When I was a kid, I always imagined my future as a certain genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. But kid me didn’t worry too much about making any of that happen because it was something that future me would handle. Now, I realize that these are the days when we become the kind of person we’re going to be for the next stage of our lives. I felt like I wasn’t getting out of campus enough. I knew I wanted to start a company, but I didn’t know what venture capital was or what the startup landscape looked like. For 2016, I wanted to really push for change. I decided I wanted to put myself out there and meet as many people and expose myself to as many opportunities as possible.
I switched to the “free food” diet, where I would get most of my meals from networking events with free food (a well-balanced diet if you know where to look). I used the money that I saved to travel and pursue my goal of getting myself out there.
Within the past year, I flew to North Carolina on a propeller plane for a Phi Kappa Sigma conference and spent a week getting to know my fraternity brothers from other colleges across the country.
Within the past year, I entered the startup accelerator StartMIT with my roommate. I got to have lunch with famous people without knowing they were famous, like Robert Metcalfe, who co-invented Ethernet and formulated Metcalfe’s Law. Our idea ended up failing, but it was still my first real foray into entrepreneurship.
Within the past year, I started going out to more events. First the Harvard Career Fair, then the MIT Virtual Reality Conference, then the Artificial Intelligence Conference, then smaller panels, talks and hackathons. Then TechCrunch Disrupt, the Intercollegiate Pitch Off, Next Gen Summit, TEDxBeaconStreet, and the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. Some I snuck into because I couldn’t afford $2,000 tickets, some I got a press badge for, and some I got invited to. I had no idea any of these existed last year.
Within the past year, I joined the MIT $100K Competition as an organizer. Together, we grew the competition to provide more startups with the capital and mentorship they need to succeed and focused on getting the entire MIT community involved. At our grand finale in May, our CFO Sang-Hyuk Kwon snapped this amazing photo.
Within the past year, I got to go to both MIT’s Yule Ball and Wellesley’s Yule Ball without knowing why they were called Yule Balls. Why are they called Yule Balls? (kidding, I know why)
Within the past year, StartMIT took a group of us MIT student entrepreneurs to San Francisco during spring break. It was my first time on the West Coast. We also went to Silicon Valley and visited Facebook, Andreesen Horowitz, Sand Hill Road, and more.
Within the past year, I demoed the Makey Makey on stage in front of hundreds of kids during Super Science Saturday. I forgot the USB cable to plug the device into the computer. It was extremely embarrassing, but I didn’t break my composure and the kids still enjoyed the presentation.
Within the past year, my friends and I snuck into a Steve Aoki concert, and I high-fived Steve Aoki after he threw a birthday cake at my face. I’ve been going to concerts nonstop since. We saw Lady Gaga and Lenny Kravitz live at the DNC after a governor in a hotel lobby gave us tickets to the show. We also saw Jason Derulo perform at the Forbes Under 30 Summit.
Within the past year, my second little brother graduated middle school and my littlest brother graduated elementary school.
Within the past year, my brothers and I traveled to Costa Rica as a vacation and to be with our grandparents. While there, we visited Ad Astra Rocket Company, started by Costa Rican and MIT alum Franklin Chang-Diaz. He was one of my inspirations for wanting to go to MIT.
Within the past year, two of my friends and I traveled to Philly to give a talk to a high school entrepreneurship program called Endevvr about crowdfunding. We met one of the organizers at the Next Gen Summit and he loved our crowdfunding campaign where we raised money to feed the homeless the week before Thanksgiving.
Within the past year, I volunteered for a freshman pre-orientation program to acquaint the incoming MIT freshmen with entrepreneurship resources. I shared with them everything that I learned so far.
Within the past year, I celebrated my 21st birthday with birthday parties in four different states. Friday in Philly, Monday in New York, Tuesday in New Jersey, and Friday again in Boston.
Within the past year, my family got a pug (my first dog!). He thinks I’m a stranger who only comes during the holidays. When I visit, he protects my family from me. He wears a coat when it’s cold.
Within the past year, my friends and I have started hosting our own entrepreneurship events around Boston. We’ve thrown dinners, networking events, and even conference after-parties to bring people together for good conversations
Within the past year, we gained 14 awesome new brothers for our fraternity. I’ve had a blast having them around and I wish I could stay longer.
Within the past year, I’ve met so many new friends.
A lot of ups, but…
Within the past year, I switched my major from electrical engineering and computer science to just computer science to management back to computer science then back to management. I filled out and signed the transfer papers each time.
Within the past year, it got a lot harder to balance class work with being out there doing these kinds of projects. But I continue persevering. I’ve never got a grade as high as a B during MIT. But after studying for the whole week, I finally got my first B on an MIT final.
Within the past year, I was rejected from my dream job and now must rethink what I want to do after graduating. But I have some of the best mentors to guide me, like professors from the Media Lab, MIT alumni who have started their own companies, and the staff in the Course 15 department.
2016 flew by, but when you break it down month by month, it really stretches out the year. I took a trip down memory lane and reflected on what I’ve done. Suddenly it feels like 2016 was a lifetime. Not everything went my way. I did have a lot of hardships in both the school of MIT and the school of life. But I never stopped moving forward. That’s how winning is done (paraphrasing Rocky).
I’d like to leave you with my new favorite quote and mantra for 2017.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt
All right, that’s enough of this year. Time for another one.