Fresh out of college and staring at a blank excel document. When I got the ‘dream job’ in the field I’d studied 4 years in, I thought it’d be smooth sailing. I expected the occasional twists and turns and bumps, but I never expected a thick wall in front of me.
Was the cubicle my goal? I calmed myself thinking, in a couple years, I’d be in the shiny office room my boss was in.
I worked hard everyday, but the powers above didn’t trust a rookie with the good stuff. I wanted to do a lot more with my time and I knew I had what it takes to do it. Everyday of the 6 months I was there, was the same. I’d had enough! The people around me would think I’d given up too quick but the only question I had to ask myself was,
“Who am I?”. The answer was never going to be, “A Corporate Employee”
To figure out my path forward I needed to learn quickly how a business worked. The answer was quite simple really.
A Startup! To me, Startups were really small corporates where a couple of jobs are done by one smart guy.
This would help me learn a bit of everything. You see what you’re good at and can build on. You could see what you’re not really good at and probably should leave to someone else. I was much happier than I was before. I had the creative freedom to express myself and test ideas I had. But I was never in a position to truly drive the startup forward to pastures I thought it should go. So, the question remained,
“Who am I?”. The answer was never going to be, “A Startup Employee”.
Throughout all this, I always had brainstorming sessions about the next best business idea that would make me rich and famous. Yes, me! I didn’t really care about anything else but me. Why would I? I never lacked for anything in my life. I more or less got everything I wanted.
The business ideas that came to me, started and ended in a couple months always. There was never really a drive to get to the finish line.
Everyday living outside the comforts of college, I kept opening my eyes to what the world really was. The change was very slow. I was at first truly ignorant, thinking I should only fend for myself and that the world could not be saved. Then I promised myself I’d help after I’ve gotten myself where I wanted to be.
So, while I was getting myself where I wanted to be, would I be able to keep minting money and turn a blind eye to the world decaying in front of me.
It was a dark place to be in. I questioned everything I thought made me, me. But, I only had to answer one question at a time and the first question was,
“Who am I?”. The answer was never going to be, “A Grubby Businessman”.
I had to find a way out. My ambitions remained. To be successful and to leave a legacy. But I couldn’t pretend like everything in the world was A-Okay. I wasn’t overcome by heroic ambitions of grandeur that I could fix the world myself, but I could be a part of the change, couldn’t I? How could I put these two opposing thoughts together?
Nothing that I was taught in school or at home gave me the answer. The education was always about how to be better than the kids in your class. Study more and you’ll be the smartest, ace your interviews and you’ll beat everyone to the ‘dream job’, work harder and you could rule the world. The real world wasn’t only about competition. Did they ever teach you compassion?
All the research I did at my startup job, into Social Enterprises like TOMS & Krochet Kids did give me the answer though. I could employ modern business practices to create successful businesses that helped communities. But, Warren Buffet says, “You can only maximize one variable at a time: profit or impact”. I don’t plan on maximising either. I could find a middle ground. So, I finally found the answer to my question,
“Who am I?”. The answer was always going to be, “A Social Entrepreneur”.