If You Listen to Nothing Else at College, Listen to This.

"I wasn’t sure what I was going to do to move forward, but I knew I didn’t want things to stay the same."

 

As my time as an intern for the Entrepreneurship Institute comes to a close, I’d like to leave one last mark on the UVU world by sharing a motto of mine: 

Do things that scare you.

I can’t remember where I heard this or if it was just an inspirational quote I ran across on the internet, but a few years ago I encountered this phrase and wrote it down. For the first 23 years of my life, I played it safe and did non-intimidating things. I was discontent with my life. I felt stuck. I felt as if I was going nowhere… probably because I wasn’t. The fact is to grow, you have to do things outside your comfort zone. If you only do safe, familiar things you will stay the same and your life will stay the same. You will be merely keeping the status quo instead of moving forward. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do to move forward, but I knew I didn’t want things to stay the same.

 

Scary Thing #1: Moving to a New State

At the time I was 23 and had been a competitive Irish Step Dancer for 11 years. I was in prizewinner but hadn’t made it to the championship stage. In this sport, 23 is old and Irish Dance is hard on the joints. As you get older you tend to lose the “oomph” that catches the judges’ eyes. I decided to move to Utah to train with my coach for a year and compete at Oireachtas (the western regional competition). Moving to a city where the only person I knew was my dance coach was frightening. If I’m being honest, this first scary thing was the hardest of them all. I was so depressed the first month that I drove home (a 4-5 hours drive) every single weekend. As time passed, it got easier and I made it through my first scary thing!

 

Scary Thing #2: Starting College

To be honest, when I first moved to Utah, going to college wasn’t on my radar, but after Oireachtas, I retired as a competitive Irish Step Dancer and thought “now what.” Well, I had residency in Utah now, so there I was at 25 applying to UVU all the while thinking “It’s been 7 years since high school, so maybe it’s too late for me. Maybe I’m not smart enough. Will this be worth it?” and about a million other things. It was scary, but I did it. I wasn’t sure how I would support myself and pay for school… but I knew if I could move to a new state not knowing a single soul, I could handle just about anything. 

 

Scary Thing #3: Applying to the Honors Program

After my first few semesters, I received an email with information about the honors program at UVU. I thought “this is scary, but what’s the harm in applying?” If I don’t apply, the answer is an automatic no. If I do apply, I have a chance at making the most of my college experience. I applied and was SHOCKED, like literally SHOCKED at being accepted. As it turned out, the honors program was scary. There I was surrounded by kids 8 years younger than myself, attending classes on campus for the first time, and juggling an extra 3-6 credits of coursework. But oh was it worth it! As an honors student, I got priority registration, which allowed me to get into the classes I needed to work full time to pay rent and bills. I also enjoyed lots of unique experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise.

 

Scary Thing #4: Changing my Major

I started at UVU as a dance major, which made sense for me. I mean, the whole reason I moved to Utah was for dance. However, after one month in the dance program it was clear to me I was in the wrong department. I knew I wanted to change majors but wasn’t sure what to study. I was terrified. The safe thing to do would be to stay in the same major, but I was so unhappy there and it had only been a month. I couldn’t imagine that being the next four years of my life. I had a few other interests so I started taking general education classes around those interests. When none of those panned out I took an entrepreneurship class and fell in love immediately. I knew I was in the right place. I changed my major and realized I was enjoying almost every single class I took! 

 

Scary Thing #5: The Wolverine Fund

I have the Honors Program to thank for this scary thing. While sitting in colloquium one day, a student came in and shared with the class about a new program at UVU called the Wolverine Fund, a student-run Venture Capital fund, where students invest and manage real money. As an entrepreneur major, I wanted to know how investors thought. I wanted to know how they looked at and valued businesses. I didn’t want to be one of those entrepreneurs who went into dealings with investors blindly. I took the Venture Capital Skills class and it was a snowball from there. Before long I was headfirst into the world of investing. I was accepted to the program and even voted by the fund members to be one of 5 to represent UVU at VCIC. Walking into the class that first day was scary. Every single presentation was scary. VCIC was terrifying. It was so stressful, and so much work, that at times I wanted to quit. But I kept going, trying, and learning. And because of the Wolverine Fund, I had the opportunity for an internship.

