dinemob at tech wildcatters

Big News: I Moved Back to Texas (Alternative Title: I Co-Founded a Company – DineMob)

Big news.

I’ve moved back to Texas.

It seems like everything happened pretty quickly. A few weeks ago, Malcolm Woods and I got a chance to pitch a start-up idea to the top investor and incubator program in Dallas.

Only the top 4% of applicants get in. And we got in.

Tech Wildcatters, is the #1 B2B Start-up Accelerator in the US, it consistently ranks in the top 10 for incubators overall – by Forbes, TechCrunch, Inc

It’s a tremendous opportunity for us. It gives us a little bit of seed funding to go out and test and validate our idea and it also gives us a tremendous opportunity to be a part of the program over the next 3 months. It will be really intense and we’ll get to learn from successful entrepreneurs and investors – how to start a company, sell our products, and talk to investors.

I’m extremely excited. It’s always been a goal of mine to run a company.

And the start-up scene in Dallas is really getting underway – I’ve just spent a bit of time here so far – but I must say I’m extremely impressed with the start-up atmosphere in the city.

So. I’m here. Back in Texas. In Dallas this time around. For at least the next 3 months. And, now’s the time to make DineMob happen… look out for more news from us coming real soon.

http://dinemobapp.com/tech-wildcatters-class-of-2015/

dinemob at tech wildcatters

DineMob, front and center at Tech Wildcatters QuickPitch

From France to Singapore: One Man’s Story from Surfing Internet 1.0 in 2000 to Becoming Head of Digital Customer Experience in 2013 and Still More to Come…

“We think of success as only measured by your money. / But, money never lasts. / In fact, it’s only last / on the list of impactful things you can ask for / …So, with that – we need us a plan…” – Wale, The Perfect Plan

Welcome to The Many Faces of Success Interview Series: a reoccurring interview series focusing on success in many forms. From entrepreneurs to writers, to travellers who are just living the life they want to live…in this interview series I sit down with people who are living and defining their own success on their own terms, people who I find inspiring, and whose stories I find interesting enough to share here.

In today’s post I sit down with Pascal Ly: Head of Web Marketing for Salesforce.com Asia Pacific at the time I have done this interview with him, before he moved into his new role recently as Head of Digital Customer Experience for Schneider Electric. Pascal was promoted to this post at a fairly young age, after stints in consulting, IT, web development, business development, and an early start in entrepreneurship. He is originally from Lille, France, which is where he started his early career in 2000 before moving to Paris in 2006 to continue exploring new horizon before ending up in Singapore in 2010.

I originally met up with Pascal when I was living in Singapore last year and he invited me out to Salesforce’s offices for a chat and share his story with me. I enjoyed it and found it quite inspiring. So much so, that I caught up with him during a recent short trip to Singapore to hear him tell it again in order to write this blogpost. We caught up at a Starbucks on a Saturday, had a couple of coffees, and the following conversation took place:

Pascal-Ly

Pascal Ly

=============

Beginnings: An Entrepreneur by Age 19.

William: Let’s start with your story. I remember you telling me last time, when you were young you started a company?

Pascal: Yes, that’s correct.

The company I created with 2 other partners, it was in the year 2000, just before my 20 years old. It was a company that was offering professional stock charts tool to the general public. All was needed to use our service is a computer, a browser and an internet connection. The users would sign up to be able to create their online portfolios, and would also connect several times per day which was increasing the numbers of page viewed. That was basically our business model – create value to the business with customer data and also generate revenue with ads. I can tell you that business model was almost the single one at that time and the only one valued as every business income was generated by the ads at that time. It was the “everything is for free on Internet” era.

How did the development go?

Well, once that our platform was ready we went down showcasing our services in an exhibition that was focused on Online Trading for the general public interested in personal trading. To be honest, the exhibition was 3 days long and the very first impression I had was a mix of happiness and stress. Our booth was only 10 meter square in a corner of the exhibition campground and we were surrounded by those enormous booth held by those Online brokers which were subsidiaries of big banks. They had tons of resources: manpower, demo, goodies and… names. We were no one at the exhibition, and lucky for us those guys were not our competitors. I quickly realized that we could offer our services to them, having our solutions integrated into their platform and be useful to their customers.

At the end of those 3 days exhibition, we had attracted a lot of interest both from the public and the Online trader companies. I believe it is thanks to that exhibition that we had business angels getting interested in buying our company. So, the company got sold to those business angels, even though I didn’t want it as I wanted to continue making it grow, but my 2 other partners were keen to proceed, so it was sold. They didn’t want to keep the management at that time. They were saying “youngsters, let us do the business and we’ll figure out how to do it even better”. Now looking back into how things went, well it was a good decision because at the end of the day what happened is that the bubble came very quickly and then…

So y’all were able to sell the company right before the bubble?

Yeah, that’s right. And then the bubble came and it all crashed. Like wow, we didn’t see it coming. I remember not totally realizing what was happening at that time.

So sometimes it’s just luck?

Sometimes it’s just luck. I really believe that sometimes it’s just luck. That also means that you do need to provoke luck. Do nothing and nothing will happen, try something and see what results come out of it. Even though I do believe that a 360 degree view is needed to really understand where your business is standing and what could be the opportunities and threat to your business. Most of the time we only look into one single direction, and that is when you are putting a company in a dangerous situation.

So you quit your studies to start the company?

I was feeling deep inside the urge to create something now. The most difficult part for anybody is to start. I felt I had nothing to lose but a lot to win so I did it.

Act on it while you have the passion?

Act on it while you have the passion, as you never know what can happen tomorrow. So when an opportunity knoks at your door, you have to grab it. And if you fail, it’s okay, because you have to be able to accept that failure is part of the path to success.

This company was created and located in France, right?

Yeah, that was in France. In 2000. Just started at the beginning of 2000, and the end was in 2000 as well.

The Early Internet, Dial-Up Modems, and Big Car Phones

Ok. So what’d you do after you sold the company?

So, after that I moved… However I wanted to stay on the internet industry in a way or another. It was something very new and I could sense the opportunity. My first time I was on the internet I was 16 years old in1996. So I was already on the internet for 4 years before I was starting my company.

What do mean by “the first time you were on the internet”?

Meaning started to surf on the internet, to chat, and to send email. You know at that time we were using the 56K modems, so you know… tick, tick, tick… beeeepp… and then you’re getting connected. I was using internet with 2 other classmate, and actually it’s one of them who had initiated me into internet. No one I knew in my network was using it or even knowing what was internet. At that time, I was already wondering of how we could be able to transfer files without waiting weeks. I was a huge PC gamer at that time and our internet connection was billed per hour (sic) with no online gaming such as MMORPG.

Guess what, I’m still using nowadays my Hotmail email address that I created in 1999.

And you still use the same address?

Still using it. It’s my primary email address and not something I will change. Nowadays thanks to mailinator we can sign up for almost anything avoiding spam. I didn’t had that at that time and so I’m regularly using mailinator nowadays when I sign up for non-important stuff.

Actually, I like to detect early trends. Because, I remember at that time the internet was something, but mobile was also something coming up. My first mobile phone I had it in 1997.

Was it one of those big car phones? Or what was it?

