Stranger 21, Day 21 – Meet Jordan, the “Motivated”

Stranger 21, Day 21 - Meet Jordan

As I was leaving work this afternoon, I ran into a gentleman reading in the lobby area of my office. Sitting there, he was diligently reading his book — Ego is the Enemy. I was hesitant to interrupt him at first, but hey, that’s part of this endeavor — to see if someone would take a moment to connect. Happily (and very respectfully) he was up for the interview.

Meet Jordan, 23

Why are you reading Ego is the Enemy?

Jordan shares with me how there are lots of stories of success, but not much around failure. This book reminds you that “you’re not necessarily special. You kind of have to learn reality. You have to check your ego every now and then and make sure you’re living reality.”

What brings you into entrepreneurship? (After all, he’s at Atlanta Tech Village, and he’s reading a book about entrepreneurship and ego and failure.)

“I like personal development. I’d say prior to last year, I was really unmotivated, and I didn’t really have passion to do anything. I’m still in school right now, but I had no idea. I just picked a degree and went with it. Didn’t know what I was doing, but then I found this thing called Startup Exchange at Georgia State, and something just clicked. So I’ve just been on this journey to self improvement and try to build myself up as a founder, hopefully one day.”

What have you found to be your passions and your dreams?

“I really like helping people. I figure right now, I’m not exactly in position to start anything myself, but I can clear the path for other people. In turn, maybe something good will come out of that.”

I asked him if he knew what type of company he wanted to start.

“I’m working on an idea right now. Still trying to do the Customer Discovery for it. It’s called, ‘Universiread’. There’s a problem with the college textbook market right now. Students can’t paid for the textbooks. Cost of textbooks have gone up 70% since 2007. 65% of students don’t buy the textbooks because they’re too expired. What I’ve been dabbling with something like a Hulu for textbooks. It’s a subscription model where they can access all the textbooks that they can ever need, and they just pay like $30 per month. It just drastically cuts down the cost for textbooks.”

Why were you unmotivated before? Was there some reason?

“I went to college because my parents told me, ‘you’re supposed to go to college! It’s supposed to make you happy!’ As I was going through it, it didn’t really make me happy until I looked for something else outside of just going to classes and doing the everyday type of thing. That’s when I found Startup Exchange. I really liked the community. Everyone was really interested in helping me out and helping me get started. That’s why I’m here now.”

You’re your own motivator for a while. Was there something that happened that made you realize you were motivated? Something that helped you make that inflection point?

“I realized it might’ve been a slow build-up just to this point…” It was hard for Jordan to explain. He just had this feeling he needed to change.

What kind of advice would you give to someone who’s unmotivated today?

Jordan thought about this for a while, and wasn’t sure how to answer this. So I asked him what he does when he finds himself unmotivated again.

“I like to meditate. That helps me get down to baseline. Always have these thoughts going through my head. It’s hard to block it all out, and I’m always worried about the next thing, the next thing, the next thing… when I should be focused on right now. I like meditation because helps me clear my mind and help me understand what’s really going on in my body and in my head.”

He realizes, though, that meditation is not for everyone, but could be an avenue for others. “Not everyone will see the value out of it.”

What was a Life-Defining Moment for you?

“There was a difficult time in my past. My mom… she had a medical break-down, and she was committed to a mental hospital. I realized I had to grow up… stop being a kid.” He was quiet while thinking back to this. “Start being an adult.”

I asked him what he was going through at that time. “It just put things in perspective. My parents aren’t going to be around my whole life, and they’re not going to be there to lean back on them. Up until that point, I had been leaning on them. So I definitely thought about how to be more independent and start doing things in that direction.” He definitely seemed mature and formal beyond his years. Also, very respectful.

How do you write so good? And how do you do a push-up? (Thanks to Jada and Tara, Strangers 20 and 20 from yesterday)

Jordan laughs at these, but is game to answer.

To Jada: “Wow! Umm, just start writing. Just see where it goes. It’s just practice!”

To Tara: “Drop to the floor on your body. Line up your hands to your chest. Straight legs. Straight back. And you just push up, drop down, and push back up.”

I asked him what would he say to a little girl who was struggling to do a push-up. Jordan replied, “It’s alright if you’re struggling. It’s alright.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What makes you happy?”

After the handshake.

There are several things that I felt interesting in my meeting with Jordan, and indeed many things that I felt connected to him on. For simplicity, here are some bullets:

  • His interest in Ego is the Enemy and realizing how ego plays into failure. I’ve given a number of talks this year about my own “ego” and over-confidence, and how that contributed to my previous startup’s demise. Meanwhile, it was nice to hear Jordan realize the limited resources around failure even though it happens so often. (Plug for my book — Postmortem of a Failed Startup!)
  • Jordan’s disinterest in school, and then a realization of something more interesting sounded very similar to my shift from hating reading and writing to loving both. In his case and mine, it was about shifting the context.
  • Jordan struggled to explain how or why he felt this need to shift his context and break out from the day-to-day unmotivated life. This reminded me heavily of my friend, Matt Trinetti, who left the cushy life of consulting with a one-way ticket to Iceland.
  • Jordan finds peace in meditation. Meditation is actually an avenue I have turned to weekly. I was shown this by a friend earlier this year, and it’s been a good experience for me today.

Sitting there reading a book was a young guy I didn’t know. However, we ended up having much in common/ connect about. I didn’t share all these connections with him. However, it’s great to continue to find things to connect on with whoever I speak to.

Meet Jordan. No longer a Stranger.

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