April 4th, 2014 found me on the edge of my seat listening to Randy Komisar, a serial entrepreneur and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. He talked about entrepreneurship, venture capital, and other current trends and aspects in the market.
Over the past couple decades, Sand Hill Road has built the foundation for the Silicon Valley we know today, providing the financial footing for companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook to change the world and making millionaires appear all over the silicon valley. Growing up not twenty minutes away from where all of this history took place, BrightEyes 2014 provided me not only with an opportunity to learn more about the venture capital and technology space, but also my own hometown.
“There is no straight line from idea to success.” – Randy Komisar (tweet that)
Listening to Randy was surreal. Every word he spoke was a piece of candy, inspiring and exciting the kid inside of me. Never would I have expected to be sitting in a historical venture capital firm at the age of 19, personally asking questions and interacting with a venture capitalist.
BrightEyes 2014 is a study tour that gives students an opportunity to learn about the tech and VC space in a very practical way by flying students out to the heart of the industry to meet and interact with the very people at the forefront of these industries. Run by Tiffany Stone, a 2012 UCSD grad, this study tour provided a huge supplement and a great deal of inspiration for my own education.
BrightEyes gave me the opportunity to interact with the people behind companies such as Boost VC, Nexgate, Lyft, Bitpay, AirBnB, Quixey, Andreessen Horowitz, Yahoo, Kleiner Perkins, Nest, Facebook, Sierra Ventures, Dorm Room Fund, and Amazon.
The first day started with a meeting with Adam Draper and Brayton Williams, the leaders behind Boost VC. We walked into a building with a gutted Tesla Model S turned into a desk, and walked down the stairs into a small conference room where we plopped down on beanbags.
We talked about many things, but among them included conversations about Bitcoin, where it currently is and where it’s headed. The conversation offered a pretty good case for the future of bitcoin, and made me reconsider cryptocurrencies as a whole. Maybe it’s onto something.
Either way, all the talk about upcoming disruptive ideas really struck a chord in me. It made me wonder not only about what the future is going to look like, but how I would take place in the whole orchestration of these evolving industries. AirBnB showed us the evolution of the hospitality industry, Lyft showed us the evolution of the transportation industry, Facebook showed us the evolution of social industries, etc etc.
For those of you who have known me or read my blog for a while, you’ll know that education is a big thing on my mind, and that I’m always thinking about ways to build a better system of learning that empowers people to truly reach their potential. Meeting all of these entrepreneurs has helped me reignite my passion for learning and education, but has also given me ideas on how to practically make a difference in the world that we live in. Just because the education space has historically been a very difficult market to bring change to doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give it everything that I’ve got.
The entire trip, from dawn to dusk, was full of conversations about building companies, developing teams, and changing the world. We had the privilege of staying at a home listed on AirBnB called Village Looky run by a very hospitable and smart entrepreneur Heigo Paartalu. Everywhere from meetings with companies to in between transportation time to meals to our stay at Villa Looky, the conversations were all nothing short of eye opening and inspiring.
One common thread that came up repeatedly when talking about the characteristics of a successful entrepreneurs and companies, was idea of “scrappiness”. Scrappiness is essentially the grit, tenacity, and endurance an individual gives to the work that they do. Scrappy people take big risks because they know exactly what they care about and exactly what they believe in.
While driving on the way to a meeting at Stanford on a perfect California day, Tiffany said “I want you to know yourself”, speaking it as if it was the secret that would make me successful.
Suddenly, it all made sense. The most powerful thing I would get out of all the interactions on this trip wasn’t answers to specific industry problems or forecasts, but a chance to build my personal network and get to know and understand myself. It was a chance to have conversations to understand my passions, my strengths, and my weaknesses. It was a chance to learn how to communicate different aspects of who I am in different situations.
And in a strange but practical way, BrightEyes was the missing piece that I had been longing for in my educational experience. It was a study tour that helped give much more context behind the things that I am learning in school, and more vision for my education. Every student should be given the chance to interact and network with people in industries.
