Category Archives: work

Boulder Start Up Week

IMG_6459

It would be hard for me to think of a group of people that I have more respect and admiration for than the Start Up Community. Entrepreneurs take risks the vast majority of people would never even dream of. They put a lot of energy into creating something new in the world, and, when successful, create something meaningful. Entrepreneurs, along with those that join them in building businesses and others that pursue ideas using a similar mindset, are the ones responsible for most human progress. They are also the ones that create most of the jobs that the majority of the population finds security in.

At the risk of injecting politics into a blog I specifically wanted to keep non-political, it often feels like these job creators go unappreciated in some segments of the American population. Sure, there are some horrible bosses out there, and corporations that don’t care about their employees. However, there are plenty who deserve their high level of wealth and status. There are movements that seem to encourage resentment towards all wealthy people. Beyond encouraging mediocrity and threatening the system that has brought us economic prosperity, they are unfair to those that are wealthy because they did a lot of good for humanity. This includes the entrepreneurial community.

Still, many people, like myself, revere this community. Start Up Weeks occur all over the country. Each Start Up Week is a series of events that help connect communities of people who build businesses, work in start up cultures, or just are of the general start up mindset.

IMG_1472

Boulder ranks in the top 50 US Cities for start ups by dollars invested despite being relatively small in size. Start Up Week in Boulder is, in a way, similar to Start Up Week anywhere else in the country. There are panel discussions, individual presentations, sessions where discussions are facilitated in groups, and even a “start up crawl”, where people can visit various start up business around downtown, network with people and engage their creative sides.

Discussions at Start Up Week cover a fairly wide variety of topics from tips for those who are starting a business, to workplace culture, technical discussions and even discussions on societal trends. At Boulder Start Up Week 2019, there was a panel discussion on psychedelic drugs, their potential health benefits and potential emerging businesses associated with them.

Events take place all over town, at a variety of different settings, from shared workspaces like Galvanize, to businesses, and even museums.

What I have always found, when attending a Start Up Week, is that the best way to get around from event to event is by bicycle. Although, in places where they have scooters, that could be a good option as well.

Events like Start Up Week, and TED conferences, help me re-orient myself. It is easy to get bogged down in day to day life. Things like paying bills, maintaining a home, and meeting deadlines for work can occupy our minds in such as way that the big picture, who we are, who we want to be and how we truly want to live our lives, can get lost. Start Up Week offers a different atmosphere, with people talking about big ideas, passions, trends, and how to make dreams come true.

IMG_6476.jpg

One thing that makes every Start Up Week unique is the culture of the place where it is held, in this case, Boulder, Colorado. This was reflected in some of the discussions and topics. The discussion about the future of psychedelics came right after Denver became the first city to decriminalize magic mushrooms.

IMG_4595

The local culture had an imprint on both in the selection of events and the direction some of the discussions went. A lot of events covered topics related to health, fitness, and even specifically training for a major event like a marathon. In the discussions about HR related topics, such as workplace culture, human capital and finding your path, undoubtedly more questions were asked about inclusivity based on gender, age, and race than would be in other places. These both reflect on who the people of Boulder tend to be.

I spent the entire week switching modes, back and forth, between attending events at Start Up Week and tending to daily work requirements. It almost felt like the pull and tug that is ever present in my life. My heart is in pursuing big ideas, and looking towards the future.

IMG_3733.jpg

Sometimes it feels as if there are forces around me constantly trying to get me bogged down in day to day affairs. However, one of things I realized, both at events like these, as well as at work, is that it is not about ignoring all the things we get bogged down in. After all, bills need to be paid, homes need to be maintained and deadlines need to be met.

It is really about staying mindful of how even our day to day lives and the kinds of things we get bogged down in fit into the bigger picture. We lose sight of that when we become too focused on the specific action of, say meeting a deadline, to the point where we are not thinking about it in the context of anything bigger and it becomes a means into itself. That is when we need a reminder of where we are oriented and where we are headed. This is something Start Up Week and other similar events help me do, even if I am not currently starting a business.

More Than Just a New Job

The way the world is designed, heck, the way life itself is designed, it is impossible to go through a full lifetime without some major life changes and adjustments.  Regardless of what lifestyle choices we make, we all undergo periodic transformations.  Every one of us transforms from being an infant, to a child, to an adolescent, and to an adult.  Afterwards, most of us will transform to becoming parents ourselves.

