I wasn't certain what I'd get out of leaving the comfort of Pixar, but I had and continue to have faith that change is good. One thing I wasn't expecting was the joy of hunger. I don't mean it like I'm actually starving. Toy Talk, my current company, is well funded and very competitive in the thriving startup community of San Francisco. I mean to say that my ego is now hungry and I think it's made me a better student, engineer, and friend.
Adorning the universally recognized and loved brand of Pixar on my answers to "What do you do?" made it easy to feel full. No matter how vulnerable my pride may have felt, I could always tell myself I'm successful and important because I work at Pixar and others will think that's cool. Over time, however, I realized that my Pixar based diet began to feel heavy on the rice and bread and light on the protein and vegetables. I always felt a little uncomfortable dropping Pixar during career conversations. I thought it was modesty, but deep down I felt that any awed admiration I may get wasn't out of respect for my personal work, but for the amazing work of the animators and story artists I had the pleasure to support. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of all the work I did and the projects I worked on, but it was hard to explain to others the difference between my actual job and the preconceived ideas folks had about how awesome it must be to work at Pixar.
Now, in the absence of a filling diet, I've discovered a renewed joy for explaining what I do and the company I work for. I've traded a juggernaut for an unproven, scruffy underdog. I'm more inspired to cultivate and extend my network of friends and colleagues. I'm plugging into online communities like Reddit, Quora and ShaderToy (more on that later). I'm taking more risks and trying new opportunities. I'm working harder to squeeze more learning out of each day. And a big surprise for me, I'm still finding the energy to write this blog.
There are a lot of classic entrepreneur stories of rags to riches, big successes following a string of failures, unknown underdogs beating the odds. Ambition, drive, hunger - this is the dynamo of innovation. I can now see how it's hard to innovate in an established, mature company. When your meals come easy, why spend more energy than you need to.
For me, it's been in the absence of a reliable, notable success that I have a stronger drive to find my next meal. And right now, I'm enjoying the benefits that come with the hunger pains over the warm comfort of a food coma.