Well...15 years of schooling and I have no idea what I want to do, sound familiar?

I know many in this world are not fortunate enough to attend school from an early age, or continue their education into college, for this reason I want to first acknowledge how spoiled I have been and how spoiled anyone is who has the opportunity to attend a structured schooling system.

With this said, I want to apologize, to myself and all those on this earth, because I was given the amazing opportunity to attend a well organized public school in the United States, as well as an amazing university, but I never took the appropriate time to realize exactly what I wanted and exactly how valuable these experiences were. This was, in part, my own fault, as well as the fault of the culture that the US educational and cultural systems embrace.

I grew up in a small town south of Boston, an average-size community with a respectable public schooling system. I started with pre-school and slowly moved my way up to the public high school before being faced with the ultimate decision…where to attend college. The biggest decision of my life, decided at 18 years of age. Within this decision I had to figure out if I even wanted to continue school, what I wanted to study, what part of the country I wanted to be in, did I want to play a sport, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Quick summary: I went to a top 10 school in the country, played a sport, got a scholarship, majored in business, graduated and had no idea what I wanted to do. How did this happen? How did all of this schooling, training, and guidance lead me to a position where I had zero confidence in what I wanted to do in life.

As I mentioned before, this problem was in part my own fault and the fault of the US education and cultural structure. I will explain in a few different parts…

Part 1:

Several other countries have periods of time between high school and college where individuals are required or pushed to take a small break from schooling to travel, explore, or learn anything they want. This ‘gap’ period was never known to me or many here in the US, it was expected that I graduate high school and immediately enroll at a university. I had never travelled, never held a ‘real’ job, and never figured out exactly who I was and what interested me. Instead I went straight to school and signed up for business classes from day one…

Part 2:

Why business, because that’s what my family did, thats what my parents did, and that’s what my friends were doing. The town I came from consisted of stock brokers, private wealth managers, bankers, and a plethora of other professionals in the financial world. These are the people I talked to before entering college, these are the people that shaped my frame of reference. I did not know much else, but if I wanted to live a respectable life, start a family, and give them the same opportunity I had as a child it would be through a career in business. I had hobbies, I had passions, but I thought that’s all they were and could ever be…hobbies.

Part 3:

Acknowledging a small spark in my head I decided to play in an area I have always referred to as the ‘Gray area’. I went to school and decided to enter the business school, but entertain my hobbies of building and designing things through a secondary minor in industrial design. It was at this moment that the first sense of freedom struck over me, knowing that maybe I could pursue my own path while also pursuing the path of ‘success’ as defined by my frame of reference…

Part 4:

When someone plays in the gray area they often are trying to balance two things, to ideas, or two careers, and when it came time for my to apply for internships during my sophomore year I knew decisions would have to be made. So I spoke to the people I could, and sure enough they lead me to the belief that any respectable internship would be in business.

The internships we have come to standardize in US culture are essentially an indentured service, an agreement of work for eventual freedom in the working world. These semesters of work have become the metric by which we gauge our undergraduate experiences. However, what are they truly meant for? Are they meant to give young professionals working experience and lead them to their full time job, or are they meant to give individuals insight and understanding of how the respected industry and career work?

After speaking with several mentors I came across the best piece of advice I have heard to date. “Work for everyone and anyone, figure out not only what you love, but what you hate. Use the summers you have in college to talk to as many people as possible and explore exactly what type of person you want to be, and what type of career you want.” This advice lead me to redefine the track of internships and talk to anyone I could and weasel my way into the offices of several companies for ‘shadowing sessions’ in which I would work for a few weeks alongside an established employee. Through this I learned everything I needed to know about the industries I was in, all without the unnecessary responsibilities of getting coffee for people, stapling papers, or doing the busy work that full time interns we’re so clearly restricted to.

So I figured everything out, went back to school, pursued my new found passion, and lived happily ever after, right? Wrong. As I made my connections I spoke with professionals in every industry, from private wealth management, private equity, investment banking, global media, sports marketing, and more. However, after all was said and done I had still not seen everything, I still did not find the niche I wanted to exist in and pursue full time. So I went back to school and slowly fell back into the frame of reference where ‘success’ was defined by getting your job offer from UBS, Morgan Stanley, or one of the big 4 accounting firms.

With friends and family looking on I applied, interviewed, and weighed my options. A fancy paycheck, world renowned organization, and excellent training program lead me to sign on with one of the biggest tech companies in the world, in their sales and marketing division.

It took about 5 months, a bit of depression, and many internal conversations before realizing I had messed up somewhere along the 15 years of education. Everything I had worked towards day in and day out had led to nothing but a decent paycheck and the depressing stroll into work each morning. I refused to believe I was the only one with these thoughts, and as I began to open conversations with anyone around me I slowly realized the amount of people in the same position. Not just recent graduates, but individuals with families, established careers, and respectable titles all started to come out from behind closed doors and express their lack of passion and interest in their respected careers. Some were happy, some were passionate, but some, like me, felt they had never found the exact role they wanted. So do I just accept it, do I just ‘suck it up’ and accept that this is how the working world is, and always will be.

