So there is this myth, I think, that success equals happiness, always, without question. For most people, that is probably how it works: struggle, success, smiles, harder struggle, bigger success, bigger smiles, repeat. I wish it were that easy. 

About a year ago, I started doing some research into adult ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADD as a kid (we’re calling it all ADHD these days, apparently), probably right around 7th grade. I took Adderall to treat it for a while, and that may have helped, but I stopped taking it because I didn’t like how it made me feel. Cracked out and without an appetite is not ever really a great feeling. I also remember a conversation with a psychologist who told me, basically, “we don’t really know how or why these drugs work. And we may have to try different doses and combinations to find something that does work.” Cool. Happy to be your guinea pig, sir! Tried different doses, different drugs, and the best way that I can describe how all of them made me feel is “just not myself”. 

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Anyway, it turns out that I’m pretty much a classic adult ADHD case: Difficulty organizing, relationship strains, distractibility,  poor listening skills, difficulty starting tasks, lateness, smoking, trouble with repetitive tasks… really just a list of things that make you feel super great about yourself. There was one symptom that made me take a big step back: depression after success. Those three words don’t make much sense together, but reading them made me realize that it is something I’ve experienced for most of my life. When things are going well, it’s easy for me to feel down.

The going theory is that the ADHD brain craves conflict. Maybe conflict is the wrong word, because I’m really kind of a pacifist. The ADHD brain craves stimulation through deviation from patterns and extraordinary situations. It craves problems to solve. And, where is meaningful success really rooted, if not in solving problems. So, once the problem is solved and success is achieved, my brain doesn’t know what to do with itself, and defaults to depression.

I can pinpoint so many times in my life when I should felt happy, but couldn’t muster it: graduating high school, getting a promotion, relationship high points, successful events. Small successes or big ones, it doesn’t really matter. When things are going well, I can fall into a depression that can last for a couple days or a couple weeks without even seeing it happen. Sometimes, it is easy to recover, to bounce back to my normal self. Other times, not so much. If I don’t keep it in check, depression can start wrapping it’s tentacles around various parts of my life. It’s really easy for me to neglect friendships with people I truly care about. My job can quickly fall to the wayside. Schoolwork definitely suffers. 

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So, what is the solution? I don’t know. I know that writing things out like this usually brings about some clarity. I know that medication is not that answer for me. 

Just realizing that this is how my brain tends to operate helps curb depression. I find that I can catch it earlier and earlier in the cycle as time goes on. Usually. There are still periods of backpedalling and there probably always will be. Hopefully just less and less frequently.

Really, I think it comes down to something that has repeated over, and over, and over again in my entrepreneurship classes: play to your strengths. 

I like solving problems, so thats what I’m going to do. My list of problems to solve isn’t going anywhere, especially with a new business underway. The new mantra is this: 

Work hard. Be successful. Relish it for a moment. Solve the next problem. Do it again.

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What you need to know to plan, launch and manage your project on sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. We launched our Kickstarter campaign for Knotty Tie Co. on March 1st, and as of right now we are 116% funded.  We’ve learned a lot in putting this all together, and we want to share what we know. 

When: 2-3 pm, Wednesday 3/13
Where: Tivoli Multicultural Lounge, Auraria Campus, Denver, CO

See the full flyer below:

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So, here’s the thing. I’ve been working on my undergraduate degree for way too long, and I think it’s time to give it up. After this semester, it will have been seven years since I graduated high school, and I’m about another year out (maybe three semesters) from finishing.

I squandered my first year almost entirely. Got caught up in the stupid things that freshmen living in dorms do, and didn’t focus on school at all. Then I took about a year and a half off. I won’t say that I made the best use of that time, but I learned a lot about myself, my motivations, and my goals in life. Then I came back to school. I decided to stick with the Hospitality and Restaurant management major that I had originally started on (maybe not the best idea, but we’ll get to that later). I did ok. Not spectacular, but in the classes I was really interested in, I excelled; in the classes I didn’t really care about, I mostly held it together. If you know anything about my relationship with school, you know that is about as good as it gets. I kept that up for a while, and then life happened. My girlfriend of over four years broke up with me, and I found myself deep in the throes of depression. Another couple semesters squandered. Now, with a couple more good semesters under my belt, I’m getting the feeling that the return on my perseverance is shrinking.

