July 16, 2023

It's all about perspective.

I have a confession. 

In my previous blogs I spoke about the emotional aftermath of being laid off and how I’m going about dealing with it in the present. 

But the truth is, I actually do have a job. It’s at a technology startup where I’m the lead designer (I say lead because I’m literally the only person of my position at the company, so fuck it I’m the head of the department. Suck it, LinkedIn).

I’m actually quite hesitant to talk about this job though. Because the company itself is so young, I’m not actually getting a salary yet. So I basically work for free.

Before I was laid off this February I actually worked two jobs simultaneously, in my desperate attempts at trying to pivot between two completely different industries. I was willing to do it so badly, that I had an insatiable workload for about six months straight.

It was fine for a while, because I was still able to justify it by making money from my day job, and I just came back home at night and worked my other job. Money was coming in, and that’s what mattered at the time.

But after I was laid off, things began to get tight and the pressure was on.

This is something I’ve grown to be quite insecure about honestly, but this week I think I finally came around to look at it in a different light and it’s really helped me to be happier and positive about the whole situation.

But first, I’ll talk about why they don’t pay me. 

This is a perfectly logical question, and something that doesn’t make sense to most people. It definitely didn’t make sense to me for a long time. 

Since my startup is so young, we are pursuing what is called our “Pre-Seed Funding.” Meaning it’s the very first round of funding that startups begin to raise in order to get the operation off the ground. From my understanding, most of this money is necessary to just simply pay their employees a couple year’s salary so the company isn’t spending that completely on their own. 

When you’re building a company, employee salaries can often be the biggest expense you have to pay as a business owner, so it’s helpful to not have to pay for that out of pocket. You have to raise money from investors first to cover those costs, at least for the next few years. At a company so new, monthly revenues can be inconsistent, so to have this extra cash laying around ensures the company doesn't go bankrupt from any down month.

But for the better part of the last year, I didn’t understand that at all. I just assumed they were making money and were possibly taking advantage of me for my labor. But I was so desperate for experience in a competitive industry I was willing to do anything. But as I stick around and ask questions I begin to understand the standard process for startups, seeds, rounds, equity and all that good stuff. 

The reason this topic would make me so insecure is because after college I decided to pivot my entire career trajectory into this industry, somewhere I could have a direct creative input and where I could utilize my creative and analytical thinking into a career that also pays well. 

It just so happens that according to my family, any career with the word “creative” even remotely related to the job is probably a waste of time and shouldn’t be taken seriously. 

I remember one time in particular I was talking to a family member about my career goals and aspirations and how I was feeling frustrated about the whole job search. In an attempt at tough love, they replied, “David, you are not a creative person. You need to get a safe and secure job.”

Maybe it’s just my insecurities, but these words have stuck with me for years. Lit a fire under my ass honestly, and only motivated me to commit even more to achieve the goals I set out for myself. 

It put this chip on my shoulder to work even harder in the pursuit of this “I Told You So” moment where I would triumphantly prove everyone wrong one day when I’m successful by following my own path I set out for myself.

So there’s already this sense of my goals and aspirations not being respected, because they are difficult to understand from the outside looking in. So imagine I actually get a job in the field I want, doing something I love to do, learning new things every day. But if I’m not getting paid for it? Yeah, we’re still not taking you seriously.

Every side comment and opinion that I never asked for cut just little by little as the months go by.

But this week I had an epiphany about the whole situation. 

Instead of seeing it as having my time wasted and working for free, I choose to instead see it as being lucky enough to have access to one of the best learning opportunities I could possibly ask for. 

I essentially have all the boxes checked off for a dream job, not including the pay. Which I will admit does suck. I would like to get paid for my work, which would then allow me to move out of my family’s house and be independent.

But how many people can really say they were able to work with a company so young that potentially has such a high ceiling? Being on the ground floor of something like this is exciting and the challenges I face day to day keep me energized and constantly learning. 

I think that’s the thing that is worth the most to me. The opportunity to learn and consistently improve is always there and that kind of environment can be difficult to find in other jobs. 

In my opinion, while money is important, it shouldn’t be the only determining factor for how important something is. The pursuit of money in itself, to me, should not be the main filter for why I choose to do things with my life. But rather, it’s the characteristics of why it’s important that matter more to me.

I could easily shift  gears once again and go work for a steady job at the state, I have no doubt about that. But doing that would feel like selling out, like I didn’t have enough faith in myself to truly live up to my own potential. And for what, a decent salary and cushy retirement and benefits?

I’m choosing to live a life of my own design, not one that’s chosen for me by others on the outside. One that plays upon my best strengths and interests, not by what is safe and the standard path.

If I go to work and hate my life for nine hours a day, is it really worth it? No thanks, I’d honestly rather work for less and be happy. 

And I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion. Money makes the world go around. Get your bread up. If you’re not talking about money then I don’t want to talk.

Yeah yeah yeah.

But at this point in my life, I’m choosing to evaluate the value of things that I do with my life not by how I can grow my bank account, but instead by how I can grow from it as a person.

The delayed gratification of believing in yourself and growing my skills is something more valuable to me right now than a paycheck.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re ever feeling down about something in your life, try to see things from a different perspective. Step outside of yourself and try to see the positive side in it, because there always is one.

You have the power to control how you want to see and live your life, and you shouldn’t let others make that choice for you. Living under someone else's rules and expectations is not a life lived authentically. 

So go chase it. Life is short, we’re all going to die. The worst that can happen is you fail. But failure brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that most people are even too afraid of chasing in the first place.

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