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If we want to create something that represents who we are, it should be beautiful and unique while containing some essential shared qualities.

This was why I created The Flower.

Well, Noah Limanek actually made it after I went to him and shared my vision. I remember trying to describe it casually to him outside the cafeteria, brimming with excitement as I basked in the joy of my botanical insight. It wasn’t a terribly difficult design challenge, and my idea certainly wasn’t groundbreaking.

He assured me he could do it, and he did, coming back with the black outline of 6 petals fanning out around a circle in the center. 10 years later, I still use the same design.

The flower premiered during a small gathering I organized in my new apartment. Officially a college dropout, I was grateful some friends from Champlain College had invited me to live with them - and even more grateful my parents had offered to pay my rent that summer while I figured out a way to make a living. Theme alert: Nothing I've done would've been possible without the support of my friends and family.

My new home featured David Johnston in the room across from me and in the third room, Katelyn Michell, CPA - and Meg Tighe. Most of us had likely left co-living behind but they had the thrifty idea of sharing a single room. It didn't turn out well, but for now, we were all enjoying our first apartment, and I was now officially an entrepreneur and wanted to be thrifty too so I launched my venture right there in our shared space.

I wrangled together 6 people. Dave McGrath, my roommate from the past year, and our shared friends Kyle Petow and William Eaton. Meg and Katelyn had come to the early “Do You” meetings and invited Renae Bouchard. I don’t think David Johnston was there but…let’s pretend he was and say it was 8 of us in total.

Does anyone I remember this?

If any of this is true, that’s all I remember. I can imagine I fumbled through some sort of introduction and then proceeded to facilitate a much too complicated and likely lackluster experience that left everyone with the word “meh” at the forefront of their minds.

You have to start somewhere.

I held more meetings that summer but I don’t think they included the flower. I experimented with other things: determining purpose, setting goals, creating practices, etc.

However, the seeds of the flower were planted, and it would evolve over the years into something loved by many for its beauty, utility, and ability to capture something essential about us all. I had a long way to go before I realized it.

But I eventually did and you can create your own Flower now:

After high school, I took a gap year before starting at Champlain College in 2012. I worked, I traveled, and read about spiritual and religious traditions, psychology, and human development, trying to understand what it meant to be human - and what it meant to be me.

I also wrote an album. “A World of Dreams” was my coming-of-age story that I immaturely thought was already over.

Through these experiences, I gained a sense of clarity and self-confidence that propelled me into my freshman year, studying Social Entrepreneurship. I chose this unique major because I cared deeply about my community and the future of our world and I thought starting a business would be a creative pursuit I could maintain my independence in.

Throughout the Fall, I had versions of the classic Freshman conversation: “What dorm do you live in? Where are you from? What’s your major? Why’d you choose that?” The last question was where I found myself consistently surprised. No one seemed too sure about their choice. There was a lot of “it seemed easy or my parents did it or idk it seems cool”. It was alarming considering Champlain is a private college with an out-of-state tuition of $50,000+. I met exceptions, and my data was skewed by the fact that I was surrounded by a lot of kids studying business - a classic fallback major - but still, it was a frightening realization.

Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised, as no one reading this is likely surprised. Most of us leave high school without a clear idea of what we want our lives to look like. But having just spent a year studying the human experience and self-reflecting, I felt I was witnessing a quiet crisis.

Without understanding ourselves, we don’t understand what we need, if we don’t understand what we need, we will make poor choices - such as spending 4 years and a couple hundred thousand dollars studying something that won’t bring us purpose and joy.

So, with a bit of hubris, naively thinking I could do something about this problem, I started a club called “Do You”. A few friends and I got together to reflect and get to know ourselves more deeply. It started strong, then fizzled, as I got preoccupied with silly things like passing classes and partying - clearly, I wasn’t as enlightened as I thought.

But after making my decision to leave school in the spring of 2013 to actually start a business instead of studying how to start one, I remembered the simple beauty of those conversations we had at “Do You”. I wrangled my friends together once again, and this time, gave them each a Flower.

At first, it was exhilarating, and I shared the news with confidence: “I’m leaving Champlain to start a business”. It felt good to say and my commitment to my plan didn’t waiver despite just about everyone expressing concerned approximations of “Are you sure?”.

I was certain it was a good idea to leave Champlain College and make my own way - what I started to doubt was what the hell I was going to do once I left. Sure, I had a logo and I had come up with an idea for a product: a website that displayed videos of failure and videos of success side by side, labeled Growing and Flowing. I wanted to celebrate both in the same place, providing entertainment and education, and encouraging people to connect and learn together - no doubt inspired by my friend Eric who was starting a company called Menti to create a digital mentor network.

But I had no technical skills. And no one had ever said they wanted anything like this. As I thought it through, I realized it was an enormous task that I was not well equipped for. The exhilaration gave way to anxiety. If I wanted to create something that would markedly improve people’s lives I’d have to figure out what it was they actually needed, rather than just trying to imagine the problem and the solution all on my own. Also, I’d have to find something that I personally could deliver. So, as summer approached and reality sped towards me at a frightening speed, I looked back at what I had already built: a club I started at Champlain called “Do You”.

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