Fire and Steel

The Properties of Imagination

Imagination

 Imagination by Mehdinom (Own work) or CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 

A few years ago, I read J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech about the power of imagination. It stuck with me to this day.

If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, I highly recommend it, even if you’re not a fan of J.K. Rowling or her novels (ie. Harry Potter, The Cuckoo’s Calling, etc.). In her speech, she talks about the role imagination played in shaping her life and in forming complex emotions like empathy.

When I think about it, imagination plays a huge role in the day-to-day operation of Fire and Steel as well.

On the surface, it’s pretty obvious: imagination is the backbone of creativity. It helps in decision-making when it comes to design, development, and stocking new products. However, I thought about it more lately and I realized it has a much more profound impact on this business than just that.

Like J.K. Rowling mentioned, imagination has a role in forming who we are.

My love of swords began with imagining I was a ninja. Mind you, I wanted to be many things growing up, but I think seeing kick-ass heroines in cartoons made me want to be a sword-wielding superhero too for a very short time.

When I was younger and thought no one was looking, I would roll around, punching and kicking the air on my parents’ front lawn. It was pretty embarrassing finding out my oldest sister was watching and laughing at me all along.

Upon starting this business, I thought I’d be interacting with more weirdos like me – and I say that with affection. In truth, I was surprised to meet a lot more people from completely different walks of life. I had to learn very quickly how to interact with people completely different from me.

When people come to buy something from me, they don’t just come to buy a sword. I often have the privilege of having a conversation with them too, which I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. Sometimes people open up to me about their lives: How they’re having a rough day, what they do for work, how they just became an uncle or an aunt, or wackier stories. I live those moments with them when I imagine myself in their shoes. I ask a lot of questions. I daydream a lot. Sometimes I feel like I’m floating above myself and see myself living other lives.

Though I don’t have data to prove it helps in sales, I genuinely believe that if you try your hardest to understand someone, to empathize and imagine how they’re feeling, they will reciprocate. When you make the effort to care about someone – even a complete stranger -- they make the effort to care about you in return. I feel like the best sales people aren’t the ones who offer the best products and prices necessarily (though of course, this certainly must help), they’re the ones who understand how to make real human connections.

I basically spent the past week brainstorming ways to improve sales and have come up with many solutions. But at the core, if there’s no understanding of people and no understanding of the way empathy works, everything else just falls apart.

I realized the key is imagination and the property of how it’s reciprocated. Everything else is built upon this foundation: When imagination is shared, it’s also returned.

I also thought about its role in my worst moments.

Over the years, I’ve had times when I’ve wanted to give up. There are a number of reasons for this: Things weren’t panning out in a way I predicted, results of my efforts were too slow, my first convention was a flop (you can read about it here), something wasn’t designed properly which would make me have to return it, people weren’t taking me seriously, the reasons were numerous and this probably deserves an article itself.

It would’ve been easier to say, “Screw it!” and then just go back to the wonderful world of working in a lab somewhere.

During these moments, I would imagine what my perfect day would look like for me personally and for Fire and Steel. My perfect day for this business is pretty simple: All I’d want is one conversation that makes someone smile or think and one item sold that makes someone happy. I’m happy to say I’ve had many days like this.

When I’m on the brink of giving up, I draw on these simple moments, imagining them as my tomorrows instead of my yesterdays. And I hold these images close to me.

It’s enough to push me to keep trying.

Imagination is the foundation of hope. It floats. As long as I have the mind to dream of a better day, no one can take it away from me.

Imagination helps me expect more from myself and dream bigger. It helps me plan for the future. My business began with a desire to deliver new products to people in North America. I could keep selling things online and doing conventions and festivals, but I imagine a life where I’m doing more than this. I want to expand and share my love of this with others through other avenues.

Imagination is eternal and is one of the building blocks to doing better and striving for more. Dreams don’t die. Imagination doesn’t either.

When J.K. Rowling talked about the power of the imagination, I didn’t realize how pervasive it was. I thought a lot about its properties and have realized, it’s at the core of every business: every decision, every sale, every bad day, every big dream. It’s easily reciprocated. It floats and is eternal, ubiquitous and free.

