Age 16 – 17
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I, I chose the path less taken, and that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost.
At the start of grade nine, I vowed to myself to not just be an academic. I knew that to be somebody in this world, one needed ALL the best attributes: speaking, charm, intelligence, athletics, sensitivity, etc. I wanted to be a leader, and I wanted to be a businessman. I remember asking my volleyball coach how it is I can be a leader. I was told, like any good coach would say, to practice.
And practice I did! Whenever possible, I tried to be the captain of the lunch-hour basketball games. I went to every leadership camp offered to students my age. Perhaps the biggest of my undertakings was to get together with Andrew and another one of my best friends, Bryan Chou, to start a company to be called IYA International Enterprises.
IYA stands for ‘If You’re Away’. No, we weren’t in the business of stealing from empty houses… we were in the business of taking care of them – watering plants, mowing lawns, etc. Difference being… we wanted to be managers! We hired our friends to do the work while we found the work for them to do. A great business we thought! At least for about 3 weeks. That business went down the drain faster than… well, things that usually go down the drain.
That’s ok though. Like I said, we took everything as practice. We kept the IYA name and the $30 profit we made during that time and continued to try new things. We forced ourselves to have 7:00a.m. meetings on Sunday mornings to discuss business ideas, research potential possibilities within the neighbourhood, and bring them to fruition. We sold squishy jelly candles, unintentionally swindled kids at the chinese school with a lottery “learning program”, and attempted to make a new species of hamburgers with buns made entirely of rice. With the exception of the candle business (because I got the candles for free) the other ideas, amongst many more, all joined the original IYA business down the drain. However, we persisted, and a few things, like Jack’s magic beans, happened to land in fertile soil and grow larger than we ever could have imagined.
One day when Andrew needed a passport photo taken (and forgot to tell us) we interrupted our business meeting and went with him to the photo place. There was a vending machine just sitting outside. Bryan and I went up to it, looked inside, and got the best thing I’ve ever gotten from a vending machine. The vending machine’s owner’s phone number. We called up Mr. Bob Scott and asked him if we could purchase a vending machine from him. The result was a bulk candy machine selling six different candies, which still stands today after 5 years.
Concurrent with these developements, us three IYA executives had a dream. We wanted to backpack throughout Japan. We calculated the costs (which were exorbitant) and we found a way. We started making textbooks for this English immersion school in Taiwan. Random you say? Quite so! But not entirely out of luck. The girl I liked at the time, her mom owns the school, and had asked her to do some work for her. I kindly helped her out and got paid for doing it! One thing led to another, and before we knew it, IYA became a textbook creating company, specializing in Kindergarten science and mathmatics. With these funds, we travelled 18 days throughout Japan, having the best times of our lives.
I found that being a leader involves so much more than just knowing where to go. It involves emotions, and it does not exist just in the realm of business. I also learned much about leadership from that girl I liked, whom I ended up dating (yay first girlfriend!). It exists in all realms of life and during this time of my life I definately breathed it like air.
Previous: Read “Age 14-15: Bigger Ponds”
Next: Read “Age 18-19: I-Day”