How I Am Breaking The Mold
Like many, I went through the conveyor belt education system for 12 long years. What did I learn? Not much, besides the basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. The majority of my time was spent sitting bored in class, listening to the childish drama that pulsated through my peer group, and taking exams that tested my ability to memorize content, not understand it. It felt like a joke. The curriculum was designed to shove information into me and test my knowledge by how well I could regurgitate it, and while I did that very well, the curriculum remained to feel hollow and pointless. I wasn't moving with intention, in fact, I had no idea how what I was learning would prepare me for the real world. Now, I understand that it wasn't. There are only two things that matter in the real world: My ability to create value, and my ability to prove that I can. The cookie cutter education system simply failed to instill this entrepreneurial mindset in me, so I took matters into my own hands.
I landed my first job at a young age, working as a kitchen team member at Chick-fil-A. I learned quickly, I adapted quickly, and I soon became the very best in the kitchen. As the youngest employee, I was promoted to kitchen lead and while at first it was anxiety-inducing, I knew I was ready to grow. I took my new found responsibilities and ran with them, pursuing excellence at every turn. Within a few short months, my team was producing some of the lowest SOS (Speed of Service) times while maintaining ideal labor percentages. I was nicknamed, "The Machine" and looked up to as a true leader in the restaurant. Beyond operational excellence, I utilized my leadership role to pour into my co-workers, growing them not only in operations, but also in character. I learned how to be a leader, not a manager. I gained respect by being willing to dive into the trenches with my team, working together to provide every guest with quality food and quality service. Throughout my entire time at Chick-fil-A, I learned the true value of being hone-able, willing to learn and take advice not only from my superiors but from my team as well.
During my Chick-fil-A experience, I discovered podcasts. I listened to them frequently and I began to fall in love with the medium. One particular podcast I listened to was called "Successful Dropout" by Kylon Gienger. Every week Kylon interviewed a new guest, a successful dropout. I listened to countless stories of how people succeeded without going to college. My mindset slowly began to morph, and I began to see that not only is college not for everyone, but that unless the law legally requires you to have a degree for a certain occupation, college isn't necessary for anyone. I realized I no longer wanted to go to college because it would hold me back. To me, it was four more years of the conveyor belt education system that I had learned to hate. Once I decided to opt-out of college, I was elated. From that point on I moved with intention, and at a certain point the desire to build something bigger than myself came into play. I wanted to live a purposeful life and what better way to do that than to build something that would add value to others' lives? I knew that whatever I built, I wanted it to align with who I was as an individual. I began contemplating who I was and what I was good at, and I asked my friends what they thought I did better than anyone else they knew. They all answered the same thing: I have a keen ability to put myself in other people's shoes, to understand their problems, to ask great questions, and to offer sound advice and feedback. Then it hit me: I wanted to pair my ability to connect with others with my love for podcasts, and a week later, Thriving United, my very own podcast, was born.
To begin my podcast, I spoke about relevant life skills, concepts, and ideas that I was learning as I partook on my entrepreneurial journey. This included everything related to entrepreneurship, innovation, philosophy, self-directed learning, etc. to help each and every one of my listeners thrive. After a while of just me speaking, I desired to grow my verbal communication skills while simultaneously growing my network. I then reached out to successful entrepreneurially minded individuals that I could showcase via my podcast. In each interview, I unpacked their journey, their failures, their successes, and everything they learned along the way. I constantly uncovered actionable advice for my audience, so they too could be empowered to take charge of their life and career. Now, after 7 months of producing weekly podcast episodes, my listener base has grown to over 1,000 subscribers, composed of individuals from 15 different countries and over 30 states. My podcast is by far one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done, and it has only solidified my desire to help others achieve their goals and live with intention.
Alongside my podcast, I developed an interest in pursuing the development of my written communication skills. To do this, I started a blog that coincided with my podcast. I wrote at least once a week, shooting my thoughts out into the world for someone to hopefully grab onto and find value in. Nearing the end of April, I decided to take on a 30-day blogging challenge, and I am so thankful I did. I learned a lot about myself in those thirty days and even more about perseverance. If you would like to hear more about this experience in detail, click here.
Then in month four of podcast production, I began to expand my digital skillets to use as leverage for operational and marketing roles in the future. To kick-start this process, I landed the opportunity to curate a podcast intro for another producer. At that point, I had only created intro music for my podcast, and I thought I could push my limits by creating for someone else. After receiving a vague vision of what they wanted the intro music to sound like, I began working for hours on end to craft something that resembled their desires. In the end, I successfully delivered music to them that they loved, and as a result, I was offered an opportunity to create music for another producer. Through this experience, I learned that action begets action, and similarly, value creation begets opportunities to create more value. This fact motivated me to continue the pursuit of pushing my limits.
After building the website for my podcast using Squarespace, I realized that I had a love for website design, so to push myself I opted to build my very own website using Wordpress and expand my personal brand. To begin, I locked myself in a room and worked endlessly. I struggled, I got confused, I got stressed, but somehow I continued to progress. I flipped and flopped through different themes, gained inspiration by viewing other portfolio websites, and ended up buying the Jevelin multi-purpose theme. After hours of customization using various plug-ins, I landed on a clean and minimalistic site that I was proud of. I then added the content for each page, including many blog posts, professional head-shots, and various portfolio projects. In all, it took me just over a week to construct the entire thing, but I am still continuously updating and innovating it. This experience added to my toolkit and reminded me that it doesn't matter what you know, all that matters is that you have the power to find out.
Now, my curiosities are taking me further than ever before. After opting out of college to live my life with intention, I discovered a lot about myself and what I am truly capable of. The skills I've gained and the success I've felt have only fueled my passion to continue creating value for others. So where is this passion taking me? Well, in February of this year, I was accepted into Praxis - a 6-month educational Bootcamp plus 6-month entrepreneurial apprenticeship career launching platform. I am currently in pre-program and will officially start on July 1st of this year. In this upcoming year, I will work with entrepreneurially minded individuals, build projects, and continue to develop my ability to create value at every turn. I will develop value propositions, pitch myself to tech startup companies, and will move to a major city to kickstart my career. I will learn, I will grow, I will create, I will push, and I will persevere. I have ditched the third party credential; I am becoming my own credential. Put simply, I am breaking the mold.