WHO IS JAY KITAMURA?
I was born with a curse. Maybe it’s a gift. I guess it really depends on how you look at it. Some may call it a disability while some may call it insanity. Personally, I think it was a perfect mixture of crazy and curiosity that has led me down this path.
Ever since I was a child, I have been obsessed with the question “why?”. It is almost like my brain does not want to accept any information unless it understands “why?”. When I was little, I used to take apart and destroy my favorite toys just to figure out how the propeller turned on its own or why the lights flashed when you pushed a button. I’m sure my parents thought it was awesome that I broke the toys I just got as gifts that were purchased with my family’s hard earned money. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t stop. It was an obsession.
In school, I quickly realized that not everyone’s brain worked this way. From kindergarten through junior high, I attended a Christian school. You can imagine the trouble I had there since I was obsessed with “why?”. When studying Christianity, I had so many questions when reading the Bible: “How could this happen, why did this happen?”. All that my teachers offered in response was “because the Bible says so”. I was told this again and again, but still, I couldn’t take that answer to be the only answer. I finally asked a question that started to anger all my teachers. “How do we know the Bible is right? Can we prove that these things happened?”. I could tell they were getting fed up. I would walk around the halls and hear teachers whispering my name and pointing. I’m sure my name was put on some watch list at that point. “Faith”, is what they told me. “Just have faith”. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God or Jesus, or even had something against Christianity, it was just how my brain worked. I needed more than “Faith” to calm down my curiosity.
My brain truly struggled to accept information unless it understood the logic behind it, or at least a feasible possibility of how it worked. The negative side effect wasn’t just my feelings of frustration. The toughest part was that I would instantly forget what I just learned if my brain wasn’t satisfied with the information. I struggled with this so much I used to have to create songs and add melodies to things I had to memorize in school, just to retain it. It seemed that memory for music works differently than memory for information, so this was a brain hack that worked for me. Things I learned by understanding how they worked stuck in my brain like superglue. I remember things and details from when I was a child like they were yesterday. It sounds weird, I know. In addition to this, I also had a problem with authority. If I was told to do something just because they “said so”, I needed to know “why”. If I understood “why” and it made sense, then I had no problem listening and following orders, but if there was no good reason, I just couldn’t simply say “ok”. This made school and working for people later in life a struggle.
It wasn’t all bad however. When I learned things through concepts, I did really well. Subjects like Geometry with theorems were a breeze. I also loved video games so when I was introduced to coding, which is basically the building blocks for why things happened on a computer screen, I got hooked. It even got to the point when I started to dream in code. “IF $THIS = “THAT” THEN DO THIS, IF $THIS AND $THAT = “SOMETHING” AND NOT “$THAT_OTHER_THING” THEN DO THIS WHILE THIS IS TRUE BUT THAT IS FALSE yada yada yada…. Essentially, coding mimicked how my brain liked to work. It felt “comfortable”. My obsession with coding really allowed me to relax a little. I still struggled with classes and tasks that required simple memorization of facts without needing to know the details, but I managed.
I also found out that my obsession was great for problem solving. I loved solving problems. Basically to solve a problem, you need to figure out how something works and why some solutions work and some don’t. This catered to my way of thinking. I enjoyed it so much, I think I may have subconsciously created problems so I could solve them. Looking for problems to solve throughout life becomes a bit overwhelming. You start to see problems everywhere. Over time, I think I built a tolerance to problems and tried and convince myself that these things didn’t need fixing. The result was a personality that seemed overly care-free and nonchalant. Some admired this trait in me, and some got really frustrated because it seemed like I didn’t care, when in fact it was the opposite. I needed to keep my obsession to fix and figure out at bay, otherwise I really couldn’t function in the real world. Luckily, coding satisfied my urges for the most part. I became a really good troubleshooter and have made a living solving problems with technology. My past experiences of diving into an uncountable collection of random things also helped me gain an understanding of a lot of topics, outside of my expertise that seemed to impress a lot of people in the business world. Things were looking great until I started to look inward.
I began to question if what I had was a gift or a curse. My entire life, I struggled with it. In school, in relationships, and in my professional life. I felt that I was an alien trapped in a human’s body. It sometimes felt like my entire being was a lie. I basically was constantly holding myself back in order to fit in with society. I’m not trying to sound overdramatic, but for me, it really was a problem. I mean yes, it has been beneficial, but when you can’t turn it off, it quickly turns into insanity. The randomness of what I would gravitate towards would surprise you. Things changed when I started to ponder if what I had was not a curse, what if it was a gift. What if my desire to constantly dive into random things and solve problems was simply me trying to figure out the right problem to solve and I was placed on this planet to do just that?
My first thought was, “nah, I’m not that important”. I wasn’t the smartest kid in school or really had any apparent special abilities that nobody else had. Why would I be special? As I got older I began to realize that everything and everyone seems to have a purpose in the grand scheme of things. No matter how small or how large that purpose may be, there is always a reason for being. It is when you align purpose with your true inner desires that great things happen. Some call this realizing your “calling”. I discovered this calling when I was working at a venture capital firm in the early 2000’s.
At one point in time when I was working in sales, I became obsessed with how the art of persuasion worked. I studied successful sales people, read tons of books, listened to sales calls, and practiced to the point where I was consistently ranking at the top of my company. Soon I thought, why not find the highest paying sales position and work there. That is when I started my job in venture capital. I dealt with multi-millionaires on a daily basis. People who buy islands, and crazy things like that. What I noticed was that many of them were not happy. At the time I believed happiness was all about success and money, and being able to buy whatever you wanted. It’s the American dream. It’s why I was at the VC firm to begin with.
This triggered my obsession. If having everything you want in life didn’t bring happiness. Why? If that’s not the case, how do you find true happiness? Once again I began my journey, except something was different. As I dug deeper and deeper, I began to feel different. I always did get a rush from discovering how something worked for the first time, or solving a problem that many other people couldn’t solve. It felt great, but this feeling was different. I felt like I finally found the problem I was looking for. Deep inside I felt that once I discovered the answer to this, I could live my life to the fullest and not hold back. What I found was my calling.