Most days I feel like I’m sitting in my car, foot all the way down on the pedal. The engine is roaring.
But I’m in neutral.
I’m stuck just sitting in my driveway.
And even with all of the gas and horsepower, I’m not moving an inch.
If you’ve ever set out to do your own thing, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Since freshman year in college I’ve had the burning desire to start a company I’m absolutely in love with and travel the world.
And after reading “The 4 Hour Workweek” (twice) I’ve spent countless hours sitting in the library racking my brain for my “big idea” by looking at every blog, making every kind of list, and using every kind of brainstorm technique I’ve ever heard of.
But it’s hard. And if any kid could pull out his laptop and make it happen in a day then articles like this would never be written or read.
I’ve built websites, designed logos, tried to validate ideas, talked to professors, gone to Startup Weekend, and done everything else I could in order to come up with my perfect company.
There are days where I think about everyone else around me: they go to class, do their homework, and maybe get a mediocre internship. But they have plenty of free time to enjoy.
I look back at the countless hours I’ve spent scratching and clawing at my goals and start to think that I don’t have anything more to show for it than anyone else.
I mean sure, I’ve started and run a few small businesses (lawn care, web design) but other than that I’m the same as every other business school undergrad who’s fated to be a mid-level manager drowning in a giant corporation.
All of my effort has been for nothing. I don’t have anything to show for it.
I’m sure you’ve felt the same and know exactly what I’m talking about.
But when you do, remember one thing:
Your struggle isn’t for nothing.
Classes and Jobs are Easy
I mean come on. After you’ve been working on any of your own stuff, going to classes feels like a coffee break.
The entire curriculum is set up for you. You just have to listen and execute.
There’s no guesswork, there’s no fear that you are spending your time doing the wrong thing.
You get to just follow the path and put in a little effort.
And while you’re destined for better things, it’s nice knowing that you truly are competent even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
You’ve Learned How to Learn
When humankind went into outer space, they did not open their textbook to chapter 12 and build a rocket based on the model.
And you know this.
You know how hard it is working on your own thing because there is no perfectly cut path to follow.
You’ve had to learn dozens of skills working on your business, especially if it’s online.
I’ve learned WordPress (website platform), Adobe Illustrator (graphic design software), and Adobe Muse (no coding web design).
I’ve learned how to formulate ideas, write copy, send effective emails, talk to angry clients, and give a compelling sales pitch.
And thanks to these challenges, along with countless others, I’ve figured out how to teach myself.
And you’ve done the same.
You’ve found “how-to” guides, and talked to mentors, and followed blogs, and watched free online courses and tutorials.
You’ve learned from experience. The real world always has unseen variables, and you know that sometimes you have to just try things.
And you aren’t scared to.
You Think Differently About “The Answers”
When it’s all you’ve known, that man at the front of the class telling you “how business is done” is a guru, an expert, something worth spending years of your life shadowing under.
You wish you could write faster so that you could capture every word that comes out of his mouth.
And your textbook, every word is so profound that it must be sacred knowledge passed down from the titans of industry.
But when you set out on your own path, you see the world from the other side:
the side of the “doers.”
And when you look down at your Iphone, you do not see an otherworldly piece of art that the gods bestowed on us.
You see the blood. You see the sweat. You see the tears. You see an expertly crafted product development process and an unbelievably refined user interface.
And you see Steve Jobs sitting in his garage with a soldering iron.
This phone was not forged by gods.
Your teacher is not the all-knowing deity from which truth flows.
And your textbook is not a holy book.
You can disagree. You can challenge. You can realize that not everyone who stands at the front of a class is a prophet of truth.
You do not spit up jargon-heavy nothingness like “just integrate the supply chain.”
You consume content and can reshape it into your own words, adding and taking away parts as you see fit.
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You Make the Rules
Even outside the classroom you’ve learned to challenge narrow-minded thinking.
You know there are only a few absolutes in the world and everything else is a social construct.
You can have breakfast for dinner. You can walk around barefoot. You can go camping on a Wednesday night and come back before Thursday class 🙂
But even more importantly you can set your life up any way you want.
It is not a law of nature to work from 9 to 5 from Monday until Friday.
And it will not be easy for us. But we will set up our life our way.
We will resist the tug of conformity and mediocrity because we know that more exists.
And every time I stop and remember all of this, I realize I’m not sitting in my driveway after all.
I’m on the runway. I’m in the cockpit.
The throttle is all the way down. The engines are roaring.
Pretty soon, when the turbines are spinning fast enough, I’ll lift the brake and send this thing right into the clouds.
I’m Ryan. I like chips and guac, bodysurfing, spontaneous weeknight adventures, and listening to Vance Joy. If you ever dream about being better, traveling more, and working on stuff you love then I bet we’d get along. My blog DopeStoke is about awesome adventures and meaningful success.
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