That is how long I have been working for now. And, even now, I can can remember my astonishment that someone would pay me for the work I do, when got paid at my first job. That feeling has still not gone away. In some ways it is good, as it keeps me grounded. In some ways it is bad, as it does limit the canvas I place myself in.
The first job did not feel much like a job. Even as an adolescent, I was highly opinionated and loved collecting information and organizing it. The job required skills similar to that and it felt like I was doing something that I already loved doing.
Which is why, when I got paid, I was quite surprised. Some of the surprise had to do with a lifelong battle with low self-esteem, but most of it was just surprise that I could be paid for doing what I loved doing anyway. I quite liked the idea.
I never grew to be really ambitious, though. It would take another 3 job changes before I could summon up the confidence to ask for a higher salary. Even that was significantly lower than what my peers were getting paid, but it was a definite improvement.
Going up the ladder also meant the table stakes were higher and I kept getting more frustrated with the political side of it all. By 2008, I had had enough. With grand ideas and no plans or financial backup, I struck out on my own in the middle of a financial meltdown.
2008 was quite to a forge to be beaten into shape in. Even without the meltdown, working on your own, without a big brand name behind your back, is something that takes your ego and entitlement to the cleaners. The truly driven don’t let something like that get to them. Not being one of those, I had my work cut out.
But, I persisted. Other than a brief interlude, where I attempted being a full-time employee of an organisation. That was not pleasant at all and I went back to working on my own. A year-plus of being out of the independent grind meant I had spend two years building back enough work to sustain steady pay.
Along the way, I helped others build their companies. I tried building a handful of them and some flamed out, while some of the others are still around. One has gone to become a pretty successful venture.
What it has taught me the most is the value of persistence. Working like this, building something takes a lot of persistence. You need to show up every day, that is your biggest currency. You don’t need to show up and do magic every day, but you need to show up.
I still get surprised that people trust me with work. I truly do. Large part of it is due to the fact that I left home in 1999 without a plan in mind. I had no ambition. No grand dreams. I was just getting away from a place that had nothing left for me.
So many people trusted that absolute nobody and gave him so many chances. Even when it gets really difficult (trust me, it does a lot of times), I can’t but be amazed at my good fortune. Yes, there is a lot more I could have gotten, there are a lot of things that I have been denied, but my good fortune is always much bigger than that.
Whatever abilities I have, I was born with them. My circumstances allowed me to work on them and make a living out of working with them. People have trusted me all along the way and I have always had at least enough to not go hungry any day because I did not have the money to pay for a meal.
And that is the gratefulness that drives me after 20-years.