Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity – Seneca

If I had to define my life to this point in one sentence, the above quote sums it up rather well. So far, my life has been a story of creating goals, doing my best to work towards them, and then chancing upon some serendipitous occurrence that keeps me on the right path.

When they asked where I wanted to go to school, I couldn’t decide. All of the options seemed so great that I had a hard time eliminating any. At the last minute, it was Penn State. I wasn’t happy with it, but looking back it was probably the best decision I could have made. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now. I wouldn’t have been surrounded by a great support structure, I wouldn’t have met my 2 best friends, and I probably wouldn’t have made the career shift that I did. I decided to major in Mechanical and Nuclear engineering. This would give me a broad set of skills that I could apply anywhere and get into the energy field that I was particularly interested in at the time. Over time I decided to drop the nuclear engineering major and focused on entrepreneurship instead.

At Carnegie Mellon, I decided to focus on developing my leadership skills. I did my best to lead every project that I was a part of. Extracurricular activities and competitions gave me more opportunities to enhance this skill. By surrounding myself with people smarter than I am, and helping them to do the best work they can do, we were routinely able to exceed even my expectations. I also made a point of presenting nearly every project. It was terrifying at first, but it got easier and easier to the point where I like it now. I’m the person that has to work to speak up in small groups because I want to hear what everyone is thinking, but getting up and talking in front of hundreds of people just excites me.

Now that I’ve left school, I love to stay active and be working on something. I try to identify things that will help me succeed and find ways to incorporate them into my life. Many times, this is accomplished through books. Whether it’s an audiobook on my morning commute, an e-book in between sets at the gym, or an actual paper book to relax at night, there’s a good chance I’ve read something on any given day. Usually, I’ll bounce around between 2 or 3 different books at once. Sports and exercise are also a huge part of my life. On any given day you can find me at the gym, running, playing volleyball, rock climbing, or doing some yoga. I’m always looking for new activities as well!

I’ve always been drawn towards two different phenomena: the decisions that people make and why they make them, and how things work the way they do. I tend to be an observer of people. Some people construe this as a negative, but it’s always worked for me. How else do you really get to know people and their desires and motivations? You can ask them, but chances are they’re only going to tell you what they want you to hear or what they think you want to hear. From toys to products, technology, and organizations, I’ve always wanted to know what makes things tick and what their flaws are. If you know what to look for, it’s not hard to spot ways to make them better.

My biggest experiment with making things better has always been myself. I tend to be harder on myself than others, but I love to use mistakes and problems as a way to become a better person. When something goes wrong, my first thought is almost always about what good things came out of it. My second thought is to ask what caused it to go wrong and what I can do differently to avoid or improve the outcome next time. I have trouble not working on something. It feels like I’m stagnating. I try to set goals to achieve, work towards them, celebrate the victories, and then set some new goals.

– Justin