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Written by Laura Suen — March 01, 2017

Cooking with Weapons: Having Fun Dealing with Sceptics

Bustersword

 

The most common question I get asked at conventions is what’s the point of buying a sword?

I secretly love it when a sceptic asks me this. Usually it’s the friend or the partner of the enthusiast who wants to buy something from me.

I get asked this question so often, it has inspired me to create a series of not-so-serious YouTube videos about practical uses for weaponry.

“Well,” I usually say with my best impression of a hoity-toity sales guy, “Let me tell you…

“Not only are they excellent display pieces but they are way more practical than artwork. Will pieces of art shield you from a zombie bite? No! Will pieces of art scare away Viking raiders? No! Why am I worried about zombies and Viking raiders? That’s a silly question.

“You owe it to yourself to be prepared for an inevitable zombie apocalypse or when alien overlords try to take over the earth.

“Your partner just wants to make sure you’re safe. In fact, you should be thanking your partner for wanting a sword! Many scientific papers prove there are many health benefits to owning a sword. Which papers? That’s another silly question.

“For the low-low price of your soul, you can—Wait, what? I didn’t say soul. You misheard me.

“Swords are also excellent door stops, sandwich cutters, robber repellants, distance-keepers for the claustrophobic, tree trimmers, farmer dibblers, hair cutters, makeshift scarecrows, fly swatters, friend repellants when you want to be left alone, beard trimmers, manual lawn mowers, alternative home redecorators, poor-man’s sledgehammers, crazy-man’s crutches and walking canes, ice picks, paper weights, and fruit cutters…

“Don’t just take my word for it! I use them myself!”

Cutting fruit with sword

 Cutting fruit with a Buster Sword was super tiring

 

^ You should all be totally using all these reasons to justify buying swords, by the way. If anyone comes up with anymore, please post suggestions in the comments page on Facebook. I would love to add to this list.

In case you’re wondering, the picture above is from when I made fruit salad with Cloud’s Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII. I’m considering doing more awkward/dorky testing videos when new stock arrives. The sword was so heavy, my arm felt like it broke off afterwards. And by heavy I mean it was very practical and by broke off I mean it was wonderful. =)

I’ll update the blog with a link to my new YouTube channel when it’s done (UPDATE: You can view the video here on our YouTube channel). Also, I’ll post links on the Fire and Steel Facebook page when it’s up.

I like having fun with people at conventions. It really passes the time easily. As I joke with the customers and sceptics, those are the moments I enjoy the most. I get to develop a feel for dealing with different types of people, even people who aren’t going to buy anything.

There will always be sceptics who don’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing and I’ve learned to deal with it by having a sense of humour. The important thing is for you to understand why you do what you do and have fun while doing it.

I realized over the years, I’ve been missing moments of real interactions when I’ve gone about my daily life. So I do what I do because I wanted interactions with people to amount to more than, “Okay that item is $80. Thank you, have a nice day.”

I realized I’m not alone and a lot of people miss that too.

For this reason, I actually explain to friends and family that sometimes I feel I sell conversations more than anything else.

 

PS. For those of you who don’t know, I’m writing from Montreal right now from a gaming convention called LAN ETS 2017, the largest LAN Party in the east coast of North America. Come by to say hello if you’re in the downtown area!

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Written by Laura Suen — February 10, 2017

Silly Thoughts and May the God of Fortune Smile Upon Us All

Caishen God of Fortune

 Me and Chinese God of Fortune

 

I giggled to myself this week. Somewhere in the realm of Gods and ethereal beings, I imagined the Chinese God of Fortune living it up with wine and mojitos. That’s why he’s so generous and has time to grow an awesome beard.

Usually, I daydream a lot and imagine really nonsensical things. I think that's important. Even at my busiest, I try to have time to imagine at least one or two silly thoughts per day.

