As we celebrate this 10 year anniversary, I am re-reading my high school graduation speech and what it means to be successful. I wanted to share a short excerpt from this speech because I feel that sometimes we all need to look at our 18 year old self or 16 year old self or 12 year old self (whatever age we actually had wisdom beyond our years, a peek into what life is really like before we were influenced by the stresses and pressures of getting and keeping a job, a house etc.).
“Because all of us are unique, we must determine for ourselves what will give each one of us a sense of having succeeded in life. Most of us, at this point in our lives have chosen careers for our future. We will be nurses, teachers, engineers, mechanics, artist, secretaries (there were secretaries in the 90’s or at least it was ok to say “secretary” in the 90’s ) and the list goes on and on. Attaining a career in a field of our choosing which provides us with financial security is a major accomplishment in life but will not necessarily guarantee our success. Then what is success? Success is being truly happy.
Family and friends are certainly essential to the success of any individual. Success means having caring, supportive family members, who will love us no matter what, and will always be there for us to fall back on. They understand our faults and put up with us. They may not always like us, but they will always love us.
Success is also finding true friends, friends who do not like us for our material possession or status but for what is inside of us. True friends let us cry when we need to and make us laugh so hard that our stomach hurts. Even if we have one friend who understands us, who will always be totally honest with us, and who knows us so well that they know what we are thinking before we speak, then we will know the meaning of success.
Success also means actively trying to live life to its fullest. It means overcoming obstacles in our lives, such as a fear. Success could be overcoming a fear of heights by skydiving. Or that obstacle could also be a grudge that we are holding against some person, and success might be learning to forgive that person and accept imperfections in others.
Our success in life also will depend on our continuing to grow and encounter new experiences. It may mean that a person, whose only interest in life has been law, suddenly realized that he has a talent to paint. It may mean that a woman who dropped out of high school at 16 receives her college degree when she is 40. It may also mean leaving a high paying job which has grown stale to pursue a lifelong dream of opening a ski shop in Colorado (Again, the 90’s not really any coffee shops). Success is always striving to become a better person. It could mean that a person who has a pessimistic outlook on life attempts to change this attitude by trying to look at the brighter side of life. It could also be that a person who is self-centered begins to think of others by giving food to the needy or volunteering at an old age home.
The most important aspect that allows one to be successful, though, is to not take oneself too seriously. We need to learn to put less emphasis on being on top. If we allow ourselves to laugh at our failures and realize that every disappointment is not necessarily a crisis, we will be happier. If we don’t dwell on our failures, then we will open ourselves to new opportunities for success. We need to accept that not everyone is going to like us or approve of what we do. We need to worry less about what others think of us. We need to accept that we are unique human beings who above all must maintain our own integrity if we want to be truly successful.
I would like to leave you with the poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson (later found out it was Bessie Stanley ) that served as the inspiration for my speech:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
We are on the eve of the party of our 10th year in business! Each year as I re-read this speech, I take away a little more of how those words are so true. By returning to that state of mind, we have turned our business into a true success. We have had rough times, we took a chance, we weathered the 2008 recession storm, and we finally are off the “I just started a business” mac’ n cheese diet. We seem to like to cut through the brush, dig the dirt road and not take the paved road by any stretch of the imagination. It isn’t easy but to look at our failures, the betrayals, the crazy roadblocks, and to be on the other side of that is one step toward success. But what truly feels like we have arrived is not that we finally feel financially secure (and in a small business what I mean by that is that you no longer wake up in a cold sweat literally sweating the bills), but that we have a team current or past who totally support one another and feel like our second family. They look at this business as if it is their own. They care about our customers, about us, about our children, and each other. When we first started, I wanted to be able to pay people enough so that they felt comfortable. They could pay their bills and have fun along the way. I wanted them to always feel good to come to work and not afraid to come to us with a problem. I wanted them to feel empowered and that their ideas matter. I also wanted customers who came in regularly, who we got to know through the years, who met their spouse or good friend at the shop to think of our shop as a special place for them. I don’t know if we are 100% there, because we can imagine so much more and want to do so much more, but for now we need to sit in our success. To walk into our shop and know that our shop brings joy to many people, ourselves included. When we finally got to the place where the business itself was our “heart” and was running smoothly as the way we had envisioned, it, there was an ease and fun to it.
Success is when your employees gladly offer to cover a shift for their sick teammate. It’s when they smile when we come in. For them to feel safe that we are out to help them to make money, have a comfortable job, hopefully learn something, and definitely teach us something and we’re not out to impose our way, catch them in some mistake or teach them a lesson, then I feel like I have truly succeeded. Success is saying hi to “Bob” in the strip over the years and having him watch my puppy and kids grow up and know that he is our friend (so please leave my homeless friends alone because if you really stare into their sweet eyes you will see we are all just the same and are just a few paychecks away from not having our comfortable lives).
We have never been the cool kids. The press often wouldn’t help us by talking about our passion that they mistook for pretension because they were too lazy to take more than a few minutes to understand. But being cool and accepted right away doesn’t pave the way to press forward to work harder to make it on our own merit. We truly bootstrapped our business. There were no investors. Not until we were open over 5 years did anyone even give us a bank loan. Peabody, our dog, had to at one point take a mortgage out on his little fluffy bed, I think ;) Our path, our passion, and our purpose a few years ago were confusing. But wonderful people both employees and customers found us and kept finding us and kept finding us and for that we are so thankful.
As Napoleon Hill said:
“The greatest achievements of men, were at first, nothing but dreams of the minds of men who knew that dreams are the seedlings of all achievements. A burning desire, to be and to do, is the starting point, from which the dreamer must take off.”
Thank you all and we look forward to even better things to come!