I finally "dropped out," now what?
Though, I did walk at graduation. There's proof too.
|May 30, 2019||7|
A newsletter to provoke thought, to inspire, and to catalyze action.
All students dream of the moment that they’ll get a degree and walk the stage in front of their friends and family to commemorate 16 years of being told what to do & supposed learning.
Despite having two classes left, I was allowed to walk at graduation to experience that very moment. It's possible my mind will change in the future, but it wasn't a 'congratulations worthy' moment for me. It felt as if the University was offering a final receipt (degree) to students on their way into the "real world."
So why not finish the two remaining classes?
To make a long story short, the week before graduation, I was presented with a job opportunity that seemed too good to pass up.
I've had to make a lot of 'big' decisions in the past two weeks, and it hasn't been easy:
What I'm going to spend 75% of my time doing for the foreseeable future
Who I'm going to spend that time with
Where I'm going to live for the other 25% of my time
What made it hard to make decisions was all the noise of social pressures and shiny objects. Once I was honest about what matters the most to me right now, the answer was clear.
It all came down to one word:
I find that I grow the most when I do things that make me uncomfortable.
"Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life." - Jersey Gregorek
Accepting this offer made me uncomfortable because it felt irrational not to work at an investment bank, consulting company, or major tech company out of business school. I had to consciously say no to all the perks and benefits that those opportunities had to offer and instead optimize for growth in hopes that the tradeoff is worth it in the long run.
My new role is in operations, something that I don't have much expertise doing. Running an early-stage technology startup can be broken into two core components: operations and shipping products.
Operations encompass building and maintaining customer relationships, recruiting, marketing, legal, finance, and investor relations. In my current role, I get to spend 80% of my time focused on the customer (of that 40% is identifying pain points to create products that deliver value) and the remaining 20% on the rest of the functions.
I'll be living in NYC with enough money to afford some creature comforts for the first time. I've realized that I don't need a six-figure salary out of college to be happy. At this point in my life, I care most about making enough to pay for basic necessities: food, apartment close to work, gym memberships, and the occasional outing.
I'm the youngest person in my office at Prehype. A venture studio that co-creates startups with some of the world's finest corporations and entrepreneurs. Managed by Q & Ro, are some of the more well known companies that have come out of Prehype.
With that said, not everything is perfect.
I still wonder if I've made the right decisions. As you may know, when doing something new there’s the excitement of potential success and the fear of failure.
I wouldn’t have it any other way because this is the time in my life to make big bets.
Providing a Catalyst
Every week I’ll share key insights from a conversation I had learned a lot from in a series called, Providing a Catalyst.
While speaking to a friend about the decision to work at a startup vs. a reputable company here’s what he said:
There are only two ways to get career clout:
1) Personal achievements
2) Attaching yourself to a reputable name
I'll give three examples from people I know:
1) Personal Achievements.
Person A is an absolute force of nature. He writes articles and an email list read by thousands. He teaches an online course in discipline x. He hosts a podcast with top industry leaders.
2) Attaching to a reputable name.
Person Y attended Harvard. He studied for 4 years like any other college student. There's a chance he may be the laziest, dumbest person to ever attend. But his resume says "Harvard" which gives him more clout than the smartest, hardest working person at North Dakota State.
After college, he worked for a FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) company. Again, he may done nothing important there. But now he can work for any company he wants.
Smart kids always want to achieve, in part because they see that reputation is like a mask faking your capability.
But honestly, it's the most time and energy efficient way to jumpstart your career.
Person Z is another great example. She's from my hometown, some no name city in middle America. She got a grant to work on a BS college project that's basically some CAD drawings in a powerpoint.
But at parties, when ppl ask where she works she says:
"Oh, I work at Up-and-Coming SF startup founded by reputable person AB"
"It's reputable person’s company. He's basically my boss."
0 effort. 0 achievement. All of the clout.
Working at a startup is an adventure. It's thrilling.
The adrenaline and uncertainty is addicting.
But the opportunity cost is:
1) Giving up the time and energy to work on your personal projects.
2) Giving up the chance to work at a reputable company in exchange for a company that MIGHT become reputable.
Lighting a Match
I hope something here inspires you to do something or learn something new.
Linking the same links as last time as they’re still very relevant.
If you're just coming out of school, Naval guides, prioritize your career trajectory above all else and choose an environment where you can both build a strong network and rise through the ranks quickly. Evaluating whether a job offers both requires a framework, and Naval's is extremely simple—and effective.
If you had to sum up Naval's philosophy in one quote (or perhaps, more appropriately, one Tweet), his advice for finding your first job in tech would come down to a single concept:
“All returns in life, including in relationships, are from compound interest.”
You want to rise, early in your career, to a senior position because that position will accrue more compound interest over the 30+ years of your life than if you take your time getting there.
“Some of the most successful people that I've seen in Silicon Valley had breakouts very early in their careers,” Naval says.
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In practice, "stay upwind" reduces to "work on hard problems." And you can start today. I wish I'd grasped that in high school.
Most people like to be good at what they do. In the so-called real world this need is a powerful force. But high school students rarely benefit from it, because they're given a fake thing to do. When I was in high school, I let myself believe that my job was to be a high school student. And so I let my need to be good at what I did be satisfied by merely doing well in school.
If you'd asked me in high school what the difference was between high school kids and adults, I'd have said it was that adults had to earn a living. Wrong. It's that adults take responsibility for themselves. Making a living is only a small part of it. Far more important is to take intellectual responsibility for oneself.
If I had to go through high school again, I'd treat it like a day job. I don't mean that I'd slack in school. Working at something as a day job doesn't mean doing it badly. It means not being defined by it. I mean I wouldn't think of myself as a high school student, just as a musician with a day job as a waiter doesn't think of himself as a waiter.  And when I wasn't working at my day job I'd start trying to do real work.
When I ask people what they regret most about high school, they nearly all say the same thing: that they wasted so much time. If you're wondering what you're doing now that you'll regret most later, that's probably it. 
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Other interesting links…
Moving to NYC from NJ on Saturday.
Started new job at a startup.
Finally have more time to spend reading, writing, and meeting new people.
Thank you for reading this edition of Activation Energy.
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