I recently gave this speech at a Park University commencement. It was a great opportunity and a wonderful way to collect some recent thoughts. I'd like to share this with you.
“Living Life on the Rim, One Cup at a Time”
Park University Commencement Speech
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Good morning students, family, administrators, staff and guests. Thank you so much for the privilege of sharing a few words with you this morning. It is indeed an honor. When my father was alive he’d always remind me, “Son, they will never remember what you say…but they’ll always remember that it was short!” So, my commitment to you this special morning is to keep it short and get you on your way to capturing your dreams.
My wife and I were talking about you all a few weeks ago and I admitted that I did not remember anything from the speakers at either my undergrad or graduate school ceremonies. I told her that I would find a cute story, more like an anecdote, that perhaps you would remember. It came my way from a friend and fellow Park University board member, Gene Ruiz.
An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a tiny boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."
The American then asked why he didn’t stay out and catch more fish. The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
He answered, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I eat a relaxing dinner and play the guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life senor’."
The American scoffed, "I have a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat; with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several more boats, eventually owning your own fleet. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you will run your expanding enterprise."
The fisherman asked, "But senior, how long will all this take?"
To which the American replied, "15 to 20 years."
"But what then, senior?"
The American laughed and said, "That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich; you would make millions."
"Millions, senior? Then what?"
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll into the village in the evenings where you could eat a relaxing dinner and play your guitar with your amigos."
The lesson is, take time to enjoy the really important things as you pass through life.
I am proud to be here with you today and proud to serve you as a member of the board of directors. As an entrepreneur, I have a special love for Park University, for its entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ways to teach. And Park was global when nobody knew what global really meant; and Park was all about diversity when diversity wasn’t popular. I began working with Park back when they had students from less than 50 different countries; now you’re well over 100!
I feel at home at Park University and I especially love the way they “get” entrepreneurialism. I have the same feeling on campus as I do at the Kauffman Foundation; they understand and can teach entrepreneurs…and I love that.
At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, I believe one of the basic tenants, one of the most fundamental “what’s life all about” issues is the pursuit of happiness. If you think about it, nearly everything we do, consciously or unconsciously, is with this end goal in mind. And I firmly believe that this journey towards happiness begins with following your dreams.
Perhaps like some of you, I come from very humble beginnings. I was number five of ten children and there was not a lot of money to go around. But we had instilled in us an incredibly hard work ethic by our parents, as well as the notion of sacrifice. This principle fell out of favor this last decade but nothing like a crisis and shortage of money to make it somewhat popular again!
I do believe in sacrifice and to a great extent, you all sacrificed these past four years by attending university; you invested in this degree so that you could increase your opportunity and fulfill your dreams.
Few among us would pass at the chance of making more money, all things being equal. And sometimes when we’re young we chase the dollars, thinking that if we can just make a certain amount of money, then we know we’ll be happy. But we soon find out that this is a fool’s errand; it simply never works. One must first begin with their passions, their inspirations: their dreams. For success follows your dreams, not the other way around. If you are following your passion, then you are much more likely to be successful. And when you’re successful, you’ll make the living that you need to; and you’ll be happy.
Of course, I was fortunate enough to find my passion as a high school foreign exchange student in Costa Rica. To this day, coffee is still my passion. To paraphrase Jack Palance in Blazing Saddles, it's my "one thing; just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean ____."
At The Roasterie, we've even written a manifesto to express that one thing. In closing, I'd like to share it with you in hopes you, too, will find and follow your passion. It’s called “Live Life on the Rim” and it goes like this:
Who wants to be a statistic? Certainly not us. They say half of America drinks coffee every day. We say that’s a lot of bad coffee.
You see, we believe a life worth living deserves a coffee worth drinking. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to find the best coffees in the world.
We’re not your “Average Joe”, and we won’t settle for an average cup o' joe either. We’re coffee connoisseurs. We can taste and smell the difference. Our quest for the best is not a choice, it’s an obsession born of a career spent in coffee fields and cafes.
For us, coffee isn’t just a beverage---it’s a code we follow. It defines who we are and how we live. And for us, that means living life to the fullest and savoring every second. Taking chances and giving back. Our objective: no regrets and no bad coffee.
Life is too short to drink nasty coffee…and to not follow your dreams. I wish you Godspeed in your unique adventure.
Thank you very much.