Sitting here during a couple hour layover in Boston. Headed to New York. Was in Cincinnati last night. Austin the day before. Dallas the day before that. Will be back in Ohio Wednesday. It’s been a crazy week of movement. A crazy year of it really. A year ago at this time I was moving from Austin to Boston. It happened so fast. Instinctively. A sudden, life-changing decision that subtly blended “seizing the moment” and survival mode.
I was ready to pivot the company but needed to learn more before making that hard right. I met someone through someone through someone else, who really seemed to see the vision of what we’d been working for years to create. Creating a new path by taking on a system. Looking at two titans – education and employment – and knowing and feeling that they’re not quite right; that too many people were being squeezed out of their big steps. And then studying all the angles and measuring all the curves while simultaneously running on their rooftops and banging against their walls… The inertia was there. The momentum was moving. I felt it, so I went for it. Immersed myself in the epicenter of education.
Barricaded myself between 52 institutions of higher learning, including a few – Harvard, MIT, BC, etc – that you probably heard of. Learning about learning. Within weeks I was meeting with some of the biggest VC’s in town. I was meeting with politicians. I met with two NBA team owners multiple times in a back-and-forth four-week span; one at the top of the tallest building in Boston, and the other across the country on a Hollywood set in between makeup and director’s cuts (you may have seen a few mins of that one lol).
A lot of them liked what we were doing with our old app. But none really saw what we truly wanted to build with our Besomebody Paths – taking what we learned about experiential learning and skills training and passion-based curriculums, and focusing it on getting people jobs. Creating an affordable, accessible alternative for people who didn’t quite fit inside the traditional box. Flipping the model, working backwards, being different…. Different makes people uncomfortable. And, Venture Capital and visionary are, for the most part, oxymorons. Safe bets, not big ones, are what make the rich richer…. Partners I brought on started to get nervous. They told me to steer clear of education, and “go easy” on pitching the Paths.
We eventually found some influential people who finally got it. I say “got it” with full awareness of the connotations of that phrase. And with complete respect. Because often times when met with wrinkled brows, blank stares and un-stimulating conversation, we quickly begin dissecting what’s wrong with our vision instead of wondering what’s off with the dissenter’s sight. Now don’t get me wrong, mistakes far outnumber correct calls in this game. So you take cues and input wherever you can get it. You’re always learning and evolving. But vision – your vision – is something you gotta protect. And it’s crucial to remember that NO ONE will see your vision like you do – that’s why it’s yours.
But if you see it clearly, and you believe in it, and you’re willing to work for it, it doesn’t matter how many degrees or how much money someone else has, you don’t need anyone’s approval to build your own dream. In fact, if you’re pitching your vision/business/idea to people to seek validation of its merit, you should abort, immediately. Success is relative and impossible to predict – too many variables. But belief – in yourself and your vision and your mission – is the entire foundation. It’s the primary pillar, and the first and most important prerequisite. You gotta believe. Then you gotta be willing to put the work in, whatever it takes. And of course, the glue between the two is having the self-awareness to understand what your strengths are and where you will need a little help.
But all of that comes after belief.
So, back to Boston… and back to whatever it takes. I didn’t end up getting a deal done here, even though it felt we were 95% of the way there on multiple occasions. Like we were sitting on the goal line for six months, but the clock was broken and the scoreboard was malfunctioning and if it was up to the referees we woulda stayed in that stadium forever. So, finally, I picked up the ball and, once again, headed in a different direction. I knew that this wasn’t the only field.
One of the most empowering things you can do is walk away. Especially when you know you got the chops to stay in the game.
You see, the “powers that be” try to tell you that your current circumstance is the cage you have to play in. They try to keep you bumping between the borders they built. But, when you realize that it’s a big, big world, and that you’re strong enough, and experienced enough, and passionate enough to explore it, then the current circumstance becomes less of a barrier. When you decide to go out and GET IT, on your own terms, with your own talent, and your own (small) team, you build some muscles that will carry you through a ton of tough times. You may not win many friends, and you may not have many followers (at first), but you sure as hell will have your vision and values intact. And, once the news of your quiet advancements travels back to those who passed on you, the inbox will get thick again. And then, YOU decide what you compose.
So I walked.
And sunk. And built while I was sinking. With two, three, four people by my side. Sinking with me with beautifully determined grimaces on their faces. And when we emerged from the depths of dream chasing, opportunity had a different address. And wouldn’t you know it… it was good ol’ Cincinnati, Ohio. The birthplace of this #besomebody dream. Full freaking circle.
I’ve become accustomed to doing whatever is necessary over the last 4+ years. At first because it’s fun, then because it’s expected, then because you have no choice, and finally, because it becomes a way of living.. of being. The moves happen so fast that you don’t even get to process them. Just, on to the next one. “Onward with the mission”… whatever it takes….
But, when the universe schedules a stopover, and you have two hours to ponder what was, what is, and what will be, then, I’m not gonna lie, you get pretty sentimental. You get that pull on your heart, and those knots in your stomach, and that glaze in your eyes. You feel it, finally…
And I’m not sure what it feels like.
It’s not quite happiness. It’s definitely not regret. It’s the lightness of knowing you’re right where you’re supposed to be colliding with the unmistakable heaviness of the journey, silently exploding like two powerfully passing clouds. And, most importantly, it’s the knowledge – the belief – that whatever happens, you’ll keep going. You’ve come too damn far. So far you forgot how to stop. And along the way, you’ve learned that winning isn’t about actually achieving the goal. Because the goal posts keep moving. Nope.
Winning is going for it.