Where I've Been, Where I'm At, and Where I'm Going
10 months ago, I left the corporate world after a long and arduous… seven month stint 😁
Unsure about what to do next, I started experimenting. Podcasts, videos, writing and more. I’ve succeeded a bit, but failed a lot more. But I’ve gathered important lessons from each adventure, stuck with what’s worked and given up on projects that didn’t gain traction.
What a journey it’s been! And it’s still the beginning — the very beginning.
Some quick highlights from the past 10 months:
- Traveled to Chile, Canada, and Washington D.C.
- Produced a vlog 114 days in a row. I improved my camera presence and video editing skills, but the vlog didn’t gain traction.
- Launched the North Star Podcast, a series of interviews with people who live with joy, learn passionately and see the world in a unique way.
- Published a blog post called Naked Brands, which went viral (20,000 views and counting!) and was recommended by Ev Williams, the co-founder of Twitter.
- Built a digital model of my brain to help me capture, organize and retrieve my ideas. I call it my “Second Brain.”
- Interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson in his office to celebrate his book release (according to Amazon, it’s the #1 best-selling book in America this year).
- In December, I’ll be interviewing Andre Iguodala, a basketball player on the Golden State Warriors and a former NBA Finals MVP.
These experiences have taught me valuable lessons about myself, and where I want to direct my time and attention.
I plan to transform the North Star into a global community of passionate learners.
The community will be centered around four themes: work, travel, education, and friendship. A quick explanation of each theme and why I think it’s important:
- Work: Career paths are changing. In the future, work will become more project-based. As a result, credentials will matter less and experience will matter more. The number of independents will increase, and instead of earning income from a single entity, they’ll have a portfolio of income streams. Our social institutions (college, healthcare, citizenship/taxation) will struggle to cope with this shift and we’ll need new institutions — the North Star — that better reflect these new ways of working. More here.
- Travel: As globalization continues, we will increasingly communicate with people in other countries and on other continents. To be sure, this is a politically charged topic. Some countries are embracing the free flow of people and information, while others siphon themselves off from outside influences. Experience living and working abroad will become increasingly common. It doesn’t need to be expensive, and done right, it probably shouldn’t be. Definitely cheaper than college. Travel is also a great way to learn about yourself, reflect on your own culture, and meet new people.
- Education: Since 1978, the price of tuition at US colleges has increased over 900 percent, 650 points above inflation. You’d think that would inspire change. But when it comes to education, people are very risk-averse. Parents don’t want to subject their children to unproven models, which exaggerates the status quo bias. But let’s face it: college is prohibitively expensive for most people. As a result, students are showered with debt and must consider salary as the most important factor in choosing their profession. They’re trapped and it’s a tragedy. But the problem gets worse. Since entering the workforce, I’ve experienced a disconnect between the skills I thought I needed and the skills I actually need to thrive in the modern economy. Lifelong learning is paramount. In particular, knowledge work rewards creativity and productivity. But our current education system does not teach these skills. Change is imperative and I plan to take action.
- Friendship: As it’s become easier to connect digitally, it’s become more difficult to connect physically. If fewer people attend college, as I believe is inevitable, this problem could exacerbate. Loneliness is an epidemic. The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015. According to a recent Washington Post article, the reduction in life span for loneliness is akin to smoking 15 cigarettes per day, and has a greater impact on life span than obesity. Humans are social animals. We need connection. The good news is that the internet makes it easier to find people with similar interests. Reducing loneliness and fostering friendship will have a positive impact. Over time, people will invent new tools to make this even easier. Anecdotally, I already make almost all my new friends via Twitter. I plan to aggregate North Star community members to foster meaningful friendships.
But this is just the first step. Nobody can single-handedly fix all these problems. Rather, my goal is to work with people like you, and together, we can make a dent in the universe.
So, what’s top of mind for me as I look towards the next couple months? I’ve broken it down into two obsessions:
Obsession #1: The future of brands.
The internet has made it easier than ever to start a brand, but harder than ever to grow one. Three trends are driving massive change in the modern economy: consumers have infinite choice, easy access to information, and can connect directly with their favorite brands. Brand building is about more than awareness — it’s about connection. As a result, customers demand transparency from their favorite brands. Today, the best companies are fueled by vivid storytelling and an inspiring vision. Modern consumers care less about the symbols and slogans that have historically defined a brand, and more about the mission and the people behind it. Companies who do this attract capital, customers, and employees. Look no further than Elon Musk and Tesla.
Obsession #2. The magic of interviews.
When people ask me what I want out of life, I always give the same answer: “High energy, joy, and a zest for life.” I try to bring this energy to every North Star Podcast. After almost every interview, the guest says: “that was tons of fun and wow, I said so many things that I’ve never thought of before.” Yes! I live for that.
My passion for interviews extends to my work — beyond the podcast. Living in New York, I’m constantly inspired by the dreams of the people who surround me. But then — and many of my peers feel the same way — I’m unable to find companies that inspire me. Companies don’t know how to use social media to connect with people. They’re unable to communicate their perspective and their point-of-view, especially on social media where the brand building equation has changed. Through candid interviews with founders, I am able to unlock their vision and the meaning behind it. Together, and inspired by our conversation, we define specific needs, dissect problems, and address them together — at internet speed. All this work is project-based.
Oh, and here’s how I describe my work: “I help founders communicate their vision and realize their dreams.”
Before I leave, I want to thank you all for your help and continued support.
To my real-world friends, Twitter friends, clients, mentors, podcast guests, breakfast buddies, concert companions, and more: You’ve taught me that success is not a personal journey, but rather, a collective one. We’re all in this together.