I spent Chinese New Year this week with my kung fu school, ringing the gong beside the God of Fortune. Chinese New Years is always a crazy time of year for martial arts shows and demonstrations. It’s a fitting way to start the year as a weaponry seller.

This week a lot has happened that forced me out of my Gollum-cave.

I moved Fire and Steel into the new warehouse space and have been dealing with the wonderful – by wonderful, I mean terribly nerve racking – process of moving. There’s a lot of hidden fees and time sinks that you might not consider until you go through the process: Setting up commercial utilities accounts, time required to move inventory, costs associated with setting up store fixtures, negotiations for said store fixtures, taking measurements, speaking with insurance companies, etc.

This weekend, I also went blacksmithing with my friend Dave and proudly made my very first leaf in his workshop.

Welding

Smithing

 (Above) Welding with Dave. (Below) Smithing with Dave

 

Dave has the patience of a saint and makes blacksmithing look deceptively easy. But I guess everyone needs to start somewhere, right? It takes a lot of practice to properly control the blacksmith hammer and to understand the way you properly use it in conjunction with the anvil. This small thing below took me an hour to make (!!) With practice, I'm hoping I'll get faster. Designing stuff in Photoshop and Solidworks is a lot easier than making it!

Blacksmith leaf

 Blacksmith leaf. Everyone needs to start somewhere!

 

Then I was invited to attend a gaming convention in Montreal as a vendor from February 10 to 12 (see store news for details). In between all this, I filmed a fun weaponry-related Youtube video as well and met up with a Youtuber friend of mine to get feedback and business advice. I’m hoping to have that video up later this week.

I call it time-tetris when I try to be as productive as possible, cramming as much stuff as possible into my day. Sometimes I forget to take a step back and breathe.

And it occurred to me how glad I was that I took some time out of my week to ring a gong beside the God of Fortune and giggle about him having a mojito somewhere.

There’s something to be said about the simplicity of living in the moment. And being happy watching lions dance and just keeping a beat and gonging a gong for half an hour, literally ringing in the new year with my kung fu school.

I’m often so focused getting some end result that I forget to appreciate these moments in between. And I forget to have those one or two silly thoughts in a day.

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Written by Laura Suen — February 03, 2017

The Importance of Flexibility: Financing and Dealing with Rejection

Green sprout. Wikimedia commons.

When I was 17 years old, I wrote the following:
"As a tiny green sprout, I grow stronger with each coming day,
Watered by my dreams and guided to grow by the light above.
Occasionally, I ask others how they plan to grow.
They show me their hand-drawn blueprints
Of little boxes and perfect trees.
Idealistic, proud and rigid.
How are they sure they will not sway?
How are they sure they will not bend?
And when time comes for them to bend, they will snap and fall.
Wind and rain stops for no one.
Every tree has to bend."

Back in December, I scheduled an appointment with a young man named Steven at  the Royal Bank of Canada. He looked about my age, maybe older by a year or two.

"I want to buy a commercial property," I said when I walked in. I looked disorganized and dishevelled, like I usually do when I go to the bank. "I'm here for more information."

He stared at me. I must have looked ridiculous.

For the past few years, I've been shipping stuff out of the basement of my parents' house. Fire and Steel started almost like a joke that my parents both humoured. As time passed though, swords, axes and other pointy things began spilling out of one room, then two.

Over the years, the business grew and what began as a temporary storage solution became no longer feasible. That, and my parents probably had a difficult time explaining to their friends 1) why they cannot go to the basement (too many weapons) and 2) explain why swords are spilling into the hallways.

I can imagine them just trying to explain that their daughter is not an axe murderer.

So I stumbled upon a conundrum that most people will deal with once their business grows: Should I rent or buy a commercial space? How much will I expect to pay? What's the process involved?

I've learned there's positives and negatives associated with both.

I should probably back up for a second and mention that I looked into storage lockers at first. They were much cheaper than warehouses, but my inventory is just too big for a storage locker, even a big one, to reasonably accommodate. So I looked elsewhere.


