Five Lessons from a "Teen Tech Millionaire"

*Disclaimer: For days I've been trying to think of a less obnoxious title without sacrificing the hook. The reason why the title is partially quoted is an acknowledgment of the cringe-worthy nature, but it did get you to click*

A quick scroll through my Instagram page and it would appear I’ve “made it” at the ripe age of 19. Flying on the private jets. Brushing shoulders with politicians and celebrities. Traveling to exotic destinations. Polo matches, yachts, beautiful girls, helicopters, you name it. OBNOXIOUS! I know, right? BUT I will be the very first person to tell you, all that glitters isn’t gold. 

1) Financial success is the easiest part of being “successful.”
While this step isn’t easy, per say, I would say it’s the most achievable. I’ve consistently pursued incredible opportunities, often overlooked as achievable. 95% of those opportunities led to a, “no,” but the remaining 5% have resulted in lucrative partnerships and investments which justify the title. Attention to physical, emotional, and mental health may delay your financial health, but the balance will be well worth it.

2) It's not permanent. 
I’m a type-A, perfectionist, ENTJ personality type. I like stability and order. As an entrepreneur, what I pay myself is unpredictable and inconsistent. Some paychecks can barely cover McDonald's; others...could buy, well, a lot. Fighting the urge to walk into a Bentley dealership with a duffle bag full of cash, most excess profits are reinvested into my hierarchy of various corporate entities. The remainder is stashed away, as the fear of losing it all remains in the back of my mind. Saving for yourself is always important, but you have to walk the fine line between self-protection and greed. I always keep one of my golden rules,"people over profit", in mind.  

3) You'll feel a degree of guilt.
When I have the great months, I sometimes feel guilty for holding onto all of it. Four years ago, I would've said that's socialism. But I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude, so I need to somehow contribute back to Karma. I'll offset this guilt by doing small things. I pick up tabs that are usually split, buy Starbucks for the person behind me in line, contribute to a Kickstarter, and anonymously donate to a GoFundMe that someone shared on Facebook. Now I don't want you to think I'm coining myself as some patron saint; Saks, AMEX, and the Ritz may or may not occasionally benefit from my...investment in mental well-being/economic stimulation.

4) Everyone loves success, but they hate successful people. 
I’ve always challenged myself to level up, and people began to take note over the years. Increasingly, I’ve felt like all eyes are on me, anticipating a collapse. I’m constantly told, “I thought you were {pretentious/entitled/obnoxious/, etc.}, but after spending just a little bit of time with you, I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. You’re so {down to earth/real/hilarious/personable/etc.}” People are going to judge you on flimsy pretenses, but don’t let that deter you from being yourself. Not everyone will take the time to get to know you, as they resent you in silence. You’re never going to please everyone; stop trying. 

5) My goal no longer became money.
It’s freedom and having people to share it. I’ve learned that material goods bring temporary pleasure. For me, I had to experience it before finally accepting it. I used to admire the (ignorant) phrase, “I’d rather cry in my Porsche than on my bicycle.” I’ve had a mental breakdown in a Porsche, but only good memories on bicycles. Money bought both of them, but it's about how you use it.  

Material success is not integral to happiness and more importantly, fulfillment. 

Baylor University’s Racial Reconciliation Chapel Wants Me To Check My White Privilege

Here at Baylor University, a Waco, Texas based, primarily conservative university built by Southern Baptists, freshman students are required to attend chapel twice a week. Perhaps it was in light of recent scandal, that made Baylor decide to take a crack at so-called political correctness through this platform. Wednesday’s service was titled “Racial Reconciliation.”

It may have been an overcorrection of epic proportions.

Chapel usually consists of talented speakers and musicians leading students on a faith-filled experience. As children of God, students and faculty alike expressing their faith together is a powerful uniter. Wednesday’s chapel, however, was inappropriately politicized.

Whereas faith is rich, partisan politics are cheap and poor.

While the purpose of racial reconciliation is undoubtedly noble, the delivery could not have been more biased, arrogant, and accusatory. Our panel of three addressed pre-selected questions focused on the challenging topic. Despite there being a very brief disclaimer on how the panelists’ opinions do not necessarily represent those of university officials, these panelists all have strong ties to Baylor.

Their answers were filled with resentment and hypocrisy. They discussed the meaning of words like “prejudice” as they simultaneously created an environment of division by blaming whites.

And what would a social justice warrior event be without recklessly throwing around the phrase “check your white privilege?” They couldn’t resist.

Plenty shared my frustration that none of this seemed to be focused on reconciliation.

I’m not bemoaning the panel for discussing the prevalent issues surrounding race relations. We need to be discussing race reconciliation and how we move beyond the sins of our past and the challenges of our present.

