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Kitchen Side: Founders’ Career Backgrounds, Greatest Accomplishments, and Biggest Regrets

Kitchen Side: Our Founders’ Career Backgrounds, Greatest Accomplishments, and Biggest Regrets

What do lemonade stands, freelance writing, and Greek philosophy have to do with starting a business? The team connects the dots in this episode of the Kitchen Side podcast series. 

Kitchen Side is where we take you behind the scenes at our agency, Omniscient Digital.

Growth Content Marketer, Karissa, spearheads a discussion about the founders’ unique career backgrounds and how they landed in content marketing, biggest accomplishments, lessons learned, and the legacies they want to leave behind. They also explore how to bring big ideas to life and take risks that align with your professional calling.

Show Topics

  • Find your own way to creativity
  • Don’t rely on external validation
  • Build solutions for pressing problems
  • Take risks that align with your calling
  • Use work as a medium for personal growth
  • Make a positive mark on your community

Connect with Alex on LinkedIn or Twitter 

Connect with David on LinkedIn or Twitter 

Connect with Allie on LinkedIn or Twitter 

Connect with Karissa on LinkedIn or Twitter 

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Key Takeaways

07:51 – Trust your inner child

Alex talked about his early penchant for running small businesses and how that desire led him to where he is today.

“I was always the kid doing lemonade stands and built a t-shirt store when I was in middle school. Even when I was in a band in high school, I treated it like a business. So I’ve always loved this entrepreneurship thing. I think my grand vision and mission has always been to build businesses and build things. There’s been veering from that path. I’ve caught the shiny object syndrome or gone after the carrot in front of me instead of doing that sometimes. But I think that’s always been present. Even in the work that I’ve chosen through my various careers, like my jobs, I’ve always picked things that are relatively open-ended and are solving big problems with uncertain solutions. Writing has always been the throughline through this. It’s always something that I’ve maintained and data analysis. So, there have been patterns. I can’t say that I’ve been very strategic thinking about, ‘What’s my five-year plan?’ and, ‘Where do I want to go next?’ because every opportunity has come relatively serendipitously because I’ve been pretty open with regards to how I network and how I build opportunities for myself.”

19:25 – Bring big ideas to life

David talked about how a social experiment in college helped him see the impact of good marketing and the power of words.

“In my senior year of school is when I started breaking out of the science and break dancing community and more into the business community. I just thought that was fascinating. My favorite classes were always literature and literary journalism. Writing was something I was really fascinated and interested in. Because I learned that business is pretty much writing and communication, I got drawn to that. One of the more entrepreneurial things I did was, there was this Ted talk called, ‘Before I Die.’ You put up this public wall that says, ‘before I die’ and there are a bunch of lines where people get chalk and write what they want to do before they die. And I ended up rallying a bunch of friends together, we built this huge wall, we hoisted it up and it went viral on campus. We got news reporters coming to see it. And I was like, ‘This is cool. This is marketing.’ We somehow got some hype around this and I thought, ‘What’s another project I can do?’”

28:12 – Be okay with finding comfort

Alex talked about how his biggest regret is letting anxiety lead him from job to job rather than letting himself grow roots and find comfort in one place.

“Through my entire career I’ve been very anxious. I was always wanting more and the next thing, and I always felt like what I had wasn’t enough, or I wasn’t enough for that role. I wasn’t a career hopper. I didn’t do like six months, one-year stints. There’s people who really strategically do that because they want to go up as fast as they can. And I think what happens with those people is one of two things. One, probably more common, is they disappear and basically it wasn’t for them, and they were trying to build the scaffolding on something that actually didn’t exist for them. It was all purely status and anxiety-based. And then the other one is somebody gets to a point where they actually reach a place of dissatisfaction. They’re like, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ And then they find a place of comfort with where they’re at. I think that happens sometimes too, but I sometimes wonder, in those moments where I felt some sense of dissatisfaction, like I wasn’t growing enough, what if I had just pushed down and been okay with being comfortable and feeling safe?”

32:08 – Don’t rely on external validation

Allie talked about why her biggest regret is not seeking out the roles that she wants. Every opportunity that’s come her way was presented by a recruiter who validated her work from the outside.

“Every single job I’ve had, including this agency, I’ve been basically recruited or invited to join, which is very good for a personality like mine, because it’s basically validation. Sometimes I need that. But I haven’t really pursued something and just been like, ‘You should fucking hire me because I’m good at this XYZ or something just for the sake of it.’ And again, I’m only 27, so I have time to do stuff like that. But I think back to a lot of the hesitations and the things I sat on until I got this external sense of like, ‘Hey, you should come here.’ Like the HubSpot role — I found that role months before Jamie reached out to me and I was like, ‘I’m not good enough for this. I’m not going to be good enough until I’m 50.’ … It’s basically just building confidence, but I’ve always looked for that external validation.”

36:16 – Find euthymia in your life

David talked about his biggest regret of comparing himself to others and how the Greek word ‘euthymia’ opened up a new peaceful approach to his work and life.

