Growing Up

December 11th 2017
Author profile picture

@DisruptepreneurJeremy Gardner

By just about any definition of the word, I have been extraordinarily lucky.

My adolescence and early adulthood were riddled with adversity, misfortune, and poor decision-making. I was a bad student, and by most definitions, a juvenile delinquent. Even as I matured and began to excel academically in college, my past felt like an inescapable demon, coming to haunt me at the most inopportune moments.

But then, in late 2013, in the most serendipitous series of events (more suitable for a memoir), I tripped and fell deep down the Bitcoin rabbit hole. That undertaking fundamentally altered the course of my life.

From a professional and financial perspective, I have accomplished more in just a few years than most who knew me growing up would have ever hoped for in a lifetime. To varying degrees of success, I cofounded two for-profit and two non-profit startups (all still exist today), I started a magazine with global distribution, and I fruitfully navigated the world of institutional and angel investment. Now, at age twenty-five, I’m in the midst of launching my own hybrid venture/hedge fund.

No one is more surprised by this extraordinary series of events than myself. In fact, it feels absurd. I’m often plagued by a sense of guilt — as if somehow I don’t deserve to be where I am.

You see, I have never set particularly high standards for myself (in terms of accomplishments), because for the majority of my life, my greatest struggle was just getting by. The only high bar I ever set for myself was an ethical one, as that seemed to be the only standard within my control to meet. I always knew I wanted to better the world at scale, but that felt like a distant ambition when staying in school and out of jail were more immediate aims.

Whatever success I have had in the past four years (we all have different measures) can broadly be explained by three factors:

1. My drive to not fail (as I had most of my life previously.)

2. An unwillingness to take shortcuts (that would jeopardize my ethics.)

3. A desire to make the world a better place at scale.

I will be the first to admit that this is not a particularly rigid or replicable recipe for success. But throwing yourself headfirst into an industry you barely understand (and that most people describe as collapsing) is not a course of action I would recommend for anyone. Hindsight bias might suggest my vision was prescient, but the reality is that I didn’t have a better career option for “changing the world” than this crazy idea called cryptocurrency. Realizing that then was the genuine coup.

I honestly do not believe in having “good luck,” despite, probabilistically speaking, I have been lucky (or dumb enough) to be in the positions to make the career and investment choices I have. Moving forward, I do not want to depend on improbable circumstances being the driving determinant of my future. As I step into a role in which I will directly manage and secure significant sums of money for individuals other than myself, I have an urgent need for greater personal accountability.

Due to the fact that my professional career has already exceeded my wildest dreams — I have mistakenly allowed my personal development to lag dangerously behind. It has been easy to rationalize not eating or sleeping well, avoiding the gym and meditation, and partying excessively, due to the fact that my life seemed to be going so splendidly. My feeling was: Who needs personal discipline when money is growing on trees and public perception is shifting in my favor?

For the most part, my relative credibility as an entrepreneur and investor allowed this personal failure to be overlooked by my peers and colleagues. To my delight (and retrospective dismay), my excess has even been celebrated. (One Business Insider profile was both particularly glorifying and embarrassing in this regard.)

Despite this questionable personal development (or lack thereof), I have avoided any professional mishaps that may have damaged my credibility. From a reputational perspective, however, I have caused some self-inflicted damage. It is easy to question my professionalism due to my lifestyle. In fact, it is not inappropriate to do so. Fortunately, most of those from whom I seek approval do not make the mistake of conflating professionalism with credibility.

That being said, it is now time that I grow up.

A “party boy” image as a young entrepreneur and investor was something I could afford to have in the past couple of years — and it was a persona I sometimes indulged in. But as I step into a role with far more responsibility than any I have ever had before, I must be more businesslike and accountable.

At the beginning of this year, I outlined for myself a plan to focus deeply on introspection, growing my self-awareness, and designing a future course of action. Despite the excessive self-indulgence that occasionally accompanied those reflections, I am entering 2018 with a far better sense of who I am than I had just twelve months ago.

With the lessons I have learned over the course of 2017, I have a personal plan for the next year that will test the limits of my discipline, willpower, and desire to succeed.

I am writing, and publishing this, for personal (and public) accountability. When I fall short, I want a clear reminder of the new standards I am holding myself to. I hope that those who care about me will challenge me when my behavior casts astray (and it will, at times.) My goals are broad, and are personally audacious. They don’t have a timeline (yet) but they are directionally clear and have no reason not to be fulfilled over the next year of my life. I will have to define these objectives much more clearly to be successful, but I am committed to meeting them.

If there is a will, there’s a way.

The goals:

Radical health improvement

· Improve diet

· Normalize sleep schedule (as much as my travel schedule allows)

· Party less

· Indulge less

· Exercise more (with a likely gym regimen)

· Get more cardio daily

Professional growth

· Press appearances must be work-focused

· Cultivate business relationships far more deeply

· Focus on broadening my network

· Improve follow-up communication

· Have clear work hours each day

· Dedicate more time to my philanthropic ventures and board responsibilities

· Write more blog posts and op-eds

Personal growth

· Meditate every day for at least fifteen minutes

· Write every day for at least fifteen minutes

· Read a book every day for at least a half hour

· Design a schedule and regimen that optimizes for overall success in life

· Spend more time in nature

· Upgrade the wardrobe

· Wind down superficial romantic relationships

· Mentor more young people

· Practice mindfulness, compassion, and gratitude constantly

· Develop a hobby

This is a list I will need to expand with details and broaden accordingly.

The past couple of years of my life have been extraordinarily comfortable and fun. Few people in their twenties have experiences like I have had, and I do not regret them for a moment. But it is time “to adult,” as Millenials like to say. This will be incredibly hard. Nobody is making me do this — and that makes such lofty goals all the more difficult. It will be quite easy to fall back on my old habits and lifestyle because there are no external consequences beyond my own personal failure. However, I have always seen failure as an extraordinary catalyst for success (upcoming blog post on this), so I hope any mishaps I have in meeting these goals only inspire me to succeed moving forward.

If you have made it this far, it probably means you have at least a small sense of investment in my personal development. If that is true, I would like to thank you. Expressing gratitude has never been a strong suit of mine, but know that I value your involvement in my life more than words can describe. With that being said: never hesitate to hold me accountable to my words and for my actions.

I am driven by a deep-seated desire to better the world. Yet many years ago I realized that if I did not have fun, no amount of impact I have could make me happy. In the past couple of years, I have felt perfectly in balance between these two desires. As I step forward into a new role that I hope will vastly improve our world, I recognize that having fun will need to take a backseat in my life as I acclimate and develop myself towards my new responsibilities. Perhaps this will precipitate some of the depression that overwhelmed me as a youth. I am OK with that. As blockchain technology becomes real (my driving objective for the past several years,) I am long overdue for personal struggle… and growth.



The Noonification banner

Subscribe to get your daily round-up of top tech stories!