I've made the move to self host my wordpress blog… so after a few trials and tribulations, you can now find it at the same old address www.blog.craigdossantos.com, but it won't redirect to this web based blog, which is now out of date. 🙂
It's a magical thing to be able to look your pals in the eye and say "I'm my own boss." You feel proud, important, and ahead of the crowd. You are not among the masses who are slave to some random, inept corporate-ladder-crawling-junkie who tell's you what to do, how to do it and when it has to be done. You are the master of your time. You are effective, decisive, flexible and efficient. You are,….aren't you?
I can't tell you the number of self-employed people I've heard quip "I could never have a boss!" and toss off the idea as if it was a ridiculous notion that only the meek and unenlightened partake in. I'm hear to tell you, as someone who has recently crossed over from corporate junkie to self-employed hero, there's more to the story.
In the past few weeks, I've noticed that I've been slowly starting to play more than one role in my work. Not only am I the employee, but I am literally his boss too. This sounds obvious at first, but take a moment to rewind that until you realize that this is actually two jobs being done by one person. Being self-employed, or 'your own boss' means that you actually have to do the job that your old boss used to do. You have to set goals. Decide whether they are in-line with the vision. You have to break up those goals into tasks and make sure they have weekly mini-goals. You have to manage your employee, and make sure he doesn't slip. You have to prioritize, and decide whether the job is being done adequately, or whether more training is needed. Oh yeah, and you have to do all the stuff you've been planning to.
Of course, I'm sure that to some of you, this still seems rather obvious, but I assure you, the time it takes to play boss is very real. It's not something that just happens because the projects you are working on seem small, or simple. It's even easier to get off course when you're self-employed than it was when you had a real boss-man, so no matter how simple, you need a plan. Who has to create it? Well your boss, of course… You.
So far, I think I've done a decent job of setting up my work-life. I have weekly goals, daily task lists, and longer term goals that I've split up into 1, 2-5, 6-10 and 11-20 year goals. I have a mission statement and a list of beliefs that I hold to be true. I try to keep all this rigid enough to hold a schedule, yet flexible enough to fit daily randomness.
It's tough. It's tough to keep it all in my head. To review it daily. To keep myself accountable. And this is just the beginning. My projects are in their infancy, and it will only get more complex from here. There are more roles that will come in… Salesperson, Secretary, Accountant, Lawyer,… As long as I'm small enough and poor enough to not afford actual other humans, I will need to fill these roles to some extent. Because life is about assuming different roles, and so is working for yourself.
So far, it's totally worth it.
After 6 months of traveling, I am done with recovery from corporate life, and after a week back in seattle, I consider my new life to have started. Over the last few months, I have created a 3 phase plan in order to ease the blow on my savings as I take on this new challenge of being self-employed. I have found that creating this plan not only does the obvious in helping with its execution, but alleviates me from the mental worries of being off on my own.
A new mentality is needed in order to watch your bank account slowly go down with each payment you make. When employed, its easy to get used to seeing the account bounce back every two weeks, and think nothing of the small purchases. Having a plan on how I will generate income now, in 3 months and in the year to come has helped me adjust to this new mentality. Don’t underestimate it's power. Not having a plan for income generation can be mentally debilitating, despite the fact that you may have savings to last you for over a year
So without further ado, here's the current (but still flexible!) plan:
Phase 1: Balloon entertainment
Goal: Immediate income that allows for flexible hours, but will help pay for small expenses.
I have been twisting balloons on a volunteer basis for years, but I am now starting to earn money for it. It is easy work in that it has a very low overhead, but it naturally has a low potential upside, as I don't wish to do this full-time, nor is it physically comfortable to do so. 🙂 For those not blessed with the skill of the inflatable twist, this could easily be replaced by tutoring or teaching an instrument or academic pursuit. For any skill you have, there is an audience waiting to learn it… you just need to find them.
Phase 2: Speaking Professionally
Goal: To create an income that has a larger potential upside, while developing a skill I value.
I have been speaking sporadically on a volunteer basis, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I have taken topics that I routinely give advice about in my day-to-day life and created talks out of them, targeting students in High School and College. I will be speaking on How to Increase Your Odds When Applying to College, How to Prepare for College, Socially and Academically, (I believe success in those two areas is closely tied), and How to Use your Memory to Study More Effectively.
