Ambassador Post: Pursuing Your Passion
This is a guest post by Entrepreneurship Student Ambassador, Josh Guter. Josh is a rising senior in Technology Engineering and Design Education with a focus on Graphic Communication, in the College of Education.
Just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you love it
When I got to NC State, I intended to major in Aerospace Engineering. If you had asked me why I was in Aerospace engineering my freshmen year, I would have told you that ever since I was young, I was interested in vehicles. I was especially interested in the development of design advances emphasizing speed and safety in these vehicles.
In reality, I barely knew how an internal combustion engine worked. In fact, one of my favorite vehicle models at the time was the Jeep Wrangler. Little did I know, there are actually studies showing that both lobsters and cows are more aerodynamic than the Jeep Wrangler. From an engineering standpoint, the Jeep Wrangler isn’t the best example of a favorite car for someone interested in engineering vehicles for ‘speed and safety.’ To say I got made fun of a lot for this among my engineering friends would be an understatement. No matter how much I tried to explain that there was something about the Jeep past its raw performance, aerodynamics, and safety, that was attractive to me, it still came down to ‘it’s terribly engineered, I don’t know why you like it’.
Understanding that I liked something that was ‘terribly engineered’ was troubling for me. I grew up excelling in STEM classes, taking courses with Duke TIP on engineering in middle school, excelling in computer science-related classes, and more. My entire life I knew that I was meant to be an engineer, my family expected it of me, and so did my peer network. Regardless, there was this itch to pursue whatever made me love the Jeep Wrangler… the design and community built around it, the way Jeep as a company makes its products more than an engineering-focused masterpiece, but rather an experience – I was interested in design, marketing, and business, not engineering.
So as many young college students do in their first year when faced with an important crossroads, I took the easy route that everyone expected me to take and stayed in engineering.
If you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up
A week before final exams freshman year, at age 18, my mom died from pancreatic cancer. That sentence probably took you by surprise as it had zero warning or preparation, but as I learned, many events in life come that way. My mom had been my best friend, a mentor, a guiding figure, and my go-to for just about everything in life up to her death, and to say my world got flipped upside down would be an understatement. In order to take time to process everything and figure my life out, I took a summer trip to Prague. I spent almost 2.5 months in an unknown place trying to figure out what I was meant to do moving forward, and a lot of that time was spent looking into my mom’s life and asking myself what made her so happy.
She was a preschool teacher, mother of 3, and spent much of her time at home helping us grow – she was one of the happiest people I knew. I ended up talking to my uncle about this and one of the things he told me was that she had always just wanted to be a good mom and nothing more. She lived a life in which her fulfillment was not measured by other’s standards, materialistic attainment, or other external variables and expectations, but rather by what was important to her, and doing it to the best of her ability. She chose to live a lifestyle that enabled her to pursue her passions and the fundamentally good values that came with those passions.
After learning about this concept of doing what fulfills an individual without worry about criticism from others, I began learning more about business, design, and other related areas. I read books about taking life into my own hands, made really bad designs, took terrible photos, came up with terrible business ideas, and loved every single second of these experiences. I began to confirm to myself that my passion truly was somewhere other than engineering, and I also realized that our lives aren’t guaranteed to be super long. We should enjoy the moments we are given on a daily basis, and pursue the things we are passionate about regardless of the thoughts and expectations of others.
Pursue what matters to you, and the rest will work itself out
I really like spending time outdoors. I also really enjoy working with computers, programming, and new technology. I love working with people, finding ways to please other individuals and create positive relationships with various people. I love design, photography, and videography. I also really enjoy strategy, planning, and managing events, executable plans, and more. I wanted to find a career path that would allow me to pursue all of these passions. For me, I discovered entrepreneurship. I discovered what it means to find a problem that is important to me, and build a solution, find a way to make that solution into a business, and learn to scale it to make the biggest impact possible.
Around the same time, I also discovered a problem, the lack of reliable communication in certain remote areas, and began seeing how I could pursue a solution. I didn’t know if it would be a dead-end, I didn’t know if it would ever matter to anybody else, I didn’t even know if the technology existed to make a solution that I had envisioned existed, but I knew I had a passion for that problem and a skill set that I could improve to help solve it. Oftentimes the fear that comes with deciding to go for something, whether it’s a problem like the one I wanted to solve, a personal passion, or other commitments, is the fear of not having support, not being able to get help, or being the outsider. This fear is very real and affected my decision to get into entrepreneurship a lot. However, for just about every problem there is a solution. I began looking for communities and programs to help support me through this journey, and believe it or not, they existed.
NC State has an amazing entrepreneurship-focused program, filled with different types of events ranging from introductory sessions for new entrepreneurs to networking events, pitch competitions, start-up showcase events, classes, student involvement programs, and more. I personally joined the Entrepreneurship Ambassador program to get as engaged with the community as possible and got exactly that. I spent 3 years building connections, planning and attending entrepreneurship events, and constantly learning more and more about this passion that I discovered I had. NC State Entrepreneurship supported me through a gigantic growing journey and constantly enabled me to find ways to improve myself, the start-up I launched, and the community itself.
For me, NC State Entrepreneurship provided the community and support I needed to pursue my dreams. For every passion, I promise there is a community of individuals that share the same interests, and are ready to bring you in and let you grow in the area. For you, the reader, it could be a number of things. Perhaps you’re a biomedical engineer with a passion for videography or a videographer with a passion for education. Regardless of your situation, I believe that there is a great benefit that comes from exploring your passions, and committing to them. You will find support, help, and opportunities to grow into your passions regardless of what they are, it’s just a matter of getting started.
To summarize, I hope that you will consider where you are in your life and truly ask whether or not what you are doing is fulfilling your personal interests. Life is a musical thing, we should be doing as much as we can to enjoy the time we have while working towards things we care about. NC State Entrepreneurship showed me that regardless of how different a passion might be, there is always a community of individuals ready to support and guide you along your journey, as well. Don’t be afraid to explore your passions, and question whether or not the route you are on today is the route you are meant to be on tomorrow!