After going to Toastmasters for four months, I finally gave my first speech. I may post the video recording, depending on how embarrassing it is. I thought for a second that I was going to break one of the rules of first time speakers, not passing out. Came real close but I managed and got through it. Wish I would have rehearsed it because I relied on my notes way too much but it was my first one so I will surely do better next time. This was a very personal speech but I thought I should let it out and I felt great since doing it. For a few years I resented a very difficult experience I had to go through. But years after, I have realized that I am fortunate to have gone through it because it made me that much of a stronger person. Enjoy and I hope it inspires you to strive for great things.
I stand before you at a crossroads in my life. I look to my left and I see one outcome, I look to my right and I have a sense where that route leads and finally I look straight ahead and can only imagine what lays over this big hill ahead of me, the sky is the limit. What has led me to this cross road was that I ventured off this year onto the entrepreneurial journey a little premature and unprepared. I am sure you have heard that quote many times, ready, fire, aim. Well I fired while getting ready, you live and learn right? 7 months have passed since I started focusing on various entrepreneurial projects and I need to get focused on one route. It's now time for me to make a very critical decision, which path to take. Luckily, all roads lead to Rome.
As I stand here at the present cross road, I can not help but think of the last time I stood at a major cross road in my life. It was five years ago this past month that I had to pick a route of many to take that would have led me to extremely different outcomes. There is no way at the the time to tell if I took the right path but I like to think that I did because it has gotten me to where I am today, one step closer to achieving my dream.
My dream all this time has been to successfully live as an entrepreneur by launching successful and profitable ventures that improve how things are done while simultaneously helping others achieve the same. Five years ago, I was in a whirl wind of a state.
In the last week of July 2004, I had a partial thyroidectomy, lost my father to widespread cancer, attended his funeral, and was diagnosed with follicular thyroid cancer at the age of 19. To top it all off, I was also hit with the reality of now having to support myself financially through all this. I don't know of very many people that have had to deal with this type of circumstance, but for a 19 year old it was quite a situation to deal with. Luckily, my mind kicked me into survival mode. I had to quickly get a grasp on the situation because school was about to start and I could either go left, right or straight ahead. To my left, would have been the easiest route. If I took that route, I would have taken the advice from many people and would have dropped out of school, quit my job, and would have focused entirely on my illness. To my right would lead to down grading my course load from full time to 12 hrs or less while also cutting my 30+ hr a week part time job to less than 20 to have more energy and less stress on battling my illness. The third and most daunting path laid straight ahead of me, I could change nothing and take on this circumstance full throttle as though this life experience would not deter me from my goals at the time, graduating on time.
I can proudly say today that I chose to carry on, changing nothing and battling on. I freely chose to not change my work schedule, except for treatments and doctor appointments and refused to use an excuse letter for slipping in my classes that I was given to by the university counselor. It was an extremely difficult time, working almost full time while taking a full course load and going through the process of beating cancer.
Looking back on the whole experience, I can confidently say that I am grateful for it all. Having to make the decision at the time of what to do greatly taught me much about myself and my capabilities. Its ironic, but I see that experience as a godsend. I was pushed to the max, physically, mentally, financially and emotionally. I succeeded and became a much greater person from it all. There are many people and lessons that helped me through that storm and I would like to discuss briefly three of them with you all. The three lessons that I learned along the way are the power of the mind, confidence in thyself, and perseverance.
Power of the mind, positive attitude.
Its amazing how the right people come into your life at the right time. There were two very important people in my life during this time. First, was my brother, who never stopped telling me that I was going to get past all this in no time and who was always there for me. The second person was my very first mentor Diane Carroll. Although, I had been learning much of how to be an entrepreneur informally all my life, it was Diane that really formalized it. Deciding to stay in school proved life changing because I also changed my major and took a class where Diane came and spoke early in the first semester that I was going through my cancer experience. One of the very first things she taught me, was that whatever I could think and imagine in my mind I could manifest it to reality if I did the right things. That I was the only obstacle to making my ideas a reality. Hence my entrepreneurial journey began.
I was taught early on that being an entrepreneur was a way of thinking of life rather just owning your own business. Thanks to new ways of thinking, I started thinking big things for my future 5 years ago and set in place steps and goals to achieve them. I was able to keep those visions in my mind as motivation to push forward through everything I was dealing with at the time. It was these ideas of something great in the future that carried me through this life test. 5 years have passed and I have been able to manifest several ideas into great things. My proudest achievements that stemmed from an idea was graduating on time with a double major and magna cum laude honors to backpacking Europe by myself for a month. Most importantly in those five years I had time to dabble in 5 start ups. 3 of which are lingering with potential and two have failed. These start up experiences are mainly what has brought me to this current cross road. I have learned a world of knowledge in the process and this has opened up many doors to great opportunities. Unlike my previous major cross road, I do not have my back against the wall and now have the opportunity to pursue a various promising and exciting paths.
Confidence, belief in thy self
Second lesson learned from the last cross road is confidence and belief in thyself. There were so many times I thought about how easy it would be to temporarily leave school, quit my job and move back home to stabilize. That I almost did it on several occasions. Through the power of positive thinking and my support network, I would always get picked up and pumped up either through friends, mediation, music, or by simply reading successful stories of those who overcame adversity and did something great regardless of their situation. I think that because I constantly thought to myself that I would get through this and fly to great heights. I engrained a strong sense of self confidence that I was able to do it. In particular the book, Think and Grow Rich, and the movie, What the bleep do we know? greatly motivated me and opened me up to new ways of confidently thinking what I could do if I believed in myself.
Finally the third lesson learned, perseverance. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and takes constant treading to get to your destination regardless of the obstacles ahead of you. The road taken was a tough one but a necessary one. Having read many success stories of entrepreneurs, one key characteristic is in all of them. Never giving up. I feel like that whole experience was a test to see if I had in me what it would take to carry out big ideas that would change the world for the better. An interview with Thomas Edison states it best. When asked by a reporter how it felt to fail a 1,000 times in inventing the light bulb? Edison replied, "I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps. It's that sense of never ever giving up while maintaining confidence in yourself and your idea for something great that will get you to your destination at some point.
Here I stand at a new and exciting cross road with a few different routes to take. Each route has its pros and cons, but the one similarity between them all is that they all lead to great things. One route is getting a dream job with a company I greatly admire doing what I had planned to do before I go to entrepreneurial ventures. Thus putting my entrepreneurial aspirations back indefinitely. Another route is getting a full time gig that is the standard 9 to 5 or similar where I get all the perks while working part time on another venture. Prolonging the process of being a full fledged entrepreneur. Or I can put my game face on and do what ever it takes to continue on the full time entrepreneurial journey. Either way, all three routes lead to a promising future but only time will tell which road I take. To take a line from Robert Frost's "The road not taken" I want to say in five years, that "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."