The most powerful thing I would get out of all the interactions on this trip wasn’t answers to specific industry problems or forecasts, but a chance to build my personal network and get to know and understand myself.
Thanks BrightEyes for the amazing life-changing experience!
The role and ability for schools to provide an all encompassing education is diminishing, and I don’t believe that it’s necessarily the fault of schools.
But regardless of the role of traditional education in our world today, self-education is becoming increasingly evident and necessary. Schools aren’t going to die out anytime soon, but we are entering into a world where people who are self-educated are a lot more interesting. In part, this is the case because of the increasing diversity of roles and specializations.
Learning to self-educate is no easy endeavor, especially if you are used to years of schooling in which there is always someone telling you what to do, when to do it, where to do it, and how to do it. But if there is any time to learn to self-educate, the time is now. There are more tools and resources available to the average person than what was available to presidents decades ago, and the barrier of entry into virtually every industry is lower than it has ever been. The internet has allowed a level of communication that can propel indie filmmakers, budding writers, and emergent musicians to connect and publicize like never before.
Connecting the dots isn’t just about learning how to move a pencil between dots in a coloring book, but the concept isn’t too far off from such.
Connecting the dots is about taking your own initiative to draw lines between things in your life and in the world to create a picture that is meaningful and purposeful.
Paul does a great job of illustrating how a person can get started in self education, and different ways to continue your growth as a person. I highly recommend Paul Jun writes in his new book, looking into the insights that Paul has to offer.
I’ve never learned how to study, and I’ve never been particularly good at it.
And by studying, I don’t mean learning; I’m plenty good at that. I mean cramming knowledge into your head that you don’t really have a reason to care about in order to regurgitate it on an exam. I have no clue how to do that.
It’s amazing how much people are able to get done in the time spent procrastinating on studying. All of a sudden chores like cleaning the bathroom have a new appeal to them, because suddenly it appears more fun than what you should be doing.
The education crisis isn’t about how the United States is doing on PISA scores, it’s about students not being engaged in affordable, relevant, communal, collaborative, effective, and practical venues of learning.
I prefer learning over studying. Learning is about connecting the dots. It’s about synthesizing information given in a way that is relevant and practical to each person as an individual. It’s about an individual taking raw material and working with it in a way to build something unique, not something that’s been done hundreds of times before.
Studying is about adhering to a standard, learning is about failing. Studying is done in order to learn material so that people know the right answer, while learning is about trying new things and growing from whatever the outcome is.
Learning is about the process, studying is about the result. We have enough people posing as know-it-alls because they are afraid of being real and sharing their failures. It’s not their fault; schools train people to stand up and speak down on people, as if they are talking from a greater place.
Studying gets you through school. Learning gets you through life (Tweet That). I think I’d rather get better at learning than studying.
“If you plant a redwood in a forest, it can grow hundreds and hundreds of feet, but if you plant a redwood in a pot, it won’t grow very far. Everyone has potential, but where they root themselves makes a huge difference.”
Many times the inability to accomplish something has little to do with you individually, but the environment and people around you.
The challenge is knowing the difference between what you are capable of doing and what your environment is empowering you to do. It doesn’t matter whether a flower is planted in a pot or a forest, it doesn’t make a difference on how high the flower is able to grow.
Thus, no matter where you are at or what you are doing, always ask if the people around you are helping you become the best person you can become, and adjust accordingly.
Last week, as I was applying for an online contest, I looked at my calendar and realized that I have been blogging for five years. That’s five whole years worth of who I am that has been shared online.
It got me thinking. So much has changed since the day that I decided to start blogging, and yet some things are still exactly the same. I had no idea what today would look like five years ago, and I have no idea what things will look like five years from now. But day in and day out, I find myself doing a lot of work, and putting all my effort into various different things.
What do I really live for?
