Our story.

No Years Lost took me roughly three years to build. I began writing the first lines of code in early 2014, and prior to those first keystrokes, I’d never written a line of code in my life.

Our story.

No Years Lost took me roughly three years to build. I began writing the first lines of code in early 2014, and prior to those first keystrokes, I’d never written a line of code in my life.

At the time, I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, had a few hundred dollars to my name, and tens of thousands of dollars in debt from a previously failed business.

During the time it took me to complete this platform, I’ve lived in six different places across two continents, met and married my wife, worked more freelance creative than I care to recount, and paid down almost all of my debt. I also lived a second life, one in which, I wrote the hundreds of thousands of lines of code that make this platform run.

I’ve never been about the easy way, or even, the common way, because I learned at a young age that both lead to the same crowd of the saddest people you’d ever care to meet. In more ways than less, I raised myself from adolescence. I think it was around that time, and likely, because of those circumstances, that I started looking at the world with intent.

Strangely, when you look at something with intent, you get to see that thing for exactly what it is, and most of what I saw was ugly. It wasn’t until I was a young adult, when I’d begun to comfortably explore my creativity, that I started seeing the beauty in things. I realized, however, that the hardships I’d faced, the ugliness, was what allowed me to see true beauty through contrast.

It was in the contrast that I found my creative self. Most people tend to live within the murky greys somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, this is also how they see the world. Yet, the things that matter in a person are on the extremes, their capacity for ugliness on one end, beauty on the other. Most creatives tend to live and see from the extremes, this is how art is born.

I’ve failed many times in my creative career, even more so as a person, but somehow managed to correct the course each time, and often, just in the knick of time. I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face when I told her I was dropping out of university and moving to Los Angeles to work on Janet Jackson’s creative team. It wasn’t a look of anger or dissapointment, it was something much worse, emptiness.

I’d shattered her worldview and that’s an awful thing to do to another person, especially, someone you love. Without a good eduction from a good school, or differently, a good degree, given that, I’d still gotten the good eductaion from the good school, I’d never have a good job, a good spouse, a good house, indeed, a good life.

When I stepped off the common path, something unusual had happened, she could no longer see me, and suddenly, I was alone.

In this situation I’d failed twice, and while the reasoning for each is conflicting, both have equal merit. In my mother’s eyes, I’d failed because I was dropping out, and my future, was at once uncertain. In my own eyes, I’d failed because it took me four years to discover I was on the wrong path, and subsequently, build up the courage to step off of it.

stephen-rebecca-two
rebecca-stephen

I give this example, only to illuminate two important aspects of the No Years Lost story, which in many ways, is the creative story.

First, while I didn’t know it at the time, that moment when I stepped off the common path was when No Years Lost was born. In other words, No Years Lost took nine years to come together, and arguably, the experiences leading up to building it, were more important than the build itself. This is often true of any art.

Second, it embodies the creative dillemma; fail once by staying the common path or fail twice by forging your own. In the former, you give up the thing you love most, your creativity, and also, ensure you’ll never find yourself. In the latter, you give up everything else you love and might never be reacquainted with it, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself.

It takes most creatives years to get to where they’re going, many never make it there at all. It took me nine years, however, I spent the last three of those seeking ways in which to make the latter path less difficult for the next generation of young creatives. The result was aligning creative paths to make the journey less lonely, as well as, providing unique and specific tools to make the obstacles easier to overcome.

If you’re here, I hope you’ve already chosen the latter, and that through No Years Lost, you’ll discover that finding yourself as a creative is now much easier than it ever was before. My desire with this, and the reason I gave so many years of my own life to it, is the hope that for every young creative now entering our industry, their years will not be lost.

Throughout this platform you’ll see, “we” or “us,” but these are misnomers, because at the time of this writing it’s, “I” and “me.” No Years Lost is who I am and I have the luxury of being able to say that because I’ve never compromised. I gave three years of my life to it, so that more of you could share in the luxury of saying, “This is who I am as a creative,” and I hope that one day, together we can say, “This is who we are as creatives.”

Your humble and fellow creator,

Stephen Shaw

noyearslost-leave-more-than-bones