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The Little Bit of Creativity That Could

"One of the biggest challenges that a young person has to face, is the relentless pressure of the industrial school system; which in large part, does not foster creativity..."

Photo of Vincent Hunt
20 16

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When I was about 10 years old, I went to a slumber party with some of my friends. The slumber party was in celebration of our friend "Scotty" and I can vividly remember the talks that lead up to the party. We had grand ideas of pillow fights and ice cream, staying up all night and watching movies.  BUT what really happened that night, for me, changed everything.

Scotty had an older Brother named Eric.  Eric was a high schooler, AND he had one of the very first Apple computers.  And while I wanted to carry out the plans of hedonism with the rest of my friends, I found more enjoyment in watching Eric work on his computer. 

I remember Eric talking about technology and how it was the way of the future. I remember him talking about "Entrepreneurship"(a word I had NEVER heard before), and he talked about creativity and how truly powerful the mind is. 

It was in that night, that brief encounter with Eric that my whole life changed.  Being somewhat clever with drawing at that age, I decided, in those few short moments with Eric, that I would be an Entrepreneur, and that I would use this thing called a computer, and my creativity to make a living.  I was 10 years old, and my mind was made up. 

About five years later, my Dad sat me down at the dinner table and asked me a simple question: "What are you going to do once you get out of school? What kind of work are you planning on doing?"  On the surface, this was an EASY question, I had been thinking about this idea for a LONG time, 5 years now!  So to deliver a sharp, and clever: "I am going to be an Entrepreneur!! I am going to use the computer and my creativity to start a business!!"  

My Dad worked at a paper company as a Floor Manager.  And he had worked at this paper company for as long as I could remember... His mindset was fundamentally different than mine, and I could clearly tell when he answered my excitement with: "NO!! You are going to focus on your school work, get good grades, graduate and get a REAL JOB!" My response was not what he was expecting ... I said: "NO, I am going to be an Entrepreneur, and I am going to build my company using a computer and creativity!" 

My Dad was very angry, and frustrated by my response to him.  I remember him hammering me with this idea that I would work for someone else, earn an "honest" living, and someday retire".  For some reason, nothing he was saying made any sense to me.  It was so far detached from what I had been dreaming about, that I too became frustrated and began to cry. 

My Dad decided he would tape record our conversation, with the promise of playing the tape back for me, when I was "mature" enough to realize just how "crazy" I was sounding.  It was a terrible experience. I had hot tears streaming down my face, and with each question he asked, and each demand he threw at me, it felt like he was trying to pull something out of my heart. After about 10 minutes, it was over.  He finished hammering, pushed stop on the tape recorder, and sent me to bed.  

When I went to bed, I remember chanting to myself... "I am going to be an Entrepreneur, I am going to use the computer to be creative, and build my business..."  - I think I said it hundreds of times that night... 

Fast forward about 8 years later.  I had gone on to finish high school, and 5 years of military (ARMY).  And in all that time, I never stopped dreaming about being an Entrepreneur. When I got out of the ARMY I pursued a job in sales, because I knew I had to be able to sell to be an Entrepreneur.  Around that same time, the web was coming on the scene.  Web design was something that was emerging, and I remember thinking: "If I could figure out how to take my ability to draw, and be creative, and merge it with this "web design" thing - I could sell web pages, and start my business..."  So that's what I focused my learning on... Every night I would go to the public library, and dive into searching the web for resources on how to design web pages. Now, back then, there was no "Udemy" or "Kahn Academy". I had to piece it all together, hours and hours of searches. 

After about a year, I felt like I had enough skill to build web pages for businesses.  So I put on a tie, and my best slacks, and went from door to door, telling business owners I was a "Web Designer".  I got a BUNCH of no's, which I was used to, because of all of the no's I received trying to sell insurance!! I kept at it, and finally, I got a "YES".  

I charged the business owner 2500.00, and he wrote me a check for 50% of the project cost, which I would ultimately use to buy a computer! The one I had, was just a service computer that was given to me by the insurance company I was selling for! 

Once I had the check in hand, and a rough service agreement, I realized that THIS was my first sell!!  My first sell as a Web Designer, and ENTREPRENEUR!! I immediately went to my Dads house that day, to find him outside cutting grass.  I asked him about the tape he had made when I was 15 years old... He joyfully retrieved the tape and the tape recorder.  We sat together and listened to the tape... With a grin on his face he said: "See how crazy all that was sounding? See how you can't pay the bills with a dream!!"  ... I said: "No,  I hear the dreams of a child being hammered away, but I can also here the resistance of the creative spirit..." At that moment, I pulled out the check I was given by my new "client",  and I said: "AND YES, you can pay the bills with a dream..."  We both wept, and that moment defined something very special inside of me... 

I went on to start one of the first full service web design studios in my city, and grew a successful business. 

One of the biggest challenges that a young person has to face, is the relentless pressure of the industrial school system and the thinking of the industrial generation; which in large part, does not foster creativity.  

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Photo of Vincent Hunt

I shared this story, my personal "testimony" - because this scenario plays out countless times, over and over. IF I had let my Father's thinking, become MY thinking, I would have gone down a path that would not have been in alignment with what I felt like I should be doing with my life.

Photo of Ryan Flynn

Hi nice post. Of course, if you had gone down your father's path, then you would've also been fine right? What you're saying is that you, personally, had the ambition for something higher, but not everyone has this ambition; some people, most people, are happy with a much less risky life, which is fine (let's face it, entrepreneurship is risky). The school system has to provide skills for the majority, so I don't think a major overhaul is required. But I do think that business thinking is a must, so why not have entrepreneurship as an elective in school? Or entrepreneurship workshops or something? And I agree with you completely that schools must teach practical application. What do you think is the solution?

