I’m Jani Parikka, a Finnish web designer and visual artist.
I know some “experts” advise to write in a third person so this will drive some people up a wall. Just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
I have no reason to appear as if I was a bigger business executive, because I’m not. I have never been and I probably never will. It’s not my mission nor my character. Appearing that way wouldn’t serve my purpose.
What serves my purpose is being honest to you and myself. I actually liked the idea of being so brutally honest in this that I didn’t even ask anyone to proof-read the page. I’m sorry about it. Kinda.
There’s more to life
I’ve done all kinds of work and served a wide range of businesses. I love my customers and many of them have become quite close to me over the years, but I’ve always had a voice in my head saying there’s something better waiting for me…
If you have heard that kind of voice you should know THERE IS much more to your life too.
It has been great to help my customers to accomplish whatever they have wanted and I’m really happy that I’ve been given a chance to do so. But from my standpoint it hasn’t helped much in achieving my own dreams.
My life purpose is to be a happy spiritual multi-millionaire who helps a lot of people to enjoy their gifts and lives. I want to have super fun time and make a lot of exceptionally cool art.
So, I finally took the jump to try a different approach and completely changed my business plan. It was time to break the cycle and start something magnificent. Hit or miss.
Personal success shouldn’t be measured by status or extrinsic rewards
After graduating in 2003 with a skillset of cinematographic expression, graphic and web design, a friend of mine told me they have a job open. That’s how I got my first career job as a web developer.
The job was okay for a couple of years — until the boss started to dislike me because I had suddenly moved to another city to live with my girlfriend and traveled to work from there.
I did it for a few months without a problem. Actually the only problem was that the boss had ruined a healthy relationship by giving me an unjustified warning letter that had nothing to do with my performance. In fact, short after I received compliments from a customer who was generally perceived as difficult. It put my boss to shame.
Finally I got enough of his attitude and quit. I’m sure early mornings and long distance had nothing to do with it. Maybe a little.
Next, I went to update a Product Data Management Help for Nokia in three work cycles. The job was super easy for me. I got it all done really fast. Since they had nothing else to give me, the most of the time I planned my roadtrip from San Francisco to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Diego and back. I even received praise from my employer after I had done everything I was supposed to, and more.
— And listened Hot Fuss album by The Killers countless of times while doing it all. I still love the album because I had a lot of fun listening to it.
It was amazing roadtrip by the way. I blogged the whole thing afterwards and this was in 2006. I had a website where I showcased graphic designs I had done. The site is gone, but I have the travel story on somewhere though, if someone still cares to read it…
At this point I had learnt from my jobs how to serve customers, how websites should really be done (at that time) and how to make instructions for dummies. I was also becoming an entrepreneur, even though I was advised to do otherwise.
A Sudden change. Moving to Dublin, Ireland
Things don’t always go as planned. I broke up with my girlfriend and I got the feeling to do something different in my life.
At the time one of my friends was working in Ireland as an IBM Technical Support Representative and I thought it could do some good for me too. I wanted to get away and they had similar positions available. I asked another friend with me and he agreed. We had met only once before, but I knew he was a great guy.
It was a step to unknown. It was fun and exciting. We didn’t even have an apartment when we arrived. Just backpacks, new low-cost Acer laptops, a telephone number for a place to sleep few night and high-class expectations for the future.
But as soon as the training started I found out the job was extremely hard for me to learn. They assigned us both to the most challenging department to serve a multinational Finnish technology company.
I tried my best…
I had heard in advance that jobs there were rather boring and easy. But that department was all about technology things that I had no clue about.
All my early life I had received thanks for tuning TV devices for older people. Instructing angry customers on a phone how to set up conference calls from airports with random dumbphones, laptops and bluetooth connections in a few minutes was a different story.
I had to show my expertise to customers who had tons more knowledge and experience in such matters.
Daily performance ranking reports (they actually sent us a freaking scoreboard every day to put us in competition against each other), overly complicated systems, sometimes inhumanely early mornings (again) and being in a leash made me eat comfort food too much. Those frozen pizzas were tasty though!
