Everyone has a desire, a dream, or an aspiration to do something new or different than what they are currently doing. Sometimes it takes in the form of a new job or starting a new company. The hardest part for many people is having the courage to start and begin a new journey.
As a child, I had always wanted to run my own business. At first, I thought I was going to run an architectural firm. I discovered that I liked drawing and being creative. I loved the idea that I could conceptualize an idea for a place and create something that I could pass by every day, knowing that I somehow contributed to the experiences inside these spaces.
My father started his business when he retired, and many of my relatives were entrepreneurial, selling products at markets and shops. I knew I had an entrepreneurial gene that I could use growing up. As a child, I thought that to run a company, I needed many years of experience to get started. So naturally, I was trading time to build skills. Without realizing it, I was building entrepreneurship skills all this time.
Most of my career was spent in and out of contract positions. I could never seem to land a full-time job, and I took whatever short-term roles I could get. Partially to survive and pay my bills, but the other, which I didn’t realize at the time, was the opportunity to develop new skills and experiences. Usually, my to-be employers were desperately late trying to find candidates to fill a role that they needed yesterday, and I would come across as a great catch. They will be looking for someone who is highly educated – a computer science degree. Check. Immediately available – not working at the time. Check. And highly driven to deliver – cause-the-project-is-falling-way-behind-schedule-and-I-am-not-sure-if-we-can-pull-it-off.
I would come in and work hard to get the project completed and exceed expectations. Suddenly, I find myself in a new industry learning the ropes of the business. I’ve worked in insurance, banking, travel, retail, sporting, education, international relations, community development, events, and so many more. I’ve probably worked with over 20 companies. I always took pride in doing my job really well because if I were to be honest, I was secretly hoping that the company would love me so much that they would find a way to hire me long term. But they all ended up looking like a one night stand. They get what they want and say, see ya.
Interestingly, I didn’t know that I was developing a entrepreneurial skills by doing all of that. I was learning how to sell myself to attract new people and job opportunities despite no industry experience. I’d wear many hats managing multiple projects and responsibilities at a time. I hadn’t realized that I was playing the life of an entrepreneur all my life. I had the tools in my back pocket all along. I only require an idea to get started.
There are no shortages of problems in this world, which is why it is fascinating to be a human being. Nothing is ever solved and done in our society; we are continually evolving. I must admit that I grew up without a cellphone when I was a kid. (Yes, I’m a lot older than you think.) I remember the first time when I saw a cellphone. My sister was a flight attendant for a Canadian airline, and on-call employees were allowed to carry a cellphone on their day off just in case they need to work. It was a massive portable phone, bigger than the landline phone. I never knew that that big portable phone will later become the start of my business and entrepreneurship. Cell phones evolved, and one idea took it to another. Suddenly we started to own smartphones, and now our smartphones have become more than just a phone but our wallets, our mp3 players, and an essential for someone who has hearing loss.
The minute you are passionate about addressing a problem and think that you have what it takes to be part of the solution to that problem, you are ready to be an entrepreneur or an employee of a company. I don’t want to make any statement that everyone should run a business, but I want you to understand that passion and skills are enough for you to get started in any endeavor you want to do.
A lot of us with hearing loss are holding ourselves back. We try to make an assumption that we aren’t being realistic. A lot of people may think that it is not realistic to be a deaf pilot. How does one communicate with the air traffic controller? Or is it not practical to be a hard of hearing nurse? How does one be responsible for a sick patient that can only speak softly? Or it’s not realistic to be a deaf police officer. How do you respond when the criminal may be close by?
Many people will tell you that it is not realistic, but many people are pilots, nurses, and police officers and have hearing loss. The issue is that there aren’t enough of them because biases and beliefs are stopping many people from even getting started and trying. What you have, your skills and passion are needed somewhere, and you can’t let the belief of others tell you that you can’t do it. Many people try to stop you out of fear. They worry you’ll be upset if it won’t work out. You have the right to share your passion and skills with the world. That’s your purpose in life.
The hearing loss community need to use biases to our advantage. We have to learn how to be bold in challenging other people’s perceptions. We often think it’s their job to know the difference. Those who don’t understand our capabilities have blocked themselves from seeing anything otherwise. It’s their loss. Some people are stubborn in believing that their route is the only route to take only because it worked for them. It is hard to challenge those beliefs, but there’s a way, and that is through you. You need to be a shining example that makes them see something new and different. It is no longer exciting for the expected to do the expected but for the unexpected to do the expected. Suddenly, we have something interesting to look forward to.
Another thing that you have to your advantage is that you already, by default, are underestimated by what you can and can’t do. This means that you have the opportunity to start working in a career and a job that works best for you, and you will excel. You naturally find ways where you can do well. You don’t have to follow the tried and true path that others expect to follow and exceed.
I am not saying that starting and continuing any new endeavor is going to be easy. When you start something that you have never done before, it’s hard work. But the formula and the path everyone says you should follow never works for us. It’s one of the biggest lessons you have to learn running a business or starting an exciting career. We just can’t take the formula that others have done and repeat it and achieve the same or better results. It never works. The roadblocks keep appearing over and over again, and it can wear you down. Look for opportunities that fit with you. I’d love to share a few with you in future Founder Series posts. There’s a possibility, a niche way of doing things that you can use for your advantage.
October is National Disability Employment Month. We often leave the month the way it started, and nothing takes shape. Deaf and hard of hearing people continue to be unemployed and underemployed. By reading this blog, I hope you can see opportunities for yourself and start something meaningful today. Start looking at that job you wished you had but thought you didn’t belong. Start looking at the business idea that you had but keep postponing until you are ready. Realize that the skills that you need are already here. Your passion and desire is just a clue to get started.
If you started your business or a new career, comment below what push you to start?
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