One thing that has been a constant underlying theme of the lessons learned at VFA Bootcamp is the undeniable impact that luck has on successes and failures. The successes and failures of our trainers have certainly been in no small part due to things that hey had no control over. So why on earth would you want to go into a field that is predicated on randomness? I think the reason I am doing it, and many of my fellow Fellows are doing it, is because overcoming unforeseen obstacles is one of the most fulfilling accomplishments in life. So why not make a career out of that?
There is certainly a lot that you can do to create your own luck. Network. Never stop learning. Work hard. Don’t give up. But at the end of the day, you might have the best idea in the world, the perfect team, and flawless execution, but it won’t pan out because the timing is wrong, you can’t get in touch with the right investors, or a huge earth shifting event can occur. Despite these long odds, it is amazing how often sheer dumb luck can have the most unforeseen consequences. I wanted to take a moment today to think about three serendipitous interactions that have occurred during the last year that have lead me to unexpected places.
1) How I found out about Venture for America and applied in the first place. Starting my senior year, I was facing the increasingly common quarter-life crisis (I’m about to graduate, and I have no idea what I want to do with my life). I had gotten some really good advice from Christopher Gergen over the summer though. “Sometimes we are so focused on taking the next step that we don’t take the time to look around. We reach the top of a mountain, look at where we are, and realize that we just climbed the wrong mountain. Don’t climb the wrong mountain.” I was definitely feeling like I was on said “wrong” path (granted, I was thinking public health or medical school, not consulting or finance), so Gergen’s speech was what made me pause. I decided I was going to take a year or two off and work for AmeriCorps or CityYear. And then read an informational e-mail, mentioning that the founder of Venture for America was coming to speak at campus. I went, stayed for the meeting (despite the fact that Andrew was half an hour late due to parking issues and the Biochem test that I had the next day), and was blown away by the vision that VFA had for the future. 8 months later, I cannot adequately express how excited I am to be hear and a part of this organization.
2) Slice in New York City
If you google map “pizza new york city”, you get ~24,590 results. So imagine my surprise when I was walking down the street and walked by Slice, a pizza restaurant that was going to be opening a new location in Las Vegas, as part of the Downtown Project’s (my future employer!) mission to bring in new small business. I walked in, had a slice of The Bomb (herb crust, free-range chicken tikka masala, local fresh mozzarella) and Master Chicken (honey whole wheat crust, all-natural marinara, free-range chicken sausage, red peppers, caramelized onions, local fresh mozarella), and talked to the owner, Miki Agrawal (who just happened to be there working on her day off). Small world indeed, and I cannot wait until they open their doors in Las Vegas at the bottom of the Ogden this fall.
3) Connecting with Thomas Matlack, Founder of The Good Men Project
Part of training for Venture for America has been spending time on Twitter. Okay, well that’s a slight (read total) exaggeration, but I’ve been slow to jump on the Twitter bandwagon because I am a part of the 1% of 22 year-old college grads who does not own a smart-phone (which will hopefully change in October). But as someone who is constantly reading, I love that Twitter finds interesting news for me. I started following The Good Men Project, and the next day, their founder, started following me. This might have been enough to make my day on its own considering how much I love the mission of “fostering a national discussion centered around modern manhood and the question, “what does it mean to be a good man”? But, I decided to tweet at Mr. Matlack, and, to my surprise, got a response. A few e-mail exchanges later talking about my work, his work, and his project, he offered me a chance to write content for the project, about myself, VFA, and the Downtown Project. Hooray for the power of social connectivity!