I migrated with two pieces of luggage to the United States after graduating from college in Southeast Asia. The destination was the sunny San Diego with its famous Coronado Hotel and The Sea World. I was as sunny as this sunny and vibrant city.
For those who have read about this, please bear with me a little. I’ve told this story so many times that I lost count. I haven’t, however, told anyone how I discovered entrepreneurship within myself after experiencing an excruciating period as a new immigrant in California.
Despite San Diego’s sunshine and beautiful beaches, I experienced clinical depression. I went to countless of therapy sessions, contemplated on the true meaning of life, dropped out from graduate school (which I eventually finished in San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s another story) and, eventually, found a new me. An entrepreneurial me.
OK, I won’t bore you with the details. Let me sum up the experiences into several periods and what I did during those transitions.
I loved landing in California. All the glorious and fun places from Yosemite in Norcal to Disneyland in Socal. I’ve visited them all with my graduate school classmates and new friends I met in San Diego. I was oblivious to the fact that I was burning cash and, expectedly, I ran out of them.
Penniless, I took any job available. I worked as a dog groomer, a sushi maker, a legal assistant, and, eventually, a freelance writer. During Web 1.0 period, I worked for seven dotcoms simultaneously, mostly doing writing and editing jobs.
Reading a lot of books to distinguish “good writing” from “bad writing” was an important part of my job. I didn’t count how many books I’ve read, but I suspected it was more than 300. Among the genres I loved the most were business, self-help, and motivational. They touched my very core, considering I was a “recovered” depressed person.
However, the more I read, the more I was confused on what to do next. There were so many options in life, which I was grateful for. I was especially grateful with the “what you think, you become” concept perpetuated by self-help books. It truly made me confident that I was not just an ex-clinically depressed person, but more importantly, I had the power to change my destiny by pulling my own bootstraps.
My ultimate passion was (and still is) writing. By that time, I had spent a few good years working as a “staff writer” for several online and print publications. Most of my works weren’t bearing my name. Once I submitted them to an editor, I would forget them. They weren’t mine and never will be.
One day, out of the blue, I looked at those DOC files in my dinosaur Dell laptop and voila! Why didn’t I start my own publishing company? I had the experience and the drive to work independently.
I started a small online publishing company, so small that I was the only person working. I researched, interviewed source, wrote the draft, and edited the manuscript. I admit that the first few books and reports published weren’t of high-caliber quality.
Having only one pair of eyes was a disadvantage to a publishing venture. But I had no other choice. Web 1.0 had just burst and I was penniless again.
A couple years later, things started rolling and revenue started snowballing. I was happy and led a good middle-class lifestyle. When I started making enough profits every month from this small venture, that I started to realize that I had quite a strong streak of entrepreneurship within me. I was grateful that I realized it early enough in life so I still had a lot of time founding new ventures.
Eventually, from several ventures, I started to make a very good living. But I became oblivious to the fact that like everything else in life, a business had its up and down periods. It hit me hard when the 2008 Great Recession started. Coincidentally, I also lost a teaching position that I had held for several years.
I learned the hard way that we all must be humble enough to recognize the patterns of life. What goes up must come down. In between, we must ride the wave. The thing is, sometimes we ride the wrong wave, so we are turned overboard. Realizing this, the entrepreneur in me recharged and restarted.
Being a born optimist, I believe in the state of equilibrium where things are neutrally good and positive. Soon the recession passed and I was back on my feet again. This time, I was more than ready to tackle anything that came my way.
A good and strong entrepreneur isn’t afraid of the weather. They embrace changes and occasional storms. Sometimes, the wind would steer the ship even closer to the destination.
At this stage, I’m content with being an entrepreneur. It has taken me more than ten years to come to this place. And I’m still learning from recent trends and industry consensuses. We can master the ship by understanding cycles and how to navigate efficiently and effectively.
Everyone has entrepreneurship within. Just look closely and use your skills and talents as “raw materials” of the products you’re selling. And be ready for occasional storms. The more you learn from the ups and downs, the better entrepreneur you’d become.