I’m beginning to learn that I need to trust myself more.

I need to remember a famous quote by Steve Jobs, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” I’m learning that life wants to give us our bliss, but only if we believe in ourselves.

I know what my passion is, but life will always present you with obstacles and temptations. There have been times that I put my passion aside for more money, which ultimately led to me being unhappy and feeling empty.

I know, money is an important thing in life. But when did it become more important than being happy? When did the status quo become “Go to a job you hate for 40+ hours a week and find a sliver of time to do something you enjoy for a couple hours.”? At what point does it take for us to realize that our lives are precious, sometimes cut too short, that we’re willing to spend most of our lives being unhappy? Why is it crazy to believe that you can have both?

I’ve rolled the dice more than a few times in order to follow my passion. I’ve worked at start-ups. I’ve moved to new cities without visiting them. I’ve been called crazy yet smart. Immature yet brave. Extroverted yet quiet. Depressed yet optimistic. Confident yet self-conscious. A risk-taker yet cautious. They’re all true, yet none define me.

Rolling the dice has come with costs. Naturally there have been times that things didn’t work out. I’m 33 and have lost pretty much everything I’ve owned and have been on the brink of being homeless three times. I’ve had two cars repossessed. I’ve been through some dark, depressed episodes.

Yet, once I brush myself off and reflect, I cannot help but smile and laugh as I review what I’ve learned, the experience that I’ve gained, and the new tools I can now equip myself with.

Even with all the negatives, I have no regrets. I feel fulfillment in knowing that I at least tried.

I have no idea where life is taking me right now. I’ve joined SchoolStacks, a small startup with an amazing mission. Broadly speaking, we’re working to improve the education system by bridging the gap between K-12 schools and third-party systems to provide a more individualized, integrated education.

I stumbled upon this opportunity and I’m in love. I feel it in my bones, a passion that hasn’t been ignited in quite some time.

The journey to this moment has been arduous. Since April 2017 I’ve been unemployed and scraped through five months of unemployment by working with a few clients through my own business. Without finding much luck in Florida, I took up a friend’s offer and moved to Virginia. I picked up a job rather quickly, but immediately found myself unhappy with the position. I tried sticking it out, but was let go in a couple months as they could tell I wasn’t happy.

I didn’t even recognize myself at that point. I didn’t know when it would end and began believing it wouldn’t. I started to doubt myself.

Then one day I woke up, both physically and mentally, with the “Damn it AJ, let’s DO THIS!” attitude.

That’s when things changed in my favor. I thought I had trusted myself before. I thought I gave it my all before. Like in The Dark Knight Rises when Selina/Catwoman tells Batman, “You don’t owe these people any more. You’ve given them everything.” Batman replies, “Not everything. Not yet.” I realized that I truly haven’t given my life, my fight for following my passion, everything. Not yet. It’s easy to fool ourselves.

Today I look back and have connected the dots. The journey was life telling me to refocus on my passion and believe the rest will follow. The journey taught me more about perseverance, resilience, and my gut instincts. The journey has brought my passion back from the dark shadows.

It’s now that I’ve learned that when we know where our passion lies, make a firm commitment to our passion that will brook no compromise, put the full force of our energy behind our passion, and begin living into this passion that we’ll find that life opens to us. Life wants us to live our passion.

Find your passion. Take your journey. Trust yourself.

Since I was 13, I never took a class for programming and very few books peaked my interest. What I do know is this: Given a goal, I believe I’ll figure it out. Sometimes the first round of code won’t look pretty, but it works. As I’ve continued to learn more, I would refactor code to make it cleaner, easier to understand, and more efficient.

Sometimes you may have no idea what you’re diving into, but you have a choice: do you take on the challenge and figure it out or do you miss out on an opportunity to learn something new?

Taking on the challenge diving head first is scary, but it can lead to so many things: Perhaps you’ll learn something new about yourself, good or bad. Perhaps you’re going to figure it out quicker than you thought.

For me, I believe that you have to be willing to fake it until you make it. One of my favorite books, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, has really reinforced my idea that the obstacles can lead to big outcomes.

My Dilemma

Never memorize something that you can look up.

Over my career, I’ve relied on figuring things out and, to be humble, have become pretty darn good as an ASP.NET C# Developer. I jumped into C# without learning some of the basics; I had no idea what object orientated programming (OOP) meant or the different design patterns. I just knew one thing: I believed that I’d figure it out by “hacking” my way through, using Google, Stack Overflow, and examples on GitHub.

