My journey as an entrepreneur began officially when I opened an English School in September of 2014. It was a long and uncertain journey but a great experience, too. It taught that it is possible to break away from the English mills and the feeling of perpetually spinning your wheels in an industry that expects you to stay a few years and then go home. During the time I was building my school, I dabbled in Amazon Japan FBA, working as a 3rd Party Seller for Yahoo Japan!. I blogged. I researched cryptocurrencies and several different platforms designed to leverage investments and I even tried my hand at affiliate marketing. I also did hundreds of weddings for Japanese couples. How’s that for a curve ball? It was fun and interesting and I learned a lot along the way. I became proficient at running a business and dealing with all walks of life using Japanese and I learned how to build websites that actually work and how to work with suppliers and manufactureres overseas. Most of all, I learned how hard you have to work to get something off the ground. However, there is one detail that has been bothering me: I’m working as hard as ever but making only a little more than I used to back when I was a hack.
My English School has been slowly but steadily growing and that has been both an amazing and rewarding experience. My side ventures, you ask? Well, to be honest, they’ve amounted to little more than learning experiences. In the meantime, my children have been getting older and, well, I have, too. It makes me wonder where things are going and just how much I can increase my income in the local market before I’m an older awkward man with no place. My projections tell me that even a modest increase in income is going to mean a lot more work and, by default, a lot more time.
I could start another venture but that would mean starting back where I was in 2014. It would mean building something up from scratch and all of the time and energy required to do that. It’s not that I’m against entrepreneurship. No, sir. My point is that I need to prioritize and be realistic about how much time is left to spend with my children while they’re small and how I can provide them with the income I want. Time is such a precious resource and, when it’s gone, it’s gone. No one, not even the richest person in the world, can buy more time.
I also want to continue to build my skill set without doing it for free. One point about working for someone else is that they inadvertantly pay you to better yourself. And I am very focused on bettering myself.
So here is what I’ve been thinking: find a job with a company that can provide the space for me to leverage my skills and passions; to meet me halfway, as it were, and reward me for the time and effort I contribute. You see, all of the great companies in the world were started by entrepreneurs; people in more or less the same situation I was in back in 2014. The only difference is that their business reached a scale mine would be extremely hard-pressed to. They also had a team and a market to fuel their growth.
Mine is a niche business. A small school in a small area designed, really, to target those within walking distance. It’s the equivalent of a mom and pop shop from days of yore. As quaint and fun as it’s been, I need a change. I need an entrance into a new level of magnitude and a new level of potential. I need a position that’s going to challenge me and allow me to develop and apply new skills. Something that’s going to make me grow as a human being. Something that’s going to let me bring what I want to my family: education, savings, time with family, vacations without stressing about money and cutting things short.
So, here’s my plan: find a job working with software.
And here is my reasoning:
- The path of my evolving interests has led me increasingly down this path: my passion for writing and creativity has naturally led me toward web design. It is, in many respects, the equivalent of modern day theater (which I trained in professionally in my early days). By this I mean that all of the arts (dance, painting, writing, music, design) can be simultaneously and equally displayed even if only in digital form. This is equally true of all of the sciences, as well. In terms of the capacity for the dissemination of information, collaboration
- It is at once global yet local: Working with software will likely allow me to remain with my family in Japan but still be involved with companies either back home in the US or elsewhere abroad. Remote work is increasingly common and limited only by the speed of light (or your internet connection) either of which are generally fast enough
- The software industry (in all capacities) is only growing and many of the entry level salaries are very enticing: sitting in front of my computer in rural Japan in the late summer of 2018, the internet is only some 24 years old. There are still many regions and populations on the planet with no connectivity and, even for the regions and populations that are by now used to it, there is almost unlimited potential for development and innovation. The building out of this potential will call for a huge amount of “human capital”, as they say, and I personally want to get onboard. This desire is made all the more stronger by what the average entry level salaries are to say nothing of what is available for those who reach the requisite level of skill.
- It is a fascinating field and one that is both challenging and extremely rewarding: the intracacies of sofware, what it takes to get something to work and the feeling of satisfaction when it does are immensely rewarding to me. I love to learn and software, insofar as my understanding would suggest, entails a basically endless learning process. There is also the notion of empowering others and being able to build services and applications that serve them.
- It is an expansive field. There is almost no single industry on the planet that is not, in some way, involved directly with software: if you have a solid base in software skill, there will always be a job available for you. In fact, if you’re really good, you can actually choose what type of industry you want to work in. You could “use your powers”, if you will, to help smaller companies you believe in get bigger and more efficient. You could use your abilities for the startup, for a niche you are passionate about or simply as a guarantee of finding a job wherever in the world you are.
- There is SO MUCH room for personal growth: there is a certain effect on your character if you are one who is constantly taking on challenges and bettering your skillset. Something happens to you when you are constantly employing your faculties to the max; when you are pushing your threshold and expanding your envelope. It makes you stronger. It makes you more curious. It makes you more humble. It makes you more appreciative and it makes you more understanding of the situation of others.
- There are real humanitarian implications to being involved with software: increasingly, the world is turning toward online platforms. From the chatrooms of the mid 90’s we saw social discourse and micro-niche discussions take off. Amazon brought shopping to the internet. Systems like PayPal brought finance and global payment to the keyboard. Youtube democratized media and the sharing of information via the video format. Somewhere in there, we saw accredited Universities get on board and start offering courses online. The general trend has been one of streamlining access and the user experience beyond anything anyone could have imagined. And this has implications for the disadvantaged and marginalized populations of the world; wherever they are.
But, Trevor, what about the English School? What about all the time and energy you’ve invested? Fear not! Ha ha! I have a plan. Hire a teacher. Hire a manager. Incorporate the school as an LLC (or the Japanese equivalent thereof which is known as a Godogaisha 合同会社) and simply take a percentage of the monthly profits. No more. No less.
No, I don’t want to let the school go entirely. It would be a shame after all this work and it’s become quite a local presence in the community. A destination for kids afterschool and a local gathering place for mommies. But, alas, having only one body and one presence on this earth, I am forced to delegate the duties of its day to day existence and, for better or worse, move on.
But I move on to the next great adventure.
I’ve enjoyed my bilingual-entrepreneurial-ultra-challenge so far but I feel the tides changing. It’s time to focus on the next step and do what it takes to maximize my potential.
Come by for the next post as I document the beginnings of my next adventure.
Thought I’d write that texty stuff up there without leaving you a funny image? Oh, you.