With the help of a family friend in real estate, she helped me realize that a 1400 to 2200 sq ft warehouse space can cost about $1800 to $3000 CAD per month in the Greater Toronto Area, not including extras like maintenance fees and utilities (which can be an additional $500 or more). The exact cost of renting (leasing) fluctuates greatly depending on your location and what's included, but these were estimates based on the places I was looking.

When we realized a monthly mortgage payment would cost about the same as leasing, I became dead set on not renting. I was fairly rigid. I wanted to buy a space outright since my monthly payments would go towards owning the space eventually. A lot of the commercial warehouse properties I was looking at were worth between $250, 000 and $350, 000. If you know what residential properties cost in the Toronto area, this amount is cheap in comparison. I think the last estimate I saw for a detached house in Toronto priced them at $1.3 million on average.

You can probably draw parallels to the question of renting versus buying residential properties too. In my mind, I assumed the process would be the same. Piece of cake. I'll just get a commercial mortgage and be on my merry way, right?

Well, I wasn't quite right.

When I talked to Steven at RBC, he explained I needed to submit my business plan, financial statements and projections for approval.

I nodded, thinking, Okay, great. Where do I sign?

Then he started to explain unlike residential mortgages, commercial properties require a 35% downpayment, you need to be able to survive interests rates of prime plus 3% (which would be close to 6% right now), and 15-year amortization period. In comparison, for residential properties, you can do even a 5 to 10% down payment (with conditions of course that I don't have time to go into here), lower interest rates, and a 25 to 30 year amortization period.

If I haven't killed you with financial jargon yet, that means on average, for the warehouse properties I was looking at, I would be forced to do a down payment of over $100, 000 CAD. My monthly mortgage payments would be $1300 or more per month, which in itself isn't bad. However, when you realize interest rates are considered low right now, I would be vulnerable to rising interest rates in the future. Also, that monthly amount is still not factoring in utilities, maintenance fees and other miscellaneous monthly fees associated with ownership of a commercial space. Altogether, it would still probably cost me over $2200 per month.

Despite all this, I tried to aggressively make it all work. Steven tried to do some number crunching with me. In my heart I knew what the calculator would eventually tell us.

Things fell flat. The math just didn't work out.

By this point, owning the space became not optional to me. RBC was out the window, so I went to a broker instead. He essentially tried his best to work with me, but eventually had to back out as well. In summary, I was too risky to finance at this time. Try again in a year, he said.

All this time, I began to think about what I wrote about trees when I was 17.

My plan wasn't working. The universe was telling me no amount of interesting mathematics was going to make it work. The bank was telling me without explicitly telling me that I was going to leave myself extremely financially vulnerable if I actually purchased a commercial space outright. Oftentimes, we assume the bank is evil when they're actually just preventing us from certain accidental self-destruction.

The fact is, I don't have an unlimited bucket of money for me to just dump $100, 000+ into owning a warehouse space. Maybe one day far in the future, but not now. That money can be invested into other aspects of growing Fire and Steel.

I went in thinking I was going to buy and had blinders on, thinking no other options made sense. I came out realizing leasing actually works better for my current circumstances.

I'll be happily moving into my new warehouse space in a few days and I hope to make the most of my time there.

The lesson I learned from this experience is one that can be applied to other aspects of my life.

This business is like a tree I have to water. I was going by a plan, but I came out realizing I have to sometimes be flexible. It's important to adjust your plan to your current circumstances, and readjust again when the circumstances change. Sometimes it requires taking a step back to see the bigger picture.

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Written by Laura Suen — January 25, 2017

How I Almost Became a Plushie Vendor; How I Started Selling Stuff at Cons

 

Anime Shogatsu 2017

Just a few days ago, Fire and Steel went to Anime Shogatsu 2017, a small convention in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Coming back, I’m inspired to dedicate this week’s blog post to talking about how I started selling stuff at conventions.

It might surprise you to know that in the very beginning, my first choice would have been to sell cute plushies.

My sisters and I had hundreds of stuffed animals growing up and I collected Beanie Babies. My bed was full of cuddly stuff (and daggers). The irony of scary stabby things beside cute and cuddly things is not lost on me.

