Matt Kaness always planned on being a lawyer.
“I was in high school when my mum was like, ‘You should be a patent attorney because you’re great at maths and science, you’re a good debater, and you’re extroverted,'” the CEO of online vintage-style clothing retailer ModCloth told Business Insider. “I think she had a cousin who was a patent attorney. I said, ‘OK, Mum. I’ll do that!'”
He studied engineering at Catholic University and then became a patent examiner for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The only thing left to do was to apply to law school and become a patent attorney, as he’d always planned.
But, then, something happened.
“Right before I dropped my applications in the mail, I realised, ‘This isn’t what I want to do,'” Kaness says.
While he enjoyed aspects of the work (and getting to work from home on Fridays), Kaness realised that he wasn’t truly fulfilled. He wanted to be able to lead people and help create things.
So, he gave up on law school and embarked on a career path that took him everywhere from Burton Snowboards to Urban Outfitters. In January 2015, Kaness was appointed CEO of ModCloth.
Kaness has some advice for anyone who’s just starting out in their career and trying to figure out their passion: Try to work with great people who share your values.
“If you don’t think you’re currently in that situation, then find it,” Kaness says. “And if you are, then cherish it. It’s all about learning. Learning from great people really accelerates your own learning.”
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