It wasn’t that big. Even though it was like the size of a soft drink can, without the antenna and the keyboard clap deployed and with double the weight. So all deployed it was the size of 2 soft drink can. I discovered that mobile phone gives you freedom with totally new experience. Imagine yourself as a very young adult, if not a teenager still, being able to call your girlfriend in a quiet room without anyone hearing your conversation. So I bought one for my girlfriend and it the experience was amazing. I also remember starting using SMS at that time. It was totally free at that time as it was more used for technical usage, soon to be the cash cow for the telcos when they realized that there was an opportunity for them to create an offer. Remember what I said earlier about opportunities and 360 view? That’s a great example.

Progression into a Digital Agency

So, what’d you get into? You wanted to stay in internet?

Indeed, I stayed in the internet industry. I moved on joining one of France’s leading digital agency at that time – Internence.com. The agency had 150 employees with big names as our customers, and I was lucky to actively participate on the account of Nintendo. Sometime people ask me how come I got embarked into it. I believe it all comes to attitude mostly.

So I went on working with my bosses’ boss and meet with the Marketing Director and his team. The experience was really great, nothing is more worth than the experience compared to the theory – maybe that’s why I was wondering what I was doing at school instead of experiencing real life. Attending meetings, listening to conversations happening was fantastic, especially when the customer is asking me directly questions and encouraging to really voice out what I was thinking. You have to put back in context where internet was still relatively new to everyone, and they needed idea to be ahead in this new media. I learned at that time that any ideas can be good and can be coming from anyone in a room regardless of their position or experience. Review what you know in an unknown context to understand the new rules. This could be applicable for social media nowadays.

This fantastic journey in that agency lasted for about 2 years before it completely shut down. The company grew so fast that it had hired in consequence, and have not seen an important factor in the equation – when a website is done, it takes 3 to 5 years before revamping it. So when you have almost all the big companies having a website already then what do you do meanwhile? When realizing the situation, it was too late. The company had no choice but to completely close down. That was unexpected and sad, however, I’m really grateful to have been part of this company and have worked with people who have mentored me.

So, after that company shut down, then what’d you do?

So after that company shut down, I was still convinced that I wanted to stay in the internet industry. I was lucky to get in touch with Normedia, a traditional communication agency that wanted to operate a shift into digital. The connection between them and me went very well and so we started a new chapter for Normedia together. Then was born Ingeeny lab – the digital section of Normedia.

I had ambition, passion and I knew which direction I wanted to take.

They gave me all the keys so I could create that business unit. I come up with the new name, the new logo, build up the team from the ground. I was wearing different hats to cover all the different role needed from general management to project manager and also sales representative. Competing against others was really thought. To make our place in the market there was only one option: be providing more services than others would do. That would start with a simple mojo: listen to what our customers wants, what is the real issue and how can we help solve their problem. If you can give value to the customer and show them what’s in there for them, then you already have done the most difficult part of the job.

I stayed in the company for 4 years. Growing up from just myself and another guy to nine people when I left.

So this is still in France?

Indeed, still in France. After 3 years and having stabilized the business unit I decide to go back to school attending 1 year study at EDHEC Business School for the Advance Management Program. After graduating I realize that it was time to move on as I wanted to explore consulting and get experience in a multinational company.

Stints in Consulting and Working with Smart People

I left Ingeeny lab and joined a well renowed multinational: Capgemini. My consulting and multinational experience have started with them.

Kind like strategy consulting, but still in the IT or, something else?

It was mainly about IT and my focus was definitely into consulting, getting in touch with decision makers on another level than my previous experiences.

It was the biggest company you worked for so far?

Definitely, I also made my move to Paris to join Capgemini. Being working at La Defense which is the French business district with view on the Eiffel Tower was a blast. I have quickly been appointed as IT consultant assigned to a public function account – basically working for a government body that I will call the Agency. I was in charge of ensuring that all the architectures on the different projects that the Agency’s project managers wanted to implement was respecting the different principles of SOA architecture that we wanted them to apply.

I learned a lot. My colleagues were fantastic as they were always supporting me to acquire the right level of knowledge to cover what I was suppose to cover. I had trust from my management and my team members.

I was teaming up with two senior people. They were very senior: like more than ten year experiences in that field. I was very worried because, I was very junior, in that field. Instead the team was counting on me to help them solve problems. Basically I was conducting and participating in “questions” meeting which had helped them find solutions as we were looking problems in different angles.

This is really powerful. That’s also what I was saying earlier: ideas can come from anybody, because you can help others to generate other ideas, to find solutions when they are just talking with someone else.

One of the things that was fantastic from my colleagues is that they never at any moment questioned why I was in the team. I was part of the team. They were trusting me. There were things that I didn’t know how to do, but I was just pulling up my sleeves, getting into reading books, doing research, getting things done by understanding what those things are about.

So, at the end of the my assignment, which was the one year assignment, I was able to understand and explain to others what was an SOA architecture, how to implement it correctly, and what were the things that we should be doing. I continue on that assignment for an additional year.

So, the thing that made me moved from Capgemini is because it was too technical and still a bit far from the business. I wanted to be much closer to the business. So, I moved into this company, weave, that is a consulting in management and organization.

Okay, so you stayed in consulting?

Indeed, I stayed in consulting.

I joined weave, and was impressed by the number of very smart people I was working with. When you work with smart people you tend to become smarter yourself.

So, basically I joined and then I was assigned to a lot of different kinds of assignments. Finally doing the kind of consulting I wanted. The kind of consulting that is looking into a problem in 360 degree view.

So, this is strategy consulting?

The partners were coming from other big consulting companies with their tools and methodology. The mojo was constructive impertinence. Which I still adhere to nowadays.

I was more in charge of solving problems related to the Information System on first assignement. Even thought it was about IS and IT, we were always keeping in sight the business and the users. It was different from Capgemini where we were keeping in sight the technology.

The entire paradigm is changed and do make sense to me.

Okay and now it’s flipped, right?

It’s flipped. So it’s: “what’s the business requirement? what’s going on? what’s the problem? how can we help to get things working better for the business by implementing solutions that will be adapted to the business’ needs?”

Totally different and it just opens up. You can look into a problem from different angles. Depending on the angle that you take, you will have different effect.

I stayed there for 2 years. I enjoyed it a lot.

The mind set of the firm was very good. They wanted to grow, but not become humongous. You know, you want become taller and stronger, but not fat.

Next Stop: Singapore

Ah okay..

So, I moved out because I just wanted to come to Singapore. I did a transit in Singapore and I found that Singapore was a place that I wanted to be.

A great place for business, or for technology, or for..?

To live. It just felt like home.

I didn’t know Singapore. It was just a Southeast Asian Country I’ve heard about.

But, I was very surprised by the country: the dynamism, the infrastructure, and I was just wandering around the city and it just felt like home.

I just felt that I had to come. On the way back to France, on the plane, my decision was made.

You just decided that you needed to come back to Singapore?

Indeed, I went to see my boss and I told him about my new aspiration to take a new challenge in Singapore.

So, you resigned just to go to Singapore?

Yes, I resigned, moved out my stuff and then I came to Singapore.

I wanted to continue doing consulting but my English was an issue, at least in the consulting world where each word has got its weight and importance.

Okay. So, the jargon and slang..

Indeed, it was really hard to get the correct words and terms while I was doing my interviews. So instead of insisting taking a path that would most likely lead to certain failure, I prefered changing path. For anything I would engage myself into, I would ensure putting all assets on my side.

