The day before the 2019 Legacy Conference, Canada’s largest student entrepreneur conference, a good friend of mine reaches out to me with some last minute tickets, and I was like, yaa I’m down if you’re also down. (verbatim)

For context, the Legacy Conference, probably just like most other conferences, included a day and a half’s worth of speeches, along with a pitching competition, networking and mentorship sessions. As a first-time conference go-er, I was filled with a twinge of giddiness and excitement: I went in wide-eyed with eagerness, and came out wide-eyed from inspiration and caffeine, or something like that.

I guess, the purpose of this post is more to remind myself of I felt throughout the conference, as well as jot down my takeaways, so that I can look back at the content to keep myself driven.

ditch the vision boards

Reiterating: ditch the vision boards, stay flexible and open-minded. That was one of my biggest takeaways from this conference.

The idea is to have a main mission and aim to make progress everyday instead. It’s nice to plan things out every step of the way, but like Nadine from Wheelhouse Cycle said, I tend to become tunnel-visioned and feel pressured to follow the conventional path.

For me, this is really only an issue when I’m planning out my future goals or milestones. There is no save and quickload, or retries, so I usually try to optimize my time, years and years ahead with no back up plan. However, I know that this is an issue, and I’ll try my best not to become consumed by a single “correct” idea of my future, ignoring all other possible doors.

As well, for many others, the path taken was full of ups and downs, sudden left turns and dead-end streets. And that’s okay, they’re still there. So, for whoever’s reading, it’s alright to be temporarily delayed. There isn’t just one formula of success. Our time here is limited, so it’s what brings you fulfillment and enjoyment that should matter more. At the very least, you should like the story that you write.

be aware of the voices inside you

Just a little disclaimer that part is a somewhat cheesy and flowery, but I’ve done my best to try and capture how I felt when I was listening to some parts of the speeches.

Anyways, nah, I’m not promoting schizophrenia. What I mean is that since you should do what brings you fulfillment, it’s so much more important to be aware of your conscious and subconscious voices.

Slow down sometimes. Listen to yourself. If every cell of your body is just screaming at you that they hate it, stop yourself and figure out why you feel that way.

Find out what you enjoy, your own little quirks, your dislikes. Don’t be just soullessly drifting through the motions of life, and don’t silence or ignore the voices inside you. Nourish your soul with knowledge and ideas, with opinions and aspirations. Conceptualize your fleeting ideas: word them out.

Mike Smith said something along the lines of “to live is to fight with your inner voices”. Generate your own thoughts, don’t just comsume all the time. Don’t give up even if the loudest voice is the one complaining. I’m sure there is that one voice pushing you on because you aspire to inspire, or you want to be remembered for the things that you’ve achieved.

they’re successful because of a bigger mission that drives them

I can’t really put my finger on it, but the common theme across a lot of the speakers was the mission per se—the reason that they fought so hard to reach where they are now. There’s a bigger idea, a literal life mission, that pushes them to reach a greater level of fulfillment that I find really respectable.

It’s nice to want to hit financial goals, reach financial independence or not having to work and retire early. But they were driven by something bigger: building a skatepark for teenage homelessness like Mike Smith, advocating for health with Julie McClure, …

I guess, for the majority of entrepreneurs who don’t go on to become inspirational speakers though, making it big was what drove them: just like Patrick Lee, co-founder of Rotten Tomatoes and serial startup maker.

But all in all, as driven as you can be, I feel that if unhealthy habits are developed, burnout is unavoidable. An outlet of cool-down, like sports, doing art or pursuing other hobbies that bring enjoyment in life, are needed for a certain balance. If you’ve fallen, that’s okay. Recover and regroup, but don’t stay down. Remember what drives you.

and i need to define this so-called success

Tossing around all these stories about success, I also need to define my own meaning of success. To some, it was helping others and making an impact: doing something emotionally rewarding. To others, it was getting the big bucks. And to some more, it was simply doing something that they genuinely enjoy.

Just like learning a new skill or studying, reaching success is a struggle along the way. If the path to the next digit on your bank account is just suffering and neglecting yourself, it’s not some extra few digits that will suddenly bring you happiness in life. What I’m trying to say, is that even though the path might be hard, if you’re unhappy along the way, then the act of reaching a goal might not suddenly make everything much better. In that case, it’s even more important to sit down with yourself and reevaluate the values that you find important.

I guess, personally, I want to be reliable, near the top of the niche that I find myself in. To be always delivering valuable work that impresses others, but work that benefits the greater public. In other words, I’m motivated by a desire to better myself, where my skills and abilities aren’t used to impede or regress the growth of mankind (very loosely speaking). Along the way, I want to inspire other people to live their true authentic selves too.

4 am efficiency (8 am maybe?)

Richard Lorenzen, the co-founder of Fifth Avenue Brands, tells that he’s an avid reader, highly productive, and rises almost 3 hours before the current sunrise time.

To be honest, knowing myself, I can’t quite imagine rising this early to be sustainable. However, I do see the point of this. During the school term, when I happen to wake up late, I feel like most of my day has gone by, and then I proceed to waste the rest. However, while on co-op, waking up before 8 whether it’s a weekday or a weekend, felt much better in terms of productivity. Personally, I think it’s a mindset thing: to be ahead of the curve, reading and willing, following the schedule of the sun.

I want to make it a personal goal to keep this up to the best of my abilities even throughout the upcoming school term.

don’t be afraid to go for it

There’s a certain level of risk-tolerance that you need to reach. Of course, I’m not going for building my own startup from ground up, so in that sense, it isn’t a hard requirement. But even so, I feel like this advice can be beneficial to the majority of people in some way or form.

Planning and researching is a big one for me: it gives me a peace of mind to know that I at least will know enough not to fall into rookie pitfalls. However, although it’s good to plan the path ahead, it shouldn’t reach a point where it would limit your opportunities or your wants, out of fear of the unknown. What you should fear instead, is an unlived life.

anonymity heuristic

Daniel Eberhard, the CEO of KOHO, brought up the idea of the anonymity heuristic: which is to decide about your actions based on whether or not you would still do it if no one knew about it, or if you had to do it anonymously.

To me, I feel that it strips off the motivation to do something based on others’ opinions. To pursue another degree, because it’ll be nice to be called Doctor? Or because I really do want to go into research instead? To pick one field over the other, because of prestige? Or because of genuine interest. Although, realistically, it doesn’t seem feasible to isolate yourself completely from the feedback of others, but you can control how it affects you. They say that as you age, you care less about what others think of you, and I feel like I’m far from reaching that stage in life. It might be more because of acquired life experience, and hence more reliable confidence, than truly a IDGAF attitude.

closing thoughts

Throughout this weekend, I spent the days listening to some really good speakers, some phenomenal pitches and ideas (those hackathon ones can’t compare, unfortunately), and gained a newfound appreciation for being well-spoken and skilled at public speaking. I thoroughly enjoyed the stage backdrop, the opportunities to connect with others, and spending time with a wide range of people in different fields. The food was also quite good; I’ve never had such a good chickpea wrap.

This was a good introduction to conferences, and I can’t wait to go to more. I’ve actually recently found out that there exists this list called Developer 30 Under 30 (D30U30), with their award ceremony at the Evoke conference, in April.

All in all, it brought me out of my current slump, and hopefully that looking back to this experience will bring me out of future dips as well.