Landing a job is never easy. In today's market, it constantly seems like most jobs require endless previous experience, yet there is no way to get that experience. Combine that with attempting to relocate from wherever you are, and the job process becomes even more daunting. The process is long, frustrating, and time consuming -- it often feels like a full-time job to find a new job, which is exhausting (and nearly unfeasible) when you already have a full-time job. But, with perseverance, it can be done; I can prove it.
When we're young, our parents tell us to follow our passion. We hear sayings like, "do what you love, and never work a day in your life." We are encouraged in college to take a variety of courses to explore our interests and settle on our true calling. Somewhere along the way, though, the sayings seem to change. "You have to put in your time," they tell us. "Now is the time to be mobile, before you have a family." If we are all to follow our passion, yet destined to put in the work, then I reason that there must be a point where passion intersects work; a point where each person finds their true equilibrium, and ultimately their purpose. Since graduating from school, about 50% of my peers have maintained jobs in their original industry. The other half have pivoted once, and some have even pivoted twice. It stands to question whether it is luck that has kept that first half happy, or whether it is stubbornness. Are those who have shifted paths happier in their current state? Does it take small adjustments for one to figure out the ideal place, or does it just take time to settle into happiness in one's current state? If the second half had waited it out, would they have eventually found purpose and results in their first job?
Is the equilibrium of passion and work entrepreneurship? Is it solopreneurship? Does passion mean something different to everyone, and if so, how do we all discover our own purpose?
Above imgur brought to you by Cove.
It’s easy as an entrepreneur to move too quickly to celebrate the wins and reflect on progress. Even though we are hard-wired to always be slightly dissatisfied with where we are at all times, at every moment we are much closer to where we want to be than we were a week, a month, or a year ago. It’s important to stay focused on the future and on achieving what we set out to do, but sometimes, it’s equally as important to recognize just how much has changed and improved. Reflecting is also a powerful tool for strategizing and projecting your next targets. For me, I’ve been thinking about how much has changed at Unfettered Socks since we launched, and where we want to be next. Here’s a look at us then vs. now, because everyone has a Cinderella story (ours just doesn’t have an ending yet):
1. unfetteredsocks.com: while we haven’t changed our platform (still hosted on trusty Shopify), we have certainly made major design improvements and are now utilizing applications and add-ons to optimize SEO and conversions:
What’s Next: web design is a constantly iterating process, so we will always be making enhancements as we add new products, but the pipe dream is to be big enough that it becomes a full-time job to maintain the site and produce content.
2. Branding: Like so many other companies, we started out as one thing and became something else, in order to secure our IP. We originally launched on Kickstarter as GoodFoot Socks, but quickly switched to Unfettered Socks to honor our namesake co-founders (The Fetters) and to encompass our true mission: to unchain men everywhere from the norm of business footwear.
What’s Next: While we hope to stay Unfettered for eternity, we will have to shift our image when we expand beyond socks. From unfettering feet to unfettering the world, the long term strategy will maintain our mission but allow us to grow our brand.
3. Product: Our product is the core of what we do – it is what we spend our time and efforts changing and improving. From version 1 to version 2, we made several key changes to bring our sock one step closer to perfection. A few small but important adjustments to the design, and slight changes to the ratio of various materials brought our sock game up a notch. Plus, we expanded our designs:
What’s Next: when it comes to product, the short term future is clear: more styles! We are just a few weeks away from releasing our fourth and fifth styles, and version 3 also includes some important improvements based on customer feedback. In the long term future, we have our sights set on an expansion of items that will continue to revolutionize the business wear industry.
4. Meetings: the way we conduct business has changed dramatically since we first kicked around the idea to fix footwear. From the on-campus basement in the business school library to remote calls and FaceTime, it’s safe to say that things have changed since we graduated.
What’s Next: it’s not imperative to our strategy that we are all in the same place at all times, but the possibilities are endless for the future of Unfettered communication. One day we will be holding board meetings in our shipping facility, and that’s when we will know that our Cinderella story has a happy ending.