“One thing I realized I did a lot when I was at HubSpot was I was looking left and right a lot around what other people are doing. And I started working with these people who went to Harvard and Dartmouth and Yale, and people who got MBAs. And I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m not as good as them. I didn’t go to Harvard.’ Or, ‘Maybe I should get my MBA.’ I even studied for the GRE. I took the GRE. I didn’t score super well, but I felt like I was spending so much time comparing, maybe using the wrong measuring stick. Where, now, I feel like I’m much more intentional with who I’m comparing myself to and I’m going in a direction I want to go. But there was this word that I fell on and I’m going to share, when I was super into philosophy, which is probably when I asked Alex if he believes in free will. There’s this word, I think a Greek word, called euthymia, and Seneca defines it as believing in yourself and trusting that you’re on the right path and not being in doubt by following the myriad of footpaths of those wandering in every direction. And the moment I read that, I was like, ‘Fuck, yep. I’m just going to trust that I’m on the right fucking path. I’m going to stop comparing myself to other people who probably don’t know what they’re doing either and just trust the process and have faith.’ And it sounds fluffy. But taking that approach has just made things much easier.”

41:17 – Take risks that align with your calling

Allie talked about how her proudest accomplishment is being able to follow her passion for writing and start her freelance business.

“Looking back, I think my proudest achievement was more of the decision to quit my job and start freelancing, because it was so out of character. At the time, I was 22, didn’t have a super expensive lifestyle. I didn’t have any student debt. I was pretty much doing my own thing. So it wasn’t really a big risk, but it went against every bone in my body to do that. I had a lot of pushback by pretty much everybody in my life. So, it was an achievement in that. It was just a big deal that I did that. And I don’t know why it hasn’t carried. I’m almost gone in the opposite direction, mentally. I need to find my 22-year-old self again, but I think it also changed the course of my career, hugely. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time. I just knew I didn’t like my job, and I just wanted to write and get paid for it. So, it wasn’t really an achievement in and of itself, but I felt like I achieved something by that risk and coloring outside the lines a little bit.”

42:31 – Know that it’s okay to be naive

David talked about the life and business lessons he learned from his coffee delivery service in college, and how naivete can be a useful tool when starting a new project.

“I think my doing the college apartment coffee delivery service was a big turning point for me for a couple reasons. I somehow strategized my quote ‘go-to-market’ by inviting the popular people I knew, who I knew would share it with their friends and get more people to order drinks. It got me comfortable with using spreadsheets and starting to do calculations and managing profit margins. It taught me that I can rally people together to work on this thing that I started. For some reason, people want to work with me on stuff. That gave me some level of confidence, not having much confidence growing up. It taught me I can do something without asking for permission where there’s no playbook built out. I haven’t thought about this in a while, but no one gave me a playbook and I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I kind of just jumped in and built the process as I went and got people involved and it was fun. I think now, I’ll just like reflect on it and be like, whenever I’m scared of something, just be like, ‘Of course you’re not going to know what the next step is, but just jump in.’”

44:51 – Use work as a medium for personal growth

David talked how creating a workplace for others to learn and develop and embody their best selves is the legacy he hopes to leave behind.

“Back in college, me and one of my best friends Justin…we started having this mantra of like, you gotta define your own success and live up to your own potential. And I still think about that a lot — the idea of living up to your potential — and maybe that’s why I always feel like there’s more to do because I want to feel like I’m never at that. I think there’s more room to grow. Something I’ve evolved over time to want is this idea of helping others use work as a medium for personal growth. I think of it because I think through work, I was able to learn a lot about myself and how I think and develop my intellectual curiosities. I’d love to help someone who is interested in those things use our mission as a training grounds to develop, and become much smarter than they thought they could be, and work on projects that they never thought they’d be able to work on, and like make a living out of doing that and have fun doing it. If we, work, can build out a business that lets people join our universe and have fun and grow as a person while making money, I’d be really happy if I was on my deathbed.”

46:47 – Make a positive mark on your community

Alex talked about how by focusing on the people closest to him, he can leave a lasting positive impact on the world by making their lives better.

“In the near term, the mission really is to build and facilitate connection and a great life for my tribe, community, family, people in my close vicinity and make their lives better and hopefully make some positive mark on the world. I think I can do that through business. So, I think that’s a great vehicle. And David, I loved your response on giving people also the tools and the vehicle for personal growth through work. So, I think that’s actually a great legacy, but I look at it on individual touchpoints. I don’t have a grand legacy of getting us to [colonize] Mars or something like that. It’s more so like, ‘Who are the people in my life that I care about?’ And like, ‘What are the issues that I care about and how can I make my small mark in a positive direction on those things?’ So controlling what I have the power to control.”

47:47 – Create a life full of choice

Allie talked about her goal of creating a career that supports the lifestyle she wants to live and how having the freedom to choose how you live your life is the ultimate achievement.

“In my small circle, I definitely want to create a life where I can be present for my family. You know, as a woman, it’s definitely a different trajectory that you’re just subject to. I don’t know what the future holds for me in that respect, but I do love how much my mom was present because of the career that she built for herself. So, in my small realm, I would love to have that same presence because I don’t think I’ll ever stop working, just cause I love this stuff so much, but I don’t want it to have to be a choice. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of person that needs a stage. I don’t always love being the center of attention or needing people to hear my voice, but I’ve always wanted to be an author. I have a couple rough drafts for novels on my computer, things that I don’t have the courage yet to pursue, but I would love to make an impact through that. So, I hope one day I can have the time and the space to splinter off a different kind of career in that respect. The different ways I want to impact people is TBD. I have a couple of things I’d love to help amplify, issues and things like that. But, mostly what I think about is just creating a lifestyle where there’s a lot of choice for me.”

Connect with Omniscient Digital on social:

Twitter: @beomniscient

Linkedin: Be Omniscient

Listen to more episodes of The Long Game podcast here:

Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.