December 18, 2012

Prove yourself right

I’ve always thought of my life as a series of stories. I’d see a scene in my head and fantasize about the perfect ending, the most romantic plot and the most eccentric characters. Within my 25 years, the plots have thickened, and I’ve had more ups and downs than I could ever imagine.

Decision-making revolved around perfecting the story. I’d say it out loud, predict how the audience would perceive it, gauge what they’d think and frame it in a way that made them pleased. This is the scenario I’ve been replaying my whole entire life. Make them happy, make them proud, make them wish they knew you better — make them wish they knew you at all.

I’ve realized that these stories were crafted to prove people wrong. Prove my father wrong for not being a part of my life, prove the people who have given me shit about moving to New York wrong, prove the world wrong — the same thing that so many of us are busting our asses to do.

We’re all on a mission to say “I told you so” to someone.

I moved to NYC on a whim for a dream job, a story I was excited to tell because that’s where the revolution happens for many — quit the job that’s holding you back, and live the life you’ve always dreamt of — but, for me, it didn’t work out that way. In fact, it left me jobless, scared and embarrassed of my story.

Over a year later, I look out the window of a subway car headed into Manhattan from Brooklyn. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes anyone could imagine. “It almost looks fake,” a stranger sitting next to me whispers.

And so the true story goes — I went to work for a corporation, which I never thought I’d do. But, I talked the company into letting me work remotely from New York, which gave me more freedom than I’ve ever had in a job. It also led me to create one of my most precious and challenging projects, I founded my own successful company and more importantly, I had the guts to walk away when I realized that it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. And, I’ve given myself the freedom to indulge in random endeavors, like starting a surf club for adult beginners here in New York. (Yes, you can surf in New York, and you can begin when you’re 25 but that’s a whole other story for a different time.)

I tell you this, because my hope is that others realize what I did: an apartment in Manhattan may be cool, but it might not make you happy. I live in New York in my own way. Being a founder of a startup might be exciting to say and make people impressed with you, but it might not make you happy. I’m an entrepreneur in my own way. Planning on becoming a surfer as an adult may seem impossible. I’ll make it happen despite the odds. The list goes on and on…

Work to prove people right, not wrong. Care about the opinions of those who believe in you, not the ones who bet against you. More importantly, work to prove yourself right in whatever way makes sense for you.

The only thing that will ever make you happy is writing your own story. Every day I remind myself, this is either the beginning of an epic success story or an end to an epic failure. Either way, it’s the story that I want to write.


Elizabeth Presson brings people and social technologies together in relevant and life changing ways. She creates meaningful user experiences through digital media and community building. She was the founding employee of two social media startups and has consulted for over a dozen others. One of her most recent missions is revolutionizing the way an international company communicates with the world. Elizabeth is also the creator of, a website dedicated to enabling others to live life on their own terms.