Many chuckled, laughed, and just said ‘welcome to the real world’, but a select few spoke up, resonated with my thoughts and told me their stories and how they found their passion. After realizing that everyone in this world will give you advice, based on their own experiences and careers, I understood that individuals must take personal time to truly discover for themselves what they are passionate about, and only then can you seek the advice needed for your personal path. The path to happiness will not come from me, it will not come from your parents, and it will not come from your teachers, it will only come from your own exploration, your own determination, and your own dreams…

It was at this time that a small quote came across my dimlight computer screen that changed everything for me, appropriately labeled ‘The definition of hell’…

“Someone once told me the definition of hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become” — Unknown

I have come across my fair share of corny inspirational quotes, but something with this sentence struck me cold. If I was to have only a few moments left on earth, having spent my whole life working towards something I was never truly passionate about, what would I think as I met the second version of me, the one who took the time to explore the world, meet as many people as possible, assess and evaluate every possible career, and pursue the exact passion that I had always had buried within.

So here is my question to you:
Who is that person you would meet on your deathbed?

I was fortunate enough to meet that second being, and at age 23, after months of working nights and weekends, assessing and refining my dream, talking to the people that matter, and forcing myself to think harder and longer than anyone else to be the exact person I want. As a result I quit my job, embodied my passion, and am currently starting my first venture, Jowl.I do not live the high life, I do not make millions, and I have not yet figured everything out, but I am living my dream and nobody else’s.

I love connecting with people, I love hearing stories, and I would be more than happy to talk about who you are and what you want to do. So please feel free to reach out whenever. If you want to learn more about Jowl, or how I got to where I am today please take a gander at our site,http://jowl.co/, and follow us on TwitterInstagram, and my favorite, Snapchat at: JowlCo

As we look to refine our product we would love any feedback, advice, or ideas that you guys have… it’s basically our business, haha.

Thanks, internet friends,

Quinn

Reddit

Alexis Ohanian has recently become one of my icons in the world of consumer technology and everything startups. If you are not familiar with the name he is one of the founders of Reddit, along with Hipmunk and a few others along the way. He has had quote the journey on the road to becoming the 'Mayor of the Internet' and remains just as passionate today about everything revolving around the lovely world wide web.

His book, 'Without Their Permission', is a bestseller and definitely a great read for anyone obsessed with the power of the internet and software in today's world. Throughout this particular piece of writing, along with his blog, podcast, and Ted talks he stresses the importance of collaboration through technology, and his first company can still be seen as one of the most powerful social collaboration tools in the world...

A tiny blue alien, designed by Alexis himself, might appear on the back of a car in traffic, on a random webpage, or perhaps even graffitied somewhere around Boston, but the community behind it is one of the most powerful forces on the web. Reddit has been around for roughly ten years and has become one of the 50 biggest websites in the world, with accomplishments ranging from crowdfunding surgeries, introducing lovers, and even saving a special Japanese whale dubbed Mr. Spalshy pants (Ted Talk)

Today the website holds hundreds of subreddits designed to attract a select group of people from around the world that can share stories, memories, pictures, ideas, and more. I am shamelessly addicted to the platform and have forced myself to delete it on multiple occasions... but yes, it is currently back on my ipad and right in front of me. I have learned a large amount from the socially collaborated 'news' site but nothing amazes me more than the sheer power of it. In essence Reddit is a community of users with no incentive but a lovely magical currency dubbed 'Karma', yet everyday millions flock to the site in order to engage, post, and discover new and interesting stories. It is this simple fact that has led to a revolution in my eyes... the crowdsourced revolution.

We have power in numbers, and thanks to the internet we can come together like never before, supporting charities, political movements, founders, and more. The dawn of crowdfunding and crowdfsourcing is a direct result of the Reddit ripple, and has been seen sneaking its way into the minds of several founders eager to start businesses around this simple concept.

Waze, a silly traffic app that lets users crowdsource police, accidents, and more uses crowdsourced information to give real time updates...with zero incentive to users. Product Hunt, a website that took one simple subreddit, r/products, and simplified it to crowdsource new and upcoming products, has just raised 6M in funding. I have taken a deep look into how exactly we have reached this point and realize it is only the beginning, Reddit is and always will be the front page of the internet, but we will now begin to unbundle the simple nature of crowdsourced platforms in order to simplify the user experience and engage outsiders. I am excited what's to come of each and every subreddit, whether its a new idea, a new product, or another 1 Billion dollar company. 

Drivers vs. Mechanics

I just picked up a new podcast, Entrepreneur on Fire, in which John Lee Dumas interviews some of the biggest, newest, and brightest entrepreneurs of our time. I will attach the link below for those interested but to skip ahead I heard a quote within one that really struck a chord with me today

“There are mechanics and then there are drivers”

Now, like many of us I love interpreting quotes in my own head before actually hearing the original meaning, just to convince myself of my highly intelligent philosophical characteristics, (and usually I just twist it to favor my characteristics). But this particular quote got to me only because of the thoughts I have been having recently.

