Sustainable Growth at Code Park

Many years ago, a friend and I started a comics and games store that would ultimately fail. In the beginning, we were full of excitement and energy, and we worked long hours trying to make our dream a reality. Over time however, the honeymoon faded, and we became burnt out from working too hard. Soon we were only able to do the bare minimum to keep our store afloat, and after 1.5 years of work, we were forced to close.

Sustained effort over time, invested together, is how we build a better tomorrow.

I think often of those heady 18 months, and the easy mistake of overcommitment and poor long-term planning. It is something I am working hard to ensure we avoid at Code Park. Our efforts must be sustainable long term if we are to have a real impact in the lives of our students and each other. That reality requires us to focus on three areas: ourselves, our close friends/family, and our community.

Focus on Self

The first key to sustainable giving is to take care of yourself. This means having a job that pays enough that you don’t have to worry about money, that you can exercise and eat well, take vacations, and most importantly, give back to causes you care about.

If you do not take care of your own basic needs, you will eventually burn out and will find yourself with no energy, time or money to give back. While running my store, I neglected myself, physically, emotionally, and financially. Soon I was tapped out and had to quit.

Focus on Friends/Family

The second key to sustainable giving is to ensure you have a solid group of family and friends around you. This support group helps you through the hard times, and in turn, you help them through their hard times as well. Giving back, trying to solve hard problems, working with the underserved, can be incredibly draining. Friends and family are the battery you can draw on for extra energy when it sometimes becomes too much.

At my store, I lost sight of my friendship with my business partner, and as a result, when the store closed, we stopped being friends. But, on the plus side, my mom and dad helped me get through the pain of failure. It’s a hard, complex topic. And that’s ok.

Focus on Community

The last key to sustainable giving is actually, wait for it, sustainable giving. Which is a bit of a tautology, I know, but it’s true. Once you take care of yourself, and once you have a solid foundation of friends and family, you will find yourself with a surplus of time, energy and money to give back, either to Code Park or a similar organization. The surplus may not be huge, but it is yours to grow. And investing that extra, day after day, week after week, will soon pay dividends. Sustained effort over time, invested together, is how we build a better tomorrow.

Our metaphorical garden. Jared Lake shows how to make beats with flowers at the STEM Community Day! Courtesy of Amanda Shih. June 8th, 2019.

Our metaphorical garden. Jared Lake shows how to make beats with flowers at the STEM Community Day! Courtesy of Amanda Shih. June 8th, 2019.

Right now, I work in oil and gas as a full-stack developer. The job pays well, but it doesn’t provide much in the way of spiritual fulfillment. But it helps me generate a small surplus that I invest in Code Park each month because my meaning of life is giving back, tending the garden that is our shared community. And I am so grateful and glad that we get to grow it together.

Benjamin OchoaComment