The Success Secrets of Teen Creative Genius Elias Wambugu
Updated: Feb 28
At just 17-years-old, New Jersey-based Elias Wambugu has pursued his path in, what he has coined, “the 3 P’s: piano, programming, and photography.” He’s amassed over one thousand followers on his personal and professional social media platforms respectively.
His photography business, dandeproductions, has received attention from major brands. In further discussion with Elias, a striking paradox unravels. The app he is developing allows people to inspire others through travel photos, encouraging world exploration.
Unlike most, Elias' platform doesn't allow users to see how many followers they have. Apps include follower counts to initiate a positive feedback loop that psychologically drives user interaction to increase followers. When Elias creates an app, the passion that lurks beneath surpasses the drive to monetize or increase app store hits. For this endeavor, Elias's driving passion is creating a place for photographers to share their work where authenticity is paramount. Acceptance of uniqueness is a virtue Elias instills in others and perfects within himself.
Elias never stops working towards his goal of building everyday solutions through his creative mind. He sources inspiration from the people around him. One such person is his cousin, who first introduced Elias to the field of programming. Seeing the divergent needs of the people around him motivates Elias to produce “what people want that doesn’t exist today.” Part of how Elias is authentic to himself is crowd-sourcing opinions through his friend pool and social media. He always vets his designs through those around them, without the intention of receiving their praise, but just to get an honest opinion.
From a young age, Elias “decided to do things differently from others.” The prospect of being different has never daunted Elias but has been a source of enjoyment. He always has fun with what he builds. He sets aside what he wants and relinquishes the bounds of self-comparison to have the confidence to approach those who will continue him on his path of success. One way he does this is by reaching out to big brands on social media. While many find this awkward, Elias finds no embarrassment in being true to himself. Social media serves as a working resume for Elias, making it the perfect opportunity for Elias to network with big brands through his impressive portfolio. “How are you going to get discovered if people don’t know you exist?” Coming back to Elias's core principle, “there is no right way to do this… it is more about being yourself, a real person.”
In a world full of distractions, obligations, and priorities, Elias is seemingly unbridled by all of the work he is responsible for. His greatest time management strategy is taking ownership of his time rather than letting time take ownership of his conscience. Elias finds ways to incorporate his hobbies into his education. Recently, he was working on a project for his computer science class and asked his teacher if he can turn the code into an app. In just 2 days, he had finished the app and received approval for its publication on the app store. In this way, Elias optimizes his growth both professionally and academically. The 3 P’s are self-fulfilling; Elias stays productive while having fun. His hobbies and careers are interchangeable so that he doesn’t need to take time out to retract from his schedule to have fun; he always enjoys what he is doing.
Elias is fearlessly embarking on the next chapter of his life: college. In keeping with his mantra of being true to himself, he is not following the traditional 4-year college route. He is attending the Make School out of San Francisco. Founded by MIT drop-out Jeremy Rossman, the program is an “anti-college”, where students participate in project-based learning with no grades, exams, and the best part… no tuition. The school has accepted less than a tenth of applicants, who all boast great entrepreneurial and development expertise. Elias will receive his Bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Make School in just 2 years.
In reading Elias's story, it is easy to fall down the rabbit hole of feeling under-accomplished and doubtful of your worth, falling a victim to the self-comparison Elias fears perpetuating. Perhaps Elias's greatest point is to “have the mindset that you can achieve anything you want if you put your mind to it. In the software development realm, you are not too young or old because the information available is constantly changing, and it is up to the individual to continuously learn along with it." Elias has mentored an 8-year-old and a 40-year-old, and he encouraged both to start small and work their way up to bigger projects. “Always be willing to explore the world that is out there.”
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