the pressure to be “official”

In building a business, deep thoughts, learning, stories by Jay Clouse

Our society loves bringing order and structure to things. I personally love organization and “putting things in their place,” but I think there’s a real downside to this.

I was talking to a friend and mentee of mine last week, and we got to talking about how I decide what types of things I involve myself in — the projects that I pick up.

Truthfully, over the last several years, it’s just been directed by what I was interested in at the time. Four years ago, I wrote this piece describing why I chose to forego the corporate or consulting routes to join the founder at Tixers.

There are 24 hours in a day, 8 of which are recommended for sleeping, at least 8 of which are traditionally earmarked for working a job, and so that leaves a final 8 hours per day (A THIRD!) of traditional adult life to be used at your discretion. Obviously that’s a very simplistic calculation, but you get the point.

Approaching the end of my college career, that was a fact that I just couldn’t shake. Especially during the few months where I had convinced myself that I wanted to go into consulting and came to terms with working constant 12+ hour days and traveling four days a week. “I’ll just do this for a couple years, learn a ton, pay my ‘dues’ and use it as a jumping off point.”…

I’ve just drudged through four years of college work, and I was signing up to drudge through another 2-3 years of consulting as a means to an end? What end? Jumping off point for what — another job that took up way too much of my time that I wasn’t passionate about? There were plenty of other prospects, and I would be sure to learn a lot…but I couldn’t get enthusiastic about any of them.

I started thinking. The problem, I reasoned, was that I was thinking about a job. I was worried about making a good salary — even if that meant filling up all the time that I would want to put that salary to use for things that I wanted to do.

Well here’s the thing: having a job sucks, and I don’t want to do it. Having a job, to me, means my mind compartmentalizes 8+ hours of tasks within my weekday of things I don’t really want to do. That meaning, if the pay were nonexistent, I wouldn’t do it. It would be, simply, a means to an end…

For me, that meant finding a means of income that integrated into my lifestyle, gives me an opportunity to learn by building and growing a business, and allows me to work outside of an imposed organizational hierarchy.

Crazy to read this now, four years later, and see how much it has remained core to the way I think about how I structure my life and time.

In another piece from last year, I described how my mentor encouraged me to embrace not knowing what I wanted to do, but to instead just pursue my interests.

Look, most people don’t give themselves the opportunity or the foresight to do what makes them happy.

I spend a lot of time in San Francisco, and I meet a lot of founders and people who are making millions of dollars with their company, but they still don’t know what makes them happy.

You don’t have to know what it is you want to do. In fact, you haven’t had the life experiences yet to truly know what you want to do. What if you were completely transparent about the fact that you didn’t know what you wanted? If your drivers are to be happy and make enough money to live the life you want, you can figure that out.

That’s what I’ve been doing for the past year, and I’ve never enjoyed my time more. Half of the things I spend my time doing, I didn’t see coming — but by giving myself the context and permission to follow what’s interesting, they were emergent.

We are often pressured to self-declare our spot within the “order” that our society asks for. We rush to make a decision so we can post on Facebook, “I am excited to announce that I am officially ____!”

I’ve been there. I’ve been that guy and I’ve felt that pressure.

But you don’t have to — you can be unofficially ____. You can temporarily try out ____. You can explore ____ and then decide it wasn’t for you.

I think the pressure to “declare” what we are and what we’re doing eliminates a lot of exploration and discovery. But that’s where I’m finding all the good stuff right now.


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