While I was walking in the streets of New York, I can’t help but reflect through all the things that happened to my career. Whoa, can’t believe I’ve been through a lot. I wrote this during my birthday (weeks before I posted here) so it’s pretty much like a birthday introspection. Anyway…
A few years ago, I was just a 19-year old guy trying to figure out the walks of life. Fresh from acquiring a piece of paper (diploma), I am set to pave my own path. Naive yet enthusiastic, I jumped into the portal of unknown. Was I prepared to face the industry? How do things work? How are people motivated by their careers? What makes a person successful? More importantly, what is now my purpose now that I’m no longer in school? I recalled back in college, I always wanted to build my own startup and change the world. I didn’t want a 9-5 job for the rest of my life. Cliche as it seems, nobody supported my idea. Everyone was busy with “normal” stuffs and it’s a taboo in society to think different. As much as I want to push through entrepreneurship, deferring it became a blessing in disguise because college wasn’t a good investment and I’d probably fail if I’m forced to jump in.
My war room in the early days
So I decided to work for small to big enterprises, mostly startups. “Hey, you have a bigger offer in this company so why not go for that?”. That’s a line I normally hear from people. I laugh whenever they respond “YOU SHOULD’VE TAKEN THAT OFFER! WHAT A WASTE TO LET GO OF FREE GYM, FOOD, TRANSPO ALLOWANCE, AND CHANCE TO GO TO ABROAD”. You see, I don’t really decide based on financial perks nor the name of the company. They may offer 6-digit salaries but how sure am I that my work there would be meaningful? It’s never about the money and I’m not that gullible to sell my soul to the devil. I am clear with what I want, it’s more growth and unparalleled experience as a preparation to becoming a founder. I don’t care if I am paid minimum wage. Just give me the best person in the company, have me sit down with him on a day-to-day basis and give me an amazing experience. It’s even better on unstructured companies. I’d rather spend the first few years of my career maximizing every opportunity to take risks as I don’t think I’d have this privilege when I grow older.
Then what happened? It feels like I time-traveled 10 years to the future. Things I’m learning today are what people do in their 30’s. I can relate to work jargons and engage in professional conversations. Heck, it even came to a point that I worked for a startup in Silicon Valley and was mentored by one of the best freakin engineers (a VP of Engineering of a top 20 global company). After a few years of unparalleled experience, I said, “It’s time”.
My “bible” during my early startup days
21 was the magic number that I decided to quit my full-time job to pursue that greater purpose. With only PHP30,000 ($600+-) in my pocket, a laptop, and the internet, what can I possibly make out of these resources? Equipped with technical prowess, limited connections, and ZERO entrepreneurial experience, I’m not sure up to what extent it can take me. Nobody knew I left my job except my friends (because if my parents figured that out, they’d kill me). Day and night, I sat down to the drawing board, sketching ideas and programmed prototypes. Cash was burning as the day passes. This kept on and on ’till I met a friend. An awesome and hard-working friend who introduced me to a compelling problem that I can totally relate to. I felt the need to address the issue so I hopped on-board and became one of the co-founders. Finally, this is it. My startup founder journey begins. No bosses, no 9-5’s, and no rules. Oh and no salary, ouch!
The first few weeks felt different. It feels liberating to be your own boss as well as waking up with no snooze. Coded all day, attended meetings, opinions respected and got exposed to different areas as I go along. It didn’t felt like work at all! I thought it would go on like this consistently but the real work began after some time. Demanding work was given and expectations had to be fulfilled. Given all the workload, it feels like being an employee was a better choice but nah, I am starting to love it! When we had enough funds, we rented a room which served as our office. I moved out and stayed there for 5 days a week (sometimes 6), maximizing every minute of productivity. I slept on the floor, walls, and eventually the mattress (yaaay). It feels exactly like you see in startup series. Dorm room kids doing all-nighters, writing on walls holding their hot mug to build a game-changing platform.
My first townhall meeting with my pioneers
I was also in the process of converting my long-made prototype into a startup. From there, I was hustling 2 on the side. Result? Bad idea, juggling 2 startups wasn’t good at all. More burnouts, unparalleled commitments, and conflicting interests were all present. I am also placed into trial whenever people ask which one do I truly belong. Eventually, my partners on the latter agreed that we had to abandon ship because there wasn’t much momentum as we all worked part-time for that prototype. Despite that, we brought plenty of learnings. Now completely focused on one startup, things got better then eventually launched the platform. Gained exponential growth then expanded to several countries. It was intense.
As we went along, we were dealt with several challenges. Had a lot of disagreements, who does things, how to scale, what new features to add and whatnot. In the process, we all made bad decisions. We were all first-time founders so we’re figuring out what we’re trying to do. I felt sad with my share of bad decisions. Lost friends (yet gained some), gained attrition, bad financial decisions, and felt stagnated. I felt so bad that I had to space out for a while. Did part-time gigs (to recover financially as well), watched tons of documentaries and read a lot of Medium articles. Is there a rainbow after the rain? Running a startup was no joke and it challenges you on every aspect of life. Eventually, we mustered these challenges and moved forward.