My plushie vegetable and fruit collection

 My plushie vegetable and fruit collection.

 

However, there was a problem with this idea from the beginning.

I knew my friend Jen (www.TheLittlestGiftBoutique.com) was already selling that stuff and I ultimately did not want to compete against her. If you’re wondering why I didn’t offer to partner with her or work for her, I’ve heard too many stories about how going into business with a friend can possibly strain that relationship. I didn't want a business idea to get in the way of that.

So I decided against selling plushies and at the time, everything else aligned to point me in the direction of selling swords instead. For instance, my knee injury happened around that time and I wanted to still feel connected to kung fu.

I started by selling weaponry from my personal collection, stuff that I collected over the years from retail stores, flea markets, online, and items from other festivals/conventions. I never sold the stuff I got as gifts since there was sentimental value there, but everything I bought for myself was fair game. As you can imagine, the profit margins were practically non-existent from reselling stuff I got from retail stores, but it gave me a starting point to understand the world of business.

The first convention I did was a small toy con in 2012. In case you’re wondering why a toy convention, my collection also includes ‘toy’ weaponry like wood and foam swords and foam nunchuks, etc.

Unfortunately, the con was -- by all definitions -- a complete flop.

I think I literally sold nothing.

Rather than be discouraged, I went to the drawing board and figured out the million reasons why it didn’t work. The demographics of the crowd was all wrong, for instance. It seems obvious in retrospect but it wasn't obvious back then. My product quality at the time was also not the best it could be. I also didn’t necessarily have the most visible booth layout. There were basically a million reasons why it didn't end well.

Fortunately, the con was small so renting the booth was cheap (about 30$). From that show, I refined my business strategy and started to clue in on what people wanted. I did a comic con a month after, which cost about $100 for the booth. Instead of spending money on a new iPad I wanted for personal use, I used the money to buy more inventory for items I predicted would sell well based on what I learned at the previous con. My stuff sold out so I knew I was on to something.

Throughout all this, my family kept telling me that I’m crazy, what I’m doing is risky and my stuff won’t sell. Sometimes it probably seemed like I didn’t know what was going on. I always was conscious of what I was doing though and I tried to minimize the probability of failure by constantly creating hypotheses, testing and refining.

Let me emphasize that I don’t come from a family with money, nor do I have infinite amounts of money saved up. However, when I feel confident enough about certain things (be it learning opportunities, business ideas, social impact work, etc.), I’m willing to sink hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars into it just to see how it pans out.

Based on what I learned at the comic con, I stepped it up even further for Toronto Comic Con several months later. I sank several thousands of dollars into acquiring inventory and I had to figure out how the heck I was going to store all of it. The booth this time cost around $700. From an outsider looking in, this was all a huge gamble just to learn and test a hypothesis.

Naturally, I didn’t listen to everyone telling me I’m crazy because what they didn’t know was that, by then, I had been refining my understanding of the market for months. I felt I knew my market, I knew my audience and I knew my products. I was confident in what I was selling.

It was an extremely successful show for me. Many of my predicted “hot sellers” sold out.

I realize that for many people, when they want to figure out how to do something, they read about it first and then they imagine how they would do it. But they don’t actually try it out themselves.

I realize not everyone has thousands of dollars to just sink into a crazy new business idea, but not all ideas cost thousands to try out. When I started my business, I started on a small scale and slowly pushed to grow. It began with a $30 booth, selling stuff I already owned. Trying out my idea technically cost me very little.

It’s not about taking risks for the sake of taking risks. It’s about taking calculated risks and then increasing your risk tolerance when you test your hypothesis and it validates your idea.

Before I started all this, I did my readings on what it’s like to run a business, but actually doing it gave me a deeper level of understanding. There’s so many little things I would not have considered. Things like item sizes making it harder to transport, what is considered a restricted item in Canada, the process of actually importing goods, taxes on business revenues and expenses. It’s not the same reading about these things. I learned so much more from doing.

