Reddit Cofounder Alexis Ohanian Provides 10 Ways For This Generation To Dream Bigger
For a man who started a site that has gained over 110 million users and over 5.8 billion page views, 30-year-old Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian is bound to know a lot about the Internet.
Now, he's started to spread the wealth, of knowledge, that is. As part of his "How The 21st Century Will Be Made Not Managed" book tour, Ohanian has been traveling through 77 universities across the country, spreading one general message for Generation-Y: Whatever you want to achieve is not only possible, but can also be done faster than ever before.
His message isn't just formulated by overly-optimistic, pie-in-the-sky talk, either. Nor are his speeches filled with empty clichés. His main reason for pushing Millennials to do what they want and do it now is rather simple: It's the mere existence of the Internet. The World Wide Web, Ohanian argues, has become the real land of opportunity.
Last week at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the Reddit cofounder and Y-Combinator ambassador shared his advice with students who attended his show, expressing his thoughts on success, the next generation's role to play in the world and things to keep in mind as they go about it. Here are 10 of the best takeaways from Alexis Ohanian's speech:
1. The Internet Is Ripe For The Picking
The Internet and software are "eating the world," Ohanian says. For as big and ever-present as it is now, it's going to get bigger and it's ours for the taking. Those who are in control of it now have received and inherited it, but Generation-Y is the first to have grown up on it.
Why does this matter? The Internet is increasingly becoming the land of all opportunity. And the fact that Millennials have grown so accustomed to that land makes the opportunity all the more attainable.
"We don't know where it's all headed; what we do know is the incumbents don't really have it figured out..." Ohanian said. "They merely adopted the Internet; we were born in it, molded by it."
2. Your Ideas Are Worthless
Everyone has good ideas, but they are useless without execution. Sure, this is true for every generation. There's no exception for Generation-Y, nor are Millennials a special case. Ohanian does make a point, however, to prove why there's less excuse for the youth of this day and age not to achieve their goals.
The barrier of entry, the obstacles blocking anyone from a certain field or the amount of requirements needed to do something (anything!), has been lowered massively by the Internet, making it that much easier for anyone to succeed.
"Now is the time to get started. Don’t settle for just having a good idea, because ideas are worthless. When the barrier to entry is as low as it is — it’s a laptop, an internet connection, some code and time — ideas are worthless."
3. Those Who Learn How To Create Will Succeed
Though Ohanian mentions coding as "the most valuable skill of the 21st century," his message is not exclusive to those who'd like to make apps or program the next Tumblr.
His words are also for the people who want to start Kickstarter campaigns, a store on Etsy and for everyone who wants to celebrate their art, too. For those people, the Reddit cofounder says it's important to learn how to create.
"This century, this Internet age, is going to be wielded -- the power is going to be wielded — by the people who can create on it, so become one of those creators. Do everything you can to learn those skills to be a maker. And get started now, you don’t have to wait. "
4. Don't Be Fooled, No One Has It "All Figured Out"
Comparison to others has the power to bring anyone down. A look across the table, classroom or campus can automatically prompt internal comparisons between oneself and everyone around.
A tweet, Instagram post and Facebook status update might even do the same. It's important, though, to remember than looks can be deceiving sometimes; they probably are most of the time. There's no reason, then, to be overly discouraged when a person doesn't live up to those same "looks."
"Even today I still don’t know what I’m doing, most of the time. Listen, no one does. Anyone who fronts like they have it all figured out is either lying or delusional."
5. It's Okay To Feel Like You Don't Know What You're Doing For A While
"Whatever it is you want to do, do not let 'I don’t know what I’m doing' stop you from getting started figuring it out, because everyone of us feels the same way. We certainly feel that way when we get started out; we don’t feel like we have all the answers. We’re just thinking, let’s just make something that doesn’t fail miserably. That was the hope when we started Reddit."
6. It's All About Taking Steps
Life isn't like school, where everyone is assessed by a letter. Failure is an option when it comes to success, Ohanian says, and it's usually the first step toward becoming good at something. Failure may not deserve to be glorified, but it definitely doesn't deserve to be feared the way it's been taught to.
"Think about it. Our entire lives as students, we have been corralled into fearing failure at all costs. You guys are here because you're really good at not failing. You're really good at passing classes and getting good grades, getting the right scores on the test, advancing to the next level. After this, though, no more grades, no more tests."
Which means having to get used to doing things and trying them again -- the sooner, the better.
7. Start Talking About It
What is the first step? If you ask Ohanian, it's getting comfortable in being vocal about what you want to do, because just doing that puts you in a position to go forward.
"This is the time to speak up and get really good at putting yourself in uncomfortable situations when you talk about things you care about. 'Cause I was lucky enough to get a professor back in college who said, 'Listen, everyone's capable of doing amazing stuff. The people who do are the ones who put their hands up. They're the ones who stand and be counted, they're the ones who speak up.' ... Speak up about the stuff you care about, that's what going to make a difference. Serendipity doesn't happen to you, it happens because of you. And you can get started on those things you're passionate about right now."
8. Do It For The Ones Who Support You And Cherish Them
For any developer or tech entrepreneur, being noticed by Tech Crunch is a big deal. For Ohanian, Huffman and Reddit, being noticed didn't take place until 2006, when the company was acquired by Condé Nast. But being given attention by a notable news site wasn't nearly as important to Ohanian as a particular user, Andrew, who became the first blogger to write about Reddit.
"Don't start something for the benefit of a TechCrunch front page; start it for Andrew. Start it for some user who's going to care about this new thing you put out in the world. It doesn't just have to be your app or a startup. It can be your Etsy store, your Kickstarter campaign or photo blog. Whatever it is you're doing and proud of, start it for the first people who are willing to try it out and support you, because these people are the ones who matter."
9. You Have No Choice But To Be Entrepreneurial
As he winds down his message, Ohanian begins to hit home. What we were told hasn't panned out, he says. The jobs that there were supposed to be, the safety there was in the paths we were trained to choose; much of what was supposed to be as close to a formality as you can get in life, has not been. That's put this generation in a position where it has to be entrepreneurial. And, as the Reddit cofounder states, all it means is having ideas and doing them.
"All that status quo, all that convention now seems really unconventional. But that's one of the greatest gifts that this generation has been given, because we learned so much faster than every other generation before us that it is not worth putting off what you really want to do to take the safe route, or the planned route or the route you should be doing because some of those options aren't even there. So why not indulge yourself, doing the thing you are genuinely excited about and passionate about? It's not going to be easy, nothing in life worth doing is, but it's a hell of an opportunity."
10. You Have Zero Lives Left 'Til The Game Is Over
To close out his speech, Ohanian decided to remind everyone of a fact that's obvious, yet often forgotten. To do so, he used an analogy from a time "when video games were actually hard."
"When you were on your last life, the game would reset if you died, right? It sucked. But you played your hardest and the thing I came to realize is this is just like real life. We're all playing with zero lives remaining. And so, look, like I said earlier, the fact that we can even have this conversation right now, right here, gives us a tremendous amount of privilege and, frankly, responsibility to make the most out of it. So please do whatever it is you want to do."
Photo credit: Mashable