Iterate and Wait

I know you. You’re like me. You want to change the world.

But the world is so big, and you’re so little. And your goals feel painfully out of reach.

I get it, and I get why you’re discouraged. From one over ambitious soul to another, I have a piece of advice; don’t go out trying to change the world. Do what you love, do what you can, and do that every day.

I reiterate – do that every day.

Eventually, the world will change.

You want to do big things, but the only big things that happen immediately are destruction. Positive change is built one small step at a time. The progress might be hard to see at times, and will definitely be hard at times, but don’t give up the good fight.

Work as hard as you can, but don’t jump to the end, you’ll burn out. Enjoy the small successes; they build the big ones. Embrace the failures; they hone your skills in the correct direction.

Find mentors, ask them bits of advice; they’ll be happy to provide. Mentorship is a two way street. Be a mentor when someone needs you, knowledge is never gone when it is given.

Break your hopes, dreams, goals and problems into small bits and tackle each one, one at a time. You will sit and spin your wheels in a panic. You will choke if you eat the whole thing at once.

Iterate and wait. Do that every day.

Eventually, the world will change.

Entrepreneur, Engineer, Artist. You’ll either find Danny in his startup’s office, or running in the woods. He is a tinkerer who realised passions can become careers, and that happiness lies in doing what you love.

Little Black Boxes

On the dresser in my bedroom sits one of those cheesy little wooden black word boxes that usually shout an unrelated phrase on the wall at your mother’s house like “Cats are my children” or “I love Chocolate!” I have one of these signs that my mother bought for me when I was moving into my first college apartment. It reads:

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for”

Now I think about this “box quote” quite a bit more than I probably should. And while a quote from Epicurus may be more complex than “I love you more than jelly beans” it has always stuck with me and evolved as I grew. When I was younger, I would think about “things” as material items, and thought of it as a quote to remind us to appreciate what we already have. But now that I’m older, I’m not quite sure if that’s correct.

Now as I work so hard to achieve entrepreneurial goals, time has become my most precious resource. When you are stuck chasing dreams, and all your focus goes toward future planning, it’s easy forget to appreciate the fruits of past dreams achieved. Relationships fade, people get left behind, and then all you have is all the things you worked for. The best things in life aren’t things; take the time to appreciate them.

Do you remember what you hoped for? We work hard to buy expensive high tech cell phones to aimlessly scroll though news and ads we don’t care about, when that same phone can be used to re connect with an old friend. We have nice cars, but mine mostly takes me to the same few buildings every day to toil away for hours on end. Buy all the little black box signs for your house that say “laugh more” but if you don’t want to spoil all the things you worked so hard for, you need to actually take the time out of your busy schedule to do it.

I’m chasing for more, but I already have everything I ever wanted. Now I only need to afford myself the ability to enjoy it.

Entrepreneur, Engineer, Artist. You’ll either find Danny in his startup’s office, or running in the woods. He is a tinkerer who realised passions can become careers, and that happiness lies in doing what you love.

The Entrepreneurial Sprit

People ask me sometimes why I choose to do this to myself, I’m a twentysomething who works 80 hours a week for a smallish but livable income for the sake of starting a company. “Why don’t you get a normal job and work less?” Why? I have seen first hand the power of choosing to be entrepreneurial. But this story isn’t about me, it’s about my parents.

Growing up in a single parent household isn’t uncommon, but each story is varies wildly on the who, where, when, and why. When my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the mid 90’s we knew life would change. What no one expected was that he’d be over prescribed and become an addict. We’d be in and out of hospitals, mental wards, clinics, and assisted care facilities until his passing in 2009. Crazy shit happened then, I can remember numerous times I didn’t sleep on school nights because the police were at the house until 3am. Times were tough. My father would never be able to work again, and my mother spent most of her time keeping things settled until my father was living permanently in assisted care after receiving addiction help.

Here’s the kicker, in the mid 80s my mom was working an office job at the gas company, and my dad was a chemist. Both standard, respectable, normal as hell day jobs. That is until my dad was fired. I don’t know how the actual conversation went when he got home, but I’d imagine it was something like “hey, I just got fired from work. Let’s start a company instead.” In 1986 they went into business selling edible inks, and by the mid 90’s the business was successful enough to stand on its own two feet and run all by itself. Just in time.

Now, the only reason I am able to be where I am today is because of this one gigantically small choice. The decision to strive to create something better than the status quo. I don’t know what would have happened if there wasn’t an operational company helping support us in our time of need. We weren’t from a well to do family. And keeping my brother and me from being taken by child services was a full time job for my mother, she didn’t have the time to work a desk for a few years in the late 90’s.