So, I wasn’t able to pursue anything in that field in Singapore and also wanted to find a way to get into the big ones: the BCGs, the McKinseys. So, I was thinking of going for a MBA. Taking a step back then, I thought about it and though that’s not necessarily what I want.

Again, it’s a question of what’s your objective at the end of the day. You might have zero plans or a very well-crafted one. In many cases plans might fail. One thing that will stay there is your objective. So you have to stick to it and just stay focused on the objective. The plans will come along the way to make you achieve that objective.

How long were you in Singapore looking before you found a job?

3 months. I took on a job that was senior project manager role. The role felt like what I was doing back in France, in previous experiences at Ingeeny lab and Capgemini.

I have had been assigned to work with Philips Lighting, it was exciting to work with another big company but I was wondering what would be in there for me. Well guess what, as soon as I started working with Philips, I realized that I was learning quite a lot. I was realizing that in any situation you can acquire new experiences. It is all about what you want to do about your job that will make it an awesome experience or not. I managed to turn this experience into a really great thing because I felt I could explore and experience a new environment, a different culture, different projects and a different industry.

So how long did you stay?

I just stayed 9 months as then the project was ending and no renewal was proposed, so in this situation I only could quit and start looking around.

So with that customer what markably are they at? Was it the Asian market?

Indeed, it was Asia.

Asia is a very interesting and exciting place to be. Coming to SIngapore and living it from inside as truly been an eye opener. There are wider opportunities and the entire APAC region is interesting, I was working with different people across the world, from Europe to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, also Australia. So it was really interesting.

And, Into salesforce.com

So I moved into salesforce.com taking care of a regional role for the APAC region. For the anecdote, the first role I had at salesforce.com was a position I applied before moving to Singapore, without success though. However the job stayed vacant for almost a year. Feels like the job was just waiting for me to join at the right time and the right moment.

So you moved from Phillips into saleforce.com?

Indeed.

For the first time after over 10 years of experience I’m moving into the end-customer side. All my prior experience have had been around providing services to end-customers. Now I’m an end-customer.

For sure my previous experience servicing end-customer is a strong asset, as I do have a very strong sense of service. I know what it is to serve your employees, your peers, your customers, your stakeholders. Actually, service is very strong in my DNA.

When my contract was ending with Philips, I could have started to worry to get into bad time for finding a job again. But the experience I had accumulated and lived with Philips had given me confidence that I could make it here in Singapore and that I could join salesforce.com for a position that seems just to be waiting for me.

So, I joined salesforce.com, and I’ve stayed there for 2.5 years. My first role was Web Production Manager for a year, then I get promoted to be the Head of Web Marketing just a year after. I have held this last position for 1.5 years.

To me, luck means being at the right place at the right moment. If you feel like there’s something to do, then you should be really trying to push for it and to do it. You never know if it will be success or failure at the end. One thing for sure, you won’t have regrets of having tried.

So, in the past, you did a lot of servicing clients, servicing customers and I guess a bit of business development too. Now in salesforce.com, do you think that plays into the business model or customer relationship management?

It’s like what the CEO of salesforce.com, Marc Benioff, is saying, “every role in salesforce.com is customer-facing”. It is so true. The website we are developing is most of the time the first point of contact with salesforce.com. With all respect we have to the customers, we need to ensure that everything is ready to welcome them on the website with a smooth experience.

People get in touch with you through the website? So, it’s mostly inbound marketing? or…?

It’s both.

Mainly for us, we are applying an inbound strategy to try to attract people to come to our websites. It’s also asking them to leave us contact details if they are interested so then we can get back to them and that’s how we are generating leads in our business.

Alright… Time up?

Yeah, time up. I really need to run.

Change is always happening

======= UPDATE: from Pascal ======

Since our last interview, I have moved into an amazing opportunity with Schneider Electric. I’m basically making the company get into this transformation journey, shifting the entire company into the digital era. My role is crucial here as I need to ensure all parts are moving along together. This is great to see all the accumulated experience getting a practical case. No more direct reports, but huge amount of people to work with in virtual teams.

It’s been over a month since I’m in this new business. Totally new, with people having huge amount of experience in the business. I’m impressed by the number of years people have been with this company and expect to learn a lot from them.

For sure this new role is a step further towards my objective. The plan changes along the way as opportunity appears, but one thing remains stable – the objective.

Probably will be able to share more in near future, I would be glad to look back into this blog post in few month or years and see how things are evolving.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: The End of My First “Career”

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I was once an equities trader…

Three and a half years ago, I was an equities trader. It was my first “job” out of college. I did it for a couple of years – I had some great months, had some crap months. It was fun. It was tough. It was… money.

And not just any money – but real money. Hundreds of thousands. Millions. Or at least dreams of it.

I hardly talk about it much these days. I haven’t looked at the market much at all since I left it. I heard the dow hit highs earlier this year. I’d short that.

Anyway…

The other day a young twenty-one year old dude at my hostel made some mention about how he wants to start a business, learn to trade stocks and forex, and some other things.

My response, “I’ve done all of that….”

I don’t know why I said it like that. It just came out.

I’m passed that phase in my life of chasing a quick buck. I did that for too long.

He kept asking me about it, and I told him the one story that popped in my head, the one that really stuck out. A day I lost about $8,000 because I was early and got shook out and then sat there as the guy next to me made $300,000 and the guy across from me made $1 million. In one day. Yes, they keep most of it.

It sticks out to me – because it was essentially the last day I traded. I mean, I stuck around for maybe a month or so after that – but mostly I didn’t come in the office much anymore. After that I was pretty much done. Pretty burnt out and ready to look around and pursue other career options.

After I told him that story, he asked me a few more things about trading and I figured – maybe I’d have something on my computer to show him to give him a feel for what I used to do. Not sure what I still had from those days, I went digging.

Interestingly enough the first thing I stumbled on was my trading journal from that exact day.

I figured it’d make for a good blogpost. It’s interesting to see something written so long ago from me. It’s interesting to read it and try to gauge how I felt at the time. It’s interesting to give up on your career when people around you just had “career days.”

It’s all in perspective. But, here it is. In full glory. Unedited from then. My thoughts on that day. The only thing changed is the names of people in it.

From the archives. May 6, 2010 (yes, those who recognize the significance of the day this was the “Flash Crash“)

I think it starts with this trade in EDD… but it gets better.

====

EDD – Spiked down, so I bought 300 at 14.80.  When it bounced a bit, I covered 100 at 14.94.  I was trying to hold the rest, but it went back to my breakeven price and I got out of it.

LPL – Was selling off, so I picked up 100 shares at 19.09 to watch it and play the bounce.  Changed my mind about it and covered at 19.04.

BCS-  – BCS- was down a lot on the day, as all the BCS preferreds were.  I had just seen them sell off yesterday morning and bounce all the way back, but today’s move had lasted longer already and was selling off further.  I bought 100 at 19.25 in order to watch it and get in it bigger when it did start bouncing.   A few minutes later it looked like it could be bouncing, so I picked up another 200 at 19.38.  Then, it sold back off to new lows.  I still felt like it was going to bounce and I felt like the whole number 19 could provide some support, so I picked up another 200 at 19.16 and another 200 at 19.08.

