4 years ago, I carved a little place on the web for myself. No, I did no create a new social media profile. I created a blog. This old thing in the age of videos, tweets, and one-click-create-a-website. I chose a medium that is being phased out by the mainstream, not intentionally, but because it made sense at the time. And here were are today reading it. This little place is the only place I have somewhat control of, so I will use it to tell you what has happened in the 4 year span.
I worked at a somewhat large company where I wrote code. I learned new things everyday, and I needed a place to put it down. Not only that, I had questions, comments, ideas, or sometimes things to vent about. But if I learned anything throughout my life is that if you don't write it down you will forget it. The problem was I did not know how to write, or believed I could not.
What do you do when you don't know how to do something? As a problem solver, I have a pretty good idea: You do it badly.
If you never rode a bike, it's fair to say you don't know how to. But if you ride and you fall, you just figured out how to sit on it. The the riding and not falling will come eventually if you keep trying. So pick something you are not good at and learn a little more about it. Don't stress. We are all bad at the beginning. The goal is to suck a little less everyday.
So I did just that. I created a blog where I can fall and stumble until I figure out how things are done. It was/is a long painful process but I did enjoy it. There is no quantifiable metric that can tell me if I am good or bad at this, so all I can do is keep writing and feel confident about my endeavor. Six months into the process, this is what I wrote:
The whole point of starting this blog was to improve my writing. Hoping that some strangers will find a place in their heart to tolerate my bad writing and look beyond the obvious mistakes and understand the message I am trying to pass. Not that many strangers for the moment but the few that come along did have an opinion. As hurtful as some can be I have come to build friendships out of others.
A few days later, I wrote another post that received 2.9 million web requests. I think this was good enough to keep me going.
In 2014, I woke up in a beautiful morning and found myself grinding my teeth. It wasn't intentional, every time I was lost in a task I found myself grinding my teeth. I've read the web enough to know that it is usually caused by stress.
I was frustrated at work, I was frustrated outside of work, and I couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel. There were no immediate fixes I could apply. I wanted change, I wanted to start my own company, but everything I tried was slow and only took me back to the same old place. So I stopped for a moment. I quit my cushy job, forfeiting a nice paycheck.
On the first Monday morning, I woke up, my hands shaking, my teeth chewing on the teeth guard. I finally started realizing what I had done. I had quit the job that was my only source of income. But I had also gotten rid of the source of my stress. I did not have to go to work anymore. I drove up to the mountains of Santa Monica and went on a long hike.
And the next day, I went hiking again. And on the next day, again. It became my routine.
Work is not stressful because of all the work you have to do. It is because it slowly creeps into your outside of work life. Work becomes your life. I used to dream of JIRA for God sakes. But one small step at a time in the mountain, I felt that stress melt off my shoulders, and the teeth grinding went to a halt.
I started meeting with friends again, I started spending time with my family, and I started doing something that I hadn't done in years: walking in my neighborhood. Yes, those are little things but I couldn't do that when I was spending 90% of my awake time at work.
Of course, the honeymoon ended and I found myself short of cash. Now it was time to apply this starting a new company idea that had once popped in my head. Turns out I didn't know the first thing about it.
I like to tell people that I am a problem solver, but recruiters have a very hard time finding employers that are looking for those exact keyword. So I settle for the more friendly term Computer Programmer. I create web applications in a multitude of popular programming languages. I have experience dealing with some specific problems that people often encounter in this field and market myself as such.
Outside of an employer, I can offer these same services to anyone that needs it. And I can see my own ideas come to life, if I put the time and effort.
I did not start a company. 2014-2015 left me in limbo. Sure I spent a lot of time on the computer building tools, I wrote a lot of blog posts, but I didn't make anything that generated money. The money I had saved from my previous job was gone. Every end of the month, I was exceptionally nice to my brother and sister, so one of them would pay for the hosting of this website.
In the first half of 2015 I have spent less than $100 dollars. I couldn't, because I had no money. I stayed home. I stayed on my computer. I wrote software, I wrote blog posts, started a book, I recorded podcasts, made YouTube videos, all with no real focus. I might have been broke but I was determined not to get a regular 9 to 5 again. I continued in this obscure activity until a friend reached out for a project.
I often receive emails from people reading this blog. I never took seriously those who were offering jobs. I even went to an interview once only to stop the process half way. But when the request came from Walter, a good friend, I took it seriously. It was more like a friend of a friend referred him, and he referred me. It was a good project that promised a payment too good to be true. I was broke, every payment was too good to be true. So I took the job.
It was as if this one project was the ice breaker. When I completed it, another followed. And then another one. Sometimes there were 3 or 4 contacting me at the same time and I had to stretch my arms to do all of them at the same time.
Suddenly, I could afford to pay for the hosting of this website without bothering brother and sister.
I was contracting for different companies all over California. Some were a week long contracts, others were 2 months long. But each paid more than my previous salary. Some required me to drive 30 miles, I closed my eyes and did it (with eyes open).
Starting A business
That same friend that had referred me to the first project had been working with two other people and they had started a little something on the side. That little something was a consulting company in the name of 8bits Software. I did not ask them for a financial report or asked to see their list of clients. I simply joined.
They had a few clients already and were gaining momentum. I expanded the little enterprise by bringing in my Linux experience. They were a .Net shop. Now we could take PHP, Nodejs, or any of those projects that ran on Linux.
I may have to start a different blog post for just this experience we had, but for now lets just say we did what we could with the resources we had.
At the same time we were tackling projects from clients left and right, my teammates had made a contact with an entrepreneur who had a few ideas of his own. They told me about the idea he had and I was a little skeptical. I wanted to see it with my own eyes to know if they were just too excited or if it was legit. You can tell I am usually the party pooper.
We went to an office building in the beautiful city of Manhattan Beach. I signed my name at the reception and we took the elevator to the third floor. We entered a large conference room with a view of the industrial line that separates Manhattan Beach and El Segundo. And Chris re-introduced me to the idea of Renly.
Renly is a digital marketplace that connects renters to owners in service industries such as beauty, health, wellness, fitness and medical where shared space is common practice but inefficiently managed.
In other words we connect people who have space with people who want space.
So I jumped in the wagon. At the time, the idea was only being bounced around and we were trying to generate interest.
Today, is not only the 4th anniversary of this blog, but it is has also been a year since I have joined the Renly wagon. We have a working beta currently being used by a small circle as we expand into different cities. I will dedicate a post just for that but for now let's say that my team and I are still hard at work.
Like any new business, it is hard to get those first dollars to support a team of five in a new business. We are still working on it but we also have to face the realities of paying rent and bills. Some of us are still working at regular jobs and wish we could all spend our full time on this project.
In August of 2016, I accepted a long term contract (I can quit anytime) with AT&T. It is my main source of income and my so called day job while I spend the evenings and weekends grinding on Renly. I firmly believe in what we are building and am saving money to dedicate my full time to this project. Obviously it would be nice to have outside investment so the process can be cut short and every single member can be here full time.
This isn't an ending. Life continues and it comes with its own unique sets of challenges everyday. Year four is only a count of the age of this blog, but the person behind it has been at it for almost a third of a century, grinding, hustling, living, and growing. I look forward to the day I can comeback and read this little piece and ask myself, why I thought it was a good time to write about it.
But in the meanwhile, we keep grinding and building our business one day at the time, quietly waiting for overnight success.