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BEAN Seattle Blog

Did Your Dreams Come True?
Much to my surprise tomorrow marks the ten-year anniversary of my graduation from University of Washington. Unlike the cliché uttering of "how time flies", my feeling of the last decade is a wee bit more complicated. During the last 10 years, I married my beautiful wife, started/closed a consulting company, joined/got laid-off from a start-up, bought a dream house, created a global movement like BEAN, worked for great enterprises like Microsoft, Amazon and now T-Mobile, received a MBA from Thunderbird, traveled the globe, and made/kept a lot of amazing friends.

But, is my life what I thought it would be when I jogged up the platform at the Husky Stadium to receive my college degree?

At 21, I thought I wanted to be one of those dot-com software engineering whiz kid turned overnight millionaire. I planned to take the world by storm and become wildly successful. A lot of what I vaguely thought I wanted was around wealth, success, popularity and power.

A few friends and I were hanging out last night, chatting about life and sipping on Fernet-Branc (new discovery for me). We started to talk about what are our goals now that we stand at the starting line of the fourth decade of our lives. I realized my goals have not drastically changed, but they have refined ever so subtly.

Howard @ 21 Wanted Success vs. Howard @ 31 Wants Contentment

I have learned that chasing career success is a tiring game with an ephemeral goal. The prize of career success is very short lived. There will always be people more successful. I still want to do well and grow, but now I realized that what I really want is the contentment that comes with achieving real success, i.e. living a life helping others. The true competition for success should not be with other people but with my own true potential.

Howard @ 21 Wanted to be Popular vs. Howard @ 31 Wants to be Loved

I think I definitely discovered the elixir of popularity in high school. Popularity seems to get you everything! My fascination with popularity continued through college, and I assumed that trend will continue. After starting BEAN and meeting such a large volume of new people every week, I quickly realized the value of having a strong core group of friends and family who love me for the weird geeky guy that I am. I think having this genuine core group of people I love and respect help me stay grounded. These people who love me, and whom I love, help me not be swept away by the high-fructose-corn-syrup-filled drink like popularity.

Howard @ 21 Wanted to Have Wealth vs. Howard @ 31 Wants to Have Experiences

Hey, money is good, right? Who thinks they have too much wealth and do not want more wealth? When I graduated, I wanted the house, the car and all the other stuff a poor college kid dreamed about. But, ultimately, why do we want wealth? Some want it for security. I get my security from friends and family. Some want it as a status symbol (I win you lose), which I think falls into the success rat race. What I realized is that wealth gives me options and the means to learn, to travel and to experience everything this amazing world has to offer. Money comes and goes, but the experiences I gain will sustain me for a lifetime.

Howard @ 21 Wanted to be Powerful vs. Howard @ 31 Wants to be Impactful

Power corrupts, but absolute power can be quite fun! :) Once I became successful, popular and wealthy, it seems only natural that I should aspire for power. I wanted power in the sense that I want to move and shake things up. But then, the question becomes, why would I want to move and shake things up? What would I do it for? Spiderman offers a good summary, "With great power come great responsibilities." Ultimately through my work, I hope to make a positive impact in the world. I want the world to be a slightly better place because I breezed through it. If having power helps me make a greater impact, so much the better!

Yes, yes. I sound pretty pompous in this post. Just let me sound reflective and nostalgic, will ya? :). What were your own plans when you graduated from college? How have they changed, if at all? Are you living your dreams?

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