I learned by starting small, taking calculated risks and expanding as I became more successful and enjoyed what I was doing. People have called me crazy many times, but that’s okay. I don’t think there’s such thing as a successful person who’s fully sane.

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Written by Laura Suen — January 17, 2017

Train Wrecks and That Nagging Feeling

Train via Wikimedia Commons

No one tells you about that nagging feeling at the back of your mind that emerges when you run your own company.

It's what tells entrepreneurs you need to keep working, you’re not doing enough, and you better work faster and more efficiently… or terrible things will happen. So you keep going and you keep working to some ungodly hour.

Some days, it really does feel like the movie Speed. If the bus slows down even a little, it’s going to derail and explode.

Yeah.

That’s what it feels like when I stop doing work. No one told me about this.

Every article I've read online says being your own boss is all about hard work and every entrepreneur tells me this too, but there's no mention of what happens when you stop doing work. It feels weird. It feels like I'm falling asleep at the wheel and the bus will derail. I only fully appreciated this when I went through my first week doing this as my full-time job.

My routine has been: Get up, check emails, go to any work meetings or appointments scheduled, do social media, check emails again, look up trends, brainstorm future directions, design products, work on website, etc. There is no ending.

I’ve pretty much spent every waking moment thinking about Fire and Steel. And in my dreams, I dreamt about swords. It’s not weird for me to sleep at 4 a.m. anymore.

As I’m writing this, I’ve been on a steady diet of chocolate and instant noodles for the past three days. The good thing is that kung fu started back up again after the holiday break and that’s my plan to keep marginally sane and work off all the junk food I’ve been eating.

Entrepreneurs and start ups often only write about how great and wonderful everything is. As if they’re riding unicorns to work and their desks are made out of gumdrops and rainbows.

I feel like that’s the problem with how we consume social media. We only see the amazing parts of people’s lives, and the finished products of companies and start-ups. No one really says, “Wow, I’ve eaten garbage for three days, I haven’t slept properly in a week and I look like Gollum.”

Yes, in only one week, I’ve become Gollum. If you gave me a ring, I’d probably say “my preciouussss” and hide in a cave with my laptop. They don’t warn you about this in those feel-good entrepreneur articles. No one ever writes about this.

You only see the pretty pictures and the nice products and the nice food. You never see the secret train wrecks behind all of it.

So for this past week, this persistent nagging feeling hasn’t gone away, but I’m actually okay with it. I scratched my head and asked myself why is that? Shouldn’t I be more frustrated about this?

The last time I felt like this was in high school. If something I was working on didn’t look quite right, the nagging feeling would keep me working until it was ‘fixed.’ Whatever that meant.

It was in these moments I felt I achieved some pretty fantastic things. Like the cubist interpretation of a chair that looked like space vomit, or the short horror story I wrote that didn’t make sense.

Like Fire and Steel, these were things that would not necessarily be worthy of awards or honours. But they are things I am proud of because they meant something to me.

We often spend so much time living for other people that we forget to do things that are meaningful to ourselves.

I’ve realized this week that this nagging feeling is actually the internal push to pursue happiness. It's easy to forget what that feels like.

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Written by Laura Suen — January 11, 2017

From Physicist to Entrepreneur: Leaving my Full-Time Job

 

Learning How to Weld

On Christmas day, I cornered my mom as she was vacuuming the living room. I told her I had something important to say.

“Mom, I’m quitting my job.” My full-time physics job. The stable one. The regular 9-to-5 paying my bills.

She went through the motions as I predicted. There was a split-second of denial and as it was sinking in, I could see it in her eyes. She looked at me like I was brain damaged and she began vacuuming the same spot four or five times, over and over again.

“What are you going to do then?” she asked me, as calmly as possible. I could hear her voice cresting and breaking. More vacuuming.

I wanted to tell her I’ve been at my workplace for four years now, my options for advancement were limited, and it was time for a change. I always wanted to be my own boss full-time. Doing what exactly, I wasn’t sure. I think we all pigeonhole ourselves to thinking we should only be doing one thing and that certain ideas are way too crazy. So we file those ideas away and load them up on the Crazy Train and push them out of Sane Station. It’s easier to wait in Sane Station for the next train.