Our very first office space which consists of only 8sqm! Look at how messy our stuff was. Yes, I am that in need of those screens.
2 years later, me and a friend decided to put up a startup. This time, me being equipped with past experiences. Months after, we launched the product and I was surprised by the astronomical growth. User base grew, revenue rose exponentially, and good news kept coming. I felt like a king and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. Traveled parts of the world, tried a lot of new stuff, and finally got to spend on luxury after living frugally for years. Went back to normal then continued with the daily hustle. Despite that, we are of course, faced with challenges as we go along but nothing’s perfect no matter how consistently you do well. In any case, we’re ready to face whatever challenge that comes into our way.
2 startups, 1 non-profit, and a book later, I couldn’t be happier. Quitting my day job was the best decision I’ve made. More freedom, more time, and more value to society. It’s only been 4 and a half years from college yet it feels like yesterday. As promising as it may sound, the path I took (entrepreneurship) isn’t for everybody and definitely isn’t just the formula to success. It’s a path that everyone has to prepare for and mine took some time before the leap. We all have different circumstances in our life. You might be someone supporting a family or needs a stable income to survive. You may have a career that demands you to go on-site (doctors, engineers, etc) or a company with conservative rules (corporate in particular). Success stories on the internet portray that the only way to be successful is to become an entrepreneur and be free. NOPE, not at all! In fact, success varies from person to person. Admittedly, I used to persuade a lot of people to quit their jobs and become their own boss. I was wrong. No matter how much you encourage, not all are ambitious to take risks nor requires you to do so. If you think being in corporate and getting promoted is the way to go, go ahead! If you think supporting somebody else’s vision and jump-shipping to their journey is optimal, great! Do you think starting your own YouTube channel is best for you? Amazing! Every person has their own goals and not all these paths reward money and freedom. People are only after one thing, fulfillment. Not everyone thinks about a greater purpose, life stability, increasing wealth, or to become a world-class professional. Some are just happy being with a simple life. Whatever it is, let’s respect whatever people want in search of their own fulfillment.
Treating myself to Beijing
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to make yourself malleable to any situation. You will, and YOU WILL encounter people with conflicting personalities. As such, I’ve dealt with people of all walks of life. I’ve worked with people who suffered ADHD, PCOS, depression, made some suicidal attempts, former bullies, post-teen moms, broken families, an amputee, entitled pricks, aholes, people with non-negotiable temper issues, slow learners, as well as people who can’t speak English. Every person has their own flaws which is why life isn’t perfect, at the same time colorful. For companies, they treat employees like robots who’d only produce results. To me, it’s about being a human. We just have to embrace imperfection and be more open to perspective. After going through all this, there’s so much more to learn in this world unknown and I’m not even an inch there.
There are plenty of factors that contributed to my journey. Luck? Hard work? Privilege? Wisdom? Connections? Skills? Ambition? Attitude? I tell you, there is no concrete formula. Even if you follow all advise of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Gary Vaynerchuck, or post daily motivational quotes on your wall, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. I tell you, nobody takes advises seriously and people just forget about it a day or two. Go figure what works for you and formulate your own strategy. Personally, I just love solving problems which lead me to my startup journey. I have been criticized a lot by friends/family/relatives/
Me delivering the commencement speech for batch 2018
Now that I am a year older, what’s next? Early retirement in a few years? Way too early you say? I don’t know too but not impossible. What am I gonna do then? Don’t get me wrong, retirement isn’t the goal but complete and utter freedom. Will I hit that goal or scrap it eventually? Am I even close? Maybe? Maybe not?
Will I become an angel investor and fund startups? Focus again on my startup to skyrocket sales? To travel the world? Youtubing? Make my own research facility? Become a chef? Create another startup? A Venture Capital Firm? Write another book? Hike tons of mountains? Win triathlons? Philanthropy? Motivational speaking? Teach the world of my prowess? Or…. work again on a 9-5 job? Surprised? I mean to say was working for another great mentor and try to feel like an employee again, not for the sake of money. If worse comes to worst, I could probably lose all my wealth and start all over again. I don’t know. Nobody knows what the future holds. A lot of things can happen. Udemy did not exist when I was in school nor self-driving cars. Bitcoin wasn’t even real but now, people use it to pay like a credit card. The recession happened a decade ago and who knows whether it will resurface. I hate failing as much as you do but we have to be ready for anything that comes in our way.
Today is another restart of my “fiscal” year (PHT – UTC+8:00). Time to pave another path. I can’t wait for what lies ahead. Success or fail, bring it.