I do, however, condemn them for making generalized assumptions. I do condemn them for using a platform for a one-sided political debate. I do condemn them for belittling everything I have personally accomplished and all of the hard work that I have put behind it.

These panelists credit the bruised fruit of race relations in America, that I supposedly reaped with the help of the fictitious Patron Saint of White Maleness, instead of the seeds I planted myself.

Be the s'more

The feedback we've received for BizBoards has been great so far. We are taking proven business models (online job boards, investment opportunities, etc.) and combining into one product. Therefore, it's like we're creating something totally new from things that already worked. The best analogy I can think of would be a s'more. Chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows were eaten and enjoyed individually. However, when the s'more recipe was published by the Girl Scouts in 1927, the entire game was changed! Something totally new was created from treats people already loved. This new treat was not called a "chocolate-graham-marshmallow." Alike, BizBoards is not called "online business marketplace-investment board-job posting." Instead, a catchy name was coined to describe these innovations. Some may say being an entrepreneur is about reinventing the wheel. But sometimes it's just about replacing the stock rims with a set of Vossens. Sorry for all the analogies, I'm just on a roll. WOW! Wheel...roll...that wasn't even done on purpose.   

What have you done to change the world today?

In realizing the leaps and bounds I’ve personally grown in such a short period of time, I began thinking about how much the world itself has grown as well. The common root of growth throughout the world is a result of an entrepreneur, in some sense or another. Entrepreneurship is about innovation through alternative means of education.

The iconic attraction, "It's A Small World," was introduced at Disneyland in 1966. The ride promotes the magic of Walt Disney’s vision, as the meaning remains relevant decades later. Fast-forward 38 years to a Harvard dorm where the multibillion-dollar company Facebook was developed as the digital epitome of cross-cultural interaction, bringing the world came together online. The time in between represents a period of incredible innovation in which a globalized economy would emerge, eliminating the political boundaries which maintained cultural insularity. As the world came together so too has its biases. It is important to promote a spirit of tolerance so that greater understanding can be achieved. At the root is a common humanity that is too often overlooked. Innovation is the key to exposing the inherent beauty of cultural diversity. As Disney suggests, the world is small and getting smaller each day.


The world relies on entrepreneurs to create the future. Leaving me with the final question of, what have you done to change the world today?

 

Motivation Through Inspiration

I’ve found inspiring others is one of the most powerful forms of fulfillment. In discovering this, I’ve come across a critical message that needs to be shared with everyone. One of my guiding principles is that you must be strong and bold; no matter if what you are doing is large or small, because you simply never know who you might be inspiring.

That message has given me purpose and filled me with passion in all that I do. I’ve been bold and confident, which really does allow me to bring my dreams to fruition.

However, there was a period of plateau and personal struggle. I was beginning to feel burnt out. I started feeling like I had all the glitter, but not the gold. Not in a material sense, but rather a lack of fulfillment. I was filled with gratitude through my charity and work within the community, but I still felt some sort of void.

I came to a sudden realization of my purpose when someone approached me in the hall. “Chad!” said a bashful student whom I’ve never actually exchanged words with prior to this moment. “I know this is really random” she said quietly, “but I wanted to tell you I follow your blog and it’s people like you who inspire me to succeed.” In this second I felt all of the stress and pressure I’ve put on myself in these past few years have instantly become worth the battle. I was so focused on trying to find my purpose; I almost didn’t let my purpose find me. Knowing that I am one of the sources of inspiration for someone whom I don’t have a close relationship with, engulfs me with the deepest and warmest sense of fulfillment. I’ve used this split second conversation to fuel me through expanding my charity, ultimately creating a better school, community, and world.

Don’t give up on anything, because you never know who’s watching.

5 Things I’ve Learned As CEO To a Pre-Launch Product

For the past several months I’ve been quietly working and developing a website with my business partner. Our skills compliment one another’s to a tee. He builds the product. I build the business. And together, we build the company. (That sounds like a life insurance commercial...) 

Despite being on other sides of the planet, the many resources available to us today make it like we’re just next-door. I am so proud of the UI/UX design the team has come up with and implemented. In addition to an unparalleled resource, BizBoards was designed with user experience in mind.

Our website is BizBoards.com. It’s a B2B website geared towards all forms of business advertising. The platform essentially breaks down into three main categories: Businesses for sale, partnership opportunities, and job listings. Investors can buy entire businesses or part of them. Job seekers can scan job listings or freelance tasks. We are finally giving businesses an outlet to the audience who makes up their business internally, instead of just the customer. We want to promote entrepreneurship and calculated risk taking. In providing the resources to minimize barriers to entry, we can help millions live out their version of a Global (not just American) Dream! 