It’s not that the value of a college degree in general is shrinking (well, it probably is, but, not the point). It’s that, after some serious weighing of the options, I genuinely feel I could further my career and life goals more effectively by focusing on other areas. I can just imagine the “finish your degree!” crowd coming out of the woodwork right now.  Before you get all up in arms, consider a few specific circumstances:

  • Hospitality was the wrong choice of major for me, and restaurant management the wrong concentration. I honestly don’t know who that human being was who wanted to work in restaurants seven years ago, but it’s not me now. Restaurant work is just not that great, and I know for certain that I won’t be putting my degree to use. A degree in restaurant management is hardly portable to other industries. Further (and I hesitate to put this on the internet while I am still a student), the hospitality department at my school is becoming increasingly irrelevant (that, or I am just waking up to something that has been there for years). They spent millions on a brand new, “state of the art” facility to house their classrooms and a hotel, but I had a hospitality marketing professor call Pinterest “Pee Interest” without a shard of irony. This week in one of my classes, we spent two hours going around the room and saying what we like and don’t like about going to restaurants while the teacher interjected tangentially related stories. I am paying for this. I am not lying to you.
  • My entrepreneurship minor is complete after this semester. It’s the one area that I am deriving any academic value, but after the capstone class and internship that I am taking this semester, it’s all over. There’s no more to take. Instead of filling my time with hospitality classes I’m not going to use, I would be better served with some real life entrepreneurship experience. If every time I was doing homework now, I instead read something relevant to what I am currently working on, I could learn the things that I need to learn faster.
  • Switching majors would put me at least another year behind. It would mean going back to all of the intro classes that bore me to death and inevitably end in bad grades and more dissatisfaction with school.
  • The best thing I’ve gotten out of college is the networking. I guess that means I’m doing something right. But there is plenty of networking outside of college. Plenty. I could easily spend as much time networking, going to events, and meeting people as I’m spending in class right now. Not only that, but I could form more relationships that are more targeted to my goals and interests.

The best counter-argument that I’ve heard so far? “When you have a degree, it means nothing. When you don’t have a degree, it means everything”. There are scores of employers that won’t even look at you without a degree. It’s a valid point, but I am an entrepreneur. I’ve known for a long time that I won’t be truly satisfied until I’m working for myself. I want to spend my life creating companies, selling companies, and creating more companies. I’m not looking to get hired, I’m looking to hire. I’m gaining experience with two startups right now, one my own, and one as an employee. It’s experience that I can cary with me, and it is more than I have ever learned in school.

I honestly don’t know what the answer is. I think it is going to require a lot more soul searching and sleepless nights until I figure it out, but I’m bound and determined to make the best choice for myself. What that choice is remains to be seen.

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To Denver: I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I am so in love with you. Somehow you manage to strike a perfect balance between having just enough going on that I can’t quite do it all, and leaving me enough just enough time to work on my own things. I am accomplishing so much more, personally and professionally, than I ever have before, and I owe so much of it to you. A city with so many relatable, genuinely good, electrically charged, interesting, and motivated people is a rare thing. I’m glad you are the way you are.

On starting a company: I’ve always dreamed of starting a company. I’ve had a million ideas, some half-baked, some that I actually started taking serious action towards making a reality. I’ve helped a few people, to various extents, to push their ideas into fruition. But I’ve finally found myself in the middle of building a company from nothing. A company that I believe has a really good chance at success. In just a couple of months, a core group of three people has come together around this idea, and we’ve made meaningful strides towards launching a company that supports not only ourselves, but that has will to grow and employ other people as well.

It’s not been without difficulty. We started with a group of six partners, and because of issues with commitment, we’ve reigned it in to three partners. It is the closest I’ve ever been to firing anyone, and it sucked. Last night I was there for a very difficult talk in letting one of our partners go. It was painful, seeing the disappointment in his eyes, and hearing it in his voice. Unfortunately, it had to happen. In the early days of a newborn business, there simply is no room for dead weight. When three people are doing the work that should be spread among six, something has to change. This change shook a person’s confidence and crushed hopes and dreams. That will stick with me.

This playlist is all over the damn place. It is a collection of my two favorite songs (decided pretty much arbitrarily) from some of the albums that I enjoyed listening to in the last year (also decided pretty much arbitrarily). The order is totally random, because I can’t commit enough to call any of these albums my favorite, let alone rank all 29 of them.

