“Ever since I was seven years old, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur...” I started telling my story to several dozen students who would soon walk across the graduation stage.
I told them that, even as a young boy working the cash register at my father’s ice cream store, I could feel it in my blood that I wanted to start my own business one day. That my parents were always supportive of my dreams, but they’d remind me that going to college, getting a degree, and landing a steady job were also important life steps.
My dad would proudly say, “Josh, you will be sitting at the head of the table.” He was referring to the table of a CEO, and that's where I began to picture myself until I got a taste for the path I’d have to take to get there. I ditched my entrepreneurial pursuits and decided to major in finance, following a suggestion from my guidance counselor.
I was good with numbers, so I figured it was a reasonable idea. At the time, I didn’t have the awareness to see that loving numbers didn’t mean I had to major in them, just like enjoying food didn’t mean I had to become a culinary chef.
I told the audience how I had drifted through college, never really enjoying anything I was doing or studying — I just kept thinking, “I’m sure I’ll like it once I’m making money.” After graduation, I got a job in finance and settled into a life of working on spreadsheets inside a cubicle day in and day out.
I was living on my own in a booming young city, I was making pretty good money, and I was on the fast track to the head of the table. But I was miserable. I stayed at that job for a year just because the thought of quitting on the first day or in the first month seemed incomprehensible. I'd do my unfulfilling work all day, go home, go to the gym, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day.
I worked my ass off to “climb the ladder,” only to realize that the ladder was propped against the wrong wall.