Written by our tremendously awesome work experience chap, John Strentz:
After experiencing a week at a prestigious multinational advertising firm last year, I decided that I needed to try the flipside. While I’ve always excelled at school and appeared to be on the trajectory of finding success down traditional employment paths, recently I’ve found this prospect growingly uninteresting, unchallenging and underwhelming. A few weeks ago, I suddenly realized that instead of hunting for ever more glossy corporate PR statements that offer me short term comfort in traditional career prospects, I should try to experience something completely radical and innovative. A coworking space.
Over the last few years I’ve been teaching myself web development and digital design. I’ve also been self-educating myself on entrepreneurship and business. Along with these subjects comes something that cannot be taught, it’s something that taps deep into your hard wiring and something that you have to choose to connect with, it’s a philosophy. The philosophy of technology and startups. A philosophy based on freedom, hard work and collaboration. This philosophy is something that has grown on me more and more and the ideas and values that this philosophy has spawned inside of me where first validated during my experience at Electron Workshop.
My name is John Strentz and the week I spent at Electron Workshop was probably the most life affirming thing that I’ve ever done. I now know that the people I’ve dreamed of working with are actually real, the environment I require to reach my full potential exists and the ideals and values I hold closest are not only shared and rational, but being lived out by real people every day. During my week I completed research for events and projects being run by the Workshop, met and spoke with awesome people (literally, awe inducing people) and got to tag along to super cool meetings and events. Before I went in the door on the Monday, I already knew I was going to have an incredible time, yet even with these already high expectations, Electron Workshop managed to surprise me, it was so much better than what I thought was possible.
The first thing that surprised me was the generosity and integrity of the people I met. Depictions of entrepreneurs as egocentric and self-centered are the norm and I’ve always found this to be the part of startup culture that most troubles me, so I was really happy when I found that the people I met at the Workshop where not really like this at all. While coworking carries a liberal vibe and individual freedom is a core value, personal integrity and sharing is just as important. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that generosity and integrity are core values of coworkers, many people who have opted to join a coworking environment have left or are avoiding “corporate culture” where people have a second agenda and organizational politics are at play. Because the people in a coworking environment have nothing to gain from hurting or manipulating each other, but everything to gain from creating a collaborative and friendly workplace, relationships are organic, honest and real, never forced.
Early on during the week, I was advised that one of the best questions I could ask when talking to people is, “what is success?” I immediately asked this question to the person who had offered me that advice. The reply I got was pure gold. “Success is finding a balance between intrinsic desires and extrinsic demands.” This comfortable balance is something that each individual must find for themselves. Some of us are more driven by our greater visions and other individualistic motivations, while some of us play the popularity contest and live life based on advice from others. Wherever you decide you can comfortably sit on the scale ranging from “fully intrinsic” to “fully extrinsic” is a legitimate place. The most important part is understanding that the battle of finding this place is a lifelong battle, a battle that is dynamic, ever evolving and never won. In this sense, success is an emotion that is felt in moments of ceasefire.
I’ve always understood businesses to be the vehicle towards a vision. Businesses are a solution to a market’s problem. Therefore I was surprised that a number of projects operating out of Electron Workshop were non-business. An important lesson I’ve learnt from this is that a business is only one of many vehicles to a vision. Other vehicles include, but are not limited to, art projects, social projects, events, workshops, non-profit enterprise, religious projects and awareness campaigns. In our capitalist world, operating a for-profit business seems to be the default vehicle, but sometimes other vehicles are much more appropriate. As an aspiring entrepreneur, the realization that there are so many more solutions to problems other than business and monetization, shook me to the core. It is interesting to consider that entrepreneurs as a community may have trapped ourselves into thinking that business is the only solution platform we have, I don’t think it is. We must think outside the square and look to the dozens of options other than business, (such as the ones listed above,) that are available to us when considering how best to execute the many ideas and realize the many visions that we have.
My week at Electron Workshop really was the most life affirming experience I’ve ever taken part in. I’d like to thank everyone who spoke to me, for giving up their valuable time and energy and sharing their invaluable ideas and philosophies. Everyone I spoke to was inspiring and has given me enough food for thought to keep me full for many months to come. I look forward to the day when I can be in their position, helping to pass on the values and wealth of knowledge to the next generation of entrepreneurs, coworkers and ass kickers.