I felt battered around by the seas. I never quite felt like my full self.
Right after college, I went into finance, then moved into software engineering, then data science. And in between, I experimented with freelancing, worked on startup ideas with friends, and even considered going into product management.
By day, I was exploring and steering my career through the waters, trying to find myself in the paths that others presented to me. And I struggled. I got rejected. A lot.
This time, I had gotten past the gatekeepers and got hired for a cushy tech company job. But by night, I persisted in following a stream of hope, one that, looking back, I had started following in middle school: crafting software as an independent creator to solve problems for myself and other people. I had no idea where this passion would take me, but the joy of using my unique combination of strengths to solve problems, without having to seek the permission of someone else, propelled me forward.
Then, the COVID pandemic hit. The seismic shifts in the world made me and my wife question some assumptions about our careers. Our work was entirely digital: why did we have to go into an office every day? Carol makes brands come alive because she’s really good at both brand strategy and design: why did she have to offer her valuable services to just one company? I made this free productivity Chrome extension a while ago to scratch my own itch, and it now had a couple thousand daily active users: why couldn’t I build out a new set of value-add features and offer a paid plan?
We got to work. Putting one foot in front of the other on our uncertain journey to becoming independent creators, full-time. In six months, we had some side income flowing in. It wasn’t much—definitely not enough to cover our expenses in New York City, but enough to cover our expenses if we traveled abroad. Perfect: we also always wanted to travel the world together. The results of these small experiments gave us enough confidence to take the plunge. So, we quit our jobs and are roaming the world as digital nomads.
I decided to focus on building a meditation app as my main project. I came up with the idea because I saw others around me struggling to stick to meditation, or not knowing how to make progress with it, things that I struggled with myself before. We all intuitively know that the largest benefits from any habit come if we stick to it and get better at it. I’ve been meditating for a decade now and it has made a life-changing difference on my peace, confidence, and openness. The goal of my app is to help others experience the lasting impacts a meditation practice can bring by making it easy for anyone to stick to and deepen a habit of meditation.
We still have down days of doubt and imposter syndrome, and boy is it an emotional roller coaster. We’re also putting ourselves out there, joining communities to meet new people and learn new things, while also sharing our story. All this felt unnatural to us at first, but we’re getting better at it. Our challenges, both real-world and mental, teach us about ourselves, other people, and our place in the world.
Though we are traveling to unfamiliar places, I finally feel like I’ve come “home” in my career. We’re working a lot, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We get to work on what we want and use all our strengths to their maximum potential, all while sitting in our underwear and making a living. During the day, we work. On nights and weekends, we explore.
We’re finally free to be our full selves, with no limits on what we can create and what kind of life we can design together.
Listen for that thing that calls you to be yourself, to live life on your terms. Take the next step. Keep learning. And don’t give up hope.
I’m building my meditation app in public and sharing my founder journey on Twitter. Follow me at twitter.com/troyshu.
Also published on Medium.