What #ThinkChicago Taught Me

My name is Oluseun Arowolaju and I am a self-proclaimed Advocator, Innovator and Motivator. I’m a Nigerian-born American citizen, raised in Chicago, Illinois. I received my B.S. from the University of Illinois as a student-athlete, and pursued a M.S. Technology Management the following year. I recently completed an internship at a venture capital firm, IllinoisVENTURES, and will be going on to pursue entrepreneurship full time. Since this is my first Medium post, I believed that an introduction was due.

To kick things off after my internship, I was fortunate enough to engage with a cohort of hustlers, hipsters and hackers at #ThinkChicago a week ago. Georgio Burciaga, former CEO of @Elevate_Digital recently acquired by @civiqscapes, was one of the keynote speakers during the program. He left us with one piece of advice that inspired this post, “Run with people who run faster than you”.

One of the exciting parts of his presentation, was that he asked if anyone was working on a start-up. Myself and many others were able to share our start-ups and ideas with him, and the rest of the room.

A week later, I am still digesting and dissecting this sentence. The point of emphasis is that you should never be the smartest person in the room. In order for you to grow and to test your capabilities, you have to step outside of your comfort zone. Actually, run as far away from it as possible. There are stress tests that you have to pass, in order to reach your full potential. An easier way to get there is to run with people faster than you. Run with people that’s been there before. Run with people that won’t give up on you. Just don’t run alone.

“Run with people that run faster than you”
~Georgio Burciaga

I looked at this learning point from another perspective as well. Somebody has to set the pace. I’ve been running fast for a long time, but I’m starting to realize that I’ve been running my own race. I neither cared if people behind me could keep up, nor cared to keep up with anybody. Some of us are afraid because we don’t believe we can keep up. Others are afraid because they don’t believe they’re fit to lead. If nobody’s doing anything, then where are we really going? It’s time to #GetActiveNow (stay tuned).

Day 2 of #ThinkChicago was just as awesome. Neal Sales-Griffin, CEO of CodeNow.org, gave another amazing keynote speech at Uptake. It was capitalizing and filled with energy. His message drove home the idea of being the best you can possibly be, and why Chicago is a great place to do that. For him, that meant stepping outside of his comfort zone to learn things that challenged him. It also inspired me to do the same. Listening to his story and journey through entrepreneurship was motivating. He hit on a topic that really resonated, the importance of representation. You may not think something is possible, simply because you’ve never seen it done before; or done by someone that comes from the same background as you. It’s important to show and tell, as well as engage with others in their pursuit as well. Running with people faster than him.

“Don’t suck. Get it done.”
~Neal Sales-Griffin

It’s hard to show how filled with enthusiasm both of these speeches were through text alone. It was very straight forward and to the point. I can assure you that I wasn’t the only one inspired.

I could go on and on about my experiences at #ThinkChicago, but there wouldn’t be enough time in the world. There’s truly something special brewing in Chicago. From investors to entrepreneurs, incubators to accelerators, the city is creating a breeding ground for the next generation of innovators, and I’m happy to have been a part of it! We even received a 4-day pass to Lollapalooza. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t make it to a single performance, but I know that would’ve made the experience all the more amazing.

If you’re interested in any of the cool projects I’m working on, or interested in entrepreneurship feel free to contact me at sarowolaju@gmail.com. Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Keep Inspiring Dreams,

Oluseun Arowolaju

About the Author O.K. Arowolaju

Youth Minister, Product Manager

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