Today is Thanksgiving, and people are saying what they are thankful for, including life-changing, path-altering things. If there was one moment in time, a single realization, or a crucial decision which set me off on this path I have taken, I think I know what it is. When I stopped to think about it, I was surprised by the answer.
I’ve seen this type of instant occur for other people—in some cases, I’ve been told I was there for it. Something happens, and opens a new door for you or gives you an all new perspective. You walk through this door, even though it feels strange, like uncharted territory. That leads to something else happening, and then something else. It’s a chain reaction that, once set in place, will continue to move you in new directions, even if you don’t realize your new life can be traced back to on event, person, conversation, book, or whatever.
This chain reaction, in a less combustive term, is the path of your life. Is your life stuck in traffic on the highway with everyone else, going to a 9-5 cube farm job? Sometimes it’s not your decision to get kicked off that highway and into the woods, as you can see in the Lemonade documentary. In most cases, if you really want to keep that comfortable, consistent life, you can fight your way back on it. So whether or not it’s your choice to get off the beaten path, it’s up to you to stay on it and see where it’ll take you. This decision is the beginning of a journey.
Setting off on a new path doesn’t necessarily require quitting your job or getting laid off.
After my path-altering realization, I kept my job for a couple of years, and then I got a new job and worked there for almost three years. So for me, entrepreneurship only came after many other things happened and I achieved what I referred to as exit velocity. At some point, it did become inevitable.
In 2005, I realized that even if I reached the peak of my career, having a good portfolio doesn’t make you an industry leader. At the same time, I was starting to wonder how Digg was taking off, even though it was the same content as Slashdot. I realized digg was primarily successful because of Kevin Rose, who had spent years on one of the only nationally broadcasted TV channels that focused exclusively on technology. That gave him an incredible amount of exposure within the tech industry. If you or I had launched Digg at the same time he did, it very well may have floundered, as the first 10,000 users of a User Generated Content site are the most crucial when going up against an incubant like Slashdot. When people heard Kevin Rose had founded Digg, many surely signed up simply because his name was attached to it.
That realization in 2005 set off a series of reactions that eventually led to my change in jobs, starting my business, and my world-wide couch surfing adventures. Digg was where I started getting my name out in the tech industry, which is how my next employer found me. I built simple applications that crawled Digg’s data and allowed Digg users to explore and interact with it. My name was plastered all over it, in hopes that it would start to look familiar among people in the tech industry.
When I signed up for Twitter, it seemed very similar to Digg, except more personal and more interactive. Twitter was primarily made up of people in technology, and thus people I wanted to get my name out to. I did the same thing I did on Digg. I ran experiments and developed simple applications, such as twitter-based games and crappygraphs.com. Next thing you know, I was the second most-followed user on the site! Twitter, then, indirectly led to many more things happening in my life.
But would any of this have happened if I hadn’t made that realization in 2005?