 

Scary Thing #6: Day One of my First Internship

I hadn’t been on the fund for more than two weeks before I received an email telling me about an internship I should apply for. Working for an investor… scary! I was already working full time and taking summer classes. Did I want to take an internship too? To top it all off, the Wolverine Fund was operating during the summer for no school credit. We were all hardworking overachievers. ;P I remember the call with my mom where she advised me not to do it. She didn’t want me to take on too much and get burnt out, something I tend to do. I went back to my motto… “do things that scare me.” This is scary. My first internship. A paid internship. Where I’m not just an entry-level nobody employee. Where I can learn and grow from the best. How could I not do it? I remember being so sick to my stomach the night before my first day. I was terrified. But because I took a deep breath and walked through those doors I now have a full-time job with them lined up for when I graduate. 

 

Scary Thing #7: Quitting my Reliable Job

After that first internship, I realized there were more out there. I wanted to learn real skills to further my career instead of working my reliable job that would never take me anywhere. I applied and was selected for the internship position at the Entrepreneurship Institute. I was still scared for the interview and my first day, but it wasn’t as scary because I had just gone through the process and felt a little more confident. I was quickly burnt out. Full-time school (often 15-18 credits), two internships that equaled 20-30 hours a week, and on top of that I still had my reliable job where I worked 30 hours a week. I had a hard talk with myself. I made pro and con lists. I talked to my parents and friends to get their advice. In the end, I did the scary thing and quit my reliable job which came with a 401k and health benefits. While my two internships didn’t have health benefits, it did allow me to gain valuable career experience and pushed me even further than I would have gone before. It was scary, but it was worth it.

 

Scary Thing #8: Pitching my Business

Part of me feels like you can’t be an intern at the Entrepreneurship Institute without starting a business, or at least looking into a side hustle. I was around some of the best mentors and business professionals and found it so inspiring! Seeing how encouraging everyone was of student entrepreneurs allowed me to think “ok that looks scary, but I could do that.” I did a couple of business pitches at UVU before going on to compete at RevRoad’s Entrepreneur Competition and present at WeROC this fall. It doesn’t matter how often I practice or present, before every pitch I am scared and nervous. Some, even the point that I want to just leave. I mean I signed up for this… why do I keep signing up for this? They are amazing networking opportunities and great ways to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs. 

 

Along the way, I did other scary things that weren’t related to my career, such as learn a new dance style, join a competition school for a year and perform in Vegas in front of hundreds of people, and blog about my personal life on my college platform. I’m going to share with you my secret to doing scary things: 

Don’t overthink, just do. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn't think at all. Thinking things through, considering all factors, and making plans are still good. For example, I didn’t just up and quit my reliable job on a whim. First, I made a budget, determined if my part-time jobs could pay my bills, sought advice from family and friends, made pro/con lists, and prayed about my future. This thinking and planning were necessary, however, once I had made a decision I stopped thinking and started taking action. Any time I would get scared and downward spiral into scary thoughts I would push them aside and perform an action. When I moved to Utah I would get scared thinking about it. So I would redirect my thoughts and just go through the motions of finding a new apartment, packing a box, and selling things I didn’t need. I kept performing one action at a time until I had moved, quit my job, started a new one, or was on a stage pitching my business.

Every single thing I did moved me forward in my career to bring me where I’m at today: working a job I love. If I hadn’t moved to Utah, I may not have gone to college. If I hadn’t gone to college, I wouldn’t have discovered a love of entrepreneurship and business. If I hadn’t discovered entrepreneurship, I wouldn’t have been interested in Venture Capital or joined the Wolverine Fund. If I hadn’t joined the Wolverine Fund I wouldn’t have gotten my internship. If I hadn’t gotten my internship I wouldn’t have quit my stressful, dead-end job. If I hadn’t quit that job, I wouldn’t have had time to start my own business. If I hadn’t started my own business I wouldn’t have practiced business pitches and public speaking, something I now consider a professional strength of mine.

Seven years ago I was a hairdresser who was also working in a call center to pay bills. I dreaded going to bed every night because it meant I had to get up and go to work in the morning. Because I started consistently doing things that scared me, I now have a job I love, and a life that makes me feel excited to wake up every morning.

 

If there’s one piece of advice this soon-to-be college graduate wants to leave it’s this:

 adventure