The point of silly dress codes and other nonsensical rules is to break employee’s independent will. By using fear they force employees to become obedient. Humans are not meant to be raised in cubicles. That’s just cruel.
When IBM gave us a workstations after training period I already hated my job so much that the first thing I did was searching a new job in Dublin. However Google or Xerox weren’t interested in me so I stayed.
Somehow I managed to cope one day at a time. Some co-workers were supportive, but I was living fully for the weekends. Many hate Mondays, but for me Sunday was even harder because the next five working days were already in my mind. I got nightmares because of the stress. I still remember one of them.
I also remember exactly how I walked in morning darkness towards the workplace and watched planes taking off in distance. I imagined that one of those mornings I was gone like them.
During that time at IBM I truly started to question the motives of working for just anyone. “A work to live” concept became a thing of the past. I also found my interest for art again.
Back to Finland, back to Lahti
Finally, the day came that I had been waiting anxiously. We were back at the airport with my friend (also my room mate in Dublin) moving back to Finland.
It was a cheap flight to Finland, but the weight of my luggages increased the price of the flight by about 80 euros. Despite my lifestyle and expensive rent I was able to save a few thousand euros in six months because of the ridiculously low tax rate.
One of the co-workers was waiting for the same flight because he preferred a Finnish dentist. Out of the blue he began to criticize my honesty about our working conditions.
On my last day at work I had sent an email to the whole team trying to remind them how badly the company treats them. But this guy was sorry for the boss who got mad at me because of my email (her yelling was the last thing I ever heard of her).
More over, when shaking hands with my team leader, she asked me to let her know when I find a job that isn’t as supervised as at IBM.
I held my head. I couldn’t give a damn about that company. I just couldn’t believe how well-conditioned some people are. They prefer to defend a bad employer rather than admit that everyone should be treated better.
But well, I hope they have considered later that there was truth in my message. Anger is a step in the right direction from being numb.
Anyway, I came back to Lahti, Finland, without a job, to be with my spouse who I had met during the time in Dublin.
As a result of resignation my social security benefits got suspended for two or three months. It was unlawful decision (and I can prove it), because the employment relationship happened abroad. I never saw those money because the officials failed to take clear evidence and acts of law into account.
I learnt another lesson. You just can’t be dependent on anyone. You can’t even trust the authority. My new mission was to take full control of my own life.
Becoming an entrepreneur
I started painting and experiment with art which I loved to do as a teenager. Finally I established my company King Kuma in 2009.
Shortly after getting started I encountered problems, because I had too many things to offer. Web design, graphic design, DJ’ing, creating art… Anything that I could do!
There weren’t enough customers, but still so much to do. I had no clear goals or really good strategy. The only goal was to somehow get along on my own and to be independent.
I also spent a lot of time doing art instead of marketing and getting new customers.
“You just have to start selling”, someone advised.
— Yeah, sure. Thanks so much for your help.
At the time, I was so afraid of becoming rejected that cold calling was not an option even that it sounded like a good idea.
Doing something fun felt much nicer way to be an entrepreneur. And that’s how it should be. But the big problem is, how.
How do you sell when you are not a seller?
How can you focus on your thing when you should be out there getting new customers?
It’s totally possible and you don’t need to make cold calls for that. Back then I just didn’t know how.
New job in a startup company
By the time the money ran out and I was about to face troubles, I was nearly a shadow of the eager beaver I used to be.
But someone saw something in me and I got a job again from a startup company as a web designer.
That’s how I got to keep my company on the side and got back on my feet. It was a cool feeling to realize that my local supermarket had nothing so expensive that I couldn’t afford. I paid my credit card debt in two months.
The company had summer and X-mas parties where I met angel investors and other nice international people in vibrant startup scene. It was all good. No more crying on the shower floor. Instead, I found my ego again (in a cool way).
Then as the company evolved the job decription started changing on its own. Some of the things I had to do weren’t even close to what I was hired for.
