The pursuit of perfection, joyous work, and a little luck

I’ve had a cou­ple peo­ple ask me for busi­ness advice late­ly, and I was tak­en aback by how lit­tle I know about busi­ness as I tried to come up with an answer.

It did­n’t jibe with how suc­cess­ful Paleo Treats has been; you’d think I’d know more.   In 3 and half years we’ve grown from mak­ing batch­es in our kitchen and sell­ing them at the 2009 Cross­Fit Games to being one of the big­ger Paleo food com­pa­nies in the busi­ness and sell­ing not just through­out the U.S. but inter­na­tion­al­ly on a reg­u­lar basis.

As I racked my brain for what “secret for­mu­la” there is for suc­cess, I kept com­ing up against the basics, noth­ing fan­cy, noth­ing exot­ic, just the basics.  They are summed up in my head as the pur­suit of per­fec­tion com­bined with plen­ty of joy­ous work and just enough luck to get you over the occa­sion­al hump.

Whether you’re start­ing a busi­ness (and I rec­om­mend every­one start at least two) or start­ing a work­out pro­gram or just try­ing to get through the hol­i­days with­out eat­ing every last cook­ie and piece of cake shoved into your face, suc­cess seems to come from those three things.

First, the pur­suit of per­fec­tion.  It’s not whether or not you achieve it, but the pur­suit itself that’s impor­tant.  Aside from the obvi­ous ben­e­fit of com­ing up with top qual­i­ty prod­ucts, it draws oth­ers into your cir­cle who are fol­low­ing sim­i­lar goals, who walk sim­i­lar paths, and that leads to joy­ous work (more on that lat­er.)  The old say­ing that birds of a feath­er flock togeth­er is just as true of folks seek­ing per­fec­tion as it is a bevy of quail.  It’s a hard road, the path to per­fec­tion, and there are an awful lot of exits you can take.  It’s much eas­i­er to stay the course if you’re sur­round­ed by good friends with the same inten­tions, and if you just put your head down and slog it out with them at your side you’ll find that you hit what you thought were impos­si­ble goals and only notice it when you’re a few miles beyond where you thought you’d ever be.

One of my favorite sto­ries about this can be found here.

In the case of Paleo Treats we’re after per­fec­tion in a Paleo dessert.  We haven’t found it yet, at least not in any one dessert, although our Mus­tang Bar comes pret­ty close; I’ve heard it referred to as a “Paleo-gasm” (thanks Hei­di F.)  Still, it’s the pur­suit that mat­ters, and it shows up every time we see some­one take a bite of a Paleo Treats sam­ple; they always seem to expect medi­oc­rity and are so sur­prised and stoked to find that the peo­ple that made this treat actu­al­ly give a shit about taste AND health.

The sec­ond key to suc­cess is plen­ty of joy­ous work.  I don’t mean by this that you love every­thing you do; some tasks just suck and there’s no way around it.  What I’m talk­ing about is prob­a­bly best shown in an old Gary Lar­son Far Side car­toon.  It’s a pic­ture of a guy wheel­ing a heavy wheel­bar­row up a steep path in Hell.  It’s hot, the wheel­bar­row is loaded with bricks, he’s scrawny and sweat­ing, every­one around him is mis­er­able.  Incred­i­bly, he’s whistling away, shown so clev­er­ly in just a few musi­cal notes and his pursed lips.  The Dev­il is look­ing on from the side of the path, and he turns and says to his min­ion, “We’re just not get­ting to that guy.”  What­ev­er else that guy did to get to the hot place, he under­stood the val­ue of joy­ous work, of being able to be stoked with what­ev­er you’re doing, whether it sucks or not.

We take that joy pret­ty seri­ous­ly at Paleo Treats, so whether we’re out hus­tling to sell cook­ies at a sam­ple sale or rock­ing out newslet­ters or just ship­ping out box after box, we remem­ber that joy is what YOU make, not the job you’re doing, and if we’re stoked to be doing what­ev­er it is we’re doing that some­how seems to trans­late pret­ty con­sis­tent­ly into suc­cess.  I think that joy comes through every time we talk to folks, and maybe that’s why I get asked for busi­ness advice; folks want to know not just the secret of suc­cess, but the way to make that suc­cess be so much fun.

The final ingre­di­ent to suc­cess is a tiny help­ing of ran­dom luck.  Some­times it’s bad luck, and you learn some huge and awe­some and valu­able les­son by zig­ging when you should have zagged.  Most­ly though, it’s just a lit­tle good luck; know­ing the right per­son, being in the right place at the right time, or just plain get­ting lucky.  This last “lucky” piece isn’t some­thing you have con­trol over, although it seems that the more joy­ful­ly and the hard­er we work, the luck­i­er we get.

Still, there’s that unde­ni­able ele­ment of luck in every ven­ture; the weath­er win­dow that opens up at just the right time, the Oprah show that stum­bles upon the Paleo diet right after we made a huge batch, the pass­ing acquain­tance from years ago you run into at the air­port who is per­fect­ly posi­tioned to give you a boost right when you need it, the phe­nom­e­nal­ly gift­ed employ­ees you hire who are bet­ter than you could have asked for had you designed their lives yourself.

So that’s it: The pur­suit of per­fec­tion, joy­ous work, and enough luck to get you over the humps.

That wraps it up for my hol­i­day wis­dom, feel free to drop us a line via email or phone.



Paleo Treats



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