DNP – Sold off sharply on no news, so I bought 500 at 8.80.  I covered 300 at 8.88 on a bounce a little while later.

RBS-F – This stock also sold off on a sharp leg down, so I bought 500 at 18.89.  It bounced a bit and I covered 200 at 18.99.

LINE – another stock that sold off on a sharp leg down.  I bought 300 at 23.43.

HTD – Another one that sold off sharply that I picked up 300 at 13.08.

BAC-I – this sold off on a sharp leg down as well and it went into slow quote, while the ECN’s were still trading above where the specialist was printing.  I threw some orders at it and got filled on 3,000 shares at 21.07, but as soon as I got filled the ECN’s were down there now too.  I made the decision to hold it along with the other preferred and funds I was accumulating, because I still expected a nice bounce to occur.   Then, it sold off some more against me, so I grabbed another 1,000 at 20.70 in order to get my average price down.    I was scared of this because of how much size I was in.  I knew I was in more than I wanted to be in earlier than I wanted to be, but I made the decision to hold it since I expected a nice bounce to happen.

PFF – The preferred ETF was selling off hard as a lot of the preferred and funds were taking these sharp legs down.  I figured something was going on with PFF or it’s holdings – somebody was dumping preferred shares?  PFF was rebalancing or something?  I figured something was going on with this and had a flashback to that day last October when PFF and it’s holdings went up strongly and then eventually came all the way back.  I got long 700 PFF at 35.39 in order to watch it and my plan was to get big once it looked to really be bouncing.

FTB-C – another holding of PFF that did the same leg down type of move.  I picked up 200 at 24.15.

BAC-J – another one.  I picked up 200 at BAC-J.

Now, I was holding all of these positions – 4,000 BAC-I, 700 PFF, 700 BCS-, 200 DNP, 300 RBS-F, 300 LINE, 300 HTD, 200 FTB-C and 200 BAC-J, and more preferred stocks and small thinly traded funds kept making the same move.  A quick sweep down.  Then, they would bounce a bit, but not really go anywhere.  It kept happening, but I was in so much BAC-I that I couldn’t pick up any other stocks, I already felt like I had a lot at risk and I was already down enough in my positions to be past my loss limit.  PFF took another leg down and I decided to hold it, since I was past my loss limit and wanted to be in it when it bounced.  The stocks kept selling off on me, but I was holding out for the bounce.  I was turned off at this point and couldn’t open up any new positions, so I got up to talk to my coach to see if I could get turned back on when things started to bounce so that I could load up, particularly in PFF since that’s what I thought this move was based on still.  I was trying to hold for the bounce, but my positions just kept going against me.  I got down over 1.5 points in PFF and then I really started hurting when BAC-I took another leg down and I was now down a point in that position.  I was really watching my P/L now and trying to draw a line in the sand.  I was down $7K now and so I started to lighten up.  PFF and the others took another leg down as the whole market really started to sell off and pick up steam.  I covered everything once I saw my P/L go down over $8K.  Once I was out, I was down about $8.5K on the day.   I was definitely disappointed with how that turned out.  Pretty much as soon as I covered the market really started nose diving – the Dow went from being down 200 pts. to 400 pts. to 600, 700… all in a matter of minutes.  The market was tanking fast.  The Pit yelled out that the circuit breaker would be triggered once the Dow was down 1050.  Brad and Kyle start yelling and telling people to buy before the circuit breaker got hit, I thought that was a good strategy, but at this point, I was cut off and way past my loss limit and too devastated and disappointed to even think about opening another position.  The Dow went down as much as 998.5 I guess, it moved so fast, I saw it down 980 and then it was only down 930, then only 850 – It was bouncing back hard – V-bottom type of move.  Kyle yelled out to buy anything that was down, and next thing I know, my coach went from being down 10k on the day to up 30k.  Sam who sits next to me bought some PG and some GE at really low prices and was already up a lot now that they were bouncing.  I really felt like I was missing out on the action, so I went and talked to James about getting turned back on and he gave me a little more room, but the Dow was only down 400 now and I had missed most of the move and most of the craziness, but I was able to place the following trades:

CSX – CSX and plenty of other stocks were showing umode, so I went through them and tried to hang out orders on both sides away from the market and to the specialist.  CSX was the only one that printed me.  I got short 14,000 CSX at 52.50, and started covering instantly at 52.27 and 52.29.  It took me awhile to realize how much size I was in and how many times I had to hit my button to cover it all and the ECN’s bounced on me some, so that my last fills were at 52.48.  My average cover was around 52.40, so I pretty much made 10 cents on 14,000 shares.

BID – I tried to get a good fill on BID as well, but was only able to get 100 shares from 34.40.  Covered at 34.29.

HHH – HHH spiked all the way to 156 and it was normally a $56 stock.  I shorted some  at 116 as soon as I saw it, but I knew those prices would break, so I tried to wait for it to go back lower in order to get more.  I shorted another 800 at 62’s and then another 1,200 or so at 56.50 and 56.38.  Everything above 60.08 wound up breaking, so I didn’t get to keep my 62’s.  This didn’t break until way after the market closed, so I held the 1,200 from an average of 56.42 overnight.

SLM – I got filled long in SLM with 4,100 shares at 11.22, but was down about 10 cents as soon as I got filled, so I just covered.  Looking at the chart, I wasn’t long from a great price by any means.

BRK.A – I got the closing print on BRK.A, short 1 share from 113,500.  I pennied the bid at 112,500 and covered my share at 112,501. So, I made 1,000 pts. on that 1 share.

============

Three and a half years have passed. But reading this still spikes my adrenaline. Crazy. I remember a lot of it vividly – not the details and particular stocks, but the action on the trading floor and what was happening that day: where I was at certain times, who I was talking to, etc. – all of that is very vivid in my memory.

It’s hard to tell where I ended up on the day – because I made some of it back from the downward peak of being down $8,500 – including ending the day with a quick $1,000 trade on 1 share of Berkshire Hathaway.

But, basically what happened is this was a career-making day in a slow market. 2010 had been a shit slow year of watching paint dry. And this was the day. Some traders made their whole year’s income in this day. You just can’t miss days like this as a trader…. and I missed it. And, it wasn’t the first time – and I was sick of it.

That’s ultimately what ended that career. Missing out on too many “career days”.

DSC_0618

Life goes on…

 

The Many Faces of Success: Japanese Vagabond – Fighter and Freelancer

“We think of success as only measured by your money. / But, money never lasts. / In fact, it’s only last / on the list of impactful things you can ask for / …So, with that – we need us a plan…” – Wale, The Perfect Plan

Welcome to The Many Faces of Success Interview Series: a reoccurring interview series focusing on success in many forms. From entrepreneurs to writers, to travelers who are just living the life they want to live…in this interview series I sit down with people who are living and defining their own success on their own terms, people who I find inspiring, and whose stories I find interesting enough to share here.

In today’s post I sit down with fellow traveler and blogger, Masafumi Matsumoto. Masa is originally from Japan, but has been travelling and living abroad for over a year now, mainly in Southeast Asia. His blog at MasafumiMatsumoto.com is a place where he shares his writings: “writings on life and love.” He describes himself as “a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter, vagabond, translator, copywriter, lover of life and beauty, and curious learner.”

I caught up with him while we were both staying in Taipei and he was willing to be the “guinea pig” in the Many Faces of Success Interview Series.