Just like all the greatest startups of our time, we all have a Cinderella story of where we came from and where we are headed. Don’t forget to celebrate the successes of your business with your team, and use those moments as an opportunity to plan and prepare for the future.
By our 20s, most of us have experienced bureaucracy in some way, shape, or form. We've lived it at large corporations, seen it cripple decision-making within organizations and government, or at the very least, watched it play out on primetime television. Now, bureaucracy to some degree isn't always bad, though we've certainly assigned it a negative connotation in recent history. In its traditional sense, bureaucracy is just a body of decision-makers, but that's not the kind we care about today. Wikipedia defines our modern version of bureaucracy to be the "complex, inefficient, and inflexible" administrative procedures that come along with organizing human activity. Now that's the kind of bureaucracy we live and breathe every day. Now the only question is, where does bureaucracy come from? Even in organizations that tout employee ownership, flat structures, and holacracy, bureaucracy still prevails. We cannot shake it. Plus, even when we try to shake it, it doesn't always work. If we know that bureaucracy is almost everywhere, maybe it helps to explore where we are sure bureaucracy is not present. There is no bureaucracy at my 3-person startup. There is no time for inefficiencies, too few people to create complexities, and absolutely no room for inflexibility. We simply could not survive with a hobbling hierarchy. Sometimes, we even do each other's work when any one of us can't dedicate enough time to it. It is certainly a flat structure, in that we are all equal yet have diverse responsibilities. It works because it is a 2-dimensional triangle. Plus, we are evenly splitting a pie of $0. Ah, startup life.
The way I see it, bureaucracy must be caused by one (or a combination) of the following: # of employees, # of years in business, or the culture of upper management. We know that Unfettered Socks has no bureaucracy, and we have few employees, are very new, and have fantastic upper management culture (if I do say so myself). We know that bureaucracy is most common in large companies that have been in business for a long time (and who knows anything about the culture of their upper management). But what's the main driving factor here? If it's # of employees, we have to assume that Facebook and Google are now as bureaucratic as Ford or General Motors, despite being much younger companies. If it's time, the car manufacturers take the cake. Perhaps it is, in fact, a combination.
My friend says that if you read any of the works by Franz Kafka (most notably The Trial), "bureaucracy is a deeply intertwined force of nature that entraps everyone, and is not something that is established, but rather develops over time and requires participation of everyone in order to sustain." His opinion? # of employees.
I think I have to agree. At the end of the day, bureaucracy is like the prisoner's dilemma of human interaction within organizations, and therefore it cannot exist without people. Bureaucracy is catching up on emails over the weekend, because if you don't, you're the one whose inbox gets jammed. Bureaucracy is asking permission instead of forgiveness. Bureaucracy is never being able to get anything done because you're sitting around waiting for others to get things done so that you can do more things and they can do more things and look like we're all doing things to earn a paycheck in a world of things.
I am a highly productive person. Every morning when I wake up, I examine my to-do list, prioritize each item, block off the time necessary to complete each task, and hack away at them one by one. The feeling of crossing an item off the list is akin to peeling an orange by keeping the rind in one continuous piece: pure satisfaction. At day's end, I create a new to-do list for the next day, including any unfinished tasks from the day as well as new items that have come up that need to be completed. This system has worked for years. From an engineering degree to a restaurant to a sock startup, this method has gotten me to where I am today, one step at a time, one day at a time (and just a few sleepless nights). For periods of time I've even turned this method into a digital collaboration between team members, utilizing tools like Asana, Slack, etc.
But what happens, as it so often does, when the number of items on the list is greater than the available hours in a day? What happens when even the most productive, efficient, and intelligent of us are unable to get through the tasks? For me, it's that feeling that causes you to sit up suddenly in the night and add some unforgotten task to your list. Your ever-growing list of to-dos. It's that feeling that haunts you as you sit down to read on the weekend and become immediately distracted by work.
Productivity is most often seen as a strength. Employers are always looking for the most productive employees; articles are always touting the latest productivity apps. Is it possible that productivity can reach a point of diminishing returns? A point where it dances on the verge of psychosis, eating away at the beholder's sanity? At what point does productivity no longer act as a strength, and instead become a weakness?