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…
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…
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.
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…
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 Twitter, Instagram, 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,