Finding my Ikigai: Deciphering my Existential Musings

First and foremost, I would like to say thank you to Professor Kane and Doyle, Kelsey, and Matt for making this incredible experience possible for us. The conversations, memories, stories, and food will stay with me forever, serving as a reminder of our fantastic trip.

I have been dreading this final blog post because I struggle with anything ending, and I already have separation anxiety from Silicon Valley and the Kool-Aid. Plus, I genuinely miss spending every waking moment with all of you. I’ll do my best to keep it together during this post, but I am grateful to all of you for making this so tough to write – this feeling is a testament to how amazing all of you are and the positive impact you had on my #BCSTT experience.

This was undoubtedly the best way I could have spent my Spring Break. As Kevin quoted at Sequoia, Jim Rohn famously said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I was fortunate enough to spend my entire Spring Break with the most passionate, motivated, lovable students at BC, not to mention the inspirational professors and alumni. After all, who needs Punta when you have Veem?

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Smiling from all the fun times on the trip! Thanks @katieibailey

Introduction

After rereading my introduction post, I am impressed by how scarily accurate I was in predicting many of the revelations I had during the trip. Before continuing, I am going to dissect my initial expectations:

“I am scared I’ll be the person who loses it when Tim Cook walks by.”

I think this would have been very accurate, but I just barely missed my chance. Maybe next time!

“Beyond the companies themselves, interacting with successful BC alumni will hopefully answer many of the questions I have about entrepreneurship and provide practical insight into starting a company. I am keen on learning how to successfully start a company (developing an idea into a self-sufficient startup), how to make pivotal decisions on the future of the company, and what separates successful startups from failed ventures. I believe Tech Trek will enable me to familiarize myself with entrepreneurship from a technical and analytical standpoint, combining theoretical frameworks and case studies with hands-on, practical experience on-site. Tech Trek will provide a foundation for understanding the tech and startup worlds, which I hope to build on in the coming years.”

In all our visits, the BC alumni and our hosts at the companies contributed the most to my positive experience. By taking the time to speak with us and offer honest advice and answers, the alumni gave me practical insight into building the success of their respective startups. Taken individually, this insight would be helpful only for that company. Taken together, however, I have been able to compile a mental list of strategies, philosophies, and steps conducive to building a successful startup. In particular, I loved Christiaan Vorkink’s description of the “sweet spot” of venture capital investments: the perfect market, team, and deal. Most importantly, almost all the companies we visited mentioned asking the consumer and being in touch with consumer expectations as a key catalyst to their success. Moving forward, this will be incredibly important for working at any company.

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#BCSTT #D

Personal Impact: Thank You!

Beyond the knowledge I gained in the classroom and on the trip, Tech Trek offered the chance to forge 26 new friendships. In that week, I forged meaningful relationships that extend far beyond a hug in Addie’s when I see them for the first time after the trip. One day soon, I am confident that my #BCSTT classmates will be those dreamy BC alumni that future students will idolize. In a few years, I can’t wait to visit Julia at Madison Reed, Dan at Amazon, Mike at Veem… the list goes on and on. At one point on the trip, it suddenly struck me that the wonderful friends I was making would one day rule Silicon Valley – the gravity of that realization cannot be understated.

Finding my Ikigai: Investment Banking?

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Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”. Everyone has an ikigai, but finding one’s ikigai generally requires a substantial search within. I strongly encourage all of you to embark on that journey to find your ikigai – it may be tough, but it can bring satisfaction and meaning.

Since returning from Tech Trek, I think my recent existential crisis has signaled the beginning of my journey to discover my ikigai. The incredible blog post by @michaelrosmarin resonated with me, as I have recently found myself in the same boat regarding investment banking. For over a year, I have been struggling to determine whether investment banking is the right career for me. I have joined the Investment Banking, Sales & Trading Club, but I have had reservations about the field, many of which were echoed by the alumni. Like Pat Grady told Karn, investment banking is great for refining financial modeling skills and teaching you how to work hard, but if you’re still using financial modeling when you’re 30, you’re doing something wrong. I am not afraid of the taxing hours, but I am questioning whether sacrificing two years to learn Excel and PowerPoint is worth it. What am I proving to myself and to others by pursuing investment banking? Is it something that I “couldn’t not do”?

The trip certainly pushed me along my path of discernment and gave me a clearer sense of what I see myself pursuing. Conversations with @paulosdbc and @jeredoyle about investment banking helped to guide me along the way, and I would like to express my gratitude to them here. I have always known where I want to end up, but I have been struggling to connect the dots and find a rewarding path to get there. On Tech Trek, I may have found that calling: venture capital.

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Venture Capital: A Love Story

Before the trip, I had only been peripherally exposed to venture capital – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that could only be reached by using investment banking as a stepping stone. In this way, the conversations with Christiaan Vorkink, Pat Grady, and Jere played a pivotal role in reaffirming my passion for venture capital. Now, I can confidently say that my interest in venture capital does not arise from the hype surrounding the industry or from an HBS case about Sequoia, but from speaking with distinguished venture capitalists and employees at their portfolio companies. I absolutely love having the ability to shape a company and invest in its success, especially in the “values investing” style of True.

Existential Musings

There is no path. There is no capital-F “Future”. As someone who loves to plan out the future, it can be incredibly difficult at times for me to accept this reality. Tech Trek revealed to me that there is no single correct path to end up in Silicon Valley. We met alumni who majored in Communications, CS, Finance, Marketing, Economics… every imaginable major. They each took a unique journey to reach their current position, and each pit stop on that journey shaped their lives differently. That is precisely what makes Silicon Valley so extraordinary!

