I believe that the desire and urgency to make an impact is something we all have on our to-do list. We like the idea of building something useful and utilized by the vast majority.
We dream of the possibility of one day stumbling upon something that propels into something greater. While we accept that we are only temporary beings and not immortal, we like the idea of being part of building something bigger than ourselves — with hopes that it’ll live on even after us.
And it is the very idea of changing the world that both emboldens us to act and also kills us with discontent.
In an attempt to change the world, we lose ourselves.
It’s been roughly a year since I exited my startup and have spent the last few months recovering, learning and realigning.
In 2018, I took a step back from the Valley and tech, in general, and had some time to travel and be with family. It’s been a pretty interesting period. I moved to Florida for a few months, road an alligator, bought a car and road tripped around the Maritimes for a few weeks, purchased our dream family home in Canada, became an ordained minister, conducted my first best man speech at a Christian wedding (not related to the previous point), and went back to school. I guess you can say I found myself along the way.
I think we’re in an incredible point of time in history. I am fortunate to be in an industry where there is both a high tolerance for failure and a relatively low barrier for innovation. In tech, we have the luxury of building things that can scale — quickly. We have the luxury of making an impact anytime and anywhere.
It is also the relative easiness of making an impact in the modern world that suffocates us. The urge to “start something” is incredibly common. In reality, the majority of people won’t but you can bet the aspiration is there. Whenever I ask the question of what they are planning to do in the future, regardless of their age and situation or whether they have a vision or even a sense of direction, the entrepreneurial answer always wins out.
Now there’s me. At this very moment, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of San Francisco with earphones plugged in writing this pretty pointless blog post. I’m turning 24 next week and although I can say I’ve checked off a decent amount of milestones in my to-do list, I’m trying to figure out what’s next. The vague mission of changing the world and leaving a mark is still alive and well. What specifically do I want to make an impact on is still a question I have to define and carve out.
On my end, I don’t think it’s important to be the one who starts the mission to change the world — or even leads it. I’m confident that when I find it, contributing to the vision and the betterment of the people apart of it will be more than sufficient. I think it’s dangerous and inefficient to believe you can only make an impact if you are the one who ignites it from inception.
I’ll call this my coasting time. I’m taking the backseat rather than bulldozing in the front. I want to learn and grow. Being in the driver seat for the last few years has really burned me out. Combination of self-doubt and timing played a role too. My goal now is to invest in people and help them lead, lean on my strengths and balance out my weaknesses, start passion projects because I personally think it’s fun and purely for fun, and most importantly, give time back to my loved ones. We often forget the ones who are cheering us on in the sidelines. Don’t forget them. The world doesn’t need you more than your family needs you.
Anyone can claim they are chasing this vague goal called “impact” but “impact” is relative and can be done in a gazillion ways. It’s hard to not get lost in the noise. It’s hard to not feel frozen under the pressure. It’s hard to not feel overwhelmed.
But yes — plant your seeds for the future now, be stubborn on your vision but flexible with details, be open to being wrong when corrected, keep your team close, and most importantly, keep moving forward. I guess by writing this pointless blog post is my way of reminding myself of those things too.
In an attempt to change the world, the purpose is simple — help make it just a little bit better. In the end, that’s all that really matters.