Some highlights:

Grizzly Bear, Shields

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If I HAD to pick one album that was my absolute favorite album from this year, there is a good chance that it would be this one. It was about three years since Veckatimest by the time Shields was released – enough time to get to know an album pretty intimately. I was a little worried that, having listened to Veckatimest so many times, I wouldn’t be able to love Shields in the same way.

False. Shields is downright incredible: simultaneously tender, but forceful; heartbreakingly sad, but shimmering and bright; deceptively simple, but bafflingly complex. Some review I read on it somewhere described it something like (#ImNotAJournalist #NotLookingUpTheSource) “having songs that lurch in several different directions at once”. On songs like “What’s Wrong”, that is especially true. It vacillates between soft and plinky piano and orchestral rock bombast, but somehow it just feels right.

Foxygen, Take the Kids Off Broadway

Foxygen Album Cover

Speaking of bands that take off in a million directions at once…

Foxygen are relative newcomers on the Jagjaguar label, the home of Bon Iver, and Dinosaur Jr, among others. The band cultivates a vintage, classic rock aesthetic with a modern bend that is unlike anything else I’ve heard. Listening to Foxygen’s singer, Sam France, spitting lyrics with more conviction than any 22 year old should be able to, you would think he might be Mick Jagger’s long lost son.

If I were a concert promoter, I would book these guys for a Denver show today.

Conveyor, Conveyor

Conveyor Album Cover

I don’t quite know where to place Conveyor. Experimental orchestral psychedelic dream pop seems about right, but I need about 87 more verbs to pin down their style. Conveyor has this irresistible heady blend of rhythmic, chanting lyrics, and spot on vocal harmonies, laid on top of gorgeous soundscapes. Conveyor is the band’s first full length album, and I can only see then getting better with age.


Edit: This post was listed on LargeheartedBoy’s Year End Master List. Go check out some of the others!

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There is this paradoxical feeling of intense isolation that comes with living in the city. You wouldn’t expect it, being constantly surrounded by hordes of people, but it’s there. And, as much as you try to forget it, as much as you try to surround yourself with kindred spirits, it inevitably finds its way through the cracks of your contacts list.

When it finally does push its way through the barricades that you have so diligently erected around it, it isn’t easily bested. No amount of friendly small talk and smiles from strangers will erase it. The sounds of neighbors through the wall only serve to intensify it. The people you pass on the street are no consolation, despite knowing that, at least to some degree, they feel it too.

Its a strange sensation, wedged in a seat on a packed bus, or nursing a coffee at a tiny wooden table in the back of a busy coffee shop, when that isolation overtakes you. There is no warning for it, either. One moment you’re happily surrounded by friendly faces, and the next moment you might as well be in the woods of Montana. Actually, being in the woods of Montana would probably be better. At least then, that feeling of isolation would be more easily understood.

As of now, I don’t understand it. It shouldn’t be that way. For me, it usually comes on after great times with the people I love. It comes at times when I should be feeling the most invigorated and loved and content. It’s at least partially self inflicted: when that feeling starts to take over, I’m not going to call you. I’m not going to answer your calls, and I probably won’t return your texts. It wouldn’t do any good, anyway.

Maybe someday my better sense will win out. Maybe someday I’ll be able to take down that feeling in a mental wrestling match of logic and reason. Maybe.

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Beyond the turbulent ocean of steel, and glass, and circular currents ( befuddlingly and errantly referred to by locals as a “meadow”), nestled between the striped tributaries of asphalt, a blue and yellow beacon of hope arises for all those who are troubled by their lack of and/or inability to efficiently store belongings. The people, they make the pilgrimage from far and wide to visit this bastion of life improvement. In their best Ugg boots and sweat pants, and with kids in tow (often literally dragged behind on a nylon strap), they come in droves. Though the rate at which they arrive is heavily influenced by the time of day and whether or not men in tights are being paid to throw and catch a ball on that particular day, the flow continues from the time the sun comes up until well after it sets.

They come to be romanced by a veritable museum of products for sale, displayed in settings that are obsessed over, analyzed, and precisely calculated to strike the best chord with “the many people”. They come to see, and touch, and try on for size a life that is not lacking in any belongings, or novel methods of arranging those belongings. They come to dine on frozen, and fried, and from powder food, and to marvel over its low price. And when they lacking space in their stomachs, some line up for the elevator, while others are brave enough to awkwardly trot down a concrete staircase to the rows of goods that they saw in the museum-like upstairs.

(To Be Continued.)