Life in the 21st Century requires more personal transformations than ever!  Today nearly all of us go to college.  A life transformation occurs both at the start and the completion of our college education.  Additionally, the world is changing at an ever faster pace.  Gone are the days when one would be able to learn a couple of key skills to use over the course of a 40 year career with the same company.  Recent writing has even suggested that the most effective people reinvent themselves every 3-5 years.  Coincidentally, the current average time that a person stays at a job is 4.6 years.

It is hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment in which I realized that I needed to undergo a significant re-invention.  We often have this notion that ideas just pop into people’s heads out of nowhere.  We have all seen shows where a light bulb suddenly pops upon the screen, indicating that someone has come to a sudden realization.  This is not actually the case.  In reality, ideas are often developed over time, with contributions from multiple people.

For me, it took two separate disappointing experiences in traditionally-structured jobs, a whole bunch of reading, extensive self-reflection, and discussions with plenty of individuals, including some who had undergone a similar transformation themselves.

Chicago_Skyline

Life after college started off really good for me, all things considered.  In Chicago, I had a steady job with a large corporation, where I met a lot of people who were also in their 20s, and had plenty of chances to enjoy big city life.

casino_winnigns

It was the life I had imagined for myself at the time, but inevitably, things had to change.

The hardest thing I learned about life working for a large corporation is that a person can put in several good years, and have their work output feel quite well received by those around them, and still have decisions made on their behalf that are not necessarily in their best interest.  Essentially, what I learned, which sounds elementary to me now, is that corporations do not care about people, and that in large structured environments, people are often far removed from people making decisions.  It is common for someone to have decisions being made regarding their career path by people who do not know them much beyond what would be included in a two page resume.

During this time, I did explore a bit about non-traditional work environments, reading books such as The Art of Non-Conformity.  But, I guess I was not ready for it, and so I returned to another traditional structured work environment.

IMG_4732

I have not discussed this much in this blog.  As a matter of fact, I kind of feel like a phony even admitting that while I have been writing this travel blog, documenting the trips I was taking, I spent a good number of days sitting at a desk in an office like this.  Most people would not consider that the lifestyle of a “travel writer”.

I am starting to believe that every life transformation has both externally driven and internally driven components.  What I mean by this is that, the same way rehab programs only work for people who first “admit they have a problem”, someone can only re-invent themselves, when they come to some form of realization that it needs to happen.  However, I do not see situations where someone decides to make major life changes in response to nothing.

Usually, something happens to make one come to the realization that what they are currently doing is not working.  Sometimes, it’s just bad luck, like bad market conditions for a particular industry.

IMG_4741

Other times, it is something more positive, like being introduced to something new, a new idea, a new way of thinking, or a new opportunity.

IMG_4509

For me, it unfortunately took a combination of experiences.  At work, I once again felt that feeling of alienation, as once again decisions were made without my best interests in mind.  It actually lead to a work environment that I found not only non-fulfilling, but also unpleasant.

Through the afore mentioned self-reflection, reading and discussions I had over the course of 2015, I came to several key realizations that go beyond the standard “I need a new job”.  I realized that….

  • I had originally decided to apply for the types of work I had applied for because I had not really considered the alternatives.
  • It is not just the few bold people that work in environments other than office jobs with 9-5-ish hours.
  • With automation, globalization, and other forces, we are going to have to be more creative, self-directed, and individually motivated in order to maintain our current standard of living.
  • In order to get what I want out of life I am going to make some major adjustments myself.

For the last few weeks, I have been transitioning to a new employment situation, as a “consultant”.  This environment is described to me as being halfway between being in a “traditional” structured office environment and being a freelancer.  It requires me to work differently, think differently, and act differently.  As is the case for many that are self-employed, there are some financial risks, but in exchange, there is increased flexibility and autonomy.  With all these changes, who knows what adventures await!

IMG_4167

I am actually quite excited about making these adjustments.

In my new world, there are no more cubicles, and I do not have a permanent office.  This means that both meeting people and finding work will require significantly more individual initiative.  Without having the same people around me every day, I am going to have to determine for myself which people I should be associating with, both in a personal and professional sense.

In my new world, there is significantly less structure.  Nobody is there to tell me what time I should be doing what.  In order to ensure productivity, I will have to create this structure myself, determining each day, week, and month what I need to get done and when I will be doing it.

And, most importantly, my new world requires me to fully embrace thinking of life as a “slalom”.  Just as those that compete in slalom skiing must think several turns ahead of time, I must be prepared to think several moves ahead of time to ensure that I am setting myself up for a successful, and more importantly, enjoyable life both short and long term.

