“Novelists have always had complete freedom to pretty much tell their story any way they saw fit. And that’s what I’m trying to do.” –Quentin Tarantino
Welcome to my own version of a Tarantino tale (well…maybe in only one specific stylistic approach). In classic Tarantino fashion, I’m going to commence the telling of this story with its final scene. But I promise, in subsequent posts, to return to the very beginning of where this all began. In this moment, though…the story is ready to be told. [Cue opening scene]…
Hello. My name is Matt Bolton. And I am as straight forward a character as you’ll ever find. Or I am a great enigma. It all depends on who you ask, really. Regardless, if you are reading this now…it means that I have officially gone through with it. The leap of faith has been taken. The wild unknown now awaits, opportunities for great success and great failure alike.
For the last 9+ years I have been living out the American Dream with a quirky, creative startup company called SparkFun Electronics. Nine years ago I doubt many of you would have ever heard of SparkFun. But today…odds are better that you may have heard the name in passing or stumbled onto it randomly through a Google search or a friend’s social media post. SparkFun’s story is one that embodies the old school American Dream, one that started with a simple idea and organically grew over time…most notably without the assistance of venture capital investment, nearly a requirement for startup companies these days. Despite the lack of early backing of millions of dollars from some external investor(s), SparkFun’s founder, Nathan Seidle, found ways to grow his idea of a D.I.Y. / Maker electronics online store into a culturally influential force that has both inspired and resourced inventors & problem solvers the world over while simultaneously challenging the notion that a business cannot succeed without a wealth of intellectual property (read: “patents”) in its storehouses. It is a story of both risk and reward, fear and fun, loss and love.
My personal story within that of SparkFun’s is one that perhaps had as many odds stacked against it. I showed up to Colorado in the Fall of 2006, riding on not much more than a hope and a prayer. It should probably also be noted that this coincided with the housing bubble burst and the onset of what became The Great Recession.
The impact of what was happening in the economy wasn’t obvious to me at the time, however. As a brash, risk-taking twenty something, all I knew was that I wanted to live in (or near) the mountains and survive long enough to earn in-state residency (and cheaper tuition) so that I could affordably return to school. The University of Colorado at Boulder offered a number of programs that interested me at that time. So all I needed to do was find a place to live and a job to get me through the year.
Craigslist came through on both. I first found a room for rent in Golden, a charming town at the base of the Colorado Front Range foothills (and also the home of Coors, a local not-so-micro-brewery that makes a mighty fine Banquet beer). Then, nearly a month later, I applied to a small startup company in Boulder (i.e. SparkFun) who was looking for Assembly Technicians to help them build circuit boards (no previous experience required!). Against all odds they offered me the job. I accepted. It seemed like a great opportunity to learn a new set of skills while also not getting too far along in a new career that would be a struggle to leave when the time came to return to school.
That time never came. Within a couple months I found myself playing the role of Production Manager for this little startup, a title that evolved a few years later into Director of Production (i.e. Manufacturing). Somewhere in that time I learned a LOT about setting up a manufacturing facility that had the capability to efficiently produce low-volume runs of a wide variety of circuit boards and electronics starter kits. The challenges were huge. But who doesn’t love a good challenge?
Our manufacturing was happening in high-cost-of-living Boulder, CO…at a time when the common line of thinking in the business world was to partner with manufacturers in Asia to get your wares built. We were psyched to be a part of something that seemed big & meaningful, that felt like we were, in our own small way, revitalizing an industry that many had long since written off as a primary contributing factor to our country’s economic well-being. And we were young…just a bunch of Millennial kids (although, truthfully, I am…technically…a Gen Xer) and we were making manufacturing sexy again!
No doubt these were adventurous times. But adrenaline has a way of wearing off over time, leaving us with nothing more than our own internal motivations and ambitions to sustain us.
“A writer should have this little voice inside of you saying, Tell the truth. Reveal a few secrets here.” –Quentin Tarantino
So let’s return for a moment back to that Tarantino-esque beginning. Surely by now you’ve guessed what that “leap of faith” talk was all about earlier. And, yes, it is true. I am officially walking away from SparkFun Electronics this summer to pursue my own personal dreams and passions. Writing that for the first time, in the span of only a few keystrokes, induces feelings that are…all at once…incredibly liberating, terribly frightening, extraordinarily intoxicating, and woefully saddening. What you will hear in the posts to come is how much I absolutely admire and and love SparkFun, both for what it was when I first joined the family many moons ago…and also for what it has developed into over the years. But SparkFun is the dream of another. In actuality, it is probably the dream of hundreds of thousands around the world. But…simply put…it is not Matt’s dream.
This blog is going to spend time dissecting how I came to this revelation. And in due time, this blog will reveal Matt’s dream(s) and what the pursuit of those grand aspirations will involve. Spoiler alert: I am VERY excited for what the future holds!!
But more importantly, I genuinely want this blog to be more about promoting personal growth in others. I hope to challenge you with questions and thoughts that encourage you to address, and perhaps reaffirm, your own life’s purpose & direction. How can each of us continue to develop into the very best possible versions of ourselves so that we can give back to our communities what they most need from us: our God-given talents and naturally-attuned hearts that are primed for sharing our talents & passions with those around us?
“I want to top expectations. I want to blow you away.” –Quentin Tarantino
So…you might be asking yourself: “What’s with this whole Tarantino thing?” The truth is, I really just wanted to start by revealing the punchline first (a very Tarantino move), but then I began to do some research on the man and learned how fascinating and inspiring he truly is.
Do you know what I discovered that I admire most about Mr. Quentin Tarantino? The guy is absolutely doing what he loves to do. Sure…he has incredible talent and an impeccable knack for good storytelling, but he has achieved cinematic success because of his dedication to the pursuit of his passion. In a 2010 interview with The Telegraph, Tarantino notes, “I have loved movies as the number one thing in my life so long that I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t.”
In that same Telegraph interview he passionately revealed to the interviewer why he feels he has succeeded as a cinematic storyteller. To close out this chapter of this tale, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from that very interview…
Does he ever have doubts? Moments when he fears he has dedicated too much of himself to film, to his attempts to carve a monument in a medium that deals, after all, in flickering shadows on a screen? “No,” he [Tarantino] says, emphatically. “I feel the exact opposite, actually. The day I don’t want to give everything to making movies is the day I want to quit. It’s not a part-time thing. It’s not a summer house, it’s not a second house, it’s the house. It’s my life.”
“I ask myself am I giving it enough? Am I concentrating enough? Am I devoting enough of my life to it? That’s what I’m here for right now. If you’re a mountain climber and your desire is to climb Everest and Fuji and Kilimanjaro – that’s what you’re doing. It ain’t about nothing else. When you’re climbing Everest you’re not thinking about your bills and you’re not thinking about your girlfriend, you’re not thinking about bull—t that all the other humans are thinking about. You’re thinking about Everest.”
“That’s how I feel about film-making. This is my time to make films. It’s not going to be later. I think I am going to live to be a very old man but that will not be my time to climb Everest.”
What is your Everest? Is now the time to pursue it? Maybe you are already pursuing it.
I know what mine is. And I know the time to go after it is now. This journey promises to be a thrilling one. I hope you’ll choose to join me as this story unfolds…!