Neil Vogel is the CEO of About.com and cofounder of The Webby Awards.
In early 2003, I bought a 1994 green and silver Ford Bronco, the model made famous by either O.J. or the movie “Varsity Blues,” depending on your demographic.
It cost $US3,000 on eBay, plus a trip to a used car dealer in deep New Jersey.
I immediately removed the roof, added a small Philadelphia Phillies sticker, and, as it was as big as my apartment, loaded it with gear.
At that time, I had just left my job at Alloy Media + Marketing, where I was one of the first 10 employees — we had grown to over 500 by the time I departed (I ran corporate development).
Immediately prior, I was an investment banker working 80 hours a week. So for the first 10 years of my “career,” I had no balance in my life, I was burnt out, and I needed a break. As I had very few actual responsibilities at the time (meaning I didn’t have any), I decided take some time off to recharge. So I bought the truck.
The truck was my friend and travel partner. For the following six months of spring and summer, I visited every beach I could, broke my arm mountain biking somewhere in the south, had late nights in strange places with new people, and eventually found my way back to NYC (as one should).
The truck broke down constantly (a challenge because I can’t fix anything), but I didn’t care, and dudes at gas stations loved working on it, which helped.
The time off also served an incredibly valuable purpose — it provided the space to figure out how I wanted to lead the next part of my life. By the end of that summer, I had an incredible amount of energy for a new challenge, and it was very clear to me I had the passion to start something of my own.
I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do it. It felt like I was making a big decision, and it was scary.
Come the fall, I (along with a partner) started a company called Recognition Media, which today owns and produces the Webby Awards as well as eight other awards shows and media properties. I’m still chairman — my partner took over as CEO in 2012 — and we now have great private equity investors as well.
I then joined FirstMark Capital as a venture partner (entrepreneur-in-residence), and for the last two years I have been CEO of About.com.
I have been incredibly lucky to be able to spend my time working on things I love and am passionate about, and it is all the result of taking the time to figure out how I wanted to spend my time and energy. The truck was my co-conspirator during a really meaningful and exciting time, and is by far my best purchase.
The Success Series is a collection of the best advice from some of our favourite writers, thinkers, and leaders. This week, we asked: “What is the best money you’ve ever spent?” See other articles in the series here.
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