I put a great deal of thought into the subtitles I use on my website, blog, github, linkedin, etc. The backdrop for this decision is that I have been going through a period of great change in my life. I left a dead-end software engineering job and decided to go back to school in order to maximize the rest of my life. But maximize how? Financially, sure. But also in terms of impact. I want to be effective beyond just profitability.
I have also had many conversations with several mentors and decided to move my career’s focus to a more altruistic and empowerment-based perspective. I want to work on social business projects. I want to make things that really help people. I want to solve real problems with great products.
My old subtitle came largely from impressions after reading Eric Schmidt’s How Google Works, and Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. I was very excited about the way Eric Schmidt talks about setting up systems which empower creative people to solve whatever problems they want. I was also very excited by Peter Thiel’s ideas about the value and importance of creating entirely new things, rather than incrementally improving on old things.
The old subtitle was;
“Smart-creative and award-winning innovator, building technical solutions to business problems.”
This is an excellent approximation of the chapter which recently ended in my life. But I made a mistake. It’s the same mistake Google made somewhere along the way. And it’s something Peter Thiel was right about all along.
It’s not possible to be a revolutionary who works within the boundaries of the old world.
What do I mean by that? Well I found a huge problem which was not addressed by any current products. It was a ten billion dollar market that nobody was attacking, and the market was desperate for a solution. I identified a company that needed this solution, and I built it for them from within, offering them 50/50 terms. The problem was that these kinds of companies are not just a symptom of the problem, they are also the cause of the problem. They couldn’t see the solution, even when I handed it to them for free. It wasn’t a part of their paradigm. They didn’t want it. They didn’t know to want it. They knew they needed it and their business couldn’t function without it, but they just didn’t understand its value.
If you want to create real innovation, real solutions to shared problems, you have to start from scratch and attack the problem from the outside. It’s funny because once I said it that way, I immediately thought of half a hundred examples where that is so obviously true.
The end of the Christian dark ages could never have come from within the church; the renaissance and the reformation were forced on them from without.
The failed American education system could never be fixed from within; it will be supplanted by groups like Khan Academy, FreeCodeCamp, and others.
Swollen and bloated bureaucracies are a major source for the downfall of empires throughout history.
The only way to start over is to start over. You can’t incrementally improve broken systems. What I needed was autonomy. Every great business project I’ve ever worked on which I’ve written off has collapsed for the same reason; a lack of coherent understanding on the part of a powerful partner.
When I was at Sequoia, I had access to essentially unlimited money and resources but I was subject to completely out of touch supervision of those resources. Even though I was bringing in $20k a month, I had to fight tooth and nail for spending on basic health code compliance.
When I was at Tech 2U, I spent the vast majority of my time dealing with bike shedding on the part of incompetent, uneducated middle-managers who wanted random little fiefdoms to be the focus of a project that could have truly changed the world for the better.
The problem with my strategy and philosophy was finally clear. I needed to be completely independent and autonomous in order to execute the revolutionary empowerment projects I wanted to be working on without wasting all my time and energy convincing bloated bureaucracies to come along for the ride.
So here it is, my new subtitle;
Creating business solutions to shared problems.
Bits are great, but I have always cared about bricks too. In fact, the vast majority of my financial success with entrepreneurship has been non-digital. There is no reason to identify as a software entrepreneur and ignore the physical world and the impact I can have there. This mirrors a major change I made earlier this year with my two main ventures. I decided to combing my digital marketing and event services projects into a single unified project with a common theme of maximizing the impact of leaders by combining in-person outreach events with web presence.
I think the word “social” has too many unlooked-for connotations, so instead of saying something like “social entrepreneur,” I decided to phrase the rest it this way.
I also want to communicate agency rather than egoism. I don’t necessarily want it to be about me, rather what I’m doing and why. I think this communicates the same message with less noise.
A Period of Transition
In the year since I left Tech 2U, I have been attending both Sierra College and ARC, and both more than full time. I have completed nearly three years of school in the past year. Soon, I will be done with my three degrees, and ready to take the next steps. I am hoping to get started on a couple of my projects before that time. It will be interesting to see how this central theme of a life’s subtitle evolves through this period.
My major plans include building a new CRM company and building some kind of capsule hotel.