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The Power of Possibilities
Q: Does keeping your options open serve or hinder you?
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When I left Google after 15 years, I naturally thought I would stay in tech and work on building a product. I expected that I would innovate in the consumer tech space as that was my background having worked on products like Google Maps, Android, Search & Assistant. I even contemplated dipping my toes into the enterprise space - taking my learnings from some of the inefficiencies I saw in my HR role or my experience building high functioning teams.
After all, I had built my career over the last twenty years in tech. I moved to the Bay Area in 2000 as a consultant with the intention of finding a job in tech as quickly as possible. My first tech job was as a product manager in a fintech startup. After a detour to business school, I came back to tech, joining Google to work on their partnerships team.
But over the past year as I brainstormed and researched new business ideas, I realized that the journey is more exploratory than I expected. Building a business does not only mean building a tech product or app. I found that there are many ways to discover a customer need but it's most important to find one that I am passionate about - a problem that I am energized about solving no matter whether the solution is technical or not. Here are some ways I have explored my business ideas -
Product - I designed clunky prototypes of product ideas to test user interest in audio storytelling with the hopes of designing a tech product that allowed people to reflect and record their personal stories.
Some of the concepts in this article that I recently read - Product Discovery Lessons: Going from Zero to One by Ravi Mehta - reminded me of the challenges in the early days of trying to design a solution to a problem that I was passionate about.
Services - I experimented with delivering a service around creating a support network for other women founders. It led me down the path of exploring some new emerging platforms (like Mighty Networks, Podia) that allow individuals to take their unique skills and turn their expertise into a digital product or service.
I learned about the rise of these new platforms from Li Jin’s post on The Passion Economy and the Future or Work which talks about how the “gig economy” (on demand marketplaces for workers to make money from services like food delivery or transportation) is being replaced by the “passion economy” (platforms that allow for users to form direct relationships with their customers and get paid for their creative products or services)
Content - I wanted to explore my creative side during my break (as I wrote in our post #2) and expressing my thoughts publicly was one way for me to start being a content creator. Instead of starting out with a product, I wondered if there was a value in building a community of like minded people. I was intrigued by the number of people pursuing their passions by creating and expressing themselves in different formats and turning their content into sustainable businesses.
This article on Succeeding in the Creator Game was eye opening on the different avenues now open to creators. This quote rings true to me as I have needed to cultivate the discipline to consistently publish this newsletter every week.
“Only a small percentage of the population has the discipline to stick through the time-consuming process of continually learning, creating, and promoting their creations. It’s hard work, and it can be disheartening when you are not getting paid.”
For now, it feels right to keep exploring different options. If any of you are on a similar exploratory journey, I would love to connect and share learnings.
I shuffled the tarot cards while we exchanged a few words, trying to put my energy into them. After handing over the deck to her, she opened the first card. The Fool. The Fool card represents infinite potential - the tarot reader turned to me and said "Anything is possible, you need to entertain all options. Now is not the time to close the door on anything." It felt like the Universe was giving me permission to explore and to enjoy being, without having to commit to any one path at this time.
“To see The Fool generally means a beginning of a new journey, one where you will be filled with optimism and freedom from the usual constraints in life.. He believes that anything can happen in life and there are many opportunities that are lying out there, in the world, waiting to be explored and developed. He leads a simple life, having no worries, and does not seem troubled by the fact that he cannot tell what he will encounter ahead.”
That was last week. This Monday, I took the oath and pledged allegiance to America, aka the land of opportunity. Becoming a US citizen after being in the country for 24 years feels like the start of a new chapter. I read through the welcome document and this line stood out to me:
“Your aspirations and actions enrich our society and strengthen our democracy...you have an opportunity to make lasting contributions to both your community and adopted country”
You get to a point in your life where you want to give more than you take and reading that line brought that feeling back for me. I’ve been trying to think of small ways I can start to contribute. For some reason (maybe it’s my ikigai) I keep coming back to “community”. I’m excited about the many options I see in creating community - in my neighborhood, at work and online.
At work, I’m experimenting with building a community for the women of our product area with the goal of creating a space where they can be vulnerable and feel seen and heard. In my neighborhood, I started a community for the parents at my toddler’s preschool. It started out simple - a WhatsApp group for all the parents, a place for us to talk to each other about our kids and organize playdates for the tots. It’s early days but the moms have already had a lovely evening out where we found commonality beyond the obvious - being moms to toddlers.
Mitali and I started Disco Dialogues with the hope of bringing together a community of like minded people, at different stages but all going through and reflecting on life transitions. We’ve started as a newsletter but are brainstorming ways in which we can enable real, live dialogue.
And as far as that infinite potential goes, this Fool is ready for the US passport to arrive so she can journey to new places without going through bureaucratic visa processes.