For others, using any skill you have to consult or teach on a one-to-many basis will enable you to practice speaking, marketing, negotiating and selling… all important parts of being an entrepreneur.
Phase 3: Web Ventures
Goal: To create long-term income by creating a high-value-add site that drives traffic and creates passive as well as active income.
My ideas for such sites was a primary reason to leave Microsoft. It's just plain more fun to work on ideas that are your own. For others, this is where your main business plan would come in. I have been working on three ideas primarily:
Greenshelf: A site to post your compensation data anonymously so others can see where they stand among their peers with respect to compensation and benefits. Never underestimate what people are willing to share anonymously on the web.
MyTeam: A site that makes it easy for orgs and teams to create a site for themselves and communicate online effectively.
This Blog: I would like to turn this blog into something that is encouraging and useful all those poor lost souls who dream of quitting their corporate gigs and doing what they love. You can do it.
All you need is a plan… 😉
The first business that I am launching will be a solitary endeavor into the current school system. Like many others, I see many problems in our current schools system, and I will try to do my part to help out. One of those problems was displayed very clearly to me last week, when I started calling schools in the Seattle area to set up opportunities to speak.
My business will be centered around public speaking, and I will be concentrating on high schoolers (juniors and seniors) and college students. I am giving talks on getting into college, preparing for college, and study skills for college (specifically centered around improving your memory). I began calling high schools to see if I could speak for free as a guest speaker. I didn't expect it to be easy, as I'm sure public schools have their share of bureaucracy, but I was dismayed at the response I got. In short, I was shot down by all of the schools I called (so far). I even talked to one "career counselor" who told me she didn't know of any teachers who were looking for guest speakers, and didn't know what the process was for hosting such a talk, and furthermore, did not know of anyone who did. I finally managed to get the principal's voice mail, where I left a message, but got no response.
One thing our school system needs desperately is for professionals from industry to partake in the educational system. Teachers who can put up with high schoolers for 30 years tend to be a certain type of person (very patient!) and therefore there is a lack of diversity in our teachers, in both personality and experience. We would benefit greatly from having industry professionals who dipped into the teaching profession for 5 years as part of their career. In the very least, our school system would do well to welcome outside guest speakers to give a new perspective and liven up the classroom.
I decided to try my hand locally, and a friend of mine who teaches 8th grade graciously made room for me in her classroom, where I gave a talk on memory to three classes over the course of last week. I thought the talks went progressively better, and from the feedback forms, and the teachers comments, were very well received. I also managed to visit my friend Aaron Boe, in Indianapolis, who speaks to young people on bullying and leadership, and joined him for a workshop in Terre Haute, Indiana. He gave me earfuls of advice, which I was happy to recieve, and I learned a lot from watching him. Even more so, I gained confidence that I could make this a reality, and a money-making business. I'll be trying to meet with principals this summer in Seattle, and network so I can get into the classroom this fall. I will be looking into creating evening seminars for college students as well as for high school juniors and seniors.
Once I have a handle on how to effectively make it into the classroom, I would love to create a system which brought professionals into high school classrooms to teach a lesson, and pass on their hard-earned knowledge.
Now that I am back from my travels (for now), I’ll be concentrating on blogging more on my entrepreneurial and career efforts. It seems right that this blog goes through some changes, as it is a reflection of myself, and I certainly am at a new crossroad in life. I have successfully left the corporate setting, and in a few short weeks I will return to Seattle to embark on a new life. This time, I am without a structured environment to lead the way. It is exactly as I would have it, and for the first time in a long time, I am getting up each morning knowing that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.
A quick run down of where I am now:
- Happily unemployed and not searching. At some point I’ll make the switch to saying I’m self-employed.
- I am currently visiting my family, and will return to Seattle in early June.
- I am looking at generating income in three ways:
- Public Speaking: I will be running Seminars on Memory and Study Skills for College, and Getting into College during the summer, targeting High Schoolers.
- Balloon Twisting: I will be doing birthday parties and events, to make some money while I spend the majority of my time on…
- Creating “Web 2.0” websites that will hopefully add value, generate traffic, and some passive income.
