These 6 practices took me from an unfulfilling job to becoming an entrepreneur
I had a pretty unusual morning today. Rather than having a mediocre breakfast and going straight to the office, I went to a café and sat with a couple of young investors from a tiny European fund. Funny enough their fund is actually called Tiny.vc. I felt lucky for the opportunity to have met them.
As I walked away from that meeting, I thought about a challenge question my friend Brian Alvey posted on his Clipisode app a few days ago. The simple premise was to answer: "Your high school self would never have imagined that you would be 1) living where? 2) owning what? and 3) doing this thing." What Brian couldn't have imagined, however, is that his question would send me down a spiraling waterslide of thoughts as my brain often does. Thanks, Brian!
If my head was Middle-earth, and I was Frodo, the heavy ring that I carry around my neck was forged in the fires of a simple Puerto Rican upbringing, not having an Ivy League education and perpetually being surrounded by Engineers and PhDs. That is probably the absolute nerdiest way in which I can illustrate my insecurities, but I am sort of OK with that.
Needless to say, I feel privileged, lucky, blessed and quite honestly, a bit shocked to be where I am in my career. But as I reflect on my journey, I can think back to a few philosophies and practices that have helped me get here, and will potentially carry me the rest of the way.
Today I share these with you in the hopes that they can help you in a similar way.
1. To be communicative —
My first job out of college was as a graphic designer for a small advertising agency located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My boss composed emails with no capital letters, no punctuation and quite often, no sense. It drove me bananas, so I asked if I could write directly to our clients. At first, it was challenging, but I recognized that something as simple as a well composed email would go a long way, so I was determined to get good at it.
Become an effective communicator and continuously polish those skills. Learn best practices for each method of communication, from spoken word to Linkedin mail, and be mindful of the message based on who's receiving it. Good messages are empathetic, respectful and to the point.
2. To be outspoken —
Nothing was ever written about the person that sits in the back and never raises their hand. At a public speaking workshop this week, Connor Murphy eloquently explained that we're born with the ability to speak our minds – even before learning to speak. Babies are loud when they require some attention, toddlers run around and will reply that they're "bored" if you ask them to stop, and kids never shy away from asking why? But why? Why?…
Somehow we grow convinced that proper etiquette requires us to be collected and suppress our thoughts. But the fact is that I've only been able to gain success as I learned to share my ideas and opinions, even around experts.
Speak your mind, be heard, ask questions.
3. To face the uncomfortable —
Talking to clients, interacting with C-level executives, public speaking – check, check, check! Along the way, it's been key for me to face my fears, but beyond that, practicing enough to become proficient at it.
Seek challenges and put yourself in uncomfortable situations until they feel at least a tiny bit normal. Remember that if you get nervous about something, it's because you care enough about it to fear the outcome. Nike it up and Just Do It™.
4. To respect time —
Time is valuable, time is precious, time is money… You've probably heard at least one of these phrases at some point in your life. If you haven't, you might be an alien. But the point is that there is an absolute, undeniable truth to these statements. These come in two flavors.
First, respect your own time. Focus and prioritize in what will have an immediate effect on your career. Learn to value your time and not be wasteful with it.
Second, respect everyone else's time. Each person you interact with is on their own mission. Be mindful of this and also be deliberate with your actions. You will gain a lot of respect when people feel you value their time as much as yours.
5. To be surrounded by the best —
I grew up watching the movie Stand By Me. In retrospect, I see it as a perfect analogy to life and companionship.
If I had the choice, I would have the leadership skills of Chris Chambers, or the insightfulness of Gordie Lachance, or even the careless and direct attitude of Teddy Duchamp, but I am probably Vern. Yes, I am definitely Vern. But the good thing about being Vern is that I get to be a dreamer, have an inexcusable imagination which, surrounded by people who excel in other areas, create the ideal combination to help me succeed.
Surround yourself with people you admire and learn from them. Don't be afraid to ask for guidance and use this to catapult your growth.
6. To always remain grateful —
When I was a kid, my grandma told me why she always carried a small pebble in her pocket. It was there to remind her to be grateful every time she reached in for money. Even as a kid, I remember being amazed by this gesture. More importantly, it shaped my attitude and continues to influence me today.
Whether due to religious beliefs, The Secret, or a forge your own destiny attitude, take time to reflect and enjoy your path. Take pride in the sprints and tumbles that took you this far and embrace the uncertainty of what's around the corner. The feeling of fulfillment can only be achieved by taking delight in your journey.
While I am in no way an expert or a life coach of any kind, I am applying my same philosophies to share what has worked for me. Going from graphic designer to being an entrepreneur has been an amazing, yet humbling experience.
By positively adopting these practices as an ideology, I have gained the sense of continuously moving forward in my career. I am curious to know what has worked for you so far. What invaluable advice has propelled you forward? Which philosophies do you employ to further your career?
Leave a comment below and share with someone that needs to read this or has something amazing to add.