of trying to explain what I was doing as if someone was actually there as practice for pair programming.

I also did something ‘naughty’ and looked at some other people’s solutions to FCC Javascript challenges I couldn’t figure out a way to do and ZOMG it’s incredibly deflating and impressive at the same time to see people’s simple code.

It was a sad reality check seeing how limited in my abilities I am at the moment (writing absolutely behemoth code) and how much I have still yet to learn.

Next week I hope I can do a bit more coding and build up a bit more confidence in it but it’ll be orientation week so that’s probably not a realistic idea.

Some Reading: