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Startup Weekend UC Irvine Didn’t Meet My Expectations

Which is a good thing.

My expectations were to be an oddball as one of the few non-technical attendees. Well there were a lot of non-technical, first-time attendees and I knew a few of them.¬†Although I didn’t have a lot of experience in market research, business concepts, tech, or entrepreneurship in general, the skills I had which I considered “not-so-useful” or “common,” like team coordination and focus were skills I realized that not everyone actually applies.

The expense of such a valuable experience was a mentally draining weekend consisting of coffee, pizza, pasta, bagels, and whatever else they served that I shouldn’t have eaten. I even unintentionally ate during my fasting period. I didn’t realize I was eating a bagel until I was halfway done with it. It was a high-stress weekend.

What I didn’t expect was to have my values even further engrained into me. I thought I already knew these things, but my first Startup Weekend made me see these values in a new light. In 54 hours, the lessons I thought I knew were refreshed and even more deeply engrained into my philosophy.1. You’ve got to initiate.

Most people won’t.¬†Putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation is not enough. You’ve got to make it more uncomfortable. You’ve got to push those limits. Otherwise you stunt your growth.

I walked into the room and received an applause. They clapped for each person that walked in. Great surprise. I found a seat near the front and sat down.

Then, I sat down some more.

It’s easy to do. You’ve probably done that before.

There were people standing in groups, speaking as if they already knew each other. My thoughts of being an underdog took over. I peeled my eyes off my phone and saw that there were a few other people sitting alone. There was one guy sitting three feet away from me staring intently at his phone. It took a while, but I managed to gather up the strength to just say “Hey, mind if I join you? It’s a little weird sitting alone.”

The truth is, sitting alone wasn’t weird at all. It was weird asking a stranger if I could sit with him. But by initiating the conversation, I was able to learn from his past experiences as as developer at Startup Weekend and I felt less nervous because I knew someone at the event.

The next time you put yourself out there, don’t say “Okay, I’m here and I’m uncomfortable. I’m growing.” You’re not growing until you push yourself to do more.

2. Confidence is key.

It was difficult deciding on a team to join and I ended up joining a team on a whim. Although I learned a lot and enjoyed my experience with my team, I realized that I joined it because I felt comfortable sticking with a friend I made. I initially had a team in mind that I wanted to join, but because my friend didn’t want to join, I decided not to join.

I wasn’t confident in my initial gut decision and I ended up working on a concept I wasn’t too excited about.

Lack of confidence also dictated my actions for a majority of the weekend. I wasn’t confident with my skills and background and I felt that I didn’t have a lot to contribute. I was hesitant to provide my thoughts and feedback. I only began to do more of that toward the end of the event.

It’s okay if your ideas are not implemented. Just get them out there.

3. Step down.

One of the strangest feelings was not being in charge. I was fine with it, but I was aware that it was an unfamiliar position for me to be in.

There will be situations where you shouldn’t be the leader because perhaps someone else has more experience or has more of the guiding voice in a project. In those cases, you’ve got to step down and respect that person and let them do their thing and lead.

Sometimes you’ve got to know when to step down and let others play to their strengths. Otherwise you might be the reason that a team doesn’t work at its best.

4. It’s not about the destination.

A few members of the group admittedly were not thrilled about the concept we were developing (myself included). We instead focused on the process of developing the concept.

II learned how to validate a market, conduct market research, and develop a business model to generate revenue. Those were things I had not put much thought into, but they’re crucial (especially market research). If I didn’t know about the people I wanted to help, how do I help them?

If you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, whether it be a job or a school project, remember that it’s a means to an end, not the end itself. Once it ends, you’ll have developed new skills and traits and be off to better things.

5. You are not the solution.

You are not the solution. You are a contributing factor to finding a solution.

If you want to serve people and improve lives, you don’t show up and say “I’m here and I’m going make your lives better.” You are not the be-all and end-all solution to their problems.

Instead, you go in with the mindset of “I’m here to help make your lives better.”

There has to be a shift in focus.

It’s not about you helping others. It’s just about helping others.

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