I am someone who engages in future-current risk-benefit analysis with a starting stock of 80, continuously asking if my current actions will improve my life. In my opinion, the personal desire for self-improvement is the most fundamental motivation to continue living – to constantly identify areas of inadequacy or deficiency and turn them into strengths in pursuit of not perfection, but ascension. This belief is reflected in the Japanese philosophy kaizen, meaning continual improvement. The dinner with Sophie Miller pushed me to sincerely contemplate this desire for self-improvement and to reconcile that desire with my own satisfaction and fulfillment.

Thank you @sophiefmiller

Sophie spoke at length about gaining fulfillment in the pursuit, which is something I have always struggled with. Although I focus on cultivating my growth mindset and maintaining my drive to improve myself, I tend to overlook self-care. It’s incredibly important to find satisfaction and fulfillment in the pursuit itself, thus taking care of yourself while working towards self-improvement. At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind your driving force. As Sophie said, always have questions that you are answering – those can include “What motivates me?” and “What is my “why”?”

Conclusion

I have one final challenge for everyone in the class: For the next 30 days, devote just 60 minutes of your time to the best opportunity in your life. See how far you can go by devoting time to your own self-improvement and working towards your ikigai.

One last time, I want to express my gratitude to all of you. Thank you for making the trip a transformative experience and arguably my best decision thus far at BC. This is not goodbye, this is see you later. Thank you and I love you!

9 thoughts on “Finding my Ikigai: Deciphering my Existential Musings

  1. Rohan – WOW. The more and more I get to know you, the more I realize how similar we are. Thank you sincerely for your shout out, and NEVER hesitate to reach out to me if you need advice. I loved every single conversation we had on this trip. I may have cried reading this post. Thank you so much for teaching all of us what Ikigai is! We both seem to strive for continuous self-improvement and meaning in the work that we do, and this is the sign of a powerful leader. I also have very much so a growth-oriented mindset, and I too overlook self-care. #TeamNoSleep. I’m so glad that this trip helped you find what industry you want to work in. I could see it now, the headline in the WSJ: “Rohan Dixit takes over True Ventures as CEO”.

    And finally – I love YOU! Lunch soon, please!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dan! Thank you so much for your incredible advice and love. As I have said many times before, You are incredible and it has been an honor getting to know you in this environment. I know that the quest for self-improvement and being #TeamNoSleep has helped you develop into the wonderful friend, mentor, and person you are now, but please don’t forget to take care of yourself! I am so glad that #BCSTT has brought us together and I can’t wait for lunch! I love you Dan!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Rohan, after engaging in conversations with you as my PULSE student, I was excited to get to know you in a different setting and different topic of discussion! In this final post, however, you certainly brought up something PULSE-Y related and we could definitely include it in our next meeting lol! I loved the visual diagram of Ikigai you included. That concept is something I have been wrestling with since coming to Boston College and being a CSOM student. A lot of us have mentioned how we have questioned the career paths laid out for us and I am constantly thinking about how my journey will evolve. As you mentioned, it is difficult to grasp the unknown. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for challenging us both in the classroom and in your blog post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Michelle! Writing the blog post, I definitely thought back to many of the concepts we covered in our discussions and in PULSE class itself — it’s incredible how closely tied the diverse fields can be! I can definitely relate to the constant contemplation about how the journey will evolve, but I think to a certain extent it will never stop evolving — and that’s the beauty! I am glad the notion of Ikigai resonated with you and I hope #BCSTT and the relationships you have formed will help you progress on that journey of self-discovery! Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rohan, when I met you through LeaderShape, I had a feeling you were truly special. Going on this trip affirmed my suspicions! Thanks for bringing your friendliness and warm spirit to TechTrek. It brought out the best in all of us and added so much to our trip. And speaking of adding value, I loved learning about Ikigai. I was not familiar with the concept until I read this, but I’m really glad I now know. I will take you up on your challenge: after devoting my 60 minutes to my best opportunity, I will let you know how it goes! I’m excited to try it out, especially now that I’m questioning many parts of my life (career, passions, etc.) because of TechTrek. I hope to hear how yours goes!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rohan, you see the world in a way that no one else does. Having that type of different perspective enriched all our experiences on TechTrek more than you could know! Thanks for keeping spirits high with your positivity and always asking us the deeper questions. I think it helped us all reflect on everything we were experiencing while on this crazy trip.
    I’m excited for you as you start to discern what you want from a career. I know which VC I’m coming to when I’m ready to start a company!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rohan, this was a beautiful post 🙂 It reflects you so much, as someone who truly cares about the important things in life. I remember learning about ikigai a long time ago, but it’s something that kind of drifted to the back of my mind until I read your post. I find myself in a similar boat to you where I’m trying so hard to discern what my purpose in life is. The combination of this class and trip and some ruminating about ikigai has made that a little clearer for me, but I’m still not quite there yet haha.
    Thanks for your thought-provoking musings both now and on the trip! I’m excited to see all the crazy cool things you do in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re spot on when you say there’s no capital-“F” future, and the execs and alum out in California are living examples of people who pursued all kinds of paths to find themselves in Silicon Valley. I also loved your explanation of “ikigai” and how it has helped you find your calling. Thanks for sharing, and welcome back!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rohan — aweeeesssomeeee blog post. I really like the concept of ikigai! It’s very similar to BC’s 3 questions of: What do I like to do? What am I good at? What does the world need me to do? Searching for that ikigai is really important although I don’t always feel validated in taking time for personal reflection or self care, so thank you for challenging me to focus on that over the next 30 days (hopefully it’ll become a habit). I was excited to see part of your reflection on your career and evolution through this blog post. I know you’ll continue to learn more about yourself and what you’re looking to achieve and take out of your career. I can’t wait to learn what that is!

    P.S.
    You should def make that picture your profile picture! You look great! Super healthy

    Liked by 2 people

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