“How I Built This”



During my final semester of undergrad at the University of Houston, I enrolled in an entrepreneurship course taught by a very popular professor who was recommended to students from all majors. What I liked instantly was that he was not your average professor. Everyday he wore different and very stylish suits, often told us personal life stories and encouraged us to network and meet at least 5 new people at the beginning of each class. I was so influenced that I even invited my older sister to come sit in with me during the famous “final lecture” of the semester that students would often rave about and tell us that it is something we would not want to miss. Professor Carlos Ortega taught students many things about entrepreneurship, but I would say he taught me more about life and what to gain from it. During the “final lecture” he shared something with students that most people, let alone professors, would be ashamed of. He told us how he struggled at a young age, did not do so well in college his first few attempts, how at one moment he was unsure what he wanted in life but most importantly that all of this was okay and made him who he is right now: a stylish professor, entrepreneur, traveler and encourager. I was so encouraged on how he graduated from college after all of the setbacks and went on to pursue a masters degree in business from the University of Chicago.

Needless to say, I still keep up with Professor Ortega on social media handles and he suggested a podcast that I enjoyed listening to about self-made millionaire, Spanx creator Sara Blakely. Just listening to this 30 minute podcast, made me feel like all of my crazy thoughts an ideas are actually not that crazy. Also, that your ideas do not need to be shared with everyone.

Guy Raz: “Did anybody know about what you were doing?”

Sara Blakely: “No. When I came up with the idea, I kept it a secret for one year. I did share my idea with manufacturers or lawyers or people I thought could help me bring my product to life but I was very careful, right away. It was just a gut feeling I had, to keep it to myself because I believe that ideas are the most vulnerable in their infancy and it’s instinct to turn right or left in that moment and tell a friend. When you do that, instantly ego is invited into the mix. And then you end up spending all of your time defending it, explaining it, and not pursuing it. So, I needed to be at the place where I wouldn’t turn back. No matter what I’d heard.”

Hearing this reminded me of something Professor Ortega told me when I asked for advice about moving upon graduation and pursuing a masters degree. So many people have given there unwanted opinions and discouraging remarks about some of the ideas that I would like to pursue but he said ” You can have it all”. So why should I limit myself to others mediocre standards?

-Kaylon Benai


2 Replies to ““How I Built This””

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