While we haven’t even launched the product as we are still making small tweaks, I’ve learned invaluable experiences.

1.    Hold your product an unmatched degree of scrutiny

You might think your product is great. But when someone rips it to shreds, you bet they’re going to point out every flaw. Build a product you have the upmost confidence in so when someone does (it’s bound to happen) rip apart your product, you have resilience. If you know what you built is incredible, you won’t let naysayers destroy what you built.

2.    Free money isn’t free

When we were first offered a significant amount of money for a share in our company, it was a unique experience. Knowing someone is willing to sink in a heap of cash into what was once your vision can really make you take a step back and seriously contemplate the situation. Especially when the product is pre-launch and pre-revenue. You just have to ask yourself one question: Do you NEED this sum of money at this moment? While someone offering you a boatload of cash for a small part of your company seems like a no-brainer, understand the contingencies attached too.

3.     Have a legal dream team

While many start up entrepreneurs disagree, paying a premium for the best attorneys that specialize in tech start-ups is invaluable. In addition to making sure you and your partner(s) are legally sound, they can also be an amazing resource. They know they clients and by connecting whom they need to connect, they can facilitate a win-win-win situation. In addition to preventing legal issues that will be more expensive down the road, pay the premium up front. Even if you don’t have room in your budget right now, find a firm that works with a lot of start-ups. They may have some sort of deferred payment plan that can accommodate you.     

4.    So you think you know business jargon?

As a business minded individual, I felt fairly confident with the lawyers’ diction: Delaware C-Corp, option pool, vesting, dilution, capitalization, etc. All this is commonplace and understood by many. But here’s some of my favorite tech/start up jargon I’ve picked up explained in plain English.

·      Incubator: a place where start ups receive mentorship, resources, and sometimes funding in order to scale their business
·     Burn rate: how fast you’re spending money
·      Cliff: period of time before stock options start vesting (vesting is when your      stocks are paid out in tiny bits over time. While you may own 20% of the          company, you only reach that when, and if, your stocks fully vest).
·      Pitch deck: 10 slide PowerPoint that covers your business
·      Deacorn: Start up valued at $10B+
·      NFC(near field communication): Not entirely relevant to my business, but in      most basic terms it’s Apple Pay.
·      Dogfooding: Using your own product to test for glitches
·      Engineer Unicorn: In my opinion, this is some of the most valuable talent in        tech. Engineer with social aptitude and competency.
5.  Learn from everyone

If you have the fortune of being surrounded by some of the modern world’s smartest people, take advantage of it. If you’re the CEO, don’t tune out when a designer or engineer geeks out on you. It may sound like you’re listening to a Spanish soap, picking up certain words or phrases, but by learning every aspect of your product is vital. If you’re the CTO or Lead Engineer, you better make sure you listen during those calls with the accountants explaining how you will be taxed.

 

 

Today I Quit Something...But I'm Not Giving Up

When I got home today I decided to redo my website. I thought it was getting stale, and some tweaks could really freshen up the appearance. In attempt to remove my Google ads, I somehow ended up DELETING ALL OF MY BLOG POSTS. Seeing something I spent countless hours on disappear in one click gave me a jolt of anxiety. This was the tipping point after a long week...and it's only Wednesday. I've received praise and even some scrutiny on my posts, as I dug deep into controversial topics. But I love the reactions I would get, regardless of if they were positive or negative. After about 10 minutes of trying to recover the content, I decided it was not worth the effort. So I quit. 

I began to think on how this lessons could translate to our personal and professional lives. This situation epitomizes the old cliche, "If it ain't broke don't fix it!" It also shows that some things are not meant to be and after you've done all that you can do, you must feel at peace with your efforts. 

In a society driven by perfection, sometimes it's okay to throw in the towel. This is something I constantly have to remind myself, because I cringe at the thought of stopping things at a point of incompleteness. However, in this serendipitous mistake, I've realized something that goes far beyond a technical malfunction. The realization that there is a significant difference between quitting and giving up all together. I may have quit (even though I hate the way that sounds) on trying to recover those posts, but I am not going to give up on continuing to post on my blog. 

Quitting is what you do when you know something isn’t right. You decide it's not worth continuing. Despite my stubborn ENTJ ("The Commander") personality type telling me to find a way, sometimes it makes sense not to. Instead of wasting time and energy into trying to make something work, use that same energy to make something else work better! 

Giving up is allowing that proverbial fork in the road to cause a twenty car pile up on I-285 in rush hour. Allowing something or someone insignificant and minuscule, to make you give up and stop all together. 

So I think sometimes it's okay to be a quitter. As long as you're not a giver-upper!