I also learned something along the way. In my opinion, you can only really memorize so much. I’ll admit, sometimes I forget how to something simple in JavaScript and I’ll have to do a quick search and then it all comes flooding back in. Even Albert Einstein said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” Think about this for a second. Back then, there wasn’t a concept of the “internet” or Google for that matter. I think we can all agree on one thing: Albert Einstein was incredibly intelligent, but he also knew that “imagination is more important than knowledge.

There have been times, especially during interviews, that I’ve been asked to define a technical term and my mind would be blank. I often ask myself, “Is it really that important that I know the definition or that I know how to do it?”

A Couple Takeaways

You have to be comfortable with making a mistake along the way. When I started working for one company, I made a mistake and deleted a database table. My mentor and supervisor looked at me and said, “Well, at least I know you’re working!” Once again, I’ll reference Albert Einstein who said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

You have to believe in yourself and your previous abilities that you can do it. Take the obstacle, the path less traveled, and in the end you’ll at least get some personal growth.

People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don’t really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard.

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, via Entrepreneur

Finally, remember…

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

I was talking with a few friends and somehow ended up talking about commencement speeches.

Without a doubt, Steve Jobs is my favorite and has impacted me the most.

I love my Android phone and Windows computer, and have no hate for Apple, but Steve was truly a visionary. Here’s what really hits home with me:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

The above really connects with me, especially as I’ve gotten older.  I’ve begun to learn what really gets me going in the morning, what I love doing, and am passionate about. I love being a web developer, but I also love being more involved with the business end and working with clients, sales teams, and other developers. I don’t like being the coder in the corner.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future.

I’ve always been known in my family as the one to “roll the dice” and sometimes I’ve been extremely lucky and other times not so much. Right now, I’m unemployed but have a consulting gig going on, but it’s still a very tough time. However, unfortunately, I’ve been in tougher times. The quote above reminds me that I can’t try and figure out how everything works or the lessons you’re learning while looking forward, but once things get better, I can look behind and connect the dots and learn.

Next up for me is Ellen Degeneres.

Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path then by all means you should follow that.

I’ll never be able to compare her experience growing up as a lesbian vs me growing up gay, but she stuck to her guns and didn’t change. I never graduated from UF and generally didn’t like college in general. I know for some careers, you need to graduate, but I just never felt like I was truly getting anything out of it besides the whole “student experience.” I mostly did it because it’s what my family wanted me to do. However, while a junior at UF I was offered a position with a startup called Mobile Campus and I learned more about business, marketing, web development, and more in just a few months than I had years in college. So I dropped out.

Next up is Jim Carrey.

I’ve loved Jim Carrey the comedian. As a kid, I loved The Mask and Ace Ventura. However, I never expected the advice he gave:

Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.

So those are the commencement speeches that I enjoy and have impacted my life the most. Are there any speeches in general (TED Talks, whatever) that you like? If so, post them below!

So you thought it was the end of the story.

You thought that one single event, that one single moment, was enough for him to stand among the greats.

Sleep? ‘I don’t sleep.’ You thought that was it?

You thought it was over?

Well it’s just getting started.

This is the part where you re-invent yourself.

It’s time to get tested, to test your will, your endurance, it’s time to test your heart, to test your limits.

It’s about no days off! No weekends, no holidays, no birthdays. Listen to me! No days off!

It’s about gaining the competitive edge.

You can’t afford to make excuses.

No excuses when you feel pain. And trust me, you will feel it.

And all you wanna do is give up.

And all you wanna do is give in.

When you feel like you’ve given all you got…

…you gotta take one more step, you gotta run one more lap, you gotta throw one more punch.

Until you reach the top.

Do you think he’s coming back?

I don’t know.

What do you fear?

You are no one.

This is your beginning but it doesn’t have to be your end.

Get off the ground. C’mon.

You can do nothing without faith!

You are still special.

Is it beyond our reach?

I’m not afraid.

I’m angry.

You can’t give in.

Behind every fear is the person you want to be.

Fear is self-imposed, meaning it doesn’t exist.

You create it, you can destroy it.

You face your fears and become the person you want to be.

You run from your fears, you’re not living. You are alive but you not dig in the freedom.

You are not running the day, the day is running you.

We all fall down in life. The question is:

Who get’s back up?

You don’t owe these people any more.

You’ve given them everything.

Not everything.

Not yet.

And I’ve seen now what I would have to become to stop men like him.

If you make yourself more than just a man…

…if you devote yourself to an ideal…

…and if they can’t stop you,

then you become something else entirely.


You go after it and you give it all you have.

If you lose it, at least you tried, man!

‘I failed’ is ten times more of a man than someone said ‘what if ?’

