A Portrait of Information and Luck

Image: Andrew Neel/Unsplash 

Just before I turned 20, I was interested in a marketing career, but I’d just gotten rejected from business school. I was losing hope. But, I kept it moving that summer before junior year of college. One of the many things I did was participate in a focus group for a social media agency. 

At the end of the focus group, I got to chat with the founder Dave Wilkin, who founded Ten Thousand Coffees, and who I talked about my situation with. What he said would completely change the way I thought about it. Here’s what Dave told me:

“Why don’t you take the thousands in tuition you’re saving, spend it on some conferences, and go meet CMOs and marketing directors? You can actually meet the decision-makers that will get your career started.”

My mind was blown. 

I ended up attending tens of thousands of dollars worth of conferences. I did this by:

  1. Taking Dave’s advice
  2. Writing for Rob Lewis at Techvibes
  3. Approaching conference organizers for media passes

This was one example of the luck that can happen when a person keeps moving. It might not be so much that good luck takes place—but more like, unluckiness runs out. I just happened to be doing two things that amplified each other. Dave gave me the map, I went exploring, and struck a small fortune. 

Through the conferences, events, and interviews, I got an education that nobody else had. Through writing, I built a body of work that got me my first job in marketing at Xtreme Labs. And I’m pretty sure none of that would’ve happened if Dave hadn’t connected those dots for me. 

It wasn’t just the information, either. Looking back, Dave actually sounded like he believed that I could pull it off—which is more than what I could say for myself at the time. So giving someone else permission to believe in themselves, through a very simple proposition—not preaching, not advice, not chastising—can be a very powerful act. 

It’s amazing what even just one piece of information, experience, or permission can do. It’s why I read so many books, reach out to people, and document the things I learn online. And it’s why what Dave is building Ten Thousand Coffees is important. 

If you want to learn more about this story, I go deep into it with Jeff Sarris for his podcast Starting Now.

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