My strenghts were not a good fit with the company anymore. But what can you do? It was a startup, it’s expected that you are all in. I was randomly looking for another job. Eventually they fired most of their employees because the company’s cash flow started to stall. Me included…
It was spring. Just a night before it happened, we had agreed with my spouse to travel to Thailand next summer. But when the sun went up, the boss told the news via Skype chat.
The trip had to be forgotten and, moreover, I was forced to have a summer vacation right away. If you know anything about Finland, you know early spring is not an ideal time to spend your earned summer holidays.
In business world fair play doesn’t seem to apply. I remember how we sometimes agreed to wait for our delayed salaries, because it was in the company’s interest. We agreed to do things that weren’t really part of our job descriptions. But nothing is enough if someone decides to reduce the workforce.
I’m not bitter at all, but rather grateful. It’s just how it is.
Again as an entrepreneur
Suddenly, I was an entrepreneur again. This time I got some new customers from here and there, but I still didn’t have an ability to sell.
I also bought domains for all kinds of ideas which I hoped would take off, but I usually got tired of my idea before I got the site up and running. News and blog sites, a job listing site… None of them satisfied me, so my interest in them faded out soon.
At the time when there were less client jobs I started painting again. I had thoughts again about becoming a full-time artist. However, once again I drifted to serve others with my expertise.
At some point it started to feel like I had no purpose in life anymore. My life felt like a pinball machine.
I haven’t been active in LinkedIn, but I had to visit my profile to review something. I got curious about what my old co-workers were doing. Everyone had nice titles and it looked like their lives were just wonderful. They had achieved all kinds of things in their lives and careers.
While I was happy for them it really started to bother me that I hadn’t achieved anything great yet, or at least that’s what I thought of myself. There was nothing I could have been proud of, except some of my artworks.
I was disappointed because my self-worth was tied up in my achievements. I also felt that I don’t have a role in society. “What will I leave behind? What’s my legacy?”
Then I faced a terrible three-week period of sheer bad luck and unwanted drama.
It started immediately after I decided to end a friendship. Only a few days later we took a third cat. That cat transmitted a flu to other cats and it got pretty serious.
A week’s worth of work disappeared from a server because my service provider’s backup system had failed when their server crashed.
I lost my laptop and much of my work again when one of the cats vomited on it while we were treating another at a vet.
All kinds of things were hitting me from left and right and in the end I had more than a handful of big bills. I had to buy a strict budget laptop because I couldn’t afford better.
The misfortune during those three weeks was so unnatural I began to suspect that I was cursed. I eventually came to conclusion that there may be something to law of attraction…
Life Changing realization
Many times, when the vulnerability is greatest, a major revelation occurs.
I got enough of the money problems and the constant pressure to succeed in life so I made a decision to change it all. I spent long days studying and finding an idea that would support my professional skills.
For example, I came across to dropshipping and print on demand when they weren’t as popular as now. But no, I wanted something that really sticks. Something that I could be really proud of. I needed to do things my way. “But what things? What is my way? Who am I?”
My intention was to find a source of income that would allow me to work at home, make art, travel and enjoy my life as it should. There simply were no other options.
I took a step back, examined my life and myself. What I came up with required a great deal of soul-searching.
I took a pen and paper and went to a gas station cafe to sit until I knew exactly what I was doing, what I wanted to do and what was the most important to me in life.
I divided my life into columns and prioritized all sectors. Based on this knowledge, I came up with a plan. It wasn’t the greatest plan, but it was something.
I still had a problem though. Even that it was clear to me now what to focus on the most, there were still too many things on the list that I wanted to do. I am multipotentialite (a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life). There’s no way I could manage all that at the same time, I thought.
Because I was trying to do more than one thing, having a different social media account for each business idea and personal use would have been too much of work. A need for simpliflying my business and life led me to personal branding.
I finally got clarity to what I was doing.
Imagine the time saved
Up until then, I had avoided appearing as myself online. At first, my company’s website didn’t even have a face photo. But since I was flipping the script, what if I changed this as well and put myself out there?
What if, instead of trying to produce faceless content in formal tone for all of my business ideas individually, I’d have just one casual account on my legal name?
