Thursday, May 31, 2012

Some advice on tap from Greg Koch

Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewing Co.
Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, was the keynote speaker at Cuyamaca College's commencement May 30. From his experience as an entrepreneur, Koch told the graduates that he had five things to ask of them.

1) Do good things.
It does matter. Everything you do in this world counts. It counts for the worse, or it counts for the better. It's up to you to choose and I urge you to choose better. The old 60's phrase was "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." This said that in order to make changes for the better, we all need to actively work on them. We've got a lot of challenges in our world, and we need your help in working actively toward the solution.

2) Be a conscious consumer.
In the grocery store, in the shopping mall, or online, don't buy what the man on the TV tells you to buy. Refuse to be led by the nose with the idea that you need to buy, buy, buy and spend, spend, spend. If you must buy something, buy the good one rather than the latest cool one of the moment, or the one that breaks easily, only to be thrown away and replaced by yet another cheap one. And by the way, the good one is rarely the one advertised on TV.

3) Follow the passionate path, and have fun.
Do things that matter to you. Follow your heart. Follow your passion. Do things that you enjoy. I'll bet the classes you did the best in were the classes that you enjoyed the most. Life and careers are like that as well. If you follow the path of things you are passionate about and enjoy, you will likely do better at them than something else, and you'll go to work each day willingly!

4) Ignore everyone.
This is key is you're to follow the passionate path. You'll need to realize that you cannot listen to other voices than your own. It's difficult enough to overcome the doubt, fear and negativity of our own internal voice. Don't allow any external voices to add to it. I want to share the very simple idea that doing it your own way is better.

What I mean is, I believe that things are almost universally better when people do something the way they think it should be done -- the way they truly think is the best way. At Stone, if you don't care for what we do and how we do it, then you're not our customer. And if you're not our customer, we don't need to fashion ourselves to your personal tastes. In fact, we shouldn't. If we did, it's questionable whether we'd make a loyal customer out of you, and we'd most definitely alienate our customers who have been loyal.

Now I'm not one to say that all advice or perspectives from others is bad. Far from it. So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? It's simple: Does the advice support your vision, or does it attempt to derail it? If the former, lean in.

5) Fail.
"Don't be afraid to fail" is what many people will tell you. I want to amp that up a bit. I want to urge you to stretch, push and risk so much that you DO fail. Make mistakes. Maybe try and avoid huge ones, but you can recover from nearly all of the medium-sized mistakes, and definitely all of the small ones. And each time you do, it'll put you further ahead of the curve, because most people don't even allow for the chance of making even the small mistakes.

Not sure if you can do it or not? Try anyway. Fail. Learn. Try again. Do something amazing.

Am I saying that everyone graduating today should be risk takers? I think you already are. You risked your time, your energy and the power of your focused on the idea that you'd make it this far. And you did make it. And I am willing to risk saying that I think you're going to go on and do some pretty great things. I want you to go out there and prove the naysayers wrong, and in the process you'll prove me, and yourselves, right.

Stand up, brothers and sisters. Stand up and be proud.