Defy ventures

The Worst Thing You’ve Ever Done

Over the last year, I have been blown away by my experiences with Defy Ventures, an organization that gives business training and mentoring to people with criminal backgrounds. I must admit I was pretty nervous the first time I walked into a room filled with people who had rap sheets, but after everyone introduced themselves with a bear hug, and I got to hear why these people were choosing to change their lives, I could no longer hold on to my fear or negative assumptions.

 A Clean Slate  Through her M.B.A.-style program, Defy Ventures, Catherine Rohr is helping former prisoners, including Maliki Cottrell (left) and Marlon Llin (center), learn how to launch their own companies.

A Clean Slate Through her M.B.A.-style program, Defy Ventures, Catherine Rohr is helping former prisoners, including Maliki Cottrell (left) and Marlon Llin (center), learn how to launch their own companies. Photo credit: Miller Mobley

I believe in potential; I believe that people grow and become better versions of themselves, and I know that I’m not the only one. But in The United States, we do not extend that faith to people who have been behind bars.

What would it be like if you were permanently known for the worst thing you’ve ever done?

This is a line from Catherine Rohr’s article in Inc. CEO and Founder of Defy Ventures, she has helped transform the lives of thousands of motivated individuals, and by extension, strengthen the communities and families that they came from.

I urge you to read this article. I urge you to question the beliefs that you have. I urge you to support an organization that bolsters our society with the very people who are shunned by society. Oh yeah, and I urge you to like them on facebook!

Show up

Woody Allen

Woody Allen (Photo credit: ThomasThomas)

“80% of success is showing up.”

I always thought that was an Einstein quote, but apparently it was Woody Allen. One of the things that I love about Woody Allen is that he’ll try anything. Some of his jokes are really stupid, but there are others that make me cry from laughing, and he seems to deliver both varieties with earnestness. It’s like he throws as many darts as possible hoping at least one of them will hit the target. I really respect that level of effort and candor.

I’ve been a big fan of this quote because I see it’s truth all the time.

The other day was a perfect example. While volunteering with Defy, there was competition to see which team of two could do the best presentation. Every team was going to have two minutes to make this presentation and since there were 50 people in the room, there would be five rounds. We had ten minutes to prepare our speeches.

When they asked for five teams to volunteer to go first I raised my hand immediately. This is not my usual mode of operation, but since I’m a mentor I thought it would be good to exemplify leadership behavior.

When the five teams went to the front of the room the moderator announced that competition was over and that the first group automatically won. The people who hadn’t volunteered were upset, but it was such a valuable lesson.

Sometimes you don’t know what you’re actually being judged on. One of my friends described an interview at Google where they asked a ridiculously hard question and it turns out they were judging how he reacts to pressure and not his actual answer. It turns out the competition was not about who can give the best presentation but about who was willing to take risks and step up to the plate.

How many times do we sit back and wait to be called on? How much time do we waste perfecting our arguments and never saying them out loud. This little social experiment was the epitome of Woody Allen’s quote. It doesn’t really matter if your the best, smartest, funniest, whatever. It matters that you’re eager, and ready to get in the game. The more time I spend with successful business people the more impressed I am not with their amazing intelligence or insight, but with their willingness to dive right in.

While we’re on the topic of Woody Allen, here are some other quotes of his that I love:

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”

“My one regret in life is that I’m not someone else.”