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28 years old. What I learned in 2019

2019 might have been the most difficult year in my life. It shouldn’t have been, but it couldn’t have felt any worse. I’m aware that I’m raised in a privileged country, and that I’m just privileged, I have a set of AirPods Pro, they work well.

Starting a business is hard. I never learned what it truly meant, despite working for many companies before.

The issue is that I’m a pretty stubborn and contrarian person. These traits sound negative, but they’ve steered me pretty far in life. I usually don’t settle with how good something is because I’m always considering how it can be better; for example, my jumpshot, company dogma, coding skills— you know, this type of stuff. It’s a little hypercompetitive, and it definitely rubs some people the wrong way.

Being Stubborn

This approach screwed me up big time with my bootstrapped business. I didn’t listen to others. Better yet, I didn’t even ask. I assumed I knew it all and that people who did not understand my idea were not my target population. This thought might have been true for some occasions, but I really wish I tried asking for more feedback before writing code like a maniac.

Being a contrarian and doing what’s ‘right’

I always told myself, if someone does something stupid — you need to tell them. It is your duty to let them know, ‘this is wrong’. This year I learned that this mentality is driving a lot of my temper issues. I get angry a lot about stupid things that other people are doing, so much to the point that it all came boiling down one night in December where I came down hard and was just in a bad place, details not important.

Even at that point, I still didn’t get it. I just told myself to chill out more.

It was when I started a sales course last week in hopes to reach profitability in 2020, that I realized — being upset at people’s tendencies and behaviors are not traits to be mad about, they are opportunities to profit from.

This sounds disgustingly salesy, but through the context of growing my business, I learned that people are often who they are and don’t have a weird inkling like me to never settle and continually improve at everything. They often just want to pay to fix a problem if it’s painful enough. I wish I had a more profound experience that taught me to “leave people be”, but it’s only typical I learned a personal lesson while working on the job. I need to get out more.

Create something that solves a real pain, not just a problem.

Continuing from my last point, this learning was the most important for me personally despite the business context. There are a lot of things people want and find problems with, but just aren’t willing to pay to fix. When I built my fitness app, I thought a lot of people would want to use it— they didn’t. There are many others reasons why it didn’t work— didn’t market well, niche audience, etc.

One thing was very clear though, no one came banging on the door for it. That’s the product market fit I did not have.

And then I thought about myself.

I’m pretty weird.

I don’t use QWERTY, rather in Colemak. I track a lot of things because I lack long term memory; I definitely have OCD and I even think I possess some level of ADD, (even before the social media age).

I’m also not a fast learner, so I’m the type of person to spend the extra time to understand and adopt something, even if it’s very unintuitive. As you might imagine, this mindset is terrible for a solo-run business because I think athletes might actually care enough to navigate my app and even come back often.

Aside finished, I learned the hard way that your focus and intent as a business is at the mercy of your selected customers, not you — no matter how fitting you believe you are to them. As a result the untethered motivation and excitement is no longer there with building my business, but I don’t intend on quitting. I’m not sure if it’s ‘right’ for founders to feel this way about their business. Shouldn’t one be waking up with a bright-orange sunshine in frame of her, hitting the morning coffee and zealous to growing something awesome?

I don’t know the answer,

but I’ll finish with what I think are positives to my hard learnings. My customer voice and my actual customer’s voice are now separate. I don’t assume what’s not fulfilling my interests is what’s best for my business. Because I’m not as emotionally invested, I wholeheartedly feel more steady, mentally, since 2020 began. (random: I also started taking multi-vitamins so that helps.)

I also give less shits about putting in the daily hours working because though I will never downplay the need for hard work, I’ll always prefer losing sleep working for my personal interests over that of others— contextualize this positively, please. I hope this mindset continues to help me work with a more balance attitude and schedule. More time to do random things, and more time to cook with my girlfriend.

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