If I knew that being my true authentic self would've brought me the happiness and success that I have today, I would've done it a long time ago. But I simply didn't know any better. All I wanted to do was fit in and be a part of the cool crowd. And as a teenage entrepreneur at 19 years old, I now know that the popularity never really mattered. What mattered was that I experienced it. I understand now that failures are just there to help you enjoy the process and if you never fail, you'll never win.
As a teenager, I've experienced some difficult times in my life with the bullying throughout high school and the loneliness during my first semester of college. No one knew it at the time, but I wasn't myself. During my first year of college, I was lonely being 500 miles away from home. It also didn't help that, at the time, I was beginning to develop an acrimonious relationship with my roommate. We didn't talk much, but when we did, we talked about the weather. I didn't know it at the time, but this little note would be the thing that changed my life.
As the seasons began to change, I started to look for a weather app that told me what to wear, but I couldn't find one. With the school year ending, I decided to tackle this as a project. At the time, I needed someone to help me create this app, so I reached out to 102 professors from prestigious universities across the country and overseas. Most responded, but not with the detailed instructions that I expected. Instead, they all told me that it couldn't be done. Many reasoned that there was no way that an eighteen year old with no background in computer science could develop an iPhone application (especially in the time that I was trying to do it in). The most memorable response was one simply stating in an subject-less email, "Impossible dream".
It was time to give up. At this point, I had invested over a month towards communicating with professors, engineers, and app developers. There was no sense to continue.
But then again, I thought about all the times that people told me that I couldn't do something. I thought about how the popular kids in high school told me that I couldn't sit at their lunch table. I thought about all the girls in high school who said I'd never find a date to prom.
I had enough.
I got up, went to Barnes & Noble, and bought every book they had for iOS development. When I got back home, I watched an entire online Stanford course on iPhone development sans sleeps. In 3 days, I taught myself computer science. And in the next week, I created my app.
What I learned from all this was that there is always going to be someone in the world who tells you that you can't do something or that you're subordinate. But the real secret to life is defying these notions every time. Will Smith once said in The Pursuit of Happyness, "You got a dream... You gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want something, go get it. Period." This has become my religion.
So, am I a teenage millionaire? No, not quite. But I do feel like my life has prepared me for this moment in time. This was no accident. Nothing in life is. Everything happens the way it should. I've always loved technology (creating my first website when I was just six years old), but I never realized that this was what I was destined to do. I was always blinded by the opportunities that got the most likes on my Facebook feed or what people defined was the best path. I never really looked towards myself to identify with my own passions in finding my own inspirations. But as I look to the stories of my biggest influencers (Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg), there seemed to be a moment in their respective lives where they broke away from the body politic that tried to stop them from dreaming. I know that I still have a lot of growing to do in what I hope is a long career in this industry. But I now understand that it will be in the belief that my wildest dreams can come true. And so can yours. We are in control of our own lives. Believe in yourself and impossible things can happen. You've always had the power. I know I did.
Tywan's new app, Shortly, is available for download today on the Apple App Store. It has been downloaded in over 35 countries and represented in a thousand cities worldwide.