- I intend to build up this blog so that it becomes a useful and motivational site that encourages readers to take up careers where you follow your passions and do what you love.
Back home in Louisville, Kentucky and I'm struggling to understand the differences between my life as of this morning, and the one I led 24 hours ago. How can so much change so quickly? I often think that the culture shock of returning to your home country is much more than when you visit others. I always expect other countries to be different, and so when they are, I'm not surprised. However, I expect my home to be the same as I remember it, yet I'm always surprised. It may not have changed, but I certainly have.
The last few days in Niteroi were spectacular. The Churrasco was a roaring success, over 80 people came, and it went from 2am until 5am the next morning. Rodrigo and I had planned to start it early so it would end early and we could go fishing with his cousins the next morning, but as it turned out, we just pulled an all nighter and went straight from the churrasco to his cousin's house. Fishing was fantastic, as I set a record of number of fish caught. This was easy, since I'd never caught one before. 🙂 That night, I put off sleep again and went out to Castelaria, where there was a live Samba band and I got to try out my Brazilian dance steps once again. My last two days were a mix of meeting friends and dancing. I made it one more time to Queen Pizza, Forro (live music and dancing, basically the brazilian version of Salsa) and then my favorite lanchonete (fruit and snack bar)… As had become a ritual for Debora and I on Sunday nights.
It was sad to wake up on Monday, knowing it was my last day… but this time leaving Brazil is different. Brazil, and particularly, my life in Niteroi, has become a part of me. I know I'll be back soon. I went to visit the Creche one more time to say goodbye to all the kids and the teachers. They were so appreciative of my time there, and gave me a bracelet and shirt to take back with me and remember them by. I'm so lucky to be caught between such great situations. I couldn't have asked for a better experience in Brazil, and yet I'm incredibly excited to come back and get to work with my friends, excited to create a life that as yet doesn't exist, and a life that has no infrastructure, and therefore, no limitations.
I'm already in a state of semi-shock that I will soon be leaving what has become a very comfortable environment. I'm also shocked every time I look in the mirror, because I now have no hair. Yesterday was Rodrigo's birthday and we started it off at midnight by shaving my head (I asked him what he wanted for a gift, and that's what he wanted), and then going out for drinks. The day was relaxed, we had amazing food for lunch, as always, and I went out with Raquel to buy supplies for the Creche. The kids there eat all three meals at the daycare itself, and therefore brush their teeth there as well. However, the toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste and towels (for baths) come from home, and as you might guess, most of the kids don't bring anything. I went to Sam's club and picked up about 50-60 of each item (yes, they have Sam's club here, can you believe it?)… I dropped the stuff off today, and will be giving a short lesson on how to brush your teeth on Monday, before I leave. It's quite sad, I did a quick study of the kids mouths a few weeks ago, and they look like the horror photos that used to be in the waiting room of the dentists office when I was younger. One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great article on the failure of the health care system in the US, and wrote about the worst problem for the uninsured: bad teeth. A few dental supplies certainly won't fix everything, but I think these kids are in a really sad situation if all for the lack of a 25-cent toothbrush.
Last night Rodrigo and I went out with a bunch of his guy friends to have a chopp (tap beer). Nights with these guys are always memorable, and of course last night was no exception. We are having a huge churrasco tomorrow, because today is Rodrigo Sally's birthday, and I'm leaving on Monday, so we've combined and invited everyone. I started making a list of people I wanted to invite a few days ago, and it came to over 60 people. This has been an incredible experience because of these people. I will not return home the same person that I was when I arrived. Thanks so much to:
Padilha, Sally, Jessica, Bruna, Binho, Natalia, Daniel, Bilau, Bidu, Erica, Andre, Tainah, Stella, Chico, Paula, Flavia, Colonese, Juquinha, Bruno, Gugu, Andre, Sandro, Bruninho, Patricia, Priscilla, Gabriela, Andre, Nicolas, Manu, Mari, Deborah, Roberta, Katarine, Natalia, Dani, Marcia, Luciana, Leandro, Leo, Rafael, Marcel, Thiago, Sara, Suelen, Manu, Rogerio, Steve, Arthur, Felippe, Vinicius, Fabi, Marina, Ana Paula, Juliana, Deborah, Joana, Livia, Pamella, Maria, Raquel, Fernanda, Thiago, Sabrina… and this doesn't even count all the wonderful people I met while traveling, who can't make it because they don't live in Niteroi.
