Alone among people: working at a coffee place

Not even a week after I finished my college degree I walked into the Chamber of Commerce to apply for my own company. I had no experience with entrepreneurship, I didn’t know anybody that had their own company, and to be honest, I didn’t really have a plan. The degree in my pocket said: sport & performance psychology, MSc. This is not a field where you find job openings left and right. My thought at this point was, if it doesn’t exist, create it yourself.

Virtual Office 1

Alleen nu had ik andere problemen, andere dingen waar ik tegenaan liep en hulp bij nodig had.

1 min
Anouschka de Waal

Not even a week after I finished my college degree I walked into the Chamber of Commerce to apply for my own company. I had no experience with entrepreneurship, I didn’t know anybody that had their own company, and to be honest, I didn’t really have a plan. The degree in my pocket said: sport & performance psychology, MSc. This is not a field where you find job openings left and right. My thought at this point was, if it doesn’t exist, create it yourself.

Finding a workplace
Right out of the gate, an office was too expensive for me, so I started at the place I called home for the last couple of years: the university. Here, I was more than productive writing my master thesis. Besides that, I knew exactly who was going through the same thesis-struggles, who excelled in statistics if I needed some help, and who was a good buddy during break-time. The only difference was that I had a range of different problems this time around. Problems I needed help with. Only, there was no one around to help me with the knowledge or skills.. I was in a different world, but still on the same spot.

I think it is too excessive to say that I felt lonely, but I definitely felt alone among people. In hindsight, those little moments of recognition were of monumental importance. There was nobody I could ask for assistance in starting a company and to be honest, I didn’t really care about the exam stress of the people around me. My level of comfort declined as the days passed.

I also couldn’t find my comfort at coffee bars. Admittedly, the quality of the coffee was vastly better than at the university, but all other problems remained. My fellow coffee bar customers had no idea who I was and I didn’t know them, mainly because there where different people every day. I changed my location, I didn’t change the underlying root.

Motivation and passion
Motivation and passion are two exceptional concepts. It could take years until you know which buttons to push and what levers to pull to get the best out of yourself, but there are three things that (almost) always break your motivation and passion into a thousand pieces: competence, autonomy and relatedness. This is the basis of the Self Determination Theory, one of the most robust psychological theories out there.

If you do something for a long time, that you’re not particularly good at and never will be, you lose your motivation and passion for it.

If you do something for a long time, where your personal input is very limited and you cannot make your own decisions, you lose your motivation and passion for it.

If you do something for a long time, that you cannot share with people who understand you, who you have a connection with and who you care for, you lose your motivation and passion for it.

No matter how high my motivation and passion were, by spending all my time at the university or in coffee bars, I was slowly sinking my psychological ship. I was a couple of months into my new adventure and I already felt it slip through my fingers. I knew I needed to take action.

StartDock
During this period I saw that StartDock needed a copywriter for a couple of hours per month. I had some writing experience, so I swung for the fence. StartDock is a co-working space and I think I kind of knew what it was, but couldn’t paint myself a clear picture in what that would look like. I wrote a small text for them to see if my style matched theirs and one of the co-founders invited me in for a chat.

This was almost three years ago and I still am StartDock's copywriter. I now know what co-working is and also how StartDock is different from other co-working spaces.

Without knowing that I needed it, StartDock was the missing link during the start of my life as a freelancer and entrepreneur. There is a name for that, serendipity: finding luck by being attentive. StartDock was my first case of serendipity, but many followed after that. A big factor is that StartDock consciously creates the environment to let serendipity thrive. I found new clients, new inspiration, new connections that I otherwise would have never found if I didn’t start working from a co-working space. But the most important asset is that I am comfortable here. I work among other people who experience the same challenges as me, who encounter the same problems as me and who worry about the same things as me. All those people also know the pain that is behind every success, and we can raise our glass together.

By the way, I quickly realised that drinking two cups of coffee a day in a coffee place is more than half the rent at StartDock, where the coffee is included.

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