Category Archives: risk taking

a little pep talk

We’re about a quarter way into 2013 and it’s around the time that people start neglecting (or maybe already forgot) their new year’s resolutions. Veering from my traditional foodie posts (check back next week for regularly scheduled programming…) I wanted to share about what’s been inspiring me in last few weeks.

I’ve been reading through the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz’s book, Pour Your Heart Into In, which tells the story of how Starbucks came to be. I typically don’t pick up business-y types of books but I was curious about how this coffee chain giant came to be such a mainstay cultural icon (coining terms like the ‘Third Place’, the latte factor, etc). Did you know that Schultz grew up poor? His parents never graduated from high school and their family lived in the Brooklyn housing projects. The only reason he was able to attend college was through a football scholarship.

A significant influential factor in creating a company like Starbucks that values their employees by offering stock options to all baristas and health insurance to even part-time members (ground breaking at the time; I still think it is) is that he wanted to counter the type of companies that his father worked for that could care less about the concerns of its working class, blue collar workers. I also learned that Schultz is a man of his own convictions and was incredibly persistent in pitching idea of Starbucks 242 times, to be rejected 217 times. Imagine conducting 242 hour-long presentations only to hear “no” (or be ignored) 217 times. The more interesting fact was that the 30 or so investors decided to take the risk not because they believed in his vision for Starbucks but because “they invested in me, not in my idea.” He had a genuine passion and confidence which they believed he would carry out his vision and be wildly successful (I think I read that the 30 investors saw a ten-fold return on their investment once the company went public).

This week, our office hosted a one-day conference for Ph.D students contemplating careers outside of academia (subversive to mention within academia) and I heard from a range of successful panelists who have leveraged their education and expertise to be consultants, entrepreneurs, contributing members of various for profit and nonprofit institutions. Although I’m not a PhD myself, I was so inspired. The keynote speaker hammered home a really key point that many of us are driven by our fears and insecurities that prevent us from taking big risks. Rather, we take baby steps toward our BIG dream which often lead to incremental changes, resulting in mediocrity or giving up altogether.

Mark, another panelist who received in Ph.D in English had a passion for writing and went through the yellow pages cold-calling companies who would be interested in hiring him (this is back in the 90’s, pre-internet days). Mark also talked about pursuing opportunities that scare you because if it’s a really comfortable choice, there isn’t a challenge or opportunity for growth (often leading to mediocrity and boredom).

What brings it full circle is reflecting on a sermon by Pastor Rankin Wilbourne about how we are created in the image of God to exhibit His qualities of envisioning, creating, and breathing life into something new. That’s what we do in our day-to-day lives. It’s in our spiritual and intellectual DNA.

On a personal note, these inspiring stories and words of wisdom have hit home for me as I’ve been contemplating starting my own side business to bring some extra income and establish myself as a consultant/expert while making an impact in people’s lives beyond my 9-to-5 job. It’s been on my mind for about a year and I figure it’s time I take action. It’s scary but also exhilarating at the same time!

What is your pet project or goal that’s been on the back of your minds? Maybe tackling a fear of (fill in the blanks) or launching a (fill in the blank)? Another piece of great advice I kept hearing was to surround yourself with wise mentors to provide guidance and encouragement (but doesn’t mean you always have to take their advice).

long beach half

Long Beach Half: my first half-marathon experience back in 2010. Exhilarating!