When I was five-years-old my dad forgot to drop me off at kindergarten. I was safely buckled into the back seat of his green Ford, silently watching the clouds float by while he was lost in his own thoughts. He parked the car in the college parking lot where he taught, opened the back door to grab his briefcase, and doubled over with laughter when he saw me beaming back. He laughed and laughed, and even though I didn’t know why, I joined in. As the years passed and I watched my dad, I realized he always had an awful lot on his mind. He was balancing a teaching career while running a business and, just for fun, on the weekends we picked apples from our apple orchard, extracted honey, and made maple syrup. In short, we created – and whatever we created we sold.
My dad was happiest when he took on the challenges inherent in spinning plates and juggling balls, taking risks and making things happen. He spoke quicker, he laughed easier, his eyes sparkled, and his energy was palpable. I loved that energy; it was magical and euphoric and, while I didn’t know it then, my dad’s entrepreneurial spirit was infectious. He taught me how to risk and dream and be audacious enough to fail. He did all of this through example. He never told me what to do; he just demonstrated that this was how one truly lived. And that living on the skinny branch – right out there, was always worth the risk of the fall.
In fulfilling his own dreams, he gave me permission to do the same. This is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.
Up until three weeks ago, I didn’t realize that the same gratitude and love I have for my dad, I reserve equally for the community in which I’ve been raised. As I began to reflect on who my mentors have been, how I’ve been able to pick up a phone and call and meet and share time with some of the most talented, creative, and innovative minds in the world, I realized that I am not only a product of my family, experiences, and education, I am a product of my community.
And my community, Waterloo Region, has taught me that saying “yes” with conviction and passionately pursuing dreams with audacity is what we’re all about. This collective belief system has led us to being ranked as the most intelligent community in the world. It’s the reason why you can purchase a BlackBerry from RIM, watch Jill Hennessy on Law & Order, read a book by David Chilton or Malcolm Gladwell, and be led by His Excellency, David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada. It’s also the reason that Sir Richard Branson is on the cover – because I’ve been taught through example that anything is possible.
In short, my cup has been filled by the mentors of the community in which I live and I have been enabled to share the overflow with you. And so, I pay forward to you today, the importance of reaching out to those in your community for mentorship. Strategize a personal manifesto like Mike Lipkin (pg. 44) and create a mentorship strategy like Jeremy O’Krafka (pg. 37). To lead, apply what you’ve learned from others, like former Dallas Cowboy Robert Steele (pg. 11) and CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada commentator Cassie Campbell-Pascall (pg. 48). Take the initiative as suggested by Seth Godin (pg. 30) and then, like Bob Izumi, commit to setting your hook on success (pg. 26).
Choose to be audacious, choose to overcome fear, choose to find those who can help you make your dreams come true; never reinvent the wheel. Find those who are already doing what you hope to do and ask them to share what they know. If they refuse, they aren’t your match. They subscribe to the notion of scarcity, paralyzed by the fear that if they share what they know and have, there will be less for them. Ifyou can’t find someone in your own community, reach out worldwide; I’m awestruck by how interconnected we are.
What I can guarantee is this: There’s someone who will see your beautiful light and, when they do, they will agree to mentor and journey with you. You are remarkable, beautiful, and talented beyond measure. Get out there on the skinny branch and embrace life.
As always, I believe in you. You only have today.