I figured out it’s much easier to post content more often by being myself.
After realizing that I needed a strong personal brand, it took only 2 hours and I had reserved my name domain.
This changed everything.
I suddenly didn’t have to worry about different brands, because I WAS THE BRAND. I was the web designer, graphic designer, artist, blogger, WordPress theme developer etc.
Imagine how much time it saves! And more importantly, it builds so much trust between you and potential customers, that you’ll leave your competitors in your shadow. People buy from people they know!
Why is it criticized then?
If you Google personal branding you’ll find criticism. In most cases they don’t really get personal branding.
Personal branding is not about self-glorification.
Your personal brand is your reputation.
The fact is everyone are already a brand. The choice is yours. Do you let your potential customers make decisions based on short information, poor story telling and an impersonal website?
Or would you rather come to light and show your reputation in an authentic way?
Taking full control of my destiny
It was time to trust myself more than ever before. I had to make a move and put myself out there or people would never know my value.
Breaking out of the cycle
Trading time for money usually isn’t a good idea. I have learnt over my working years that getting a job is not a secure way to support oneself. Being in a position where someone else can turn the key off at any moment isn’t secure.
Security comes from being in control. More opportunities and income comes from being in control. When you are in control you don’t have to tolerate any idiots. You can just walk away and socialize with like-minded people instead.
A much better way to earn is to provide value directly to those who will benefit most from it. Not to someone who sells your work for a greater price.
So that I’m now able to write honestly who I am and to bring my flaws for others to see, I had to learn how to ignore any poor criticism (insults). As a person who had always been trying to take everyone else into consideration and was self-sacrificing, I had to raise my self-esteem and focus on myself a lot more.
Is it selfish? It’s not. Actually demanding someone to be unselfish is an selfish act. It’s selfish to ask others to be something they are not.
Facing own fears may feel scary but the payoff is great. You just need to be strong. You are not like everyone else so don’t try to be. You are better than that.
The moment you make a decision to fix your life, you are already across. It may still need hard work, but if you have a clear vision and you are determined enough, you’ll be there eventually. No matter what anyone else is saying. No matter what obstacles you’ll face.
You’re a star
You have pretty f*ing lot to offer to your surroundings.A friend of mine
In work, but above all, as Jani.
I know there are a lot of people who are going through the same I have. They have the same battles with their current work or with their fears to make changes in their life.
Maybe YOU need to show the world what you can do best. Maybe you want to live a carefree life and spend more time on your hobbies.
I honestly believe that you are much more valuable than what you are paid. You should be able to live your life on your own terms.
During more than 10 years of entrepreneurship I have worked for famous artists, photographers, software companies, online stores and many other types of companies and influencers. Sometimes to have a new client I’ve felt pressure to show or argue that I’m qualified for the job. Wouldn’t it be easier if you no longer had to worry about it but your website and your whole being spoke for you?
Maybe you want to have a fulfilling lifestyle that makes you happy and goes hand in hand with your work. But customers are hard to find and there’s no time or resources to reach them.
Society wants us to work. Sometimes we get a job because we have to. But you never know what your employer is like until a few months, or even years, have passed.
As an entrepreneur, selling feels hard and awkward because not all of us are born as salesmen. It would be more desirable if customers came directly to you.
Life will never be the same
There’s much more to discover in life when you follow your dreams. I’m living fulfilling life by helping nice like-minded people, having super fun time and making art. I wish everyone took the steps and created the life of their dreams.
Have the courage to be yourself. Your true value is in who you truly are. The only thing you need to do is start expressing your real self impressively.
Waste no time creating the life you want. Start living like you were meant to be. You’ll never know true happiness and fulfillment until you make the best of your life and live it on your own terms. Stop making life so difficult and go for your dreams.
It took me several years and mistakes before I succeeded in creating a lifestyle I wanted to have. I want to ride downhill bikes all summer and no one can stop me. I just bought a Globe longboard and I’m so excited to learn how to cruise on it any time I want.
I love helping people to take control of their lives and enjoy it. Be smart. Do what you love. Have fun. Own your life!