 

Masafumi Matsumoto

Masafumi Matsumoto

Here is his story:

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William: You’ve been traveling for awhile now. What initially inspired you to leave Japan and live on the road?

Masa: That’s a tough question actually. Somehow I was interested in living this kind of lifestyle. If I think about it, when I was a high school student one of my teachers asked me what I was going to do when I finish University. I was planning to study Philosophy. That was in 2001, so about 12 years ago. I hadn’t heard of digital nomads or anything like that, and I don’t think there were many then. But, when he asked me that question, I thought that maybe in 10 years or so the internet will be much more available. So, maybe I will be able to work from anywhere and maybe I will be a writer or something.

So I had a kind of vision, but I didn’t take it seriously really.

I think my first real inspiration was Chris Guillebeau when he published his free ebook, A Brief Guide to World Domination. I think it was 2007, 2008 maybe. I got to know about about Chris and what he was doing and it made me realize that that kind of lifestyle was a real possibility  There’s someone doing it!

So, I think Chris was my first real inspiration to make this kind of lifestyle happen. I think it was also around the time when Tim Ferriss published his book, The 4 Hour Workweek.

Ok. So you mention in 2001 you thought about it, then in 2007 you heard about Chris and that’s when you really got inspired. What where you doing between that time?

Well, I was in Australia. Thats where I went to University. Around that time I was trying to become a freelance translator. I mean that was the only thing I knew I could freelance and make money and I knew I was at least okay with my translation skills.

You got into translation because you were bilingual?

Yes. To be honest, I didnt think much about other possibilties, like copywriting for example.

Right now I’m starting my own copywriting service. I think I have a very good background for it, and once I got started, and got a little experience I could see that I would actually be quite good at copywriting. And I actually do enjoy copywriting a little more than translation.

Yeah, I guess copywriting allows you to be a little more creative, allows you to tell a story through your copy…

Yeah, and of course being a freelance translator gives you flexibility and freedom without the pressure of time. Well, that’s not always the case sometimes you have a tight deadline and you have to submit before the deadline. So you have irregular work hours.

How long have you been doing translation?

Almost 4 years now.

Ok. And, how long have you been traveling and living on the road?

I started traveling extensively since February last year. But I did a “mini-travel” for one month in 2011. So, I think that was a good test for whether I could support myself with translation and live this lifestyle.

So you’ve been doing freelance translation to support yourself and now you’re doing copywriting as well. Is there anything else you’ve tried along the way? Any other ventures to make income you attempted while you’ve been traveling?

Not really. Well, I kind of did. I tried to some affiliate marketing and those kinds of things. But, I guess the thing is I wasn’t really intersted in – well, I was interested in making money to support myself – but I wasn’t interested in selling someone else’s products that way.

It’s not as exciting as copywriting or even translation. I mean some poeple are interested in affiliate marketing and these kinds of things – but for me, not so much.

Now, I know another thing you are very passionate about is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Do you train in every city you stay in while you travel?

Yes, that is the case. And, I know I mentioned Chris Guillebeau as an inspiration earlier, but another inspiration when I started travelling was Christian Graugart. He wrote a blog called BJJ Globetrotter, and when I saw that I thought it would pretty cool to incorporate into my travel and lifestyle as well. Because Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is something I have practiced for 11 years now.

Ok, yeah I have heard a lot of good things about martial arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in particular. How do you think BJJ has affected your approach to life and affected your thought process?

Well, I think it’s really helped actually. It’s given me the discipline of working on one skill and one particular thing over and over, every single day in order to be good at it. And, I think this applies to other skills as well, and is something I have used for other skills. I have currently been working on copywriting and I handwrite ads by hand, every day, in order to build the skill. So, it’s similar I think.

Also, the point of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is you want to be calm. Completely calm and execute effortlessly while your opponent struggles. And I think it helps to apply this to life as well. You want reach the point in your skills where you are calm and things are effortless.

Yeah, that’s a really good point. That’s something I’ve noticed a lot and something I agree with a lot as well: working hard on your skills daily until you reach the point where its simple and effortless. I can see how Brazilian Jiu Jistu would help with that. It makes perfect sense. Anyway, let’s change gears a bit and talk a bit about your writing. You write your own blog. How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing my blog since the beginning of 2010. I started it on January 1, 2010 actually. That’s my birthday. And when I started writing I did a 12 week course – a course I got from a book I read, called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a really good book actually and her premise is that you can rediscover your creativity in 12 weeks.

So, I did that, and I kept doing what she calls The Morning Pages, which is every morning after you wake up, you handwrite 3 pages of uninhibited thought. You just write for 3 pages. I did that for awhile. Not the whole time that I’ve been writing the blog, because I stopped doing it, but I’ve recently started doing it again.

Ok. So it sounds like you have a pretty good morning routine going now. You wake up everyday, handwrite 3 pages of uninhibited thought, then you handwrite copy…

Yeah, and actually, that is how I learned English as well. I mean I went to English school, but when I really improved my English, I did it by handwriting English everyday and saying what I was writing out loud. It really helped me get familiar with language and internalize the grammar and structure, ways of saying things.

And, now you write a blog in English. So what is that like: writing in your second language? Do you ever find it difficult, seeing as its not your native tongue?

Actually, I find that when I write I express myself better in English. Well, you know I went to University in Australia and I studied Philosophy  so I had to write a lot papers. I’m at a point now where I’ve been writing in English for a long time, many years. So, I can express myself better when writing English versus Japanese. I never really write Japanese actually. Only when I email my mother or something like that.

Okay. So what about speaking? Do you find it easier to express yourself when speaking in English as well?

Well, yeah, in a way. Because when I speak Japanese, I have a Japanese mind. So, I have to think about who I’m speaking with and whether I have to be very polite. Not that I’m not polite when I speak English, but its different.

Yeah, that makes sense. So, I’m curious what are your future plans? Where is this all going?

Well, I plan to continue traveling. And, I plan to be great at copywriting.

As far as travel plans, well, I’m going to Philippines soon to compete in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. After that, I’m traveling to Europe. I’m flying to Sweden and then I plan to go to Poland, and start my own “Euro Trip” from Poland. I haven’t been to Europe yet, so I am pretty excited.

Yeah, that sounds good. Sounds like an exciting trip. Well, you have done a bit of traveling, what was your favorite place so far?

Favorite place? Oh, that’s a hard one. Cambodia was quite impressive. But as far as living? I have to say Taipei has been really good to me. Obviously when I’m travelling one of the most important things to me is that there is good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training where I go and Taipei has been really good in that respect and there is a lot to do here as well. Yeah, Taipei has been good.

 

Taipei. Photo by: William Peregoy.

Taipei. (Photo by: William Peregoy.)

 

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For more on Masa, please check out his blog at MasafumiMatsumoto.com

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Keep Things Simple, and They Will Be Easier

A Movie That Gets Things Right

I love it when I watch a movie that gets things right.

It’s 2013 and with the popularity of American Romantic Comedies most movies these days get everything wrong. It’s awful really. I’m sure its poisonous for us on some level. The current state of sitcoms isn’t much better. I’ve stopped watching.

In fact, I haven’t owned a TV in almost 4 years. I haven’t even missed it.

