(As we left off in part one I discussed the overview of my background and how it led to the creation of the site. I had gone to school, served in non profit, gone back to school, and finally reached my destination of landing a career job as a software tools developer for Mediacom Cable Company.)
This was it, my big break, the opportunity I’d been awaiting for since graduation. Finally, a job in my field of study that would not only allow me to use my skillset and learn skills on the job (that would transfer over to my night ambitions) but it would pay enough for me to live comfortably while I built income through my “side hustle“. The job had plenty of opportunity for growth and promotion, so much so that I could easily stay there for 40 years, work my way to Mid-Upper management positions, retire with a 401k and pension, and live a comfortable life. I had worked for so long to have the opportunity to work here, the job security was terrific, the work was easy (relatively), the pay and benefits was good, my coworkers were cool, I had the best boss I’ve ever had in my work history, and it let me work from home every other week….So why after four months was I becoming miserable?
In this blog I’ll break down and analyze the process I went through to understand that another person’s vision of what’s best for you doesn’t equate to your success and/or happiness, and how fear and a lack of knowledge can lead one down a path to their lesser self.
First and foremost, let me state as a disclaimer that nothing was wrong with Mediacom the company at all. It was a great place to work and (though it could stand to pay its employees more) the benefits were pretty good. I was first offered the position two weeks after graduating from North Dakota State University.
With my Americorps contract fulfilled, it was time for me to venture back into the employment line in search of work in IT. While I still had scars from the last time I ventured in the job market with only a BFA and naïve optimism, this time I had a Masters in a more practical field along with certifications to be a computer technician – a plan B. I had a lot more success and interest this time around and a lot more interviews. Mediacom was the first to offer me a position and I gladly accepted- this job checked off every desirable thing an employee would want, it was local, and my parents were so proud. Happy ending to the chapter that was the quest for the day job, 4 years post-MCAD.
Gearing up for my job (with nice corporate clothes and equipment to work from home) I had every intention of being my best self on the job and my best self after the job: to befriend everyone on the office floor, be a good teammate to my coworkers, reliable to my boss, and a proficient artist/streamer/martial artist after work in the new quest to build my “side hustle”. I coordinated block times on my schedule to efficiently work, I planned days out from morning to bed time, and invested in the equipment, clothes, and software I would need in order to make it happen. I truly thought I was finally right where I was “supposed” to be and I had planned to stay at the position for at least 3-4 years until the side hustle made enough income to consider leaving.
The first month of a new position (so long as it isn’t a dumpster fire of a job) is the honeymoon period. The job can do and cause no wrong. It’s the period of being so optimistic about the future you overlook possible pitfalls and consequences and, in my case, the major consequence for me was that I was essentially working three full-time jobs without even realizing it. I was working for Mediacom as the metaphorical “Real job“, I was working to build the KZ brand, I was working side-gigs for Hip Hope Inc, and doing all this while neglecting any form of social life.
I quickly realized there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything on my list of things that needed to be done, not if I wanted the side hustle to be successful. I tried to adjusting my workload, after all, it wasn’t as if I had the power to change my hours at my career job not even 90 days in. I tried working more on weekends to compensate, staying up through the nights (caffeine became my best friend) but, in doing so, I neglected family events and functions. In fact, I was neglecting all forms of social life in favor of work and working towards my dream of being a successful creator full-time.
It was a vicious cycle, I’d go to work, wishing I could go home and work more, and after work I’d get home and work and be upset that I didn’t get enough done before the next day all while losing sleep in the process. I assumed something was wrong with me, maybe I was just an entitled and lazy millennial that the media preaches about. After all, other creatives had much worse conditions than me and still found a way to be successful right? I had a job that was very tolerable and it allowed me to do what I wanted after work…and yet, the days went from, “Let’s get XYZ done today” to, “I only have X amount of hours before work again, I must choose between eating or getting X done.” It got to the point where I would feel guilty and start insulting myself if I took any leisure time.
Hindsight 20/20, I was always on a clear path to burnout without even realizing it. In my mind, I was only working the traditional 40 hour work week (45 if you count the lunch hour you’re required to take, 48 if you count commute time), without taking into account the amount of hours put in to working for my own brand since that wasn’t a “Real” job (not without a paycheck to show for it). It wasn’t until my mentor at Hip Hope Inc introduced me to business systems and business development that a switch suddenly clicked in my mind. I was working harder, not smarter.