But besides surviving, we thrived. I could have never afforded to build a 3D printer in college, let alone maybe even go to college if it weren’t for the extra cash we had from the company. Now I get to worry about the next funding round for my startup instead of worrying whether my paycheck will cover both gas and groceries. My entire life could have been drastically different due to choice, not chance.

So if you’re feeling bold, choose to be entrepreneurial. Start something crazy, do what you love. Who knows, it might just save a life.

Entrepreneur, Engineer, Artist. You’ll either find Danny in his startup’s office, or running in the woods. He is a tinkerer who realised passions can become careers, and that happiness lies in doing what you love.

Pace vs Panic

Coworker – “Mornin’ Danny, how are you?”

Brain – “violently anxious! crippled with self doubt! Mentally and physically exhausted 15 minutes into Monday morning! Aaaaaahhhhhh!!”

Danny – “Good!” (insert smile), “you?”

Coworker – “Good” (Awkward pause) (forced smile) (walk away)

Why do we do this to ourselves? I get it; a 15 second conversation hallway conversation isn’t the right place or time for an in depth heart to heart conversation on a higher state of mind and what keeps us up at night, but damn, we are both clearly lying to each other for the sake of hitting social ques. The worst part is, I’m living the dream. This is the life I’ve hoped, dreamed and worked for. Most of all, worked for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have gotten to the place I am. It’s taken every bit of both my privilege and work ethic to keep trudging forward in what I hope is the right direction. If I need to work a 90-hour week to keep my startup company kicking, I’ll do it. Product development, startups, and hopefully making the world a better place are my passion, but they are not always fun, and definitely not comfortable.

At the end of the day, you need to fight for your passion. And it’s not just you against the world, but it’s you against your self. There’s easier ways to make a living; the only mandatory items on the To Do list are breathing and taxes. But that being said, you can fight for your passion until it breaks you. I get to the point where I ask myself “Idealistic 4th grade Danny would be ecstatic on how my life turned out, so why am I exhausted and miserable?” How did the sprint toward my dream become my nightmare?

I’ve found my answer. If you dare to work as hard as you can toward any goal, you need to draw your line. How much can you physically and mentally handle? I’m easily found guilty of pushing this boundary far too often until I find myself with a fake smile while questioning how the hell I got here. I lose my working pace and start sprinting until I’m too exhausted and anxious to move. I’ll work until I get so worked up that I get no work done at all. So I stop, think, and rest. Maybe I’ll go run; maybe I’ll drink a beer with a friend, anything to bring my mind back to sanity so I can start again.

You can only sprint so far, pace yourself, enjoy the scenery. But when you do forget pace and break down, take the time to fix yourself. You’re worth your time.

Entrepreneur, Engineer, Artist. You’ll either find Danny in his startup’s office, or running in the woods. He is a tinkerer who realised passions can become careers, and that happiness lies in doing what you love.

Gold star stickers

Have you ever felt terrible about a bad grade? I’m going to guess the answer is yes. I have a quick question for you; what did you learn through the process of earning an awful grade? Was the worse grade worth the lesson? Let me explain through meandering anecdote.

In 7th grade I was in an engineering/design tech class, and our first project of the year was building a car that would travel down a string with a limited materials list. The materials list included a balloon and a straw. The solution was obvious, glue the balloon to the straw, blow up the balloon and let it go. Most of the other components weren’t needed.

Little Danny wouldn’t settle for his string car to be so boring though. Instead of making a car powered by balloons, I tried making one powered on rubber bands with wheels driving it down the track. I was so proud; I was trying something different. All those other kids, all making the same balloon car, they didn’t look past the obvious and try something new. I was so proud, until my car didn’t work.

Between the high rolling friction of the foam wheel and the rubber band gear set making too much torque/no speed, my car only went inches. I learned a few lessons on that project, but at the end of the day standard balloon cars got A’s. I got a D. The systems and powers that be will not reward you for trying something new and failing, it’s not in their nature and not in their job description. The project’s goal was to make the fastest string car. Mine was not, therefore my grade reflected.

Where the real magic happens is the lesson learned. You can try something new, fail, and come to various solutions. Option 1: You can decide that trying something new was the culprit to a bad grade, color within the lines, stay inside the box, and be happy when the powers that be give you a gold star sticker.

Option 2: You can decide that the opportunity to learn something new is worth more than the letter grade, keep pushing the limits, bask in the light of both success and failure, and be the powers that be in your life.

Find the courage to stand on your own. It’s worth it.

Entrepreneur, Engineer, Artist. You’ll either find Danny in his startup’s office, or running in the woods. He is a tinkerer who realised passions can become careers, and that happiness lies in doing what you love.