Matt Wilson is Adventurer in Residence at the travel community Under30Experiences. After sitting behind his desk for way too long running his first startup Under30CEO.com, Matt knew that thousands of other young people needed to get the experience of travel. It was time to give others the opportunity to see the world. Matt went on to spend the next two and a half years scouting locations abroad and exploring the world from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, to Machu Picchu and Bali.
Standing on a glacier in Iceland, I really didn't want to go back to my cramped New York City apartment. But that's where I was running my startup, and what was waiting for me. How did life after college only exist on a 13-inch screen that sits within arm's reach, 12 to 14 hours a day?
Here I was in Iceland looking out at the Eyjafjallajkull volcano (the one that famously stopped all air traffic between North America and Europe), watching the sun set at midnight, wondering how I became so out of touch with the world around me. Yes, the Internet gives us all the world's information at our fingertips. But sadly, most of us choose to experience life through mindless secondhand information on Facebook, Instagram and Wikipedia. It was time to find out about the world for myself and help others do the same.
That's how my travel company Under30Experiences was born. Below is the best advice I ever received.
1. It's a big world out there.
After spending the last two and a half years traveling internationally, I've realized that the biggest opportunities are abroad.
If you are an American entrepreneur with connections to capital and press and you have experience running a business, doors open very quickly in smaller countries. The President of Iceland opened his doors to host our very first group of travelers for a private reception at his home. The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua made arrangements for a roundtable, connecting me with the smartest young minds in Latin America. These doors opened simply because adding value in these countries is much easier to do than here at home. Yes, just like LeBron, taking your talents elsewhere will really help you succeed.
But don't forget, you can always come home. This big world I speak of also exists in between Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley. It's called the rest of America. I've been paid to speak on separate occasions at University of South Dakota and South Dakota State, and flown out to judge Startup Weekend in Columbia, Missouri.
Why? Because there aren't many startup founders in the middle of the country speaking at local universities like there are on the coasts. The Dakotas are filled with educated, hard-working people just like in Iceland. The opportunity to open your computer and start a company is just as good as any. Plus, they can stand the cold--and that says a lot about their resilience. Entrepreneurs need resilience.
2. Be cool with being different.
We live in a world where it's not okay to stand out. Humans have been put on an overcrowded concrete farm, caged in cubicles, forced to remain stuck in traffic with everyone else. We are being fed low-cost factory-processed foods in order to get maximum production out of our species as a whole. But regardless of your personal views, if you're an entrepreneur, it's important get comfortable with standing out.
Every famous entrepreneur has a quote about observing which way the masses are going and heading in a different direction. Steve Jobs' "Think Different" campaign said, "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, and the troublemakers...." Warren Buffet insisted, "Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful."
Whether you decide to go AWOL on your corporate job, pursue a crazy idea or just get weird looks sometimes--own it. Let that make you rich.
3. Start a business for life.
Quick; observe the masses. What do you see? Everyone is trying to "start the next Facebook," build the next quick hitter to sell to Google for $10 or 20 million, or become the next irrelevant photo and music sharing app. Sure, most venture capitalists are looking for liquidity events out of their tech investments in a five- to seven-year timeframe.
But don't you think that's a little short-sighted? How many people have changed the world in five to seven years?
There aren't enough people playing the long game right now. Everyone is obsessed with pivoting--trying to get rich quick and if not, moving onto something else. Trust me. I know this because I was one of them. I've tried hundreds of business models and scrapped them if they weren't working immediately.
Now, I start businesses for life. You bet there will be a need for our fitness trips to Costa Rica in 25 years. When we started them with Adam Griffin from Bodeefit, we made sure this was something we wanted to be involved with for a long time. Sure, we could have put one on this winter, made a little money and received a free trip from it. But what impact would that truly make?
If we want to "get the world moving," as Adam says, we aren't going to do it by having a dozen people Instagramming themselves working out with us on the beach. We're going to have to start a movement of people choosing to make a positive impact on their bodies, minds and lives. The tools might change over the years, but the opportunity to add long-term value to the world on a massive scale has never been greater.
And, as with any advice, don't be afraid to flip this all on its head.