What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.—G.K. Chesterton
Not far from this time in 2002, we hosted a co-worker of mine at our house for dinner. His name was Franz, he lived in Sacramento, California, and he was visiting the home office of the technology consulting firm for which we both worked. Franz and I worked together for a client in Phoenix and spent little time face-to-face. His visit to our home that evening was a singular event. During the course of our time together, we spoke of family, work, hopes, dreams, and fireflies. You see, Franz had never seen a firefly and that evening, they were on full display in our backyard. I remember the thrill of seeing this grown man delight in this first and the childlike joy he displayed at experiencing the wonder and mystery of bugs that glowed. He couldn’t wait to tell his wife and children about them.
My journey with Franz diverged shortly after that meeting when I left the company and it wasn’t until I learned of his sudden death a few years later that I realized that we had not spoken since my departure. Franz was a gentle, caring man who loved his family, worked hard and left this world far too soon. My memory of him this Spring lined up in a curious way with the 10th anniversary of my company – the founding of which occurred not far from when I learned of his passing.
This week-end, we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Northwind in the building that was formerly the home of St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church and School – soon to be the home for our operations. Major milestones like this anniversary are a great time for celebration and reflection and though I spared our guests a lengthy speech, I’ve found that the entrepreneurial journey has presented me with many firsts. Many of which I also have met with childlike wonder…and occasionally terror. During the evening, a close friend kindly toasted Sally and I with a parable sharing his four keys to our success – his story was entertaining but made me consider the notion of “success” and our own journey along its many permutations.
In the spirit of Franz and his first experience with fireflies, let me share my childlike wonder at discovering that success is a simple word with incredibly complex facets which often change daily. Considering the people in attendance at our 10th Anniversary Celebration and the road from 2008 to 2018, please allow this entrepreneurial child to present the ABC’s of success in his own journey thus far:
- Associates – the team sits at the center of any success or progress. I have been blessed with a collection of wonderful people who are willing to share this journey with me. Find yours.
- Benevolence – be good and do good. Every day.
- Courage – there is no escaping the fear, all we can do is push forward anyway.
- Decisiveness – it is easy to falter when feeling doubt. It is easy to waver when uncertain. It is easy to retreat when unclear. Decisiveness in the midst of the unknown and unknowable is key.
- Energy – building momentum requires energy. Momentum fixes everything.
- Faith – believing in something more than yourself is critical. For me, the entrepreneurial journey has been a journey through my Catholic faith and a return to my own childlike wonder in God.
- Generosity – even when you have nothing, give.
- Hope – starting anything is an act of hope. Showing up is an act of hope. Keep hoping.
- Interest – being curious about everything around you keeps you fresh; interest in other things keeps you searching.
- Joy – sure its a feeling but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek it. Find joy in your work. Find joy in your people. Find joy in your life. Expect it.
- Kindness – be kind to those you know, those you don’t know, and those you don’t like. You can never be too kind.
- Love – it is all for naught without love. Make those you a love a priority. Actively love those priorities.
- Motivation – motivation is a choice. Get excited about what you’re doing or do something that excites you.
- Nimble – things are going to change, constantly. Be ready and able to react.
- Opportunity – see it. Chase it. Choose it. The world is full of opportunity for those who seek it. True opportunity creates a win for you and for someone else.
- Partners – the right partners make all the difference. Business partners. Banking partners, Legal partners. Financial partners. Marketing partners. Get the right people on board.
- Quirky – you have to be a bit weird, unusual, or abnormal to build something interesting. Don’t be afraid to be quirky.
- Relationships – it is all about people. Friends, family, customers, vendors, community. True success is about building and retaining relationships.
- Scrappy – sometimes you have to be feisty. Sometimes you have to mix it up. Sometimes you have to get dirty (in a good way). Be scrappy.
- Time – give yourself the gift of time. This means you have to embrace patience. Everything will take longer than expected. Let it happen. Give yourself enough runway to succeed.
- Unflagging – determination. Grit. Persistence. Your energy and focus must be unflagging. Particularly when you don’t feel like it.
- Vision – it doesn’t have to be big. However, you must have a vision for where you want to go. Otherwise, any road will get you there.
- Will – can you muster the will when you need it most? Will you never quit? Will you adjust when needed? Will you stick? Will you get back up when you’ve been knocked down?
- Xenodochial – what can I say? “X” is a tough one! Be friendly to everyone.
- Yearning – do you feel called? Do you see something on the horizon? Do you want more for your life? Success, however you define it, begins with a yearning.
- Zealous – you must be a believer. The zealot is an unflinching believer. Find something to believe in.
What are your ABC’s? Success is a relative term, the definition of which will change throughout your life. True success is reflected in our relationships and the joy we bring to others. Be successful there and you will find lasting joy and fulfillment. There is no greater return.
Seeing this venture we’ve built make it to ten years is like seeing fireflies for the first time – wondrous. In this case, survival is a wonderful reflection of success but I am most thankful those who surround me. My prayer for this venture is to continue to find the wonder and joy in the many facets of success and challenge that it offers. My hope for you is that you see the fireflies in your own ventures and embrace the childlike wonder that comes with the first times ahead.