When I was introduced to the concept of business development I delved into the subject hard. I began getting books from the library, watching videos on Skillshare and Youtube, reading articles, taking notes as if I were a college student cramming 4 years of business school into a 3 month study. This was the answer I was looking for since graduating Art School and, the more I learned and realized what I was doing wrong (and why), the more I became disillusioned with my station.
It wasn’t that I was lazy, on the contrary, it was that I had been following a path set forth by others’ expectations of what a “successful” future was all while trying to cram my own passions into that same path – I was essentially a piece that didn’t fit the mold of a traditional employee. While well-meaning, the traditional expectation of “Go to school, get a good job, put money in your 401k, invest in the stock market” is one that is preached largely by those who are misinformed or don’t see the big picture. It’s not that it’s a bad model, it’s that it’s a model that only applies to those who want to work for someone else their entire lives and cross their fingers that their 401k doesn’t crash with the market. It’s an outdate strategy for wealth.
The traditional model for would-be entrepreneurs is “get a good job, work on your craft after work, once your craft makes enough to match your job income you can do it full time“, the problem with this model is that it doesn’t capture the big picture. The American Education system teaches you (and I use teach loosely) how to work by yourself, for yourself and maybe financial management if you’re lucky. It doesn’t teach you how to build business systems, how to invest in assets or flip liabilities to assets, it doesn’t teach you taxes, credit, or network management. (More on these models in another blog).
After I dedicated myself to intense study for four months, I took a good look around my office floor at all of my fellow coworkers. After months of conversations I knew their stories, I knew why they were there, and I questioned what I was doing. Yeah, it was a great entry-level job: it was easy, it paid well, had good benefits, had good coworkers, would look good on a resume should I ever apply for another job elsewhere. On paper, any college grad in IT would flock to it like a moth to a light. But at its root, I realized some hard truths:
- The job is great for a college grad to build their resume but, after taxes and insurance, the yearly salary was only 32k. With what I knew about business systems and my skillsets, I knew I could make 5x that amount in only a year of working for myself.
- I was a coward playing it safe. It’s one thing to not know or have other options when it comes to building an income, it’s another when you have the skills and knowledge to do so but don’t out of fear of failure or the unknown.
- I had more than enough money saved to get started (I’m a total miser). All my income just sat in a bank, untouched. There was no future in which working for someone else to earn more money would make me happy.
- I was not growing or learning from the job and the work I was doing was not meaningful. Having come from Non-profit where my work had a direct positive impact on others, to a desk job with paperwork and minimal interaction with others, made me realize what kind of work I genuinely enjoy doing versus one done for money.
- I was letting life pass me by. The job was preventing me from following my dreams and my social life was non-existent as a result.
With my savings, skillsets, and support system, I mustered the courage to turn in my letter of resignation, shake hands with my boss, say goodbye to my coworkers, and venture off to start Kzmaster Entertainment LLC 2020.
There’s much that I want to do with my business but my primary goal is to help other creatives with their dreams. Too many times I’ve seen creatives, in worse positions than I was, who can’t obtain financing, who don’t know anything about building a business system, taxes, credit, etc., who follow the mantra of “Work harder” just to end up burning out, becoming miserable, and giving up on their dreams under the belief that it doesn’t pay. It hurts to see people, who should be sharing their gifts with the world, subject themselves to a life that they simply tolerate and not celebrate. Even more so, when I understand that the beliefs instilled in them, came from individuals who didn’t know any better themselves.
I want to use my education in art and programming, my passion for working non-profit and teaching, and my knowledge of business development to effectively teach others so that they don’t have to live in fear of uncertainty, subject themselves to a mediocre version of themselves, and make good money doing what they love to do for a living. Even if one doesn’t want to leave their jobs, I still want to effectively teach how they can make more money and achieve more recognition off of their hobby. If nothing else, I want to offer what I can to help others improve in their crafts as well and be able to connect them to the right people to get them seen and heard.
In conclusion, I want to use my talents and knowledge to help others get what they want. I’m establishing Kzmaster Entertainment LLC 2020 as a platform from which to be able to do that. Each week a topic will be discussed either via questions/suggestion from the email or from anything important that needs to be discussed. I hope you’ll all be along for the journeys and I hope to see successful creatives emerge!
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Honestly, it was enthralling to read through your experiences. While I am barely getting my BFA done in Art History, it’s always fascinating to see how other people get to the points they were at. Life has become a cycle of working and sleeping already, though, and I’m only 22. I’m optimistic that this blog can help me a bit more with my dream of writing THE American Novel, or at the very least, a grand spanking good novel.