What Do I Want People To Know Me For?

This is is part of my live-learning series! I will be updating this post as I continue through my journey. I apologize for any grammatical errors or incoherent thoughts. This is a practice to help me share things that are valuable without falling apart from the pressure of perfection. 

It seems like such a narcissistic question to ask. 

Am I in control of this? Who am I to say what people know me for?

What I mean to work through with this question is: what do people gravitate towards me for? What do they send me messages about? Is that what I want to be contacted for? Am I capable of supporting them? If I take the time to respond, will it help me achieve the goals I hope to?

Right now, I don’t think there is much clarity on this. I don’t feel it internally, but from the outside, I can understand why it seems like I am all over the place.

LinkedIn Profile Description

Take my LinkedIn profile for example. It reads:

“Grateful to be solving problems in transcription & NLP at Speak Ai. Marketing | Research | Analytics | Data Visualization | Psychedelics”

In some ways, it feels coherent, in other ways, it’s like “what the fuck do you actually do Tyler”?

Mission(s)

Truthfully, I feel like I’ve failed on many missions to date:

I wanted to build software that anyone can use. Unfortunately, anyone is a lot of people. People have different needs. And generally, most don’t have the need for what you are building. Others may want it but aren’t willing to pay. You can’t sustain a business when you people won’t pay. 

I want to be able to create cool content. In some ways, I am achieving this. I’ve recently been playing around with word cloud visualizations of Reddit threads, Twitter users, hashtags, and other language data.

Here is an example of one using the Twitter hashtag #ExtremeCold and an image of the Toronto skyline:

I don’t know why, but this makes me happy. It’s allowing me to combine data, art and culture together with important conversations that are happening in real-time.

I’ve had some people close to me give me feedback that this isn’t worth something to pursue. In some ways, I am shrugging that off but these are also people that care about me and they are saying it to help me so it is worthwhile to think about.

Focus and Prioritization

With this, I guess as a leader of a company, I need to prioritize and focus on what matters most. I am currently generating these images outside of Speak, so in a way, it doesn’t serve our product and its growth in our current state. 

Is that wrong? It comes back to the main question I am asking in this post. What do I want to be known for? Of course, I am the co-founder of Speak Ai. But, I am also me: curious, a desire to create content and art, a passion for technology, and someone who follows inspiration constantly even if that means I may not be prioritizing the right things.

Conflicts Running A Company

That is hard to do when you are running a company. One that hopes to grow (as almost all companies do). One that has been talking to investors. The path of fundraising especially puts pressure on your time. If you take money from someone, you have a responsibility to help them achieve their goals. In ideal cases, your goals are aligned. Often you hear stories where they are not. 

I have found so much tension between who I am and what I am doing as a business owner. It’s not all bad. I’ve learned a lot. I can understand financial projections. I’ve hired people. I’ve learned how to sell, lead meetings, manage projects, access grants, improve products and countless other things.

However, it leads to a bit of a jack-of-all-trades situation. I feel insufficient at many of these tasks, unfortunately, don’t have the resources to hire and delegate well (seems like an excuse Tyler) and in some ways have strayed away from my original goals in order to sustain the business. 

Ideal Situation

A well-connected, intelligent person with good financial resources and messages me because they like the visualizations I am sharing. The company they are connected to has a large amount of organic traffic to their website each month as well as good followings on the social media platforms LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

They would like to be able to do the same thing on a regular basis. They know it’s a complex process worth a lot and they are looking for a partner to help them generate this unique, differentiated content. They ask how they can engage for the year. They provide us with the data they are looking to capture, analyze and visualize. There is a large volume that is being generated consistently. 

We work with them to generate custom branded visualizations, reports, and shareable media libraries. Those assets are shared on their website and social media channels. Their following loves them, engages with them, comments on social media posts and asks how they can also generate these types of assets.

A growth loop is created and we find an aligned group of people who value the assets we create with Speak and sign up for annual plans. We continue to productize these offerings until they become totally self-serve while retaining the value so people continue to pay and we can grow. 

Is this likely? I’m not sure. At this point, I’m in the middle of a writing rant with no clear direction. This is for me not you – you know that right? 😂

Jealousy

This is a difficult one. I believe the quote is “comparison is the thief of joy”. Lately, I’ve been wrapped up in this. I know that some of the people and companies I’m following don’t have perfect lives. But, when you’re struggling, it’s easy to think so. 

