7:30 AM to 6 PM every day. Almost 53 hours at a day job each week. Luckily, I only needed 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night, so that I still had 80.5 hours to do what I wanted. Over half of my week was spent solving someone else’s problems, being undervalued and stifled working for someone else. My lack of time and schedule was stopping me from doing what I was called to do.
For years, doing what I wanted during those other hours usually meant working on something else. I had been making music, art, furniture, and designing minimum viable products (MVPs) for companies that I thought should exist. I tried to sleep as little as possible and even designed short, but impactful workouts to optimize time and make time for my second job – working on these other projects. I skipped hanging out with friends unless they were friends that also shared my passions – interrupted once in awhile by an occasional “useless” outing to a bar, restaurant, or birthday party.
My “Ah-ha” Moment
I was extremely successful at my corporate gig, learned a lot, and made a lot of great and long-lasting connections. But this drive to build things and help people is relentless. The groundbreaking ALS Ice Bucket Challenge showed me how much people were willing to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Subsequently, I began quickly iterating a social impact company. This time was different. This time, I would not watch other people execute a similar idea. I would not watch them and be left saying something silly like, “I had that idea before them.”
Part of the reason that this time was different is that I found a cause and project that resonated with one of my lifelong goals – organizing people to do good. Being a survivor of a parent who lived with cancer for ten years, ultimately passing in my early teens, shifted my set of values growing up.
I then created the social impact company Bstow — a platform that allows users to donate spare change to any nonprofit company automatically. This allows me to make good on that promise to myself. This is what I always wanted to do — help people. This drives me daily. When you start your venture, you need to find your driving passion. There will be difficulties, and your “why” is what will push you forward in the face of adversity.
I resigned from my full-time gig four months ago, and I’ve learned more in the last four months and made more authentic connections in that time than the four years I spent in college.
If you’ve built something, you know it’s all in the execution. The idea is about 0.01% of the effort. This time was different. I started executing immediately. I didn’t know how to do about 90% of what I know now, but I learned by having two-week sprints, learning on the job while executing mission-critical business and development initiatives to advance my company.
Some things you should consider when you start your venture:
Be flexible with your idea and make sure that you are passionate about the underlying problem you are trying to solve.
Validate core business concepts and important features of your product by talking about it with many people. I would suggest building a landing page and using Twitter, Instagram, and other social channels to get the word out to many people so you can get real feedback from people you do not know.
There will be problems. Your original concept and feature ideas will change. Be ready to take feedback in stride, silence your ego, and pivot when necessary.
You will hear “no” a lot. You have to decide when it’s right to listen and when it’s right to ignore. This will be one of the greatest determinants of your success. Things may seem difficult or even impossible. There is always – always – a solution!
The only guarantee I can make is that if you do not take action on your ideas, then you will not succeed at them. Building a company is very risky, but with that risk comes commensurate reward.
I am risking it all. I’ve learned to embrace fear as a sign that I’m pushing myself in the best ways possible. Comfort is my enemy.
Anything I’ve saved from working at my former job is gone, but I’m happier than ever. We’re launching our social impact platform soon. I’m sprinting. Come with me. You can do it too. We can succeed if we work together! We can only succeed if we start!