Life as a 20-something: “Do what ultimately makes you happy. If not, you’re wasting time.”

Life as a 20-something: “Do what ultimately makes you happy. If not, you’re wasting time.”

Emanuel Hahn has already lived many lives in his 26 years. As a Student turned Startup Master turned Freelance Photographer —I had to ask myself, what can’t he tackle?

Yet, the most refreshing part about Emanuel is his humble nature. The guy was hand-picked to be employee Number 3 at the bitcoin start up, itBit. And when he hit a plateau in his career, he turned to his already successful passion project — photography — and made it his full-time job.

Emanuel talks with a practicality that makes each career move seem natural. He made it seem feasible that We can all transition from the tech world, to a business owner if you merely put your mind to it.

So, how do you make those life jumps? How do you convince yourself — and others — that you can do Anything?

“Once I took that step, it was more about adapting. You’re in this new mindset: No one is going to do things for you. And, when you feel like you’re in charge — you don’t feel afraid anymore. It’s your life.”


Be Curious

Emanuel’s ability to immerse himself in seemingly juxtaposing sectors is not foreign to him.

“Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things. I cycled through almost everything, from wanting to be a lawyer, to working in academia.” And when he got to college, Emanuel became curious about the startup world.

Of course, while Emanuel claims to have “stumbled into tech,” I would tend to disagree. His mere hunger to explore got him into a startup in the famed NY startup accelerator, Techstars, as a college sophomore.

And, this genuine desire to learn has pushed Emanuel from questioning through technology to inquiring through photography.

Because, when you do something out of sheer interest — you are your Best You.

Emanuel still seeks out the uncomfortable questions in his everyday. He finds himself approaching strangers on park benches or in the subway station to capture something interesting about them.

Feeding that unquenched curiosity is the ultimate path to finding your Thing.

Be Practical

While Emanuel may have “stumbled” into his roles by following his curiosity, he is most definitely a planner.

Before Emanuel left his job as Manager of Strategic Partnerships at itBit, he prepared as much as he could. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “I was fortunate enough to pay off all my student loans early. And, I set aside 2–3 months of savings so I wouldn’t die.”

Because, there will always be a fear of dying if we quit our jobs (yet clearly, no one with that fear goes to the SoHo Equinox).

But, as Emanuel reflected on the past few months since he’s taken on photography full-time, he’s realized that it’s not as scary as one may think.

Of course, he already had a proof point: Emanuel did some paid photography gigs on the side before he made the jump. Yet, moving from side-project to real-life job takes guts.

It also takes a change in mindset: “I realized that [photography] becomes more practical now that it’s my job. I have to find new clients, produce new work. No one is going to do that for me.”

The coolest part though? He’s doing what he loves — every single day.

Be in touch with your Values

Emanuel’s shift from the tech world, to photography took a lot of introspection.

“When I first started taking photos, it was just for fun. It was a way to capture things in a beautiful way.” Yet, as Emanuel produces more work, he is thinking more critically about what his images can do for the World: “I ask myself, ‘What is the purpose of my work and how can it make a positive difference in the world?”

We all need to ask ourselves those questions from time to time.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the name or the money or the moment — and not think about what you really want to do.

Then, you wake up one day to a mid-life crisis with a wife & kids & a dog.

When Emanuel made his decision to quit his fast-track tech job, he knew it was something he’s always wanted to do. Even if it was just a little, but persistent thought in the back of his mind.

“I knew I had to try. Even if things don’t work out, I had to try.”

And you know? When I asked Emanuel why he’s in this line of work, his reply was so simple. “I enjoy it,” he said with a confidence that made me a little jealous, I must admit.

“Because, every job is going to give you some level of anxiety. A lot of people tell me that they’re scared [to make that jump]. But my advice is always the same — this is your life. Do what ultimately makes you happy. Anything besides that is wasteful”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Thanks, Emanuel.

If you enjoyed this — check out the rest of the blog, On Adulting, for more observations about this weird time as a 20-something. And feel free to share 🙂

Did you ever make a career jump? How did you do it? Share and share!



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