      Now there are many people in the world today that truly believe they are cognizant of the entire world around them and available to them. They see their daily tasks and their daily activities, these tasks have come about through years of preparation and build up, earning a degree-to get a job-to go to work-to complete the spreadsheet-to get the check-to pay the bills. These tasks can be translated into other portions of life, meeting a girl-dating-marrying the girl-moving in-having kids-caring for your kids. Now I am not attempting to neglect the amazing experiences and advantages of employment, relationships, and the sheer joys of having a family, but each life and individual sees their responsibilities for what they are in their particular frame of reference.

     But many people get into their car, turn the key, and simply expect it to start. They see a car for what it is to them and it’s ability to get them from point A to point B. However, there are others in this world that before turning the key check the oil pressure, tire pressure, fuel gauge, air filter, oil filter, spark plugs, brake fluid, and several other points before turning the key. These are the mechanics that realize behind the scene a simple twist of the key begs the car to pull electricity from the battery, force a spark plug to connect a unfinished circuit, which in turn ignites a small amount of highly combustible fluid within a tiny piston chamber, driving a piston head up and out only to rotate an initial drive shaft that, well, helps move you from point A to point B.

Two processes, two drivers, two personalities..

I immediately heard this and related it to the everyday scenarios I see within this world. I see people who can go about their everyday tasks without the slightest notion of what their doing, only the fact that they need to be done, or they expect them to be done.

In life I believe those that do not see the true meaning, and the true functioning components behind each interaction or task miss out on the beauty, the complexity, and the truly incredible pieces of this world. Every life has its responsibilities and duties, from family to friends and self, but being able to interpret each action and at the very least acknowledge the little things gives us the ability to find out what we really appreciate in this world, and what really matters to us.

Sir Richard Branson

"I think it goes without saying that the days that we stretched out are more memorable than those when we got a good night’s sleep"

There are a few Richard Branson quotes that I have come to connect with but none more than this simple quote he had when asked about his sleeping habits. The simple answer lies in the fact that those who want to live a life that others dream of, you cannot dream, you have to do. 

There is a young professional friend of mine working as an I-Banker for Citigroup in the lovely New York City. His schedule is one filled with work, work, and a dash of more work. He is an infamous snapchatter at 2-3am everyday with the usual comment of 'Coming or going?', suggesting he may be leaving his office or heading in. 

The work alone is something to be proud of, and something I have admired for quite some time, but theres a bit more to his schedule as well. On top of the hectic work load this individual promotes for some of the biggest clubs in NYC and is a regular on the weekdays and weekends. From thursday night nonsense, all the way to sunday brunches he is always the first to suggest a night out, and always the first up in the morning for work. 

Oh, and one more piece, he runs a large music blog under the name NewEnglandRoyalty and has amassed a large following over the last several years, sourcing music from every corner of the world and enlightening followers.

On the other end of the spectrum I have seen many individuals walk through the beginning of their professional career with 8-5 jobs, capable of waking at 7 and resting around 10. These are not bad habits by any means, but they are just that, habits. As we realize, everyone is capable of training their bodies to study, learn, party, workout, and more, and sleep is simply another training habit. If your body is accustomed to 8 hours of sleep each night it will expect 8 hours every night. If your body is used to 5 hours of sleep each night it will expect 5 hours each night. These three hours are the biggest factors for success in my opinion. These 3 hours are where fortunes are made, good times are had, and memories are made.

The days we stretch out, to work, to train, to party, to plan always provide us with memories capable of defining our life.

 

The lean...or broke startup

The lean startup has been dominating the startup world, every pitch, every meeting, and every business plan mentions the infamous model for starting a company but what does it actually mean. For some it means MVP testing and testing a product as soon as possible, but in the eyes of many it stems from an entirely new idea...

The Broke Startup, I like to call it, carries almost every principal that the lean startup does, with one large difference, choice. Many founders look at the lean startup as the process of testing a business idea while spending as little money and time on unnecessary aspects of the idea. However, if you have the money you may be inclined to spend, to indulge, and to jump start the burn rate before necessary. However, what if it was never even an option, if spending money was just absolutely not possible.

Having been out of college for about a year, I have managed to save up a total of zero dollars outside of necessary rent and survival goods, but the goals and expectations of my business have not changed at all. I believe everyone, including myself can abide by the rules of the lean startup even more at this broke point of our lives simply because we cannot afford to spend anything.

We have begun testing our platform Jowl in a truly lean way, through completely manual processes, or Wizard of Oz Testing. We do not have the time or money to push anything ahead until we truly built something that doesnt scale (In the words of Paul Graham). If we can act as the software would eventually, then lets do so in order to get our first customers, and generate true demand for this functioning platform.

Overall the lean startup emphasizes using what you have instead of spending what you dont. If you cant afford a computer, use pencil and paper, if you cant afford a marketing budget, market yourself. It is the same with food, we can pay a premium to eat out but by using the lean or broke method we can cook for ourselves at home...most likely pasta..