I was recently invited to a dinner at the swanky New York Athletic Club. The dinner was a celebration of Dartmouth's victory as the reigning national champions of sevens rugby -- a pretty phenomenal accomplishment for the early twenty-somethings from my tiny Ivy League alma mater who crushed the likes of the University of Arizona and Cal on a national stage. I was stoked to attend the dinner and meet some of the guys who had played on the winning team, and I even went so far as to put on a suit jacket to spruce up my scraggly beard and standard startup outfit of jeans and a button down.
However, upon arriving at the NYAC on Central Park South in Manhattan, the doorman informed me that I was not dressed properly. I was wearing a $500 custom-made suit jacket, and had two $2,000 laptops in my backpack, but unfortunately I was wearing $300 designer jeans. I was told I could either go home and change into suit pants, or go to the closest Gap and buy a pair of khakis. Instead, I walked out and came home to write this.
Because in my generation and every one that follows it, jeans kick the crap out of suit pants.
Suit pants are stuffy and awkward and inappropriate for us. They need to be pressed and cleaned and comforted and hung properly at night. You can't wipe sauce and bike grease and coffee drips onto your leg the same way you can with jeans. You can't roll up your left leg and pedal over to Brooklyn to check on the warehouse. Suit pants don't work in the twenty-first century -- what we need are jeans.
The world changes too fast.
Job security is no longer realistic.
Your track record is your energy and enthusiasm and ability to get your hands dirty.
Retirement is a joke.
Unemployment = opportunity.
FB (that's Facebook for the uninitiated) didn't exist a decade ago. The mobile web didn't exist five years ago. Social commerce didn't exist two years ago. Google Glass is going to revolutionize the way we interact with the world.
Age is irrelevant.
Flexibility, passion, and energy are everything.
The time you spend in "service" to a corporation DOESN'T matter -- I had a job on Wall Street for six months, and I was depressed waking up every morning. Working for managers who value you only as a contribution to the bottom line? Ingesting the poison of life shackled to a desk? Making money for money's sake alone? Getting fired? Wearing a tie and suit pants? NONE OF THIS MATTERS.
Getting shit done.
Being a part of an awesome team of people you love and respect.
Making an impact beyond the bottom line.
Waking up stoked to crush it in the morning.
Having fun while building something you care about.
Since Plated.com started to blow up (in a good way), I have been flooded with requests from college-age folks asking me about my "career" path. I graduated from Dartmouth, started a microfinance group in Java, returned to Harvard for grad school (MPA/MBA), served in the Marine Corps, worked on Wall Street and then took the startup plunge.
What lessons can be learned from my "career" thus far?
I think the only take-away is that a "career" is no longer an option.
Unless you plan to spend twenty years climbing the ranks of the Marine Corps, or Congress, or a school district, there is really no guaranteed path.
The most important thing is to be passionate and hungry and unwilling to give up even when old, smart, experienced people tell you "NO."
This world is too big, connected and exciting to spend your time locked in to a path that is at best predictably disappointing.
Come check us out at Plated.com -- we're hiring, and I can promise we won't turn you away for wearing jeans.
Follow Nick Taranto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NickTaranto