A year ago, my business partner Ryan Villanueva wrote about why he left his job at Goldman Sachs to work on Best Delegate full-time. It is only fitting that a year later, I also left my job to do the same.
I had spent the past three years working at AT&T, the largest telecom company in the world, as part of their Leadership Development Program. I was hired as a manager straight out of undergrad and worked in interesting rotations in marketing, operations, and sales. I enjoyed my job, made some of my best friends from work, and was even promoted to senior manager earlier this year. It was everything I wanted out of college and I had a promising career ahead.
So why would I leave it all?
The living-the-dream answer: I want to share my experience and make a difference in the lives of others. I want to turn Best Delegate into an education company that helps students and teachers use Model UN to change the world. And I hope in the process to create a larger movement in education that emphasizes teaching our students the leadership skills they need to succeed in the globalized world.
But there’s more on a personal level, too. Ambitious young adults like me are trained to get into a prestigious college, find a good job, and work our way up the ladder. Most of us followed this path and are quite successful at it; when people ask us what we do in life, we proudly tell them about our jobs even though we may not be fully satisfied. But happiness for most people is derived from fulfilling dreams — what we want to do, have, or be. Instead, when we’re asked what we want to do in life, we should really be thinking about what type of lifestyle we want to live and how to design a career can get us there.
Despite working from 8pm to 2am every weeknight and traveling literally every other weekend this past year working on Best Delegate, I found some time to reflect on the type of lifestyle I wanted to live and what I wanted to do. I once told students at the UN General Assembly to follow the UNA-USA Global Classrooms motto of “Learn. Live. Lead.” and now I have used it to figure out what I want at this point for my own life:
Learn: I want to learn what it takes to build my own startup. A business at its core is creating, selling, and supporting a product. I managed all three functions while I was at AT&T and now I want to put all those skills and experiences together.
Live: I want to live a lifestyle that allows me to travel the world. I have traveled to 28 countries in the past five years. I have learned about the world, made some of my best friends, and had so much fun, and I intend to keep the adventure going.
Lead: I want to lead a community that helped turn me into a leader. I started my Model UN career as a shy freshman in high school and ended it as a college senior by introducing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in front of the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Model UN made a difference in my life, and now I want to use Model UN to make a difference in the lives of others.
Ryan also wrote that “meaningful rewards require meaningful risks.” I really enjoyed working at AT&T and saw a career for myself there, but working on Best Delegate will allow me to try running my own company, travel the world, and give back to an activity that has made such an impact on my life. To me, these are all meaningful rewards that are worth the risks. I’m also very fortunate to have worked to a point in my life where I could pursue such an opportunity and I should take advantage of it. And besides, there is no better time to do this when I am young — when I have the highest risk tolerance and lowest personal obligations — so why not?
So I too let all my friends at work know that I was leaving. They were sad to see me go but were very supportive and encouraging. I will miss the camaraderie of being with all my work friends but I know these good friendships will go on for life.
And now I look forward to the journey ahead and I look forward to seeing some of my old friends and meeting new ones on the road. For those who want to follow along, I hope to share my personal experiences and my travels on my lifestyle design blog, kevinfelixchan.com.