Almost a year to the date of me writing this, I left full-time employment, a steady, reliable income, and the corporate world to pursue Helium Books with more intention. September 8th, 2020 was my last day at my old employer and this post is a reflection on the past year. 🔎
Undoubtedly, this year has had its ups and downs and I want to take the time to reflect upon and share my journey with you all. I think an ideal format for this post will be to discuss the great and the not-so-great parts of the past year.
🙅 Let me assure you, quitting your job to pursue a passion is anything but sunshine and roses. There have been difficult and discouraging moments along my journey, and, most unfortunately, there is nothing I can fully do to alleviate those. The best I can do, or try to do, is lean into those disheartening moments.
I want to preface before you read further, that I am beyond grateful, and blessed, to have been, and continue to be in a situation where I could leave employment to pursue a passion such as Helium Books; this post has been written through that lens. With that, I will start with the not-so-great moments (because I would rather end this post on a higher note 😉).
Leaving behind steady income not only weighs on you from a survival perspective, but also weighs on you heavily by looking at what could have been. Nobody longs to be financially poor. Sometimes there are areas in your life which are in play that are completely out of your control, but I willingly chose the financially unstable path knowing the side effects that came with it.
Now, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a dad when I grew up. In fact, my mother loves to share a story of when I was younger—often the age when children were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up—and, as you would suspect, most said professional athletes, firefighters, doctors, or other professions that their parents or close family relatives might have pursued. But I, on the other hand, wanted to be a dad. 👨👦
A couple of years ago, inspired by what I wanted to be when I grew up, I opened a 529 Plan, which is a savings plan for future education costs that are often used for your own children, or your godchild(ren), for example. However, as a result of losing reliable income, my investment into my future child(ren)'s educational future, or that of future beneficiaries, was placed on pause. My 529 Plan, 401(k), and “fun” investment accounts have all taken a back seat while I dump what little income I earn through driving for Uber Eats into rent, utilities, food, and of course, a little fun! :)
At the moment, I am sacrificing my financial future. This sacrifice means that I must live on a tight budget and oftentimes cannot go out for drinks with friends, or, frankly, do much or spend much. And let me tell ya, as a “spender” this can be painstakingly difficult. As a person who loves to have fun, this too means that even fun bats behind survival in the lineup. Surviving means extremely long days, trying to balance Helium Books and driving for Uber Eats all the while attempting to pepper as much fun into my schedule as possible, which doesn’t leave room for much else.
❌ I will be perfectly candid with you all, I have not struck a balance between them. Surviving is exhausting.
While I pride myself on the ability to bounce from task to task, keeping up with various friend groups, and my family, I have noticed that doing so this past year has been much more difficult. I came to the realization that I am no Superman, not even close (shocking, I know), and only have so much energy to go around—because at the end of the day, I need some left for me. This has been extremely discouraging because, much like my financials, other areas of my life have been placed on pause too. From a lack of consistent hangouts with certain friend groups, to feeling further removed from others, it has been extremely isolating.
I have assumed that some friends have felt that I haven’t prioritized them, and us, by not making time to hangout, make plans with, or talk regularly with, leaving them feeling either hurt or thinking that our friendship has moved on and changed. And that could not be further from the truth. To those that I have established deep and lasting friendships with, I cannot express to you how much you mean to me and how badly I want to spend time with you, especially as an extrovert who feasts off laughter and camaraderie ❤️. By no means am I excusing myself for not being intentional with my relationships, I am merely being honest about my energy and my assumptions of how people may feel about me/us.
This lack of energy and lack of time to spend with friends has, oftentimes, left me feeling as if I were on an island. Like I pointed out earlier, I need time and energy at the end of the day for me. It is important to establish that boundary and I have significantly improved in setting them this past year. But, like I also mentioned above, I feast on fun and need to hangout and be around others. This presents a very peculiar paradox. One that I still am trying to manage and learn how to best understand and navigate.
I'm sure most of us have heard of the phrase “imposter syndrome”. In case you haven’t, it is where you feel like a fraud and begin to doubt your abilities in a certain area or subject. As an entrepreneur, you are continually tasked with having to perform various roles, oftentimes in the same day, and sometimes even at the same time. The phrase “wearing many hats” encapsulates this so perfectly. For me, I definitely have my bouts of imposter syndrome, knowing full well that most tasks I enter into each day I am not skilled enough to handle. The only way I keep the bouts at bay is to realize that I am learning, and that the bravery to step into the unknown, and the tenacity to stick with it, is often rewarded.
Now, if all that has you ready to call it quits on a venture you were looking to start, don’t stop reading. While the above is certainly scary, and perhaps you even got anxiety from reading it, there are wonderful things about this past year that I want to share as well...🎉
First off, the freedom of not working on someone else’s passion, but instead on your own, is liberating. I can’t fully explain what that feels like, but imagine never dreading going to work. That is as concise as I can put the feeling into words. Of course, you lack motivation from time to time to do certain tasks, that’s only natural as a human. But with this liberation, it is incredible the creativity and joy that can stem from working. Feeling alert and ready to jump into the day is something I will never take for granted and is such a night & day contrast from where I stood a little over a year ago to now.
I also became a man of purpose. Although I was still a co-founder and working on Helium Books prior to my departure from the corporate world, I never felt that I fully had two feet in the Helium camp. But after that departure date, I officially became part of something bigger than myself: a mission to elevate lives by spreading the power of, and instilling a love for, reading. 💪 Being a man of purpose affected so many different areas of my life. It opened the gates to more volunteering, to giving back to organizations, to giving me the power to fight for what I believe in. It opened my eyes to how humbling life is and how often I need to check my ego and walk through life with as much humility as possible.
While I don’t seek out validation, in the start-up world...boy is it nice, and honestly needed, to keep going. This past April we launched a crowdfunding campaign and the number of people that contributed to not only Helium Books, but to us (fellow co-founder, Ian, and I) as well, meant more than just “we believe in Helium Books,” it also meant that you believed in ME.
That support was everything. Those who are reading this who contributed financially, thank you. Even if you didn’t, just you thinking, praying, and checking in on me meant, and continues to mean, the world. 🙏
While the crowdfunding campaign is the big validation elephant in the room, what keeps me focused and reflective are the subtleties of the day that I do not take for granted. From the thank you cards we received from elementary school students, to showing up to a book club, sharing a post on social media, or any other seemingly small happening, it all makes it worth it for me.
This year has had me longing for financially improved circumstances, and has been isolating, difficult, and, at times, exhausting, yet it’s all been worth it. I can concretely say that if it wasn't for my family, and those who are reading this, I am not sure I would have been able to stick it out as long as I have. Thank you.
Being able to make a tangible difference in my community, doing new, yet scary things every day has been an absolutely incredible experience. I am not ashamed, nor do I regret my current situation. Far from it. It simply is remarkable that in a few days of me posting this, and you reading this, it will have been one year since my last day or, better yet, one year since my first day.
All we can do with the decisions that we make is to make them worth it. And I am doing my damndest to do just that. 🤙