Coming in as a first-year to the University of Virginia, I made it a priority to focus on learning things that I otherwise would not be taught at school. On top of my list of skills to learn was learning how to cold email people--individuals I admire and look up to or just people I would like to get in touch with. I figured we live in such an interconnected world that literally anyone I might need to get in touch with is one email away.
Through using that, I got to spark conversations with people I admire, I landed a summer internship, got featured on Business Insider, and most recently--scored a book. Not just any book--it was one that was written by someone I hold in high regard: Alexis Ohanian. Apart from being a UVA alum, he stands for many issues that have defined my generation: Internet freedom, transparency in politics, and extremely cute mascots.
Just a few days after I had sent Alexis an email saying Hi, I got this in my mailbox. And I was thrilled. The book lived up to every expectation I had and went that extra mile that very few books do--to instill inspiration inside of me to dare to create something great. And as it turns out, I do not need anyone's permission to do it.
There are no drastically new ideas in Without Their Permission--instead the book serves as part reminder and part call-to-action to a generation that is in desperate need to hear them. The crux of the book revolves around the idea that, because the Internet is practically a meritocracy, anyone on it has an equal right to be awesome. That means pursuing something that teaches you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning. Unfortunately, I do not know many people who can say that about their careers.
Alexis himself is a byproduct of the idea he presents in the book. He started a website straight out of college that is now considered the "front page of the Internet" and is one of the world's most visited sites. After selling Reddit, Alexis moved on to start two other companies and was instrumental in defeating a bill that would have led to a significantly less-open Internet.
Alexis, among many others, is a tribute to the notion that resourcefulness counts more than resources do. It no longer matters whether or not you graduated from here or there--your product/service/organization speaks for itself and the masses decide whether it wins or not.
People often complains about not being satisfied with the status quo, yet do nothing to change it. These people no longer have the right to complain, because they now have the resource to do something about it. Alexis's journey in the startup world is just one example of one that succeeded despite harrowing odds.
In his words:
"the only advice I can give that I guarantee is true is that you'll never succeed unless you try. Just please start. You don't need anyone's permission--certainly not mine."