(In case you are wondering at this point what I think the worst movie ever is, I vote for Cyrus. God that movie was awful. Cringe-worthingly awful. If I wasn’t with friends I would’ve walked out of the theater and poured bleach in my eyes and ears. If you find yourself agreeing with anything in that movie.. then you’re wrong. About how life works. I’m sorry to tell you.)

Anyway…

Back to my story.

We have movie nights every Thursday here in Taipei. Don’t worry, we haven’t watched an American movie yet. Only French, Cuban, Sweden… and last week, an Indian movie: 3 Idiots.

these 3 idiots

Clearly, a proper name for a film

(The whole movie can be found on Youtube by the way, but I won’t link to it here.)

Note: If you’ve never watched an Indian movie before know that this is like most Indian movies: a bit long, intermission in the middle, all characters break out into song and dance every 10 minutes.

But it’s good. And, it gets a lot of things right.

On a broad level it pokes fun at the education system, the way things work in the current system, and the pressures placed on college students.

The scene I want to refer to today comes toward the beginning of the movie when school has first started. The main character, known as “Rancho” (he’s already made a name for himself at this point through his prior antics), gets called on in class to answer the professor’s question: “what is the definition of a machine?” (They are in engineering school by the way.)

Rancho’s answer is that a machine is “anything that reduces human effort.” He then goes on to elaborate with examples. Then he gets kicked out of class for not memorizing the proper book definition, which is given by the teacher’s pet/puppet type of character who sits in the front of the class: “machines are any combinations of bodies so connected that their relative motions are constrained and by which means, force and motion may be transmitted and modified as a screw and its nut, or a lever arranged to turn about its fulcrum or a pulley about its pivot, et cetera. Especially a construction more or less complex consisting of a combination of moving parts, or simple mechanical elements as wheels, levers, cams, et cetera.”

Yeah, its a bit over the top maybe, but it illustrates the point. Over the course of the movie the contrast between these two characters continues to play out. They are both good engineering students but one of them studies 18 hours a day, crams, and memorizes everything; the other tinkers with things, builds things, and generally just tries to have fun in life. From the description of the earlier scene you can already tell which character is Rancho and which is the teacher’s pet/puppet guy. I shouldn’t even have to tell you.

Be Lazy: Work Smarter, Not Harder

I also shouldn’t even have to tell you which character I relate to more. If you know me, you know. If you’ve read anything I’ve written previously, you know.

When I was 18 I worked a summer job in a cabinet shop building commercial cabinets. We would also occasionally deliver the cabinets to the office buildings they were being installed in. The first delivery I ever went on was just me and Mike, the driver. He was about 9 or 10 years older than me, but a bit shorter than me, smaller than me. He was a funny guy, always cracking jokes and smiling. The type of guy who if he showed up to work 3 hours late and hung-over he would bring doughnuts for everybody. (I take it as some kind of bribe, so we wouldn’t “notice” he was 3 hours late and hung-over.) He was a good guy.

Anyway, my first delivery. We go around to the back of the truck and open the door. I pull a cabinet off of the truck and get ready to carry it into the building. Cabinets, by themselves and when empty, are not so heavy, so I didn’t think anything of it. Mike looks at me, grabs a furniture dolly, puts a blanket on it, grabs a cabinet, stacks it on the furniture dolly, grabs another blanket, puts it on top of the cabinet, and then pulls another cabinet off the truck and stacks it on top of the blanket. Then he looks back at me, smiles and says, “work smarter, not harder.”

Here I am standing here, holding one cabinet, ready to take it into the building, and this guy who is 5 inches shorter than me has two cabinets, protected by blankets between them, on a dolly with wheels. He’s getting twice as much done with much less effort.

Why didn’t I think of that?

The image stuck with me. And, so did the motto. “Work smarter, not harder.”

Bill Gates once famously said that he’d always chose a lazy person to do a hard job, because “a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

And, it holds true in a lot of ways. Sometimes we waste too much time working hard and all we are really doing is working hard. There may very well be much better ways to do things.

When I first started my MBA program, we had a “toolbox” semester: a short semester of mostly pass-fail classes to get us up to speed on everything that would be required of us in an intensive MBA program. In one of our first team meetings in our case analysis class one my teammates showed up ready and eager to talk about the case, and he dropped this bomb on me: “I know all about this case, I spent 5 hours reading it yesterday.”

Wait… what?!?!

Why?!?

I was dumbfounded. 5 hours on a case for a pass-fail course!

Cue the proper What Should We Call Hult meme.

I’ll be honest. I hadn’t even looked at the case. I had forgotten all about it. I felt like a bad teammate. I flipped through the case right then and there and tried to gather as much information as possible to be able to provide my own insights to the team discussion. I still thought this guy was crazy for spending 5 hours on it though. He’s really going to have to manage his time better in a one-year intensive MBA program, I thought to myself.

After that point, I tried to experiment with case reading. And how little time I could spend reading a case and still be prepared for class. I would try reading a case while eating lunch, I would try reading a case on the T on the way to school. Both of those saved time, but my best method was this: sit down at a rather large table, unstaple the case and spread it out across the table (this way I could read it and jump around without flipping back and forth), grab a highlighter and pen, and then set a timer for 10 minutes –  try to read as much and get as much out of the case as I could in 10 minutes.

Some people needed hours to read these things. Some people didn’t sleep much that year. All I needed was a big table and 10 minutes (and a paper copy of the case – as much as I loved the iPad, the method didn’t work near as well with electronic versions.) For the record, I graduated near the top of the class.

The moral, I like to think, is: better method beats hard work.

Lazy and Chillin'

Lazy and Chillin’

The Importance of Guiding Principles

Now, I’m not against working hard. But, my goal when working hard is to find the guiding principle that makes everything easy.

By guiding principle I mean one sentence. One sentence that defines the topic at hand. One sentence that makes everything easy.

I’m willing to bust my ass to find the guiding principle, because once found, I can lay back on the guiding principle and coast. The context will be there and new info will fall into place without effort.

Using the example from 3 Idiots above, Rancho’s guiding principle for what a machine is was: “anything that makes human effort easier.” This is much simpler than the book definition and by using and understanding this guiding principle to engineering he didn’t have to spend the 18 hours a day cramming and studying.

Want some more examples of guiding principles that make things simple?

Here’s some I’ve come up with. Feel free to use them – but understand them first, then apply them.

Want to ace an accounting course?

Think of “how a business works.”

Want to ace the GMAT Quant section?

“Don’t do math.”

Consulting case interviews?

“Build an issues tree.”

Japanese grammar?

“Verb comes last.”

(quick note about this one: a lot of English speakers fear Japanese grammar because they think “everything is backwards!” But, that is both incorrect and ambiguous. What is “everything”? And what does “backwards” mean? A much better guiding principle is “verb comes last” because that’s all that really matters in Japanese grammar. It also instantly makes things simple, which is our whole goal.)

Want to make a woman fall in love with you?

“Hold your frame.”

(Ha! Another note: a lot of guys think that you have to “be an asshole to get the girl” or something like that. Again, like the above Japanese example, this one is not entirely true. A better guiding principle is to just to “hold your frame”, ie: don’t be a pushover, ie: stand on your own two feet. Given the extremes: the classical “nice guy” and the asshole, one holds his frame fairly well, the other is a complete pushover. Again, I don’t need to tell you which is preferable.)

