As I write the title I realize how completely skewed my view is because I’m just now approaching my 26th birthday so presumptuously, come 36, I might have a different perception.
When life throws curve balls at you, it’s how you perceive it that determines the actions you take to handle it. And because the best way to learn is through application that facilitates learning transfer, I’m going to use baseball as an analogy. Let’s say, as a batter, you’re consistently getting thrown fastballs and consistently failing at hitting them. A fastball is the most common type of pitch, relying on speed to prevent a ball from being hit. Different variations of a fastball produce an optical illusion in the eyes of the batter. You keep striking out but for some reason, you still keep getting up to bat. Persistence, they say.
My life from age 21 to 25.
Then, you’re thrown what’s known as an “off-speed pitch”, a pitch much slower than a fastball specifically aimed at disrupting the batter’s timing. And because you’re not a professional baseball player, you missed all the hints given to you (changes in arm angle, arm speed, placement of fingers, etc).
Naturally, as with life, the pitcher's repertoire changes and you’re back at a series of fastballs. At this point, thinking you finally have a handle at this seems like a natural progression - you know his game and the illusion of its velocity. But you strike out yet again. Remembering that even Kobe didn’t become a legend over night, you persist.
Out of nowhere, you get what’s called a “brushback pitch”, a pitch intentionally thrown to intimidate the batter and “brush him back” from the plate. You can’t help but ponder that not only are you consistently striking out, but now this shit is getting risky.
My life the past 12 months and all I gotta say is…
Like the millions of other people that say they hate their birthdays, I really actually do hate my birthday. And it’s not because I hate getting older or accepting the fact that, as I’m getting older, I’ve managed to accomplish absolutely nothing in my life. I just hate parties.
Just kidding, let’s be real, nobody hates parties. It is absolutely, 100% without-a-doubt the whole “I have nothing to show for in my life” fear.
Birthdays for me, serve as a milestone tracker and yearly reflection point - never quite understood using New Years for such and the logic for my confusion isn’t really worth it, so I digress. But in this moment of reflection in looking back through all my untold failures, myriad mistakes and microscopically scarce accomplishments, I can confidently say with all the wisdom I’ve accrued (or lack thereof), that I have absolute no idea what the fuck I’m doing. The worst part, this is in no different state than last year’s reflection. The best part, this is probably going to be in no different state of next year’s reflection.
If I just confused you, join the club. The point I’m trying to get to and what I’ve known for years but never really came to terms with until recently, is you’re never going to have all the answers. And if you’re smart enough, you’re never going to have any of the answers because truth be told, those that keep asking questions, keep finding discoveries.
Last year, on my 25th birthday, I set out an absolute must by they time I turn 26. My non-negotiable so to speak - launch my own startup. And holy shit was I in for a ride.
This unchartered dream of mine was a manifestation of a lifetime pursuit to do something good coupled with 6 years of failed attempts at finding how. Doing something you’re truly passionate about is an aspiration of many but I’d be completely naive to say there isn’t a small sliver of me that’s questioning the psychological state of my mental health for choosing this journey. As all entrepreneurs can attest to, it is hands down, the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
Despite all the chaos, it’s definitely the best damn emotional rollercoaster I could have wished to be strapped to. Though there are many things you can control in your life, there are many things you can’t. Each and every day this past year was so unpredictable, if there was one phrase to describe the year, it’d be...
Everyday felt like an unintentional hybrid of really bad reality tv and an illogical thriller. And I don’t mean this just in the startup context. Just for some examples to put in perspective -
On my way to work one morning, I got hit by a car for what's now the 6th time in 3 years. No, none of which were my fault...well, perhaps one
The following week I had an anaphylactic shock that put me in the hospital. Apparently, I developed a life threatening allergy unbeknownst to me.
Exactly one week later, I have another reaction that wound me in the hospital. The allergists have yet to determine what it is.
Add the everyday startup uncertainties and I felt like the world was out to get me.
It wasn’t until I had no other choice did I learn how powerful viewing these unexpected curveballs as unconventional opportunities actually was. Don’t get me wrong, there were 3 very specific personal events in the past year - that I’m emotionally not strong enough to share with the world right now - that seeing any opportunity within them was unfathomable at best. But if there is anything I can extract from this crazy year, it’s that perseverance and patience is an absolute must to survive this game.
I’m a firm believer in that everything that happens in your life has a reason. Every storm you go through has an opportunity. An opportunity for growth. An opportunity to learn. An opportunity to view things in a different light.
In the grand scheme of things, all of these uncertainties, all of these "holy shit, what the fuck" moments, all of the early mornings, late nights and feelings that you can never just catch a break, all of this, goes back to one thing...
I’ll refrain from spitting out the entire brainstorming enlightenment session I had here - you can read about it here.