ken mazaika

founder

Finding My Personal North Star

2019-04-30 ken mazaikascribblings

Nearly a year ago, on April 20th 2018, I developed my personal 5 year goals with two collegues, Alec & Marco.

Now that I find myself starting the next phase of my journey, it is the perfect time for me to review what we wrote down nearly a year ago. To my surprise each of the three of us had achieved the BHAGs we felt amibitious for setting only a year prior.

  • Marco had a child and the company we started was acquired
  • Alec started and is now scaling a design consultancy
  • I’m working on projects and my habits, routines and day-to-day map to what I need to be successful and happy.

It turns out that deciding on a north star is the first step to finding it.

stars

I have the luxury to take a little time to discover my own sense of purpose. To pause, reflect, do research and ultimately find my direction.

Little did I know when I started a meetup group in 2013, that decision would guide me for the next six years of my life. The people I met, problems they faced, and the opportunities I found along the way gave me purpose and help me find the north star to follow.

Starting from scratch gives a great opportunity to challenge the status quo, but continue to do what worked in the past. For me, my biggest goal is to:

Continue to work on something that’s inspiring and challenging. Something bigger than myself and more than just a paycheck.

On the one hand, getting this right is important — my last journey took me over half a decade. But on this flip side, inspiration and opportunity often comes from unexpected places.

I’m at the unique point, where time is a luxury I DO have — after being time constrained for years. When I’m weighing what I want to do, the argument that something is a waste of time doesn’t map to a reason not to do something, anymore. At this point, all I need is one reason to try something, research something or see what happens to give something a shot.

This freedom is liberating, but as an engineer, I find myself needing a framework for exploring and understanding the time that I’m spending.

As a realist, I understand that the things that matter the most are built up over time. The flywheel effect plays a role at all parts of life, personal development and the startup lifecycle.

Here’s the framework that I developed to help guide me for this phase of discovery for myself.

1. Writing about Lessons Learned From Building, Scaling and Selling a Company

Last year, I realized that the most valuable asset that I developed during my experience building, scaling and selling a company was the knowledge I learned from the experience of actually doing it.

And while I imagined writing a book on the most important take aways - writing a series of blog posts, each with a specific lesson seems more practical - at least for the time being.

Want to read them? Subscribe to my list to stay in the loop.

2. Personal Brand & Product Management Skills

I see entrepreneurship as an exercise in product management without a big budget (or large team). It involves building a product, a mission and a movement without the luxuries that most sane people would expect.

It’s an area that accepts no excuses and requires relentless effort.

Building a personal brand I can leverage for the rest of my life and deepening my product management skills seems like a great use of my time.

3. Education — k-12

Continuing to expand an area of my expertise, specifically in education, but moving to tangental hotspots like k-12 education, can help guide me to future opportunities that might be visible to me that others would miss.

Let’s face it — education is pretty broken. That’s a big reason why I started the Firehose Project years ago with Marco.

The problems of modern education faces are across the board. From funding, test scores, politics, opportunities, school districts. The whole thing is fairly messy, and it’s easy to take a myopic view on the problem.

The more I learn about the current state of the educate system, the more I realize the opportunity for thinking bigger and starting something big.

4. Education — Intersection of Technical Education & Product Growth

I’m starting to become fascinated by the role of Developer Evanglists, Developer Relations, and Developer Advocates. Here’s why:

For many software platforms, software developers are the gateway to product growth. Companies like Intercom, Appcues, GitHub, Customer.io, Mixpanel, Kissmetrics and virtually all blockchain companies have ambitious goals, but are reliant on software developers integrating with their product to achieve growth they need.

A growing number of companies are building developer communities and focusing on technical education to drive their product growth.

Understanding, helping, and solving problems in this space could spur innovation in a way that’s difficult to overstate — many blockchain technologies have solutions to problems that could change the world in ways similar to the invention of the Internet. The only problem is that developers haven’t started to understand how to leverage the technology to think radically different.

Understanding, solving and scaling these company’s problems could help change how everyone interacts with the world around us.

5. Toy Projects

My list here isn’t an exhaustive list, and I want to have my interests and passions feed back into what I find to be important. By looking around me, learning and trying different things I can breathe life into my different passions and find a new perspective on the interests that pique my interest and find new pillars of exploration.

I see finding my north star as a process, not something that I can do in the span of a day or two.

And because of this, I’m going to treat the experience like an iterative journey and do my best to enjoy the process as I explore.