After his summer internship ended last year, Noah Whinston could have rejoined his friends on campus at Northwestern University as a senior set to graduate and take on the world. Instead, he skipped straight to taking on the world.
Whinston raised funds from big-time investors and dropped out before classes were set to start to become the CEO of Immortals, an e-sports franchise.
Now he lives in a team house in Santa Monica, Calif. with his five players and a coaching and managerial staff of three. Each of those players, who are between the ages of 18 and 20, makes in the six figures for kicking butt at video games full-time.
Even more impressive: Whinston’s driving force is a philosophy that emphasizes a healthy work/life balance.
“Loving what you do doesn’t mean doing it for 120 hours a week. It doesn’t mean sacrificing everything else you like in exchange,” Whinston told NBC News.
MY DORM ROOM PITCH:
My business is effectively like an NFL team, let’s say, except instead of playing football, we play competitive video games. We have teams in multiple different games, so the business is this overarching organization to help manage all of those teams. In North America, we’re among the top three teams.
HOW I DEFINE SUCCESS:
I’m absolutely not there yet. Success for me is the combination of being able to have personal growth while also being able to take care of people. There’s a greater weight there, a heavier version of pressure that was already there.
HOW I JUGGLED SCHOOL AND BUSINESS:
I didn’t. I wasn’t in school when I was running the business. There was a three-month span from my first conversation with one of my investors to closing the deal. To overlap, I needed to be on location, and Northwestern is not in L.A.
There’s a possibility I could finish college, but college for me was about finishing so I could do the thing I wanted to do. And if I’m already doing the thing I want to do, why would I finish?
MOST HELPFUL CLASSES:
In high school, I was a pretty serious debater, and a lot of the things I learned in debate, and taking communications classes, helped me formalize my knowledge of the way communications works. That’s pretty vital, whether it’s managing public relations or talking to investors.
WHAT I’D TELL MY HIGH-SCHOOL SELF:
Take a longer-term view. It’s hard to kind of look past one year ahead, let alone four, but now that college that rejected you, the class you really wanted to take freshman year that you didn’t get into, that leadership position you didn’t win — you will end up in a really good place even despite all of that.
So stay focused on a more ultimate goal, something you know is going to be more sustainable. That doesn’t mean career, or a job; that could mean prioritizing a group of healthy friendships instead of trying to get an extracurricular position. Things that are going to last, not things that are going to feel really important in the moment.