Starting a Company as a High Schooler Taught Me This Life Lesson
By Rishi Talati
March 03, 2017
This week’s post is brought to you by Launch Alum and entrepreneur, Rishi Talati, CEO of Gift A Hand Foundation.
“On behalf of the Admissions Committee, we are pleased to have expanded the first session of the Launch Summer Program by a couple spots to allow your admission from the waitlist and into our 2014 program. Congratulations!”
These words would forever change my life in more ways than one… I was an incredibly unorthodox student at Launch.
Someone recently gave me a book called Mindset. It talks about two types of individuals: the person who has a fixed mindset, or the person who has a growth mindset. Well, back in the 9th grade, I was the former. A small kid growing up in Coppell, Texas, I never considered myself to be anything other than ordinary. I felt that my ceiling was met, that I was just to accept where I was and where I would be going.
Even though I was waitlisted for Launch, I assumed I would never actually get in. So I did what I always did: I just accepted that as the truth. I wasn’t going to Launch. My summer dream, like all my dreams, would be just that: a dream.
When the acceptance letter came in, I was speechless. No one had ever taken a chance on me, no program had ever told me I was good enough for them. That day changed my life for the better.
That was the day I realized I could do anything I wanted.
Arriving at Launch was initially like stepping into a castle. It was magical, intimidating, but incredibly surreal. I walked in not having the faintest idea of what it took to be an entrepreneur. By the end of week 1, I was thoroughly convinced that I had to be one. It was after week 1, however, where things started turning from fantasy to reality.
You know that feeling you get when something you’ve always wanted? You get that toy, or that internship that seemed out of grasp. Initially, you’re over the moon. You celebrate, you rejoice. But that’s only about 5% of it. The part no one really rejoices about is the other 95%, the part when you actually start doing the work. For some, that 95% is incredibly easy, because they can consistently just hammer out what they need to do, even if it’s boring, in pursuit of the bigger picture. But for others however, that 95% can be daunting, frustrating, and sometimes maybe even seem like it’s not worth it. As a rising high school sophomore with severe self-esteem issues, I’ll be honest in admitting that I did not have the maturity to handle the 95% of things expected of us, and as a result I didn’t get the most out of the program. The moment I became complacent, thinking that simply being in the program would be enough, was the beginning of my downfall.
Three years later, things are different for me. I’ve grown up, matured, and using the skillsets that I did learn from Launch, I’ve started a nonprofit that 3D prints prosthetic hands for people in India. I share that for no other reason than to say this: even if you aren’t the shining star of Launch, it’ll be okay. It will be worth it, and it will change your life. But don’t go into it intending to just do OK, or just “to chill” like I did. When you’re there, do what Steve Jobs so famously remarked: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” While some students apply to Launch for the prestige, there are many who apply because they feel that they have what it takes to be a real entrepreneur. And to those people, my message to you is this:
If you achieve what so few will and are accepted into this program, rejoice, but then start thinking about the work. Don’t settle for a “good enough” experience. Utilize every resource, every opportunity you get to succeed. If you find yourself wandering and feel lost, talk to the staff: that’s what they’re there for. But above all, never settle, and always be hungry to learn more. If you take every opportunity and resource you can, and make the most out of this program, I promise you it will change your life for the better.