Photo of Vincent Hunt

Hello Ryan, and to answer your first question squarely: I don't know... My Fathers recommendations would have sent me down a path of passionless conformity. An industrialized approach, which once you get "into the game" is deeply competitive and "lackluster" at best. NOW am I saying you can't have success following the rules? NO... But what I am saying is that we have to be careful about killing the dreams of young people and selling them the "American Dream". And to speak to this idea of a "less risky" life... The only way to hedge against that, is to become a Doctor, Lawyer, Architect - One of these roles, because education is CLEARLY the path to these fields. BUT to go to school and follow the rules, and study a field that's saturated and deeply competitive - IS RISKY, thus we are all engaged in this design challenge. And this is not about "entrepreneurship" - in my mind it's about "intrapreneurship" - because not everyone is designed to go launch a business. The idea of intrapreneurship is provocative, because it suggest that even if a person finds more clarity and satisfaction irking for someone else, they should still have a level of curiosity, creativity, and ability to solve difficult challenges without being prompted or told to ... This is a creative confidence issue. So, the solution? I believe is hybrid ... A blend of classical education, and real-world application; BOTH treated with the same level of importance and relevance. And this is just a start... the REAL solution is probably far more complex...

Photo of Ryan Flynn

Thanks for the reply Vincent. Well, I don't think you can't compare the risk of entrepreneurship to a normal profession. People in a normal profession, while they may be out of work while searching for a job (which is a risk, sure), don't have to invest their own money and they know when their next pay check is coming. When first starting, entrepreneurs don't know when the money's going to come and in what quantity. I can cite the example of my roommate, who started a business a year ago and hasn't earned 10% of his investment. If he weren't in a relatively cheap country like Cambodia, he'd be broken and yearning for any job he could find! At the end of the day, survival is #1 and passion is a luxury. I think our grandparents appreciate that more than us. But on your other point, I totally agree and I like the idea of intrapreneurship. You don't have to be self-employed to explore new things and tackle challenges, and that mentality's definitely useful in improving yourself and getting the job you want.

Photo of Vincent Hunt

Hello Ryan! And let me start by saying that I appreciate your dialogue ... It's really making me dig deeper and drill into the ideas here... Let me throw a question at you though... Let's just say that you go the normal path of traditional education, pass the test, get the grades and "earn the keys to the employment kingdom", and you find yourself in a highly competitive environment, and potentially becoming part of the masses of graduates who find themselves unemployed or under employed? Do you feel like this narrow path of "success" is more "safe" or "less risky" than the individual who does the exact same thing, YET realizes that his/her responsibility MAY rest beyond just "getting a job" and perhaps "creating a job"? I ask these questions because the point of my post is NOT entrepreneurship - it IS risky, and it is only for a few ... What I want to illuminate is the "thinking" that has to be developed to, truly be successful in the modern marketplace. Herein rest my idea about intrapreneurship - it's a way of thinking that separates the graduates of today. Thinking that a job is waiting on you is NOT the best course of action. Thinking that a job is waiting on you, BUT having the audacity to pivot and create one if it is not waiting on you, is a better way of preparation (in my opinion). AND if you are one that DOES land the job, having a spirit of intrapreneurship makes you indispensable, and far more competitive... And passion is not a luxury, it's the key to extraordinary success and fulfillment in life. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Photo of Ryan Flynn

Thanks to you too, Vincent, I'm a lover of dialogue myself :) I feel like I'm unclear on your meaning though. You say you're not promoting entrepreneurship, but you also say that people should consider "creating a job" if they can't find one, which sounds like entrepreneurship to me. Actually, I talk about the risks, but I was also a co-founder of a social enterprise after college, and I'm for the idea of creating your own work experience if you can't find any. But I favor humanitarian causes, because they're less capital intensive and less risky. Also, there are ways to become more attractive in order to find a job (I made two contributions about them), for example going international and learning a language to supplement your main skill, both of which increase your employment chances greatly. I whole-heartedly support your intrapreneurship idea though.

Photo of Vincent Hunt

This is good Ryan!! Thanks for continuing to engage this... I am not promoting "entrepreneurship" - I am promoting the "thinking" that drives it, thus I introduce "intrapreneurship". I think part of the problem rest in this idea, that youth are told a story that walks them down a path of un-realistic expectations in the modern marketplace... We need to do a better job at equipping the youth, and it starts with helping them understand the dynamics at work (more students graduating with the same degrees, employers demanding new skills, blah blah blah...) - Hopefully this helps frame the context better! Cheers!

Photo of Ryan Flynn

Sounds good, Vincent, can't wait to see the idea developed! cheers

Photo of Thi Mui Nguyen

Hi Vincent,
I feel so inspired after reading your story. I'm from sweden and we just currently changed to a new government system. The new government wants to change the existing school system and make high school compulsory for all young people (before you had the choice to quit school if you wanted to). I understand the initial idea. However, in this case, it would also hold back young people who are dreaming about being entrepreneurs like you. I think therefore that it is important that people like you don't forget to encourager and inspire these young people with stories like yours! Thanks for your post!

Photo of Rong Jun Li

Hi Vincent
i just read your story, my story is basically similar to yours, because of the pressure given by the industrial school system and my father, i was forced to follow my father' career plan for me, my father always hoped me to become a doctor in the future since i was a kid, and i did not think of my job in my future at that time yet, recently, i only have the thought to become an Entrepreneur, and he strongly disagreed with my thought, i think your story inspired me a a lot, i will try to convince my dad to accept me to try to become a Entrepreneur! thank you, Vincent

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