By Alyssa Oursler
I was in Austin, Texas with my mom the moment I decided I “had” to quit my job. I was working in tech public relations at the time, for a company that had moved me out to San Francisco (per my request) just a few months earlier. I loved San Francisco but felt my workday was more or less sending a ridiculous number of emails—oftentimes to people (reporters) whose jobs I wished I had.
In Austin, in a conference session about turning your passion into a business, a million tiny ideas collided in my mind. My mom had long said I should start my own company and she left the session hoping I would feel inspired to do something of the sort down the line. She was a bit horrified when the first words out of my mouth after the session were: “I need to quit my job...like, yesterday.” I explained to her that I needed to just think of my writing as a small business, and began rambling about the marketing plan I’d just dreamt up.
by Alyssa Oursler
I met Mike Lewis (the creator of When to Jump) last fall at a coffeeshop in San Francisco. He asked me to watch his things while he went to spray paint a board—a board I would later learn was for an event he was putting on called "Jump Club." I had quit a desk job to be a freelance writer over a year before, so I connected immediately to the philosophy. But I was a sliver skeptical of the event (as most writers are of most things), worried it could end up feeling like a cheesy episode of Dr. Phil.
Of course, I went anyway and the first speaker, Kyle Battle, won over me (and the audience, I’m sure). His talk had spoken word poetry and sports—two of my favorite things. He told a story of being offered (and then un-offered) a job with the Detroit Lions. And it was confirmed: This wasn't going to be cliche. It wasn't some self-help bullshit.
For the last 8 months that I’ve been coding Accint, I’ve noticed that people are as interested in the story of how I came to create it as they are in the app itself. Now that I’ve reached the point where I can start scaling up and attracting users, the technology’s full genesis story can be told.
It started in January 2015, when I took my first coding class with Ricky Panzer, a coding wiz who graduated from Cornell in 2013. At the time I was working as an Editorial Fellow at The Atlantic. It was a yearlong Fellowship, and I was through 6 months of it and searching for a smooth transition for when it ended in June. After some soul searching over the Christmas holiday, I realized that there probably weren’t 5 jobs in the world I’d rather do than to write for The Atlantic, but this still wasn’t it.
I was always envious of people that could articulate their dreams. You know, the kids that had thoughtful answers for, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Regardless if it was a traditional dream (a doctor) or an unusual one (a graffiti artist), deep passion guided them through life’s decision tree.
Sadly, I lacked a guiding dream. My only teenage aspiration was making out with my secret crush, James Lovington*, at a Pearl Jam concert. When pushed to “think bigger,” I nervously told people that, of course, someday I’d be doing “dream stuff.” Perhaps I could land a job writing limericks about mosh pit makeouts?
In the fall of 2011, I was enrolled in my Master’s program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school for Communications & Journalism. During first semester, I met Professor Craig who made it very clear early on that it was about who you know, not what you know. Building relationships, networking and making it happen would get you the job and keep the job.
Post-graduation with my degree and an early start on looking for jobs, I was jobless. I was sitting in the Annenberg lobby applying to jobs during the summer when Professor Craig spotted me.
“Kiana, what are you doing in here?!” He asked.
I got jiggy at Burning Man in disco pants something crazy happened. And science backs it up.
Disclaimer: I make clothes, and my psychedelic activewear line for music festivals launched on Kickstarter last week.
Nick dressed some days like an art school graduate with hand-me-downs from older art school graduates, and on others, like a Canadian lumberjack rummaging through a Nantucket thrift store. He wasn’t fashionable or trendy, but he dressed like Nick. I wore a light blue Ralph Lauren Oxford over beige chinos and Sperry’s when I first met him. I kind of hated myself at the time.
When I was accepted into college and chose to follow the pre-med track, it seemed as though I had made it to what should have been the victory. I come from a single-parent, low-income home. I worked against the odds in order to become “successful.” Now I was going to be the first Ivy-league educated person in my family - and a doctor on top of that. I knew that the path to becoming an MD was brutally challenging but it was tried and tested and I convinced myself that it was for me. It was a noble profession that truly helped other people and it was something that would make my family proud. That was enough, right?
Thankfully, it didn’t take someone dying for me to re-evaluate my life. Being morbid and existentialist comes naturally to me and I am painfully aware how easy it is to die.
This means I’ve always believed in living a full life and that patience is not a virtue. We should be impulsive and make and take opportunities. Life is to be lived. It’s these principles which guided me into my London life as a high school teacher. The job was challenging and demanded versatility and there was always something new to be doing in London. I got long holidays and had the time and money I needed to go traveling once a year.
At twenty eight, Tio Stib was a dedicated social worker running a day camp for kids. Though his career was fulfilling in its charity, Tio realized that helping others wasn’t allowing him to fully pursue his passion. He decided to depart from social work to jump. He attended architecture school and was finally able to release his creative zeal through his career.
But then came the toughest jump of all.
It was shortly after New Year’s in 2015. My husband and I were walking through Prospect Park in Brooklyn headed to catch a matinee movie. While getting some oh so needed vitamin D on our 30-minute walk, I found myself feeling the itch to do something else in my career — something new, something way more exciting.
This was not the first time I knew what I was doing just wasn’t right for me, at least long-term. But how the heck was I going to figure out what to do next? My mind wandered to thinking about traveling. I felt drawn to the inspiration that comes from being in a place I’ve never been before; it opens me up to new possibilities, and lets me escape my everyday routine. It’s always been when I’m traveling that I contemplate or decide on next big steps in life.
When to Jump™ is a community dedicated to exploring the fundamental question we all think about: when is the right time to go do what you really want to be doing?