From four years of startups and engineering, a main idea has unraveled. In 4 words, see the world clearly.
From business, engineering, or careers, learning to see the world clearly was the most impactful factor I saw for growth. The funny thing is, for each instance, the lesson was re-learned.
I’ll try to tell the stories for each one. The first one: business
In 2012, I moved to China to start a company. To fend off the imminent disappearance of my bank balance, the first thing I did was to run a consulting offer. Taking cues from copywriting books I was reading, I made a long-form you-are-going-to-miss-out-unless-you-act-now style page and published it to the world.
To my surprise, a person with a business in Thailand signed up and sent an initial payment. Excitedly, I sent over an email to get started…
Three days of anxious waiting later, I was convinced that the email was ignored… on purpose. Following the copywriting-style books I was reading, I sent an are-you-in-or-are-you-out-because-it-closes-now-now-now email. She responded, and said four things:
- Sorry, I was overwhelmed with orders.
- Stop speaking in such a sleazy way.
- Do you want to come to Thailand?
- Do you want to do a retainer kind of thing?
Now, how do you think I responded to this? “Sorry about that. The retainer sounds great, I can visit Thailand next month, let’s go scuba diving?”
- Sleazy? I was just trying to see if you were in or not!
- I am too much of an important business man for this
- Here, have your money back, go get a massage if you are so busy
What could have possessed me to interpret the email in this way? Fear. The fear that I had no idea what I was doing. The fear that I was not a successful business person, and the fear that I didn’t have what it took to succeed.
In order to avoid facing this fear, I had to warp the world around me. I had to think she was crazy.
In this case, my insecurities were directly contributing to my failure. What a cycle — warp the world to hide your insecurities, make your insecurities worse.
At least in this domain, the lesson was clear. Own exactly where you stand — I was just a 19 year old kid who had less then a thousand dollars in the bank. There was a long road ahead.
As I opened up my vulnerability in business, I noticed that my mentors become more open, opportunities sprouted, and a path to improvement was unraveling. I owned that I was a kid who had never filed his taxes before and it felt great. It felt like the pandoras box had opened, and all my insecurities vanished.
Or so I thought. Though I was oblivious, it was clear to anyone, as soon as they ask asked me what I thought about “those engineers in San Francisco”
(Part 2 coming soon: Engineering)