“Paul, we know you love your lifestyle here, but we would like you to move to Nice to start our European sales and marketing office; on your own”, said the founder of our little Vancouver software start-up back in the fall of 1998. “Why Nice and why me?” I replied. To which he exclaimed, “because our partner Texas Instruments has its European headquarters in Nice; we need to hitch out little wagon to their big horses; and you are young and don’t have any dependants like the rest of us do.” Directness was never a quality lacking in our leader!
“WHY NOT TRY?” I thought to myself, as I blurted out “ok, I’m up for a challenge, how do I get started?”
A year earlier, I had been on a business trip to Europe, which had culminated in a stop in Nice to work with our partners there. As my flight back to Canada gently climbed out of Nice on a gorgeous summer evening, I finally managed to focus on the beauty of the region. I looked down to the blue-green waters of the Mediterranean with its rocky cliffs and beaches, the yachts dotting the water, the city and the little perched villages in the surrounding hills, and beyond the foothills of the snow-covered Alps. I fell into a trance, mesmerized by the image below me that appeared more like an impressionist’s work of art than a real place. Once we passed the Alps, I snapped back to the reality of my high-tech life thought to myself, “Hell, if we ever open an office in Europe and choose to locate it here, they can count me in for that job.” Remarkably, within a year I was now learning that dreaming big can pay off, as being tapped to create an outpost in the Nice area was becoming a reality. Provence, here I come!
So began a magical year living and working in the south of France. A year that had profound impact on me, both as I learned about doing international business with a variety of European cultures, and as I learned to put more value in slowing down and appreciating the simpler joys of life. It seemed everything that year had to be tackled with a “why not try?” attitude… why not try to live in