Any guiding principles you’ve come up with in order to simplify things and make them easier in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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How I Used To Ace Accounting Courses; And What It Means for How People Learn

When I first decided to go back to grad school I decided to pursue a Master’s in Accounting.

Why?

Well, one of my main reasons is that I thought accounting would be really freaking easy.

And, it was.

I signed up for some accounting courses at the local university and I would ace them. In Financial Accounting the professor announced to the class that I was the first student to ever make a 100 on one of her tests. In the other courses it was much of the same. I took 5 accounting courses over the course of two semesters (and one statistics course) and then later in business school I would take two more. They were always easy. Granted, I learned new things… but they were always super easy.

Why?

Simple stuff.

Simple stuff.

 

Context

One of the students in one of my classes approached me to tutor her. She was really struggling. She claimed she was doing the homework and doing the readings, but then during test time her mind would just go blank.

I tried to walk her through one of the problems in the book to see her thought processes. And I saw her problem.

She was too rigid. Too structured. Trying to remember what the book had said earlier. “Naw, forget about all of that,” was my advice, “just think about how a business works. Everything in accounting can be figured out fairly simply if you just think of how a business would need to do it. So just try to think like a business. Think of how a business works.”

She looked at me blankly.

Then I realized she didn’t know “how a business works.”

And why should she? This is an undergraduate accounting course (I was taking it because I needed the pre-reqs. I had never taken any accounting courses before). She probably hadn’t done much else besides school and studying. Maybe a part-time job or two doing menial tasks that she never thought twice about. But, she’d never run a business or thought much about “how business works.”

Basically, she wasn’t me.

My Previous Accounting Experience

I’ve mentioned it before on this blog. When I was in college, I ran a music business. A record label. We were in the business of recording CDs, pressing CDs, and selling CDs.

This included me driving all over the state of Texas (and occasionally to Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Florida) establishing relationships with music stores and putting product on their shelves. In order to keep track of it all I had a big white binder with a page in it for each store I had products in. I kept track of things like: how much inventory is on their shelves and how much money they owe me. I summed up all of that information up and put into Microsoft Excel and where I kept track of how much money I made every week, what my expenses were, and how much I owed to my artists.

I did all of this before I ever knew anything about accounting or took an accounting course. I did it without researching accounting at all. I wasn’t using definitions like debits and credits. I didn’t know what those were. I wasn’t using a double-entry booking system. I was just doing it to keep track of everything. It was a very rudimentary system. It wasn’t perfect. But it helped me keep track of everything. Which was necessary.

A few years later, when sitting in accounting courses and learning about the double-entry accounting system codified by Luca Pacioli in the 15th century it all made so much sense. Instantly it made sense. I was learning better methods, better systems that I could instantly apply to what I had previously done. It made perfect sense that a system codified 500 years ago and built upon since then would be more solid and be able to handle the different intricacies of different businesses much better than the rudimentary system one guy created on his own while driving across the Southeastern USA in his pick-up truck (hint: that’s me). It was easy for me to understand and comprehend, because it so easily fit into my worldview of how things work. My system would have surely fallen apart or at least need a lot of adjusting for new things as the business grew – but learning commonly practiced accounting standards just meant learning systems that had already taken all of these things into account already. Because the businesses that practiced these standards had already been through things my business hadn’t. It interested me because it was applicable to me. It was easy, because in some sense I already done some of it.

I barely even needed to study. All I had to do was just show up. “God-given talent.”

"Boobie, you didn't lift."

“Boobie, you didn’t lift.”

What This Means for How We Learn

What this all means is something that may already be painfully obvious for most of us: we learn from mostly from doing, not from reading or memorizing things in a book.

This has a lot to do with the current disconnect of the education system. College students cram for tests, take the tests, then forget the shit. Nobody really learns much because nobody really did much. Learning for a test isn’t really learning because it isn’t really doing.

This is why businesses are clamoring, saying they have to re-train grads because they didn’t really learn anything in school. This why internet pundits the world over are having a love affair with STEM – they see students are getting more practice actually doing things in STEM courses than they are in other courses.

We learn best through doing, through repetitive practice, through habits built over time.

Once we have enough context of doing something to understand it on a basic level then adding new information to it becomes easy. The context to apply the new information is already there. I already had a context for accounting, simplified in my mind as “how a business works”. It really is that simple.

 

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My 5 Biggest Regrets About Going to College

1.) Choosing Engineering Over Business

When I applied to the University of Texas, engineering and business were initially about equal in my mind. And with due reason – they largely are rivals at UT in some sense. Cockrell Engineering School, McCombs Business School – probably the two main schools at UT that churn out successful graduates (in terms of salary, career, lifetime earnings, etc). In fact, they are two of UT’s most highly ranked and most selective programs: engineering and business.

Exactly

Exactly

On my application to UT, I ranked Engineering as first choice, Business as second choice. I did this partly because I thought engineering at UT was harder to get into than business. But even at time, my interest for business was growing and I started to half-hope that I wouldn’t get into engineering and into the business program instead. But, I did get into to engineering. Of course I did – I had a very well put together and well-rounded application – high SAT score, top 10% of high school class with a very high GPA, very well-written essays (my HS English teacher loved them anyway) – everything was there. (I was loads more qualified than idiots who don’t get into UT and later sue the school.)

After I got in, I was in some respect a bit disappointed. I wanted to switch to business. I didn’t really want to be in engineering. I even asked my high school counselor how do I switch from engineering to business, who do I call in order to switch. He told me to call the recruiter and ask her. I never did. I never acted.

I’ve always regretted it.

When I got to UT, I played both sides of the fence at first – but not for long. I met people in engineering, I joined the engineering clubs… but I didn’t last long. The engineering kids wanted to live in Simkins or other weird dorms away from all of the fun that is UT. They wanted to live close to the engineering school so they could focus on studying or something crazy like that. I never bothered to get to know them. I was never interested in living at Simkins. For me the UT experience started at Jester – it had to start at Jester.

Home.

Home.

That was a real dorm. 3,000 people, 14 floors, co-ed, toilets at the end of the hall, a small room with a roommate who was weird sleeping right next to you, 2 dining halls plus a pizza place, and even all of the athletes lived there. That was COLLEGE. Jester was where everything happened. It was like its own city. Simkins was like the suburbs. The engineering kids were suburbanites. They ostracized themselves. I wanted to be in the middle of it all. I didn’t even like the side of campus the engineering school was on. I spent the least amount of time over there as I possibly could. The rest of the campus was much more interesting to me. I had a lot more friends in the business program than I did in the engineering program.

That’s right – the business school. Stock tickers in the ceiling, the AIM reading room, for some reason I felt at home there. I signed up for the Business Foundations program – a minor in business. Thinking that somehow minoring in business was my escape from the engineering life that I cared so little about. In all the business classes I did well – one of the best in the class. This is largely hidden in my UT GPA.. by how poorly I did in all other non-business classes. When you look at the business classes, you see professors that inspired me like Prof. Baker, who taught business law – who I would exchange emails about driving Ferraris, hang out in his office hours, debate with him about his answers on tests – even get him to change them some of the time. I went to the happy hours he put together. I even ran a study group in his class – essentially teaching his class to my peer group. I made an A in his class easily – a class deemed to be one of hardest in the UT business program. I went to his office hours to seek his advice when I was first considering an MBA.

