At a certain point in the past I lived a very sedentary lifestyle. Much of my existence revolved around a virtual existence on the internet. From social interaction to personal goals, it all existed within a world that did not exist in the physical sense. Whilst I had hundreds of individuals who I would call friends, and many more acquaintances, my social bubble in the physical world very limited.
Whilst my social bubble was quite small, and possibly by choice, I did have some close friends who did care deeply about my well being. Nearly two decades later, most of these individuals have remained as close friends, or at the least friends who I may not reach out to often, but can talk to in complete confidence when I do. Of these individuals, one friend took notice of my passion for combining creativity and technology. This is not to say the others within my close circle did not notice this, but this highly driven individual spent a considerable amount of time collaborating with me in some interesting ways.
While I'm always in a position to learn more, I was considered to be the most knowledgeable of technology within my circle. Most times this was a gift to share with others, yet other times a hindrance to my social life. Nonetheless, during one particular span of time in my past, I spent a number of days in front of my computer working on a project (my first freelanced side project) which kept me up late at night. A few too many cups of coffee into the night, and rising late in the afternoon, I crunched away into a realm of learning which I had never delved into before. This was the realm of web development. Not to be confused with web design, which is similar but quite less complicated (at least for my particular skill set at the time).
On a particular outing with my close circle of friends, we traveled a couple hours away from home to snowboard on our local mountain. I was in my early 20's at the time, and was far from financially independent at this time, and came from a family that was far from wealthy. If you know much about snowboarding, you’re probably aware that this can be a particularly expensive hobby. That being said, my friends collectively gifted me the set of gear needed to take part. It all came with the wear and tear that you would expect with second hand gear, but it was enough for me to enjoy myself and my experience on that mountian.
Anyways, on this particular drive to the mountain I explained to one of my friends that I had spent several hours into the early hours of the prior morning working on a project that had paid me very little. As mentioned, this friend took notice of my persistence and I distinctly remember their bland response of "interesting..". At the time I thought it was odd, but did not think much more of it. We were afterall a group of guys in our early 20's intent on having a fun experience on the mountain, and whatever else the developing mind thought to be an exciting experience.
Some time passed, and this friend came to visit me in my native dwelling. Imagine a room covered in a the sort of art that comes out of young adults with very little supervision, coupled with (even then) dated technology ranging from a Dell desktop computer to a RadioShack ampliphier stereo connected to what was essentially a beefed up car radio speaker setup (which, also donated or bartered piece by piece by friends). In this room, I distinctly remember this friend attempting to empower me out of a depression that seemed to last for ages. As someone who performed extrordinarly poorly in school, and without a job, the pressures of society and the expectations of what success might mean to a young adult weighed on me heavily.
During this conversation there was mention of my passion and persistence for my work, the insignificant amount of compensation that I had recieved for my previously mentioned project, and the opportunties that he had encountered on his very different path in life. Although he was an incredibly talented artist, his focus was on finance and business, where as mine was on art, music, and technology. The overlap was clear though, we were both very hungry (metaphorically) and had a desire for success (whatever that meant at the time). The conversation evolved into an idea to create a website which would combine both of our skillsets and abilities and lead us to "the gold bullion", as he would call it. Attaining that gold buillion still has not come to fruition, but as the old addage goes "it's not the destination, it's the journey".
Prior to a time of influencers and youtubers, technical writers being paid for their content, and this current environment we live in which many avenues exist to gain recognition or success via the various platforms available, we set out to create a website that showcased the niche of music that I had a strong taste for at this time. Knowing that this was a very niched form of media to showcase, we supplimented this content with photography of street art, some short videos, and anything else we thought would draw attention from the people in our outer circles.
This content combined with a sort of cryptic method of marketting seemed to draw more attention than we had ever expected. Within a matter of months we had grown our following to upwards of a thousand. In todays age of millions of views on a youtube video, this may not seem significant, but it was to us. After all, we did not rely on the infrastructure of an existing platform to present our content on, nor did a method easily marketting our website enmass exist at the time, at least that we were aware of. Each individual viewer was reached by word of mouth. From reaching out to individuals within the world of my ever expanding group of friends on the internet, to strategically targetting local campuses with propaganda-esque marketing pamphlets, in a very short time scores of people that we had never met before knew of our website, and some sought out to meet us personally.
It was an incredibly fulfilling time in my life. It felt as thought all of my efforts and experiences had culminated up to this point in time, and success was on the horizon. Foruntatly we had not planned ahead for this to happen, so while we had ideas of how we might monetize the experience, this was never realized. I say forunately because had this been a monetized website, I believe the experience would have been very different.
In the early days of this project we took some time to write up some rough contracts (granted these were never noterized, so I'm doubtful they would have held up in court), that stated no decisions were to be made without the agreement of the other party. For a period of time, this project had consumed both of us. Our vision of gold bullion was still further than ever, but it felt as though we were on the verge of something magnificent.
Deciding to expand upon the idea, we contacted some local artists and began showcasing their work on our website. Much of their work was also very rough, but at the time we felt it was the right path. As it turns out this decision had lead us to more visibility that we could keep up with.
Some years had passed, and we grew to follow our own very seperate paths. He went on to pursue a degree in business and finance, and I went back to my old ways of spending much of my life building an internatonal empire that existed solely in a video game (which I may write a future blog post about). During this time I took on a project here and there involving web design and development, and began my professional path by way of employment in the customer service field.
While this may sound like an anticlimactic end to the story, this experience was just the beginning of the niche that I had grown into. I met a girl who also believed in me greatly, who pushed me out of my cirrent job in the restaurant world and into the technology sector. My first experience in this sector being a big box electronics store, in which the interview answers relied heavily on my skillset acquired while building this website, combined with the experiences I had gained in managing people internationally in a videogame. Feeling that there was more to life than selling overpriced laptops and printers at an electronics store, I began reaching out to every graphic design and web development company that I could find in my nearby area. The process was greuling, since lacking any academic training I had nothing but my word and my integrity, but eventually I accidently landed a job in a company who had leased space out to one of these web design companies.
This whole experience has lead me to realize that with a bit of sweat, even my (and your) wildest dreams can come into fruition. A decade ago I would have never expected to work in the field that I do now, and furthermore to believe that my side projects are anything more than a waste of time. Yet, it has lead me to a belief that everything I do is working towards something else. While the website I mentioned had failed to achieve the intended goal of success, the lessons and skills I learned along the way have lead me towards what I now realize is success. I have also learned that success is always evolving. Where I am not is not where I will be in 10 years, but each and every step I take outside of my comfort zone compounds and builds upon itself.
Yet, with success comes sacrifices. It's only a few days past this friend's birthday, which may be why I have such a desire to tell this story. Just under 5 years ago this friend passed away, but will never be forgotted in my mind as someone who believed in the possibilities that life has to offer. I'm sure you are looking down from the celestial bodies in the sky with a smile on your face of where this wild idea of an experiment lead me and him.
Rest in peace K.S.