Several years ago, I suffered from a knee injury that took me out of kung fu, which is an activity that I’m really passionate about. By then, I was doing it for about three hours per day, six to seven days a week. When I injured myself, I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands to explore my interests and to do things for fun.

I remember calling up my friend Jen, saying I wanted to sell swords for fun. I’m guessing she thought I was nuts. This was my way to feel connected to kung fu even though I was not able to do it like before.

When I was younger, I played games like Age of Empires and Civilizations with my sisters. I read up on the history of battles and conquerors, and loved playing what-if scenarios if I had been the general of a particular battle. I learned a lot from reading the Art of War by Sun Tzu.

In my less serious moments, I’ve been interested in answering questions like, “How many watermelons can I slice with an Aztec jaguar warrior’s macuahuitl?” (Side note: A macuahuitl is a paddle lined with sharpened obsidian). Eventually this evolved to questions like: “What kind of battering ram would be needed to take down the Wall in Game of Thrones?”

A lot of people who knew me growing up knew that I collected medieval weaponry and antique replicas. My parents’ basement looks like an armoury and is probably the best place to be if a zombie apocalypse breaks out. I could tell you about the history of each piece and how each piece evolved over time. I remember it scared some of my friends who may have thought I should have collected coins, stamps or rocks instead like regular folks. (It just so happens I also collected those things too, but that’s besides the point.) I’ve always been interested in the design and construction aspects of creation and understanding the minds of other people.

So I started by selling swords, axes, daggers and knives from my personal collection at comic cons around Ontario. Eventually that evolved to include things like martial arts gear and replicas of swords from anime, video games, comics, and more. These days, I’m starting to design them, manufacture them, and test them. I realized I wanted to take the time to create a community too, to do more volunteering again, and to write on the side. I’m basically using all the skills I’ve learned along the way in physics and journalism and applying it to something I can be proud of.

All this stuff I kept in my head. When my mom asked me, “What are you going to do then?” All I managed to say was:

“My sword business.” Fire and Steel.

To say she was disappointed would probably be an extreme understatement. For those of you who have been talking to me for the past few years, however, this should not be that shocking.

“What are you going to do all day then? Sleep?” asked my mom incredulously.

“No, there’s a lot I can do with building the community and social media…”

I trailed off. Then silence.

I knew she wouldn’t understand, but my siblings convinced me to tell her or else I was going to have to keep up the ruse that I was still working my full-time job every single time she asked me how work was going. At some point, I knew the lie would just fall apart. Then it would be way more awkward when I had to explain myself later.

Despite being 28-years-old and living my own life, I still wanted my parents to understand and accept my choice.

Some of us just need to be pushed into the deep end in order to learn how to swim. If you’re anything like me, I will clutch to the safety of a flotation device to the bitter end because it’s familiar. My full-time job was my flotation device. It was keeping me alive but preventing me from learning how to truly swim.

I feel a lot of us live our lives one day at a time trying to just stay alive, clutching to flotation devices, but not really learning, not really living, not really happy.

This is my first week as a self-employed person. I still don’t think my mom understands. But I told myself I’ve crossed the Rubicon now. I’ve quit my job and I made sure I would have no life lines so that there’s no going back. The way I saw it was that there were two paths in front of me: a clear, predictable, and stable one and a foggy, hazy one that up until recently, I would have filed away as an option only suitable for the Crazy Train.

Taking this path may lead to me being bankrupt but may also lead to something else… something more.

Whatever it is. I’ve always been looking for something more.

It’s funny because I’m thinking right now about a talk I gave back in 2013 about how you never know exactly where your choices might lead you. I might be doing this business now, but in a year or two? Who knows where my life might lead me.

This chance to find “it”, whatever “it” is, is worth the risk. I plan to explore this path to wherever it takes me.

I’m forcing myself to learn how to swim and will try to document my journey with all its ups and downs.

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Written by Laura Suen — January 05, 2017

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