Just about a year ago, I was lost. I am still kind of lost right now. But I was a foolish 19 year old who believed in the normal dogma that society feeds you: get a college education, find a job, and then get on with life -- the conventional path. It wasn't until I met Mark Grovic, the general partner of an education technology VC fund called New Markets Venture Partners, did I realize that there was a different way of life. Mark always mentioned how his experience investing in Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall fell impacted him tremendously. He emphasized how being an owner, whether a supermarket or some other business and owning the means of production was so empowering because owners felt they had a purpose in life. As a VC, Mark always extolled being a "good steward of capital". I see VC in a similar light: a way to innovate and change the human quality of life for the better.
I would say my parents are conventional; they don't understand entrepreneurship and the true freedom it yields. Coming from traditional medical and engineering backgrounds, they trusted in the system of education and finding a job and working 9-5 for the better part of your life. Don't get me wrong though -- I think education is absolutely necessary and getting work experience is always invaluable. But given the increasing cost of education, I often question the realizable value of undergraduate education and more specifically graduate school from a cost/benefit analysis. Tuition costs are ever increasing and the quality of education has stayed stagnant, if not diminished in quality over the past two decades. And then with whatever major you earn, you're expected to be able to find a job. But what if you can't? Well, that's a story for another day. The value of education and learning how to think -- critical thinking -- is still the most important characteristic that all humans must have to remain competitive in our globalized society. However, many end up not realizing critical thinking skills by the conclusion of their undergraduate education, and I think this results in a lack of innovation in the workplace and is often tragic.
I am motivated to take the unconventional road, the path less traveled.
I believe the old system is broken. 9-5 work in something that is seldom interesting is definitely not conducive to health and mental sanity in my opinion. I suppose if you absolutely love your job in whatever you're doing, your time working will be smoother and more enjoyable. Spending a few weeks at PwC, a large multinational professional services firm was the eye-opening experience that I needed to understand how businesses operate from an employer-employee perspective, among various other nuances. All of this is interesting for me to see first-hand, but I refuse to be part of it. I am motivated to take the unconventional road, the path less traveled. I don't know where this journey as an entrepreneur will take me, but I'm taking a risk at a young age. If I fail, that's fine because I have nothing to lose, if anything, but the earnings from a job I could have held during the interim.
But I digress. Even if you love what you do, why is being an owner so important? I like to use "rent" as an example. When I worked on a structured finance project, I noticed there was a general trend. The property values were low, around $80-$120k each. The tenants were paying $1k a month to live in the somewhat shabby homes. A tenant can make the payments on a $80k for 10 years and never own anything. The landlord, on the other hand, gets rent payments which serve to be streams of income and they retain ownership to the home. Why would you want to do something or live in a home for a long period of time without ever getting ownership over it? Think the same way for a career. Even if you make it to upper management in a large company and are given stock, did you actually create something from nothing and feel good about the time you spent working at the company? I think building something from nothing is the most fascinating type of real 'magic' that is often misunderstood.
Not everyone can be an owner, but I can feel that there's a shift in society right now. More and more people want to be owners, but this hype needs to be controlled. If anything, this new popularity of "entrepreneurship", or being an "owner" as I call it, may crush a lot of people's dreams and send the hype roller coaster straight into the ground. Businesses still need to execute, deliver products/services, and make your customers happy.
But until then, stay driven, learn, and keep hustling.