Recently, I’ve felt more jealously than I have in a while. It’s not all bad – it drives me. It helps me figure out what I want. It allows me to figure out what I’m doing wrong. 

In no apparent order, here are a few things that I am jealous about:

Friends In Warm Places

My friends who are in Tulum, Mexico or Costa Rica enjoying warm weather and connection with others.

Growing Companies

The company Hugging Face that is properly executing on a mission of democratizing technology, especially natural language processing. 

The company Symbl.ai who has raised $17 million for a system similar to what we are building at Speak Ai. They have a team of 60 and are continuing to grow and building a pretty all-encompassing technology stack with a focus on developers but no real specific industries or verticals. When I try to share that vision, we are told to niche down and that we won’t be successful.

My friends at Microdose who raised a $1 million seed round and have been able to grow their team to a wonderful group of friends who are spending time together, helping drive the psychedelic movement, and enjoying time in previously stated warm places creating memories.

Friends With Good Networks

People who have the networks to be able to raise money. Trying to fundraise has been a miserable process that has left me feeling frustrated, incapable, inadequate, unprepared, unsuccessful, helpless and stupid. At the core, I feel that people don’t believe in me. That hurts a lot. 

I moved to Toronto in 2020 to try and build the networks necessary. But, with the pandemic, a severe wrench was thrown into that plan. While I’ve been able to connect with people all over the world, I feel this mission has failed. Overall, I feel unsupported and that I don’t have the right people around me who believe in what I and we are doing and are willing to make an investment.

I’m terrified to even try to close a fundraising round because I think it may be $0. After everything I and a great group of people have worked to build, I honestly thought it would have been easier. I must have a blindspot. Some of that is being written about here but it’s bigger than that.

Purpose

Purpose is an important driver in people’s lives.

After a difficult time with my own mental health in my early twenties, I felt driven to contribute to helping people deal with the harsh realities of mental health in systems that are inadequate and lives that are inherently hard.

However, as I started to feel better, I found myself striving to move more towards creativity, fun, creation, and wellness. To supplement this, I realized just how complex healthcare and mental health is and that there are people with decades of experience and training who are much more prepared to make a positive impact.

Age

Age is always a factor. I am turning 30 this year.

Selfishly, I wanted to be a millionaire by 30. In so many ways, it’s an ironic joke. I thought if I started my own company I would accomplish that. However, it’s been the opposite. I spent years making almost no money learning how to create and run a business. My friends who went into decent-paying jobs invested, bought real estate, increased their pay and are most likely millionaires or at least closer than me. 

The end of the year of 2021 and the start of 2022 forces reflection. So too does turning 30. I feel like it has created some anxiety in me and forced me to question who do I want to be in my thirties now that my twenties are done. 

I’ve lost so many friends over trying to build a business. I’ve missed out on times to connect with family. I’ve missed out on opportunities to create memories. You do it because, in the end, you think it may be worth it but you realize those things are invaluable and you can never have them back. 

Indeciveness

One thing that has not helped me on this journey is being indecisive. I’ve pushed out dates, timelines, deadlines, yesses, no’s, maybe so’s and it’s continually led me to this path where I almost feel in a limbo state.

I’ve been perpetually stuck in fight or flight. It’s most likely led to me taking years off my life. It’s certainly taken a lot of enjoyment out of times I wish I had been capable of experiencing it.

No Audience

One of the things I wish I had invested in was building an audience (maybe a better word is community). Currently, I email around 650 people each month with an update and often I get nice responses. However, the people I’ve seen excel have built large communities through content, resources, and engagement. I’ve tried but frankly again have felt unsuccessful. 

Woe Is Me

This piece has turned out to be a really annoying, depressing one. Sometimes I feel that way. Many would say Tyler maybe you should just channel this into a private writing session but my sick mind doesn’t work that way. When I’m in pain I like to share. Today, I am in pain. 

What Do I Want My Identity To Be?

I think of the running joke in Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Mac is talking about his identity and how important that is to him. 

To help me work through this, I’m writing some words and phrases that come to mind when I ask who I want to be. 

Caring.

Honest.

Loving. 

Supportive.

Precise.

Articulate.

Good communicator. 

Talented.

High-earner.

Time is worth a lot.

House owner.

Good friend.

Good partner.

Good dog daddy.

Technically skilled.

Has vision.

Authentic.

Transparent.

Noble.

Artistic.

Spiritual.

Heartfelt. 

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