It’s a question that everyone faces. No matter how certain and confident a person may project themselves in the world, there’s always a deep question in the shadows questioning whether or not you deserve to be there. (tweet that)
Even today, while trying to think of what today’s blog post should be about, I took a deep breath, thought about how jammed pack these past two weeks have been, and asked myself if I’m really making a difference. I had no idea what to write about. Who even cares if I write?
There are so many areas of life where I could put myself down, look at myself like an amateur, and cause my feelings of insecurity to push me into hiding. But that doesn’t get me anywhere.
Your life’s work isn’t going to be easy, and nobody is every a hundred percent certain that they are the best fit or the most appropriate qualifications for the job. You just have to take a deep breath and know that you can do it. Have grit.
Because you are where you are for a reason. Don’t let what you have just fly by.
I’ve don’t believe in putting tools above mindsets and strategies, but sometimes it still is helpful to see how other people work and the tools they use to get their work done. Inspired by Lifehacker’s How I Work series, I’ve decided to venture into the slightly more personal space of my life and share my workflow with the world.
Current Computer: Lenovo Thinkpad R400
I’ve had this computer for a while now, same one I had two years ago. Still runs more than fine for my daily needs, and the build quality of ThinkPads is truly legendary. I dual boot Windows 7 and Arch Linux, which allows me to use graphic / creative stuff in one operating system and code in the other.
Current Mobile Device: Galaxy Nexus GSM
Still going strong on the trusty Galaxy Nexus. I wish Google would release a kitkat update for this little guy, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening. Android is a great mobile platform, and it’s also great to have the pure android experience on a Nexus device.
Other Electronics: ASUS Transformer, FitBit Force
I have an ASUS transformer for light computing days at school when I don’t feel like lugging around my laptop, as well as to read ebooks on. My ridiculous appetite for books is satisfied largely through this little handheld tablet.
My new FitBit Force is my venture into wearable technology. I’m quite pleased with it so far, and it’s turned my daily exercises nearly into a game. I like it’s subtleness unlike other wearable technology solutions out there that look absolutely ridiculous *cough* galaxy gear. Being able to quantifiably see how active I was today is definitely a cool thing.
My workspace consists of a dual monitor setup attached to a docking station for my laptop, which is extremely convenient when I come home and want a full blown computing space. I also have on the wall very carefully chosen colors and arrangements. Unfortunately, I am probably sitting in front of this thing for too many hours a day.
Apps I Can’t Live Without
The list is really long here, but I’ll go through them briefly. I use Thunderbird for email because I’m still not used to using email straight in the web. I use Chromium cause it’s awesome like that. I still use Pidgin for AIM and gchat (yes I’m still on AIM). Evernote is where I keep all of my thoughts and write all of my blog posts before they are published. If you don’t use Evernote, you’re seriously missing out.
As for Internet apps, I use tweetdeck to manage all of my never ending twitter interactions, and Buffer to schedule content sharing. Google docs and google calendar are also huge ways of organization and collaboration for me.
Sites I Frequent
There is always a tab open on Hacker News in my browser window besides my everyday Facebook, Quora, Tumblr, and Pinterest feeds. I also visit Lifehacker, Engadget, and Wimp regularly to keep up to date with tech and such.
My TODO List Manager
I’ve been using Google keep to keep track of things to do ever since it was launched. It has a great flexibility with lists and other note taking abilities. I also use Google tasks for Homework and other things that have time sensitive due dates.
Music I Listen To
Switchfoot has gotten me through life, no matter where I’ve been. Fading West is an amazing album. Other than that, I do have a couple EDM playlists on Spotify to get me pumped whenever I need more energy, or country music for whenever I feel like driving a tractor.
I’m always reading, and right now I’m enjoying “Think and Grow Rich” by Napolean Hill, as well as “Abundance” by Peter Diamandis.
Amazingly enough, I am able to get about seven hours of sleep a night consistently, usually between the hours of 12 to 8. Sleep is important for me, as it helps me to really have energy and focus through my days.
So there. Those are the tools I use.