Year In Review: 2016
I want to take the chance and reflect on this past year. The piece is a bit random, but I hope you learn something useful or gain a new perspective on what it’s like to live a day in a dropout’s unconventional life. (past editions here: 2015).
I CAN’T RELATE TO PEOPLE MY AGE
Turning 21 is actually a big deal because I can actually do “adult” things. I cannot count how many times I had to pass on a social event, or get kicked out of a venue because of my age.
It’s funny because I don’t “feel” 21.
Most people imagine 21-year-olds to be huge party animals. Stressed college students. Young, naive, and bushy eyed. Avid social media users. Hungry kids looking for their first entry-level job.
I’m none of that.
I’ve completed six internships, wrote two books, launched a podcast, started freelancing, and worked with my role models. I understand where I am in life and the direction I’m heading. I’m clear with my values and strict with my priorities.
I haven’t used Snapchat for over three years (I only use FB and that’s mostly for work). I don’t party, and I spend most of my evenings reading books.
My closest friends are 25+ years old and all the people I work with (my team and clients) are well over 30 years old.
When I do talk with people my age, I find it extremely hard to relate. I’m not cramming for midterms or attending a frat party. I’m not gossiping over who hooked up with who. I don’t care about the latest Snapchat filter.
I want to talk about your goals. Your dreams. Your hopes. Your fears. I want to know your take on certain issues. I want to debate over something we both strongly disagree with. I want to learn something completely new that only you can uniquely share.
But most 20 somethings I meet are at a different stage of life than me, and that’s fine. I’m the weird one out. I’ve learned to accept this and focus on the people who I can relate with who naturally tend to be older.
Dating is my biggest challenge since the women I’m attracted to are usually in their mid to late 20s. I find it difficult to meet women who clearly understands who they are, what they want in life, where they are in the world, and they are actively taking action on their passions.
Yes, that is what I look for in a woman.
I CAN LITERALLY DO ANYTHING
I finally realized that I have the power to do almost ANYTHING I want. If I wanted to start a multi-million dollar business, I can do it. If I wanted to be a professional comedian, I can do it. If I wanted to be a NY bestselling author, I can do it.
Research shows how overrated talent is. What’s more important is your environment, systems, focus, grit, and deliberate practice.
This fuels me to keep exploring and trying new things until I enter stage 3/4 of my life dedicated to commitment.
PROCESS OVER DESTINATION
In Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, Manson talks about how successful people achieved their life goals. Those who “made it” only did so because of how obsessed they were with the process, not the destination.
Comedians obsess over performing on stage, bombing jokes, and improving their craft. They crave failure because they knew it would make them better. Their goal wasn’t to sell out Madison Square Garden or go on tour. They just wanted to write jokes and make people laugh.
As an aspiring comic, this stuck to me because I do not enjoy the process. I actually hate the writing process because of how difficult it is. I hate waiting two hours at a shitty cafe for three minutes of stage time to perform for a disengaged audience. I hate it when my jokes bomb. The process is awful.
I came to realized how much I loved the IDEA of being a comedian. The idea of the whole room erupting of laughter when my joke hits. The idea of me touring the country. The idea of me being in the spotlight. The idea of fans coming up to me after the show asking for photos.
Although I love performing, this was a sign that I cannot continue this journey for the next 25+ years of my life. Stand-up should be a hobby I only do for fun.
GIVING A FUCK
I’m at the point in my life where I don’t give a fuck about most things.
Things I give a fuck about:
- Family and friends
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Making a positive impact to the world
- Fried chicken
Things I don’t give a fuck about:
- Drivers who cut me off
- Ex-girlfriends’ photos
- Missing out on a sale
- How slow my wifi is
- Kim Kardashian’s IG
Mark Manson said it best,
“If you find yourself consistently giving too many fucks about trivial shit that bothers you, chances are, you don’t have much going on in your life to give a legitimate fuck about. And that’s your real problem.”
MEETING MY HEROES
When I first got into entrepreneurship, I devoured all the top bloggers creating content. I read their books, watched their conference speeches, and listened to almost every interview I could find. They were HUGE in helping me out with my journey and I learned so much from them.
I would have never imagined meeting and working with some of the greatest people in the Valley.