I never had that kind of a relationship with my engineering professors. I don’t even remember any of their names. I never had any interest. I slept through their classes. I never cared to get to know them personally or took any interest in them.

The writing should’ve been on the wall.

And, it largely was… which leads me to my next regret:

2.) Not Being Focused Enough to Do What Was Necessary to Switch Into Business

I had friends who didn’t start off in UT’s business school, but were able to transfer in after their freshman or sophomore year. This is largely because they took care of business in the classroom. The general requirement to transfer into McCombs if you didn’t start in the business program was that you have to have a GPA above a 3.5 to transfer in.

I had friends who did this and got in. I don’t even think I applied. For some reason the effort was lost on me. I went to a info session about how to transfer in, deemed it was possible, and then didn’t even try. I think to some extent it felt like starting over. You could only transfer into McCombs at the end of the year. So that would theoretically push my 4 year college experience out to 5 years. I was never interested in going to college for 5 years.

I could’ve done it. I could’ve pushed out one year of busting my ass in a program I was ambivalent about in order to get into one more interesting to me… but I didn’t. For some reason. I’m not too sure why. On one hand, it felt like taking a step backwards. I felt like I should already be in the business school. If I would have applied to business out of high school I would have gotten in easily – and now they’re asking me to work extra hard just to get into something I could have waltzed into casually a year ago. It felt odd. Also, it felt like it’d be setting myself back – possibly a whole year if it pushed the college experience out to 5 years. I didn’t have a 5 year scholarship. Also, that’s one more year of lost income while I’m fooling around in school.

I wasn’t passionate enough about getting to McCombs then.. and I regret that. But that is one thing that I’ve learned about myself and it has held true over the years: if I’m interested in something I will work my ass off at it. There’s no time constraint and no limit on my effort. When I’m passionate I will really work hard. The opposite is also true: if I just don’t care about something I don’t put forth much effort.

From day one I didn’t care about engineering. From day one, I didn’t put much effort in. This is obvious… just look at the GPA. My first semester at UT, I had a dismal 2.4 GPA. Just awful. Horrible.

Engineering wasn’t hard. The 3.5 was readily attainable. I just didn’t care enough.

In contrast, my brother actually made a 4.0 his first semester in UT’s engineering program. He’s not smarter than me, nor is he any capable of working harder. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him work as nearly as hard as I do when I’m passionate about something. That’s no knock on him, he’s clearly more consistent than me… and able to put more effort in when he doesn’t care much about something. He did the complete opposite of me and its quite clear to see how different his UT experience was than mine. He stayed in engineering, he made the majority of his college friends in engineering, he joined the engineering clubs and went to their tailgates. He did the things I had no interest in. From the day I stepped foot into UT’s engineering school, I never wanted to be there.

3.) Going Into A Program That I Still Don’t Understand

I graduated with a degree in Corporate Communications. People sometimes ask me what that is. I still don’t know.

I have no idea what corporate communications is or what a degree in communications is even good for. I barely even know what I studied to get this degree. When getting into McCombs as a transfer student proved too annoying I sought something else. Something that checked all of the boxes: an escape from engineering, at least a minor similarity to business (it included the word “corporate”), intra-year transfers accepted (as opposed to only the end of the year like the business program), a transfer process that wasn’t reliant on GPA (to get into the college of communications you had to have a “well-rounded” application which means if your GPA is shit, just write outstanding essays), and most importantly a chance to still graduate in four years (I ran loads of degree audits, communications was the degree that I could transfer the most credits to). Communications was that something. I didn’t know what it was, and I still don’t – but I knew what it was for me – a way out of college: quickly and with a degree.

Maybe not the best way to chose a major.

Basically.

Basically.

4.) Not Transferring to The University of Houston

There was another option besides going into communications at UT. One that did really interest me.

A school 3 hours away from Austin, back in my hometown, had a new program. One UT didn’t even have: a degree in entrepreneurship. It actually ranks quite highly.

I was really interested in it. I researched it a ton – but a couple of things held me back:

1.) Going back to Houston. – what did this mean exactly: going back home? moving back in with my parents? I wasn’t too sure, and I wasn’t too sure I wanted to be back in Houston. I enjoyed being close enough to home to go back when I wanted to, but also far enough where I had my own budding adult life.

2.) Nobody considers UH to be as good of a school at UT. Despite UH’s best efforts to the contrary, it’s just not in the same league… on any level really.

Even with these two cons I was very interested in the program – as it seemed like a much better fit for me and my interests than the things I was currently fooling around with in Austin. I sought out the advice from as much people as I could on whether I should make the switch or not: my college advisors, my cousins, other family members, my friends, etc.

I don’t really remember what they said, but the consensus was really around point number 2 above: UH is no UT.

I stayed in Austin and I stayed in “corporate communications”. Whatever the hell that is I still don’t know.

5.) Not Dropping Out of College

About two years into college I faced the very real decision of just walking away from it altogether.

I had a budding music business that was taking more and more of my time and pulling more of my interest away from my college major that I didn’t even really understand.

I was constantly traveling, but not as much as I could have. Balancing a full-time school load and running a business lead to me getting burned out. I was working so hard most weeks that I was constantly crashing by Thursday afternoon. And if not Thursday, then it was by Friday. Going to bed at 3pm on Friday afternoon because you just can’t stay awake anymore and sleeping all through the night is a rather odd feeling… even more so when you are 20 and in great shape.

There were some plans that weren’t fulfilled. There were conversations that went like this:

Promoter calls: “Can you come down to Atlanta? We are going to Evander Holyfield’s house and he wants to meet you. He heard some of the stuff and he likes what you guys are doing.”

Me: “I can’t, I have a Spanish test.” (Because THAT’S the answer you expect from your CEO.)

I started to realize the business wouldn’t make it unless I could do it full-time. Full-time meant dropping out of college. Dropping out of college meant going away from that safety net. It was a scary proposition.

The business still wasn’t making money, but it was picking up. I thought it was damn close. I thought we were almost about to make it. We were starting to meet people like Kanye West and Chamillionaire. Traveling with legends like Scarface. It seemed damn close.

But it was scary. Dropping out of college seemed like it had no backdrop. It meant the possibility of traveling around for years eating ramen noodles and scraping by on practically nothing. Some told me that that’s what you have to be willing to do in order to make it. “You have to be willing to live out of a van for a year eating nothing but ramen noodles everyday” was the advice I got from a DJ from one of the radio stations in Austin. I knew he was right. I knew this is what it took. I knew how close it was.

Me, "excited" to be with Chamillionaire, circa 2005

Me, “excited” to be with Chamillionaire, circa 2005

I wanted to do it. Or at least I thought I did.

I was ready to be that broke. Or at least I thought I was.

I tried to convince my business partners to drop out of school with me. I tried to convince them to leave school and live in a van for a year eating Ramen noodles. I wanted somebody to come with me. It sounded scary to do on my own. It was a hard sell. They seemed somewhat interested in the idea, but they were scared to pull the trigger as well.

I should have just done it. I was the CEO. I should have just lead by example. They could have joined me in 6 months once things started to pick up.

I still regret it.

Making that decision was a big one. Not dropping out meant I was actually going to graduate from college and it meant putting more effort towards school. Once I started to put more effort into school and care more.. the business slowly wound down and died. I still look back on that like a part of me died with that decision.

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