My friends here are absolutely dying to see photos of Marina's Birthday party from yesterday, and after spending the last three days hanging out with them, I owe them at least that. Today was spent at the beach with Felippe (one of the guys I met on the way to the Jack Johnson concert) and his friends… We later went to Fabio's house, then to see some live music, and ended the night in São Francisco.
I was out with the same group last night before Marina's party, which was a fantastic time. Her beautiful house in São Francisco was filled with food, drinks and a bunch of my new friends. I still find it a bit incredible that I happened upon this group on the way to the Jack concert, but then, I should be accustomed to Brazilian warmth and hospitality by now, right?
And finally, here's a link to the pictures…
Last night I went into São Franciso, which is the beach on the other side of the hill, about a mile from where I live. I had plans to meet a group of friends for drinks, and the friends I met at the Jack Johnson concert were celebrating a birthday at a nearby bar.
As usual, plans were quite hazy, so I picked up a taxi and arrived in São Francisco alone. I've become quite confident in moving around and going out alone over here, because it always seems to turn out so well. Last night I arrived and found that none of my friends had arrived in the first bar, so after wandering around, I happened to find my friend Luciana from Salvador out in front of another bar. I chatted with her, but she was just leaving (my night started just before midnight) and as she left, I found Ana, a friend from the Jack Johnson concert, and I followed her into another bar where everyone was gathering for Marina's birthday. Cool. Later that night, I met up with my other friends 100 meters down the road at Queen Pizza, and met yet another group I knew. So in all total, I arrived alone, had plans with 2 groups of friends, after being in this country for 3 months I ended up meeting 4 groups of friends, and came home at 5am. Oof. What a life!
I spent nearly all of yesterday at the Creche, as it was their Easter party, so I arrived early and pre-made a bunch of balloons, and then stayed late to enjoy the cake and face painting. I have been waiting for this Easter party for a while, and I think I was at least as excited as any of the kids. I now know almost all of the kids and their personalities, and I can't walk in the street without kids running after me to ask for balloons. The other day I actually visited the other Creche, on a whim, and was invited to their Easter party, next week. I only have about 10 days left here, but Rodrigo's birthday is coming up, and I'm making plans to have one last party with all my friends here before I leave, so it's sure to be memorable.
This weekend has been filled with music, as the last two nights I've attended concerts in Rio. Last night I went to a Jack Johnson concert, which was fantastic. He is incredibly popular here (I used to own a community on Orkut devoted to him, with 250,000 people… 90% Brazilian) and the concert was held in the same venue where I saw the Samba Parade of Champions after Carnaval. Jack's show was fantastic, as I always enjoy his laid back music, but even more memorable were the people I met. I had planned on going to the show with Deborah, but after a phone mix up at the last minute, I found myself alone at home without a ride to the concert or a ticket (Rodrigo and family had gone to a pre-wedding party that I had passed on because of the concert). I decided I wasn't going to spend my Saturday night in the house, so I left, and asked around I found the right bus to get on, and headed into Rio. On the bus, I started talking to the guys across the aisle, who were part of the big group sitting behind us. I met all of them and they took me in, helped me find a ticket, and I ended up spending the rest of the night with them. The warmth of Brazilians is unsurpassed. Later that night I was getting something to eat with some of my new friends, and I ran into Sally, Jessica, Natalia and Binho… who actually ended up knowing my new friends. Many thanks to Felipe, Arthur, Marina, Fabiana, Juliana, Ana and Deborah… you guys made my night!
Friday night I went to see O Rappa, a popular brazilian band with a reggae feel. The venue was fantastic… I had been there once before during my first trip here to see Geraldo Azevedo. The show started after 2am… which was pretty late in my opinion, but hey… it's Brazil. 🙂 I went with Priscilla and some other friends who I have met through her. I've seen a crazy amount of live music since I've been here. 🙂 There is a definite difference in the energy level at shows here compared to the US. I thoroughly enjoy it… and hope to bring a piece of it back with me.