Class of 2018 Insights: Zishan Li

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Introducing the next post in our Class of 2018 series: this time, we hear about working through setbacks and failure from Zishan Li. Enjoy! -Martin


I remember the first day of Endevvr: I walked into the classroom, thinking: "Ok, let’s do it. I am going to start a company right away." However, I never realized how much courage and work I needed before transforming into a real entrepreneur. My story at Endevvr begins with defining my fears and turning them into energy and courage to push me forward.

Teachers and parents are always telling us to step outside our comfort zone. The reality is we subconsciously avoid anything that will put us in an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation. It’s an instinct that we are all born with to weave a safety net for any kind of emotional free fall. At Endevvr, we are taught that we succeed by failing over and over again. Failures and setbacks are defining. The most embarrassing and bitter moments in life catalyze our growth and help us become more clear that who we are as a person.

Every entrepreneur should know how to tell a compelling story, and mine lies in my experience in learning how to pitch. For me, the most memorable pitch was my second one with my team. The day before, after working hard throughout the afternoon and evening, we finally managed to finish the script at midnight. The following day was nerve-racking for me. I went back to my dorm once class ended and started a long process of reciting my lines everywhere I went, even when I was cooking and cleaning the dishes. I spent an hour just walking in my room anxiously and rattling off the speech.    

When the moment finally came, I was so nervous that my hand started to shake uncontrollably, and I had to take several deep breaths just to calm myself down. When my part of the pitch began, I started my section confidently. Everything went well until my brain suddenly just went blank halfway through the slide. I froze for a few seconds and said sorry while I tried to disguise my panic. I took a deep breath and quickly picked up from the part that I stopped. After I finally managed to get through the rest of my presentation, I immediately thought to myself:

“Major faIl! I messed up”. The rest of the class was just painful for me. I felt so embarrassed that I kept my head down the entire time.

That evening, I came to the realization that I should not focus on trivial mistakes anymore. I quickly got myself together and decided to ask my mentor for advice. After I divulged the details of the previous event, my mentor told me she had no idea why I was so disappointed. It was only a little glitch during the presentation, and she was impressed by how fast I covered it up. I got a lot of useful feedback and advice from her, and I gradually regained my confidence.

The following pitch turned out great, and I learned that I will never grow by remaining in my comfort zone. After rounds and rounds of pitch practices, I can now manage my nervousness on the stage and have the courage to start over again even after I failed. I realized that we always suffer more in imagination than in reality. At the end of the day, those embarrassing moments will turn into great stories that define who I am as a person.

I couldn’t be more thankful to my mentor, counselors, my team, and most importantly Endevvr for providing me the opportunity to grow and strengthen from failures. I want to end this blog post with one of my favorite quotes:

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” -Jerzy Gregore

Martin Miller