This requires a new me, and hopefully a better me.  It requires me to be more confident, both in what I believe in, as well as what decisions I make and what I believe myself capable of.  It requires me to take initiative without being paralyzed by the fear of failure that causes so many people to not pursue their ideas and passions.  But, most importantly, I believe it requires me to not lose sight of who I am and what makes me a unique individual.  Of late, I have been active in encouraging others as they pursue their individual pursuits.  What I am hoping for, both for myself, and for everybody around me, is that we do not transform ourselves into a completely different person, but that we are able to become what I refer to as the best version of yourself.

 

A Weekend to Recharge

IMG_3103

It’s a day we all experience at some point in the winter season- some of us more than others.  A thick layer of low clouds blanket the sky in a manner that states in no uncertain terms that you will not be experiencing a single ray of sunshine for the entire day.  Temperatures hover somewhere in the 30s.  There is a cold, damp feeling to everything that makes anyone outside feel as if some kind of very light precipitation is falling.  But, nobody can really tell.  In fact, not only are we unsure whether precipitation is actually falling, we are not even sure what type of precipitation (rain, snow, other) we believe might be falling.  And, to be honest, it really doesn’t matter.  Because, the mood is already set, and that is one of a persistent cold, damp, and raw.  It is as if the world around you is telling you that you that today is going to be more subdued than most.  That today will not be the day you go on some kind of life changing adventure, achieve something major, or even make significant progress towards something.

There is a half a century old folk song whose lyrics go something like “a time for war, a time for peace, a time to laugh, a time to cry”.  I am not really 100% certain what they actually say in the song, but I know the entire song kind of discusses the cycles and sub-cycles of life in that sort of manner.  And, it advocates the recognition that certain actions, activities, emotions, etc. have their time and place, regardless of which ones we prefer, which ones we enjoy, or which ones we feel are more beneficial.

I have always been one to periodically look for ways to get the maximum utility out of one of the most precious resources we all have- time.  Implied in many initiatives we take to better our lives, including the goals I made for 2015 at the start of the month, is a better use of our time, commonly in the form of trying to select in favor of behaviors we consider a good use of our time and against behaviors that we consider a poor use of our time.  However, one thing I often fail to consider is that not every minute of every day can be spent doing something that we feel is significant.  Just as the cycles of life often take us to the next exciting adventures in our lives, the cycles of life will also tell us when it is time to slow down and recharge our batteries.  And, although I consider myself to be in the top quartile for energy levels in my age group, even those of us with high energy levels can run into times when it is depleted.  A time to rage, a time to mellow.

IMG_0245 IMG_1626

Sometimes it is hard for an energetic person to realize that the time to “mellow” has come.  For energetic people, this portion of the cycle of life can be frustrating, and, during down-times, I often find myself restlessly looking at bike routes and new travel destinations to consider in the near future.  However, this particular weekend, the time had come in no uncertain terms.  And, the weather, so raw, cold, and lifeless, only reinforces this fact.  It amplifies the mood.

Emotion and anxiety is a much more significant energy drain than many people realize.  In fact, I have found that at times emotions and anxiety can drain energy far more efficiently than strenuous physical and/or mental work.  There are plenty of times I remember bicycling 50+ miles, staying out partying well past midnight, or working hard to meet some kind of deadline, and still having an energy level the next day fairly close to normal.  However, I do recall several recent scenarios where drama, uncertainty, or allowing that part of your brain that worries about all things that can go wrong to stress me out about something have made me quite sleepy.

Along with the dull weather pattern, multiple emotional events over the past few weeks contributed to my need to take a weekend to recharge.  One of the hardest things to do is to say goodbye to a boss that you actually enjoy working for.  Two weeks ago, I found out that my supervisor, the man who hired me, has believed in me every step of the way, and genuinely respects me and my ideas, is departing.  This is hard to find in the workplace.

Work is not typically the most exciting thing people do in their lives.  There is a reason that movies rarely show a person manipulating data in a spreadsheet.  And, there is a reason I write a travel blog and not a work blog.  I’ve even seen some people that achieve the dream job they had set out to do from a young age, and still get burned out on it.  But, with good people around you and a good environment, the time that we spend at work can periodically be enjoyable and fulfilling, which is the most we can really ask for.

IMG_3100

This weekend, I am not just anxious about the uncertainty that comes with any change, but I am genuinely sad to see the man go.  And, while it is tough for an adventure-seeking extrovert like me to swallow a weekend of resting, and focusing on other areas of my life, there is a time for my focuses to remain within a 5 mile radius of home, and that time is now.  I am certain that 2015 will produce some amazing adventures, some of which I already have planned and look forward to.  But for now, all I can do is appreciate the opportunities I have received and do my best to make sure I continue advancing my career forwards without giving up on the most precious resource I have- who I am.