I attended a live workshop with Alex Ostenwalder (Business Model Canvas) and Steve Blank (Lean Startup). I had dinner with Eric Ries (Lean Startup) at his house and played toys with his one-year-old son.
I remember meeting Ryan Hoover (Product Hunt) for the first time at Startup Grind after using his site every single day. I was a big fan of Neville Medhora’s Kopywriting blog and got to hang out with him when he came to San Francisco. After being a loyal subscriber for three years and taking action on his amazing content, I got to meet Ramit Sethi (I Will Teach You How To Be Rich) at Hustle Con’s Speaker Dinner.
I worked briefly with James Altucher who had the biggest impact on my life when I decided to choose myself, find my scene, and drop out of college.
Now I’m working closely with Andrew Warner (Mixergy) after listening to his interviews with massively successful entrepreneurs for 2+ years.
It’s completely unreal.
Everyone in the world is just an email away. That’s an obvious fact, but you can contact anyone you want to meet, yet most people won’t do it. Your role models. Celebrities. Anyone.
How would life change if you actually met them?
- I met the founders of Masterclass just because I emailed them how much of a fan I was.
- I connected with Kirsty Arnett (professional poker player) just by helping her on Twitter.
- I’m about to have dinner with the founder of Superhuman and Rapportive just because I sent him an email.
If I’m interested in meeting someone, I reach out and say what’s up. I’ve also received many rejections and no responses when I ask to connect, that’s normal. As long as I stay true to my principles of providing value to others, I’ll be fine.
THE ART OF BEING ALONE
I used to think being alone was the most depressing thing ever. At one point, it was my biggest fear in life.
But dam I have really come to embrace the art of being alone.
I’m a freelancer and work remotely. My hobbies are stand up comedy, poker, writing, and reading books. I spend most of my time alone.
I love meeting new people and diving deep in conversation. But my introvert side of me eventually pops out and says “enough is enough. Then I go home and recharge.
I’m not afraid to go to a movie alone. I’ve been to a comedy show alone. I went camping for 5 days by myself. I’ve lost the feeling of FOMO I used to have.
I think more people should be comfortable being alone, away from distractions, and see how you end up spending your time.
I’m so so so proud of being Asian.
I never took my culture seriously until now when I realized how few Asian role models I had. This is one of the reasons why I never got into comedy early on in my life.
- I never saw any Asian comedians I resonated with
- None of my friends were doing it
- My parents never encouraged it or even opened it up as an option
I can only imagine how much potential our Asian community has to offer when they see other Asians doing it. Not just in comedy but imagine more Asians in entrepreneurship, the music industry, or becoming an author.
This is why I believe people (especially minorities) have a moral duty to promote their craft and bring people up from their community. I believe it is selfish for influencers not to use their platform for good.
This is why I’m a huge fan of YouTubers Anna Akana and Phillip Wong promoting more Asians into the entertainment business.
Writing gives me a chance to show other people (especially Asians) that I’m taking actions on my passions and making shit happen.
People think of Asians as nerdy kids who gets straight A’s and becomes a successful doctor or lawyer. So when I speak out about my experiences, people stop and listen.
You don’t meet many Asians who dropped out of college. Who got rejected from 8 out of the 11 colleges he applied for. Who’s doing stand-up comedy and improv. Who writes books. Who’s constantly failing business ventures. Who’s sharing his story (good and bad) about his journey.
I used to be ashamed when others labeled me as a “college dropout.” But by sharing my story, so many people have told me how big my fucking balls are and how they want to take action on their passions as well.
People have dropped out of their own university because of me. People have sent me the books they have started to write, or an article they wrote, or a podcast they launched.
People have sent me emails about they want to commit suicide because their Asian parents are pressuring them to pursue a field they have no interest in.
People tell me they’re depressed. Or how they’re stuck. Or how they can’t communicate their needs to their friends or family.
I’m not a therapist but for some reason, random strangers resonate with my story to share what’s going on in their lives. I have a responsibility to directly impact these people’s lives. It’s impossible to help everyone, but a man can try.
That got a bit more personal than I planned for. Hope you enjoyed the piece. Holler if you resonated with this and let me know what’s up.
Tam Pham's Blog
I write about my adventures, learnings, and reflections on living my weird, unconventional life. Subscribe below!