Monday, January 17, 2011

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! For boldness has genius, power and magic.”

That’s a German saying that a friend once said to me when I was in a rut. It’s something I try to keep in mind whenever I find myself doubting whether I can do something, or when I’m unhappy with what I’m currently doing.

Last week I finished three intense weeks of working three jobs: a full time SAT tutoring job, and two freelance jobs, one helping a Chinese guy named Sam Wu to edit his business school applications, and another helping the China Energy Storage Alliance prepare a paper on US, European and Japanese energy storage policies.

So the question right now is, what’s next?

I’ve been told that I’m welcome back at the Research Center for Sustainable Development. I’ve also been tentatively offered a full time research job at the China Energy Storage Alliance. Both would be decent options to get some more experience in my chosen field…

But the funny thing that I realized recently is: I’m tired of sitting at a desk doing research. Yes, you might be thinking “it’s only been a little over seven months since you graduated Daniel – two of which were spent working at a “summer camp” in France – and you’re already tired of sitting in front of a desk? Bad news…” The other thing I realized though is that sitting at a desk doing research is not going to get me where I want to go either. So where do I want to go?

Sure, I still want to work in clean energy, but I also want to be an entrepreneur: I want to run my own business, be my own boss, and build new innovations that will change the world. I also want to become fluent in Chinese (duh, that’s why I came here…), travel around China and Southeast Asia, meet some interesting people and have new experiences. I recently came across this quote that just about sums it up:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~ Mark Twain

Ironically, I came to China with the idea that I WAS NOT going to teach English. Everyone who comes here from the US and Europe comes to teach English, and I wanted to be different. But recently I began rethinking this. Teaching English, as well as some other subjects taught in English, are the highest paying jobs a recent graduate can find here by a long shot that don’t really require any specific skills or experience. Why shouldn’t I take advantage of my most marketable skill – being a native English speaker – to make some money, and spend that extra time and money I will save studying Chinese, having some fun experiences, and looking for new opportunities in the cleantech sector while I’m at it?

Another thing I realized about a year ago is that almost any clean energy business that’s worth starting requires at least a few million dollars in start-up capital. With relatively little business experience, there’s no way I’m going to attract that kind of capital right now. And being in a foreign country where energy is highly regulated and government connections are a necessity to start an energy business, this would be nearly impossible for me at this point.

However, one business I’ve thought about starting is importing Mongolian vodka to Beijing. Yes, Chinggis vodka, which I discovered during my trip to Mongolia, is not currently sold in Beijing. However, it has won international awards for its taste, and it won the five-vodka tasting contest I hosted at my friend’s apartment last month, easily beating name brands like Absolute and Sky. Considering the low selection of vodkas and the name recognition that Chinggis has begun to build within the foreign community here (I wasn’t the first to discover it on a visa trip to Mongolia), I think there might be a market for it. And I’m sure there are other opportunities out there as well.

So I started out with the idea that I was going to come here and find a clean energy job… and that somehow has evolved into teaching English and maybe starting my own business… You never know where life will take you, as long as you are willing to sail with the winds.

1 comment:

  1. Selling booze, huh? I always knew you were a good-for-nothing. I am, of course, kidding. I'm glad you're doing some reflecting on what you want in and letting your experiences shape that - you always were more flexible than me, and I admire that. I also think that working with people is your forte, and you'll certainly be able to do a lot of that while teaching English. Perhaps you'll find a way to exchange extra English lessons for Chinese practice with someone in the class?

    I miss you a lot, and I kinda wish you were coming back to Boston, but I'm happy knowing that you are out there pursuing what you really want in life. It takes guts. Keep setting the bar high for yourself, mmk?

    - Lisa G.