Inaugural workshop group in the Bay Area. Photo: Eugene Chan
I am just settling down to recap the first leg of my book tour and workshops in the Bay Area and Portland. I had two amazing groups of warm, supportive and hard-working participants who taught me more than a few things about the concepts covered in my book.
Here are some things I learned while on the road:
Lesson 1: We need each other
Even though we had large groups in each location, I asked everyone to introduce themselves and give a short summary of their situation so that we got a sense of the different life and business issues in the room. I knew that by doing so, people could talk at the breaks and hopefully forge a connection that could continue well past the workshop.
I was amazed at the stories, and the variety of life situations. Some people were happily employed but considering alternatives for the longer-term. Others had quit their jobs already and were hot and heavy in the development of their businesses. And in the case of Portland, we had some really seasoned entrepreneurs like Chris Guillebeau, JD Roth, Tim Berry, Mark Silver and Matthew Scott who lent their perspective and experience to the group.
I could feel the warmth and support in the room, and was reminded that it is so isolating and scary to make a big life change by yourself.
And as a business owner, I looked around the room with profound gratitude that all these people were paying me their hard earned money to do the work that matters most to me. Sitting behind a computer all day, I can get lost in my to-do list, and forget how totally amazing it is to be in a position to solve problems that I care about, and serve amazing, courageous and smart clients.
Me and the amazing Lisa Chu. Photo by Eugene Chan.
Lesson 2: Watching someone who has confronted fears and limitations is humbling.
Our first workshop was hosted at The Music Within Us, a music school started by former doctor and entrepreneur Lisa Chu. I was intrigued by her business when she first contacted me about sharing her space for the event, but was unprepared for the power of her personal story.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she was raised with high expectations in her family, and worked extremely hard to meet social expectations of success. She trained violin from the age of 4, got in Harvard, completed medical school, and worked in a high-powered VC firm.
Then, listening to her heart, she moved across country, and opened a music school for children.
She was so clear about her choices, and committed to living life fully that I was moved to tears. It is really amazing to be in the presence of someone who has fears just like anyone and feels societal pressure, but acts anyway. Lisa, thanks for your generosity and courage. It was very inspiring to me, and I know it was for everyone else in the room.
Read Lisa’s story from her perspective here.
Lesson 3: You will miss opportunities by serving a chunk of hamburger to a goat cheese market.
I have not been to Portland since college. Since I have lots of friends there, I was really excited about going.
From the moment I stepped off the plane, I could feel the healthy vibe. The people walked at a casual and relaxed pace, and bike riders filled the roads.
We held the workshop at the lovely Kennedy School, per my dear friend Mark Silver’s suggestion, and it was a cool, funky and creative space.
For dinner, I was invited to Chris Guillebeau’s house where his wife Jolie made not only a fantastically delicious vegetarian dinner, but served hors-d’oevres that were made with organic goat cheese, balsamic vinegar and hand-picked strawberries.
As someone who gets excited when I remember to defrost a big chunk of hamburger for the family dinner, I was flabbergasted by the care that went into preparing a healthy meal featuring local, in-season ingredients.
And it occurred to me: how often do we market frozen chunks of hamburger to goat cheese with hand-picked strawberries clients?
There are tremendous regional differences in this great country (and globe) of ours, and paying special attention to the needs of a specific market makes a lot of business sense.
Thank you SO much Bay Area and Portland for your generosity, hospitality and support. I am really excited to hear how your business plans develop.
Remaining Tour Dates and Locations
I have been adding some new cities based on local interest, so here is the latest list (click on date to get full details, and to register):
Seattle: July 10 (Still room, but need to register today)
Chicago: July 17
Washington DC: July 30
Charlotte: August 13
Atlanta: August 14
London: Definitely mid-October, finalizing dates!