Cos ‘what if ?’ Never went to the arena!

That’s called courage.

Now that’s the stuff leaders should be made of.

You think something’s wrong maybe it’s time to stop. No it’s time to move free and further!

Mentally you must believe it before you physically start it.

I choose to rise, not fall!

I choose to live, not die!

Today will be that day!

Not tomorrow, not next week, but right now, right here.

Belief will change my world!

History will remember me.!

I will define myself.

I will never go home, not without giving everything I have got!

Coz who am I?

I am a champion!

I choose to fight back!

I’m coming.

All you need now is a little imagination.

your imagination got will you gonna believe it or not,

It’s a preview of your lifetime coming attractions.

If you can’t imagine what it’s gonna be,

don’t ever expect physically looking into the mirror and see it.

I do not know what your dream is

I do not care about you in the pursuit of the dream of the process

Is not that disappointing you?

But as long as this dream has been in your heart

It is possible to achieve!

Some of you already know

It is very difficult to achieve it

Is not easy

Or even spend a lifetime of time

In the pursuit of the dream of the process

You will encounter a lot of blows

A lot of failure

A lot of pain

Many times you will doubt yourself

You ask God
why? Why would happen to me?

I just want to take care of my kids and my mother

I do not steal any more

What are these foolish things that will happen to me?

Those that you have to go through

Do not give up your dreams

The moments of suffering will come, but they will not stay
They will be past

Great is not the illusion of the esoteric illusory

It is not a few people can reach the achievement

Is the real thing, in our hearts

This is very important, you have to believe that you are the winner

Most people, to make money to support their families to feed themselves
Then end a lifetime

They refuse to grow and refuse to work hard
They refuse to learn, they do not want to ask themselves

Then many people like to complain
But they do not want to change any situation

And most people do not work for their dreams

One of the reasons is because of fear, fear of fear of failure
Is it not going well?

The other is the fear of success
What if someone else succeeds and I can not do it?

These are those who can not pursue adventure

You spend a lot of time with people
You spent a lot of time trying to make everyone like you

You know other people know you better than you

You study them and you know them
You imagine them as you want to be like them

do you know?

You put so much time on them
You do not know who you are

I challenge you never take the time to understand yourself

If you also want to realize your dream
You must let the group of losers out of your life

A person who is moving towards his dream
Life is a special meaning for them

When you become “the right person”
You will start away from those losers

You start to have your own uniqueness

If you keep following them, you’re just a “copy cat”

You will always, always just the world’s best “copy cat”

But you can be the best of yourself

I challenge your value of self definition

Not everyone to see, not everyone will join you
Because they do not have such a vision

You have to know one thing

That you are extraordinary

You have to adjust your way of interacting with people
In order to attract people interested in your business

In the hunger of success

Is unstoppable
There is no reason to be persuaded

People will want to practice dreams as winners
Because they want to get more

Those who succeed in pursuing dreams are so

Those who pursue the dream they all understand

Some of the dreams will be their own decision

If you want to get bigger achievements

You have to try something you’ve never done

I ask you to invest in yourself

Invest in yourself!

Some of you here think
It is impossible to succeed in reality

So you do not want to go through life and become a victim

Even if you face disappointment, you have to know yourself …

You can do it, even if no one sees you
You must also see yourself

I believe that I am willing to sacrifice life for it

No matter how bad or bad things are

I have to support the past

I want to express an idea
I want to express a possibility

Some of you guys
You want to pursue a higher level

I want to be a consultant, an engineer, a doctor
Hear me out:

You can not reach it

You can not easily reach the advanced level
Unless you start investing yourself

You are not reading

I challenge you dare to stand up

I challenge you to pay the time!

I challenge you can face lonely

I challenge you to take the time to understand yourself

What kind of person do you want to be in the end?

You want to design what kind of yourself
You will create what kind of you

When you become an independent person

What you have to do is to separate yourself from others

I challenge you to find a person less, do not like you
Do not bother your place why?
Because you do not have to please others

Because you want to try to succeed and create a new level

I need you to develop your mind

If you are still talking about your dreams

If you are still talking about your target

But you have not done anything yet

First take the first step

You can make your parents feel proud

You can make your school feel proud

You can touch all the people around you
And your world will not be the same

Because you have made a change

Do not let others stole your dreams!

We face denial and denial
Or when others do not take you as one thing

Or someone says you can rely on me but he just talked about it

If we had that spirit but nobody believed you
You will never feel lost again and again see the light

But you still chase your dreams every day repeatedly said to myself:

Have to end unless i win!

You can live your dream!