I had no direction until a few years ago. In fact, I still feel that way sometimes. When I left the military, I was eager to start a new chapter in life. I didn’t need direction- all that mattered was that I was out and moving forward. I wasn’t sure what that would be, but I wanted to learn, and college seemed like the best place for that. I had no idea what to major in. Because I was in the military, I chose international relations and government, but a graduating veteran mentor and an economics professor convinced me to swap government for economics. That’s great, but a course of study doesn’t help someone find themself or determine a happy career path. It doesn’t really give you any clarity.
After graduation, I had completed an internship at Booz Allen Hamilton and had a job lined up with Oracle, but I still didn’t know myself or what I wanted to do for a living, even though I thought I did (I thought I knew everything until I was humbled during my startup journey). But, I was convinced that law school was my next step. I was convinced I going to be a lawyer, but I didn’t really know why. It just felt like a next step. After spending the summer foregoing fun to study for the LSAT and completing a Kaplan study course, I was three days away from taking the LSAT in Georgetown. A physician at the VA hospital misdiagnosed my sore throat and gave me a flu shot and some medicine. I woke up the next morning terribly sick and dehydrated, not able to keep water down. I was hospitalized for several days with pneumonia and an accompanying 104.5 fever and missed the LSAT.
During my recovery, I had peace and quiet to reflect on what I wanted to do next. Did I want to wait three months to take the next test and wait longer to apply to schools? Did I really want to take on so much debt and take three years of intense law school right after finishing three years at an intense undergraduate program at William and Mary? The more I thought about it, the question of why I wanted to go became more important.
I started thinking about what I enjoyed doing as a kid when I didn’t have the pressures of real life. I never liked following the rules and usually questioned them. I had the most fun creating things, which I sometimes sold, and a couple of small businesses like a lemonade stand one summer in 4th grade. It’s cliché, I know, and I never thought of it as a business. But I remembered what I did, the names of the drinks, how I priced them to determine a profit, how I sold them, and where I decided was the best location. I hired a friend, and we each made $15/hr profit selling lemonade. Not bad for 4th graders in 1995. I was good at it, I could use creative energy, it was competitive, I made money to buy toys or comics, and I liked it! I later enjoyed investing my earnings in stocks or bank CDs and watching my savings grow.
This is when I arrived at the epiphany that business school would probably be the best fit. In my arrogance and ignorance, I thought business school was a place for stuck-up people who only care about money. Maybe it was my upbringing and perception, but I challenged why I thought that way when I could take a business degree and its learnings and do whatever I wanted. But it was clearer that I would be miserable both in law school and in a career in law, and would probably enjoy business more.
I didn’t have to be a corporate person, and even if I did, so what? I decided to attend business school and was accepted. I enjoyed both school and the career path, especially many (but not all) aspects of entrepreneurship that I found to be liberating, exciting, challenging, and a field of constant learning and growth.
That wasn’t all it took to “find myself” and of course, there’s more to a person’s journey than their area of study or work.
But I think if we look carefully back to times when we were kids and free to be ourselves, we can find a translation to our passion and interests if we keep an open mind and are willing to change our perception and position.
What were some accomplishments or activities you were proud of or good at?