Generally, when starting a blog post, I don’t like to begin by headlining my piece first or adding a subject/title to the article before I’ve actually written anything. I typically work backwards, in fact, by writing the article first and then summarizing it with my header. Historically, I find that by the end of a piece I’m writing, the topic I’m discussing changes or transforms into something I didn’t think it would be before.
But in this case, What It’s Been Like is a fairly broad description for what I’m about to break into.
Also, I can smell my friend making eggs in the kitchen, and it’s incredibly distracting. Jesus. So in this case, I think I need to headline my article first just to stay on track.
Where I’ve Been
Naturally, if you’ve been following me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc (yes, I’m everywhere), you probably haven’t noticed any change in the pace of my activity online. Although the topics I discuss have definitely shifted towards a more professional space and are leaning further and further away from whatever nonsense I happened to be discussing before (excluding string theory, psychoanalytic theory, book prefaces, etc), I hope I maintain some sense of the “Cheri” you’ve all grown to sort of know online in that I still manage to discuss all of the things that I’m consistently passionate about or excited by.
And in my current state of mind, well.
I’m passionate about my “job”.
The things I’m able to do for a living now, I can’t even tell you how personally satisfied it makes me feel. It’s everything that I envisioned I would be doing when I first moved to San Francisco on January 30th.
The impressiveness of what I’ve been able to accomplish in such a short period of time (impressive to me, anyway — impressiveness is always objective, yeah?), the amount of things I’ve been able to do, everywhere I’ve been able to explore, everyone I’ve been able to meet, everything I’ve learned — I feel so …
I haven’t written a personal blog post in the longest time. I want to laugh. It feels weird breaking down emotions again and diving deeply into my current mindset. I mean, I guess it’s only been a month or so since I’ve really done this, but you have no idea what I’ve been doing for the past few days, and have no idea what I’ve been able to accomplish. And it sucks because all of the things that I’ve been doing, all of the people I’ve been talking to, and everything I’ve been working on — they’re all things I can’t even really discuss publicly since the space I’m in is so … Bah!
/Rips hair out.
On Envisioning the Future
This morning, I was staring off into space and imagining my life and what it would be like in five years (I always envision the longterm). My friend, noticing what I suppose could be described as a somber attitude, poked my cheek playfully and prompted, “You see this face?”
I brushed his hand away and laughed, “What?”
“I know what that face means.” He smiled.
“Okay…?” I feigned amused irritation, only encouraging him to continue.
“That’s the ’emo’ face,” he replied, laughing when he was rewarded with my sneering reaction.
This is an accurate reflection of how I feel lately. I mean, I don’t feel emo, but I definitely find myself daydreaming suddenly, only to snap out of it a moment later. The experiences I’ve been through lately are, honestly, defining my goddamn life. And it’s not all work related either, but still — it’s incredible. I’ve noticed myself calling Mom at the end of the day just to be able to gush, and because she’s the only person I can really sort of trust to divulge this insane information to, and is really the only person who I know will receive what I’m saying with equal excitement and possibly even praise.
Anytime I’ve really sat to think about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, I end up asking myself, “Am I doing the right thing? Does what I’m doing now contribute to my longterm goals? Am I wasting my time by doing this? What more can I be doing to improve my current lifestyle and add to my future?”
These are the sort of questions and concepts that drive what I do.
In San Francisco, free from any sort of chains I may have had in Stockton, I feel like I can accomplish anything. So rather than going after what may be superficially fantastic, I’ve found myself pursuing my passions. Pursuing what this city so popularly calls “disruption”. Pursuing the things that I know will change the world. Innovation. Entrepreneurship. Collaboration. Focusing on the things that only one with a set or defined goal could possibly put 110% of personal energy and effort into.
I feel free to be excited.
Where else but here, where big ideas and risks are encouraged, can that ever happen?
Your Environment is Everything
It’s amazing, actually.
This idea of San Francisco being this city which drives the people in it to get excited about big ideas rather than shooting them down before they even begin. It’s a city that encourages invention.
I was having dinner with Matt Swanson the other night — he’s founded several companies and is fairly successful in his own right — who discussed this concept with me at length. He brought up Paul Graham, essayist, programmer, inventor, and more famously, one of the founders of Y Combinator (responsible for successful companies such as Airbnb and Dropbox).
Paul Graham apparently wrote an essay back in May of 2008 called Cities and Ambition (it’s a fantastic read — go take a look now if you’re feeling up to it) which discusses the idea of great cities attracting ambitious minds, and how, depending on which great city you end up in, the direction of your ambition changes according to the “message” of that city.
The message Graham described for Silicon Valley (or San Francisco, really) was: Power.
And that word sounds awful, I think, when you think of it in the traditional sense. When I attempt to visualize power, I see it as this maniacal thing that springs to mind images of Lex Luthor and other control-hungry super villains with malicious intent. But that’s not the case, really.
Instead, the idea of “power” in this city, in this incredibly innovative environment that I’m lucky enough to live in, is influence.
Klout Clout, if you will. It’s this idea that the moves you make are going to change the world. It’s this idea that what you’re doing here and now, is going to affect the landscape of society several years after you’ve passed.
It’s Steve Jobs and how he redefined the user experience in convenience-driven technology.
It’s Mark Zuckerberg and how he’s gamified human interaction into “Likes” and “Shares”.
It’s Jack Dorsey and how he encouraged us to break down these complex thoughts into 140 characters or less.
The message of this city is never, “How much money are you making”, or “What kind of car do you drive” — this city is, “What are you doing that’s going to change the way we do everything? What are you creating that will become essential to human life? What are you passionate about? How are you going to change the world?”
Rather than money and superficiality, the idea of power in this city is about the transformation of life and existence as we know it, and how you or your company or the people you surround yourself with here are aiming to redefine the way that we do anything and everything. To have that sort of positive power, to be responsible for that sort of amazing change, that’s what we hold valuable here in the city.
Or at least, that’s what the people I choose to involve myself with do.
San Francisco is a collection of people — a collection of brilliant people who want to change the world, and honestly? I think I’d like to live here forever.
Too Busy Being Passionate
Recently, my company had the opportunity to sit down with Marty Cagan, founding partner at Silicon Valley Product Group who specializes in product teams and product strategy (also former exec at eBay, AOL, Netscape and HP) for one seriously inspirational seminar on product. The Saturday seminar really helped define a lot of the direction for what my team is currently doing, and even helped us reimagine how we should be approaching what we plan to build.
After his seminar, I hung back to pick his brain a bit about the idea of CEOs and Founders, and the concept of entrepreneurship and what he believes makes a brilliant mover and shaker.
I apologize for the terrible paraphrasing I’m about to smash Cagan’s words into, but his response went something like, the most brilliant and successful CEOs, Founders, and product people he knows have never and would never put an emphasis on formal education. These are people who aren’t focusing on school to teach them how to create a business or product, because the people who are the best at creating products or businesses are so passionate about those ideas to begin with that they’re already busy making them.
Now, this can certainly be argued from both sides, but in terms of who I’ve personally met in this city and in terms of who the most successful of these folks are, I could easily argue Cagan’s point.
Don’t get me wrong — I know loads of people doing incredible things who have formal degrees, but — well, I’m getting off track.
I don’t want to focus too much on the idea of education vs. non-traditional success. Instead, I want to pinpoint this idea that you will only get somewhere if you are ambitious and passionate enough about your goal. The people who’ve managed to get by without school — they’re internally driven by this seemingly otherworldly compulsion to just “get shit done”. Not everyone has that compulsion. Not everyone is an outlier.
Creating Your Own Future
For me personally, I didn’t have the patience for school (and, knock on wood, am fortunately doing just fine without it). For me, I was just far too busy being passionate about everything else. Some of us, I think, need school to sort of guide us down the path that we want to go down. Others, like me, were impatient/passionate enough to forge their own path in the face of nay-sayers and other similar obstacles.
Amazingly enough, I’ve met several people in this city who have either had the same experience, or are simply brilliant.
I use that word too much. Brilliant.
Gifted, talented, exceptional, first-rate, clever, astute, intellectual, blazing, glorious — these are the people who I am fortunate enough to speak with on an every day basis, ask questions to and get answers from, and sometimes even befriend. I am so lucky. And I truly feel it’s because I’ve made my own luck.
How does that saying go? Luck is preparation meets opportunity?
Something like that.
I’m just so driven by this idea that if I simply continue to lay the foundation for the future I envision myself owning, this future where I can make this positive change in the world simply through leading by example, simply by leveraging this idea of being a “thought leader” or “taste maker” — I’m so caught up in this idea of very tangibly creating an uproar of positivity in society that it pushes me every day to work harder, to succeed, to blow minds, to reach out to audiences, and to create massively engaging content that, hopefully, really makes my readers and followers think about their own futures, and think about how they can aggressively make positive changes to own their lives.
I aim for reaction.
I don’t want people to simply read what I’m writing and absorb.
I want them to do something.
I want them to get angry, get inspired, get jealous, get motivated — any sort of human response I can generate simply by sharing my passion and excitement, that’s what I want.
I look back on who I was five years ago, this girl with a million doubts still struggling to fit in, still struggling to figure out who she was, still fighting this battle within herself on how best to answer the question, “What am I doing with my life?”
And then I look at myself now, at this person I’ve become, at the pride my parents look at me with, at the love I receive from my siblings who I never seemed to be too close with before but am now connected with incredibly deeply — I look at everything I’m doing with my life and how I envision my future and all of the negativity I’ve managed to cut from my diet and it’s just … I have never felt so alive, and I am so absolutely thankful that I’ve managed to follow my own advice.
That advice being:
You hold the reigns to your life. You are in control. No one is shitting out what you’re eating. You control the direction in which your life takes you. Be the change you want to see in the world, and forget everyone else.
I give that advice so much because I know that it works.
I mean … It worked on me.
So … What’s Life Been Like?
I can’t wait for Mondays because I love my job, and adore the people I work with (who are just nothing short of fantastic). I can’t wait for evenings because I love my friends — my real friends who expect nothing more from me other than my happiness.
I can’t wait for tomorrow. Every day feels like I’ll either meet someone new, or stumble onto some new opportunity that I know will change the world. That’s just what happens here in this city.
I wrote this blog post before about why I love San Francisco, and I swear, it’s like my reasons for why I adore this city seem to change month after month, and my perception of everything is just rapidly evolving. I can’t even explain it. It’s like, being surrounded by so many brilliant people every day with so many grand ideas — you can’t help but want to do something life changing too.
I guess I just wanted to share that.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? :)
Excited for what comes next,
Sherilynn “HeyCheri” Macale