The past week I was invited to participate in a first meeting that aims to bring together people from different backgrounds and disciplines. People who have lived through the most varied experiences and who can somehow add up with their stories. The organizers of this gathering are known to me from six years ago, when I lived in Switzerland for a shorter period. (Yes, back there, when I decided to make my transition to art.) At the time they were new graduates, today we all have lived many experiences - and life has connected us again. On an autumn morning in Zurich, I went there to meet this group of 20 people, of whom only these two faces were familiar. In this first format, Donna Carpenter, Co-Ceo and Co-Founder of Burton, the pioneering snowboarding brand, joined our conversation circle as the main guest. In a very informal way, she briefly made a retrospective of her life. How she met Jack Burton at a Vermont bar in 1982, at the age of 22 - and how they are now married and partners in a company of 1000 employees.
She openly shared details about her personal and business story - no filters style. From moments of extreme difficulty, willingness to give up on the way, of literally having the feeling to sell the company for 1 dollar. And that her husband had also moments where he wanted to sell everything for the cheapest price. Luckily these wishes never happened simultaneously, so one was always there to support the other. One of the biggest secrets for the company's success today is that it has always had open communication with all employees, always keeping the business private and with a familiar touch. And that in the entire history of the brand, they never had long-term debts. Today the company is about to invest in its growth, with its own funds, without relying on banks.
Insight number 1:
And here are we building small businesses and paths with a certain anxiety of being self-sufficient - and not only that - but to also have liquidity margins, with only a few years of journey. The company is approximately 30 years old, and it is only now becoming independent of external help. Of course, each scenario is a scenario. The question I want to raise is, this overnight success that we see out there being sold by stage entrepreneurs, does not exist. I'm sorry, but success comes from the determination, the daily construction, internal strength to believe that the business has potential, from the ability to remain curious and motivated, always seek better solutions and the power to withstand falls and get up with the head held up high - and feeling stronger every time.
In this context, what caught my attention in her speech was the way she spoke about these high moments - but also the very low ones - in a light, relaxed and humble way. At a certain moment she assumed, that of course, when the hurricane is passing by, things are not always so easygoing, but the spirit is to come out stronger, and then look back and see everything as part of the process of learning and growth. To always keep smiling - and more importantly, laughing. Life doesn't have to be taken so seriously. And Donna, for sure, was an example of that for me in this conversation.
Another point, within this context that I found very valid to share is her vision that we have to remain teenagers. That the "no" has a much greater power than the "yes". Tell a teenager that he can't do something. What happens? The probability of him going against is, just for the rebellion and the proof that he can, is almost one hundred percent.
Insight number 2:
People who seek to live of their passions in general are not so different from Donna and Jack. How many times have I not heard: It's impossible to live from art. There's no room for your art here. We have no interest in selling your art here. You can't enter this gallery, or project like that, only if you're found by a curator. You can't be an artist if you don't have a gallery representing you. And so many other statements, just like they, at Burton, heard: We're not going to produce your snowboards. You can't introduce this sport to our ski slopes. We're not going to sell your products in our shop. This "no" shouldn't slow down our speed of going after what we believe, but rather give us the motivation, and use it as a trampolin to stay focused. To go against the movement. To question the system. Just like rebellious teenagers.
Another concept very present in her speech was curiosity. She pointed out that even that they are the pioneers of the sport, they remain curious at every step. Each market, each product improvement, each internal improvement within the company. And within this scenario, not to be afraid of asking questions, of learning and exploring new possibilities and solutions.. Very connected to this concept we also discussed humility. Regardless of how much money you have in your bank account or how big your name is, to be humble is also to be open to the possibility that there is always something to change. There are always ways to evolve.
Insight number three:
I agree with Donna, that curiosity is the desire to know more, to explore, experiment and question. It's what keeps us moving. What makes us evolve. To play with possibilities, just to live a new experience. To get out of our comfort zones. To have a new insight. Curiosity, in my point of view, is one of the eternal tools within a human being - and especially creative humans. Creativity is highly linked to the way we connect points in our brains. They can be based on experiences, feelings, stories or moments. So when we keep curious - to ask when we don't understand, to go after something just because our intuition is saying so, to confront a fear or a barrier, to learn a new capacity. But hey, without necessarily wanting to master or being the best in everything, okay? Curiosity in it’s simplest way - just for the sanity of experimenting - and then having a set of interesting tools in your hands. As Socrates used to say: "ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat" - all I know is that I know nothing. If we question ourselves, and then have the curiosity to go after the new, it allows us to expand our own consciousness and become alchemists in the creation of something new.
Last but not least. (It's also a personal reminder.) By watching the relaxed behavior of our guest, and the way she approached her falls, and the way she pointed out very important questions and concepts linked to the business, and personal, spheres - something is certain - this woman knows how to smile and have fun. And remember that, in her context, they were pioneers, they sell a sport, a lifestyle and fun. So there is no way to "walk the talk" by not applying all of that to their own lives. Confronting the system. To be authentic. And to always have fun. And so, in this context, she and her husband have a pact to be in the mountains, also practicing the sport and having fun, about 100 days a year.
Keep your inner child inspired and curious, your teenager always rebellious, humility in the heart, determination and dedication running in the veins. And never forget to have fun in the process.
leia o texto em português, aqui :)
To understand, express and sell.These are the three main frontlines I have built my work on. My art. My business. It took me some time to divide so many studies and experiences into only three sections. It’s a simple way of putting it. A summary of connections between different disciplines and inspirations. To look inside, express and the looking and stepping out into the market.
The art of living, or the life of an artist. It doesn't really matter. In the end, I am talking about living life in the most expressive way I can, and then create pieces, that are a pure consequence of it all. This is my slogan. What would be yours?
And like a river with meanders, this line in between - which I call discipline - may tend more to one or the other side in a few days, but it always keeps me focused and with an eye on my goals. It connects the land I’m standing on, to the ocean of possibilities that I want to reach. Self-discipline is what gives me the daily flow to do things and then feel like doing it more and more. It’s a growing and permanent moving flow - and cycle.