Part timeline — part self reflection, this article is about my journey through learning the skills of entrepreneurship charted by my mistakes.
21 year olds are supposed to have simple concerns right? Dating, school, a part-time job, maybe some parties. It’s the “best time of our lives”.
Or at least that’s what we’ve been told. I’m here to show you how wrong that is. My names Andrew, and I want to be a space entrepreneur.
I was sitting in the library in my first year of university reading a book about philosophy. I’d been racking my brains for months about what I wanted to do with my life. I’d had this sort of inkling that I wanted to start a company but it didn’t seem possible.
I spent that whole year reading. At the end of it, one thing was painfully clear; people who refuse to follow their dreams end up regretting it. I needed to figure this out.
I filled notebooks full of thoughts about my future and decided that I wanted to help other people find the answer to this question. So I designed and built a personal development blog named Grasping Triumph. This was in 2015.
This is the part of the story where I pitch my “5 Secrets to Starting YOUR Business” video subscription program. But GT failed. I spent months messing around with HTML, CSS and WordPress. But all I really learned was that I was still trying to answer the big questions for myself and this blog thing wasn’t it.
Time passed and in second year (now 2016) I started getting really interested in technology. I’d heard about this class of cognitive enhancers known as nootropics and I was fascinated. I started researching and trying to understand these things.
Some self-experimentation later a friend and I designed a nootropic stack for retail sale. Our partnership dissolved around here, but I carried on and assembled the very first batch of Think Better.
Again this is where I say “order some below” but I had no qualifications, no way of proving it was safe beyond not being dead yet from self-testing it, I couldn’t dream of affording an industrial scale batch or a double-blind safety test. So like Grasping Triumph, Think Better was abandoned.
In year 3 first semester I decided I wanted to see every country in the world someday. I started getting really into travel gear — and did a bunch of research to source the best gear for the lowest prices.
Through all my work I realized how inefficient this all was. The vague descriptions, and inconsistent prices seemed crazy to me. So I vowed to change that and combine the clarity and honesty of the Reddit threads and travel blogs I was reading with the purchasing ease of a large retail platform — thus GearNomadic was born.
I combined all I learned from Grasping Triumph and Think Better and made my best platform yet. With Shopify’s framework, an insightful blog and Oberlo’s drop-shipping framework for my initial products I launched!
Within two months I sold one watch to someone in Las Vegas. It was thrilling, but also cost way more in subscription fees than I profited from that watch. So GearNomadic went the way of my past ventures and was shut down. Perhaps I could’ve spent more time learning internet marketing and turned it into something very successful. But with the attention span of a may-fly I moved on.
Throughout all this I noticed a trend. I was starting ventures that were trying to solve my own problems. But I was settling for the low hanging fruit. The temporary problems like; better grades (Think Better), gear for my own travels (GearNomadic) and uncertainty about my future (Grasping Triumph).
I needed to look deeper.
What had I dreamt about since I was a kid? What was the underlying motivation I had — that guided me through all my big decisions?
In short, what did I truly want?
I went back to when I was young. When I didn’t worry about outcomes I just did what I loved.
Some things stuck out to me — the book I’d written when I was 14 (if you dare read click here, it’s awful in a sort of creative way), the essay I’d written for a nature magazine, my burning desire to make the world better, all the businesses I’d started like snow shovelling, outsourcing a paper route, or landscaping and my dream of becoming an astronaut.
I played around with thse ideas for awhile until it dawned on me what I needed to do. You can see where this is going — I decided I was going to become a space entrepreneur.
This realization of course was followed by a wave of panic. What did ‘space entrepreneurs’ actually do? What if I failed? To be brief, I was worried.
But time passed and I’ve never let the dream die. Above and beyond my classes I study relentlessly to make myself less not smart. I research the industry and try to predict future trends so that once I’m ready to launch I don’t fail again.
I also just work to stay motivated. I read success stories and try and envision myself actually succeeding. Because embracing your dreams is scary. Some days are easier than others but no day is truly easy. I put this crushing pressure on myself to succeed and feel guilty anytime I relax without being productive.
It seems like a ‘short end of the stick’ type of situation. But I’ve never been happier. I love my life for all the uncertainty of it. There’s a unique feeling of fulfillment you get when you’re working towards something huge — and making progress.
Perhaps I’m delusional, but I have this certainty in my heart that one day I will succeed.
So that’s why I started Landing Attempts (here’s the plug)
It’s a blog about space and entrepreneurship. It’s also a way for me to learn and grow while sharing my journey with others.
Perhaps it’s as Thoreau once wrote in Walden;
Don’t tell people your dreams. Show them.
This is my dream. Landing Attempts is a step towards it.
So what are your dreams?
Update: I wrote this in 2017 and I’ve now shuttered Landing Attempts as well. It was an amazing experience but I’m ready to move on. I’ve since been developing an appliance to automate houseplant growth named the “PlantBox” which I’m presenting at the International Business Model Competition today — super exciting! It was also my first experience building and leading a team of multi-disciplinary folks, so thank you Josh, Jacob, Kate, Jen, Cole and Chris for that.
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Andrew is a design graduate student in Toronto who writes about leadership, design, and startups. Visit his blog Lead Boldly for exclusive content. Or say hey on Quora | Instagram | FaceBook | Twitter | LinkedIn.