The Day I Began my Entrepreneur Journey
From the first day I started back in 2012 to that fateful day on 11/20/15, I had fought to work at a place I knew wasn’t right for me. I took the job initially out of desperation, stuck between paying rent or moving back home with moms. Only weeks before I would have had to make that decision, a friend offered me a chance at a new job and a change in career. I figured why not? It solved my employment issues and can I try out a new career. Maybe things are looking up after all.
And from that vantage point, it did.
I was no longer stressing on how I was going to pay rent or continue having to borrow money from friends just to make ends meet. This opportunity in fintech put me in a better space financially but I couldn’t help but wonder if I just sold my soul for a cubicle and a window seat in corporate America.
Despite this feeling, I tried everything I could possibly do to fit in to “the startup culture.” I even started to talk and walk different. On the outside, I was one of them. For the first couple of years, I made it a point to go to as many after work happy hours and outside of work events as possible to show I was a “team player.” I even signed up for as much overtime as they were able to give me and pushed myself to work 60 hours or more on a regular basis. I would skip out on breaks and lunches to push out more just to keep up with the demand of helping a company go from a struggling startup to reaching Wall Street. I pushed myself so hard that I started to believe that this is what I needed to do to move up the corporate ladder. I began treating this company like my own even though my name wasn’t the one hanging on the outside of the building.
And that’s the lie I continued to tell myself that ultimately led me to Union Square on a rainy day in November.
I devoted countless hours of my life to becoming a company man rather than becoming the man I needed to be and after two years I was beginning to hate myself for it. I stayed way too long, hung on to this image of impressing people and seeking out their acceptance versus staying true to myself. When I would tell my family and friends I was working for the “hottest fintech company in the country” and boasting about everything from the amount of money I was bringing home to the free food, alcohol, and massages their faces would light up. They would say things like “you can retire off that job” and “you got a good job with benefits don’t fuck it up” and for that first couple of years I was at a high. I felt that I was finally doing something my family and friends would be proud of.
But after the honeymoon phase wore off and the idea of working at a startup went from being exciting and new to conforming into a robotic corporation, the environment began to weigh heavy on me.
I did everything in my power to keep a smile on my face and a strong front, but deep down I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was quite miserable. Still, I pushed on. I didn’t want to let my family and friends down and I didn’t want to let myself down as a failure because I couldn’t hold onto this “good job.”
Needless to say, I felt stuck.
Just when I felt at my lowest I met a couple of individuals who had side hustles along with their 9 to 5s. They say like-minded people find each other, and in a sea of robots, I actually became friends with these two.
“But after the honeymoon phase wore off and the idea of working at a startup went from being exciting and new to conforming into a robotic corporation, the environment began to weigh heavy on me.”
The more we talked, the more these young entrepreneurs grabbed my attention. Before meeting these guys owning my own company was nothing more than a fairytale. Something that you see on television or read about but I never thought it could be a possibility for me. One had already begun to establish a strong following with his San Francisco-inspired streetwear brand and another was at the early stages of opening up an indoor golf facility a couple blocks from the job. But seeing first hand how these young guys managed to work a full-time job and building their businesses on the side inspired me to begin looking into doing the same while working at this startup. It gave me renewed motivation.
I showed up to work eager to knock out my duties and give my all, knowing for the first time that this job was just a means to an end, not the end itself. Working here also presented me with direct access to two entrepreneurs and the chance to ask questions in order to learn more about this journey I would soon find myself on. I was intrigued about how they got started and what steps I had to take to follow a similar path. I would catch them in the hallway or stop by their desk whenever I could, but the truly valuable times were when we would step out to lunch and got a real insight into what made them unique.
After this new resurgence of energy, the hardest part for me was deciding what exactly I wanted to create. I started consuming a lot of youtube videos by Gary Vee, Oprah, Malcolm X, Andy Frisella, and Master P. I was now even more curious than ever on how to choose a plan for my future, a plan that would lead me to become an entrepreneur.
When I was fired a week before Thanksgiving I was filled with anger, sadness, and betrayal but that was soon replaced with the joy and excitement of a fresh start. As I mentioned in my previous post I was actually free and unlike the last time I found myself without a steady income, I now had the knowledge I needed. I was free to design my life as I saw fit. Free to take time to weigh my options and begin a new path. Free from the pressure of having to fit into this corporation’s box of who I am. Free to explore new opportunities and set higher goals.
I knew this journey was not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile is. I knew that unlike corporate America there is no tried and true map. There is no set structure and there are no rules. There are far fewer Entrepreneurs than there are employees and far less success stories. I knew this path would be a much harder road than working your traditional 9 to 5, but what excited me the most about the entrepreneur journey was that there are no limits. I could create whatever it is I want to create without the need for permission.
Now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I do live in the most expensive part of the US and the cost of living is ridiculously high. I do understand that I have rent and bills to pay and this belly I have won’t feed itself, so I am willing to be practical in pursuit of my dreams. I understood that I am not in a position to live this life without any money coming in. Unemployment only lasted for 6 months and wasn’t even enough to cover my monthly rent and my car note. So, as any resourceful person would do, I found other jobs.
However, this time I didn’t settle for the first thing that came up. I started working in fields that were more aligned with what I wanted to pursue, I.e. music, media, and fashion. More recently, I’ve been lucky enough to work at a local university. Through this, I have met many artistic and creative minds and also have access to an abundance of resources to help me develop my growth into becoming an entrepreneur, allowing me to keep a roof over my head at the same time.
When I set out on my entrepreneurial journey, I had an idea and the freedom to pursue it, but 9 times out of 10 life doesn’t work that way, no matter how much you plan. It may be that we have to work the traditional full-time Monday thru Friday and use nights and weekends to build on our business and save for years before you can get that first piece of equipment. However, putting in the time is what matters the most. Once we develop a plan, set an end date, and execute, it’s only a matter of time before we turn our 2-week notice in and say goodbye to corporate life.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re just starting out, or even if you’ve been at it for a few years and it hasn’t gone where you envisioned it. During the building stage, we need to use whatever resources we can from our day jobs to invest in our side hustle and gradually grow the business over 3, 5, even 10 years. As long as we have a goal in mind and a direction to where we want to be we are well on our way.
Simply put, the entrepreneur life is portrayed so glamorously on “the gram,” but truth be told there is no such thing as an overnight success. We need to keep striving and working towards our goals no matter the setbacks and we will eventually reach our destination. Don’t look at being fired or laid off as a failure. Look at it as a shift in the right direction. The universe is giving you another shot at going after your goals and becoming the person you’ve always dreamed of being.
Being Fired on 11/20/2015 was the best thing that could have happened to me. Who knows, If I had managed to stay under the radar I may still be there settling for a life I didn’t want because I was too afraid to go after the life I need. For that I’m grateful.
And if my former supervisor is reading this I just want to say thank you.