Michael Gaston and Ash Faraj were able to sit down this week and discuss Michael’s journey of navigating youth, finding the confidence to pursue his interests and become the founder of CUT, a platform to create and share stories through video. Here are 3 key takeaways from our interview with Michael.
1. Follow Your Own Path
Michael explains that ever since childhood, people have told him to follow a certain path in life in order to be successful or happy. In his youth, he was told by teachers and family to go to school, go to college, land a job so that he could have a house and all of these material possessions. When he worked at Boeing, he was expected to not be outspoken as a new entry-level employee. When he started CUT, he was advised to copy the business model and best practices of bigger, more successful media companies like Buzzfeed. However, when he chose to actively reject the narratives and advice he was given, and follow his gut and personal principles, he experienced more success and fulfillment. When he dropped out of Seattle University and started traveling around the world, he learned valuable lessons and built life-changing relationships. When he actively spoke up and dared to be weird while working at Boeing, he didn’t get fired, he got promoted—twice. Following his own vision for creating video stories landed CUT 10 million subscribers on YouTube. What Michael’s story demonstrates is that it’s okay to not follow the path others have laid out for you, especially if it contradicts your passions and goals. It's okay to take a risk and follow a path that will aid in your pursuit for learning and happiness.
2. Never Underestimate the Value of Working for Free
We often feel uncomfortable at the idea of working for free. Why work for free, when you can get paid? However, what Michael demonstrates during this interview is that working for free can actually be a blessing. He states that working for free can act as a valuable entry point into learning much more about something you really care about. Especially if you are young without much experience or skills to your name, volunteering your time can be an opportunity to immerse yourself into the work, and soak up knowledge at a rate unmatched to a paid job. We all understand that money is the tool for survival. However, when someone young or early in their career hasn’t proven themselves to anyone in a subject matter they care about, they have to establish skill and credibility first. That’s why volunteering your time, as scary and uncomfortable as it can be, is one way to bring you to the next level of your professional career.
3. Ask Yourself “What do I want?”
This has been a consistent theme in Michael’s life. He quit Seattle University, because it wasn’t bringing him joy. He self-terminated at Boeing and CUT, because he realized he no longer wanted to play the roles he found himself in. He realized that once CUT grew in size, he duties as CEO didn’t involve the tasks that drove his purpose—video creation. He didn’t want to become too comfortable with himself, because he didn’t want to become afraid of trying new things in the future. He reminds us that we need to articulate this question to ourselves constantly throughout our failures and achievements, “What do I want?”. Without answering this question truthfully, we can find ourselves in roles we don’t enjoy or find our growth and learning stagnated. This question can challenge us to continually reevaluate our personal purpose in life, and whether or not we need to realign our behavior for greater fulfillment.
If you missed it, read last week's 3 takeaways with MacDonald-Miller CEO: Gus Simonds.