people > places > things

What Working At A Startup Company Taught Me

Jessie Ma1 Comment


The team, past & present (along with respective siggy o's) raised our sake glasses at a fancy tapas-style Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo last friday – "to 3 years!"

3 years with STEEZY. Damn.

I thought out loud,

"This is literally the longest, most steady relationship I've ever been in."

It was received as a joke (my delivery's just inescapably hilarious.. it's a blessing and a curse) – but I was pretty frickin' serious. 

Yeah okay, it's not a currrAYzy amount of time in the grand scheme of things. But the unique way that this love story unfolded (and continues to blossom) has taught me some of the most important lessons in my life. 

Some of these are particular to STEEZY, some of them apply to all start-ups, most apply to everything in everyone's lives. As all good lessons do.

Keep reading to see the ways I've become a better me, every day, for the past 3 years.


(Not sure if this is an insult or a compliment, but) none of us on the team were born especially extraordinary.

But we did, however, Google "how to be especially extraordinary."

At this point, T B Completely H , with an endless supply of information and educational tools at our fingertips, the only people who have any excuse not to be extraordinary are those without internet access. (And even then you could library it up old-school style knaw'msayinnnn.)

Any time I would express that I couldn't do something because I "don't know how" to, Evan and Connor's (summarized) response would be:

"Then... learn it."

This is how I came to see everything in the world as existing in 2 categories:

1. Things I already know
2. Things I have yet to learn

This is the ultimate growth-mindset-"teach-a-man-to-fish"- typa lesson. Evan could easily Wordpress everything up for me. But in 2015, he urged me take a Codecademy course. 

And now, here I am, with a million other things I'd previously told myself I could never do...

doin' em.

Actively search for and utilize resources to help you learn new skills and polish old ones in a focused, directed, and wonder-filled way. And you shall watch the world become your oyster.

2. Treat your LIFE as a start-up

Any good company knows to invest in their employees.

STEEZY Squad is not only aware of this, but we're also all really good friends – so we check in regularly.

During these sessions, I'm free to talk about anything. Work, relationships, health, family, how I'm PMSing and really grumpy today... anything's fair game.

Any time I express a "pain point" I'm experiencing, someone has a helpful tip or possible solution to offer.

"My mind's been so cluttered and I have trouble sleeping."
"Try meditating with Headspace."

Even if I just wanted to bitch about something, they respond with the cold, harsh, hopeful truth that I HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE MY LIFE BETTER.

All start-up companies address a need or problem. Whether it's that of a particular demographic's lifestyle, a community, or society as a whole, they're about fixing it.

Instead of watching the world keep spinning with empty houses and antiquated taxi systems, subscribers of this attitude gave us AirBnB and Lyft. 

And instead of letting me just cry and blog about how my life sux, STEEZY empowered me to ask myself, 

"What can I do about it?"

There's an app for that.

3. i can control the winds

When you work for a start-up company in its early stages,

1. Most everything you're doing is new; operations have no previous template
2. The team's running a tight ass ship; help is always needed & welcome

You can see these 2 things as being incredibly stressful, OR as creating the perfect opportunity to experiment, take initiative, and apply ownership.

For example,

If I need to hold a meeting, I schedule it. 
And then the team has a meeting. 

It's like, common sense, I know. But in a professional setting, team members don't always feel the authority to get the things they need.

We all have our respective domains (coding, video, writing, etc.), so we trust each others' ability to gauge the best interests of the company. 

In life, whatever you do paves the way for whatever's to come – and I'm very, very future-minded.

So now, I am less afraid to take control over a situation (in and out of work) in order to see it take the course that I want. 

Ask, and you shall receive. Do, and you will give to yourself.

4. Pivoting is A-Okay

Pivoting is basically when a company changes what they do.

STEEZY started as a blog, and now we have an entire platform dedicated to helping dancers learn, grow, and connect with each other. 

"Businesses can grow beyond their initial dreams by re-imagining their assets and talents, thinking more broadly about the customer problems they solve, and accessing growth capital to seize the new high ground."

Here are 14 examples of other companies that pivoted for the better.

This is hella dummydum of me, but I used to think "survival of the fittest" meant the most physically fit. Like, the biggest bear or fastest lion.

Clay corrected me and explained that the word "fit" referred to "the most fit" – like Cinderella's shoe type of fit. The most adaptable to be contextually appropriate type of fit. Fit for the situation type of fit.

This taught me not to get so married to an idea. Why hold on to an ideal that no longer serves anyone? 

Companies, people, and relationships only fail when they fail to see other, better opportunities and ways of thought. 

Don't be afraid of change – especially change for the better. 

5. Remove the ego

"It's not about you."

That's one of Connor's top 5 things to say to me, along with "You need Jesus" and just a long, drawn-out sigh. LOL

He's so right, though. Because I pour so much of myself into my work, naturally, I feel an intimate tie between my identity and the things I do.

Yet, the only way to fully let my work take effect is to relinquish some of that entitlement. 

Connor and Evan are actually humble – evident in the fact that they never talk about how humble they are. 

They literally just work. No expectations of fanfare, no "Look at me," not even a desire to claim that they started this whole thing from scratch. 

I, on the other hand, am super needy and generally just love attention, so it's still weird and foreign to observe how little of the stage they take for themselves. 

But, I have a better understanding of it. 

We share messages from STEEZY users and fans with each other – from insecure beginners finally taking their first 2-step, to retired dancers rekindling their passion for dance after starting a family...

These are the moments I see the spark of pride and fulfillment in my coworkers' eyes that stem from somewhere much, much deeper than the ego.

Be about IT, not about yourself.

6. NO job is beneath you

On that note, let's talk about just how far a company's mission can take you.

Connor's a pretty useful dude. He makes a lot of important decisions that affect us like, BIGLY (hahaha).

Yet, he always makes time to walk to the grocery store by the studio to grab snacks for our choreographers and dancers.

Our President regularly does intern work like this and more.

Any time I'm faced with something I don't want to do, I remind myself of the purpose behind it.

Then it becomes something I want to do.

If you can answer "Why am I doing this?" with a reason worthwhile to you, keep doing it (with love).


7. can't fuck with non-hustlers

It's human (or just animal) nature to gravitate toward like-minded creatures.

And that idea has never been more pronounced in my life than it is now. 

I've become more and more interested in people who are working on something that they really care about.

Whether it's building a dance studio, getting through grad school, bettering their mental health, or even pursuing a relationship – it turns my mind on to be surrounded by this energy of making, growing, building. 

In the same vein, I get more turned off than ever by those who succumb to complacency.

To me, unfulfilled potential is one of the most heartbreaking and unfortunate things EVER.

Because all you need to do to be especially extraordinary in the ways that you were put on this earth to be, is to just...


From a growing intrigue in 2014, to a long and patient dating phase, to finally being officially cuffed up last year...

My relationship with this company has been full. Just. Full.

It's taken me on so many adventures, armed me with the confidence to do more than I ever thought I was capable of. It's instilled healthy, productive habits that I adopt in all areas of my life. It's shown me that nothing you do is as important as the people you do it for/with.

It's blessed me with love and support from other hustlers around the world –

My favorite 3 among those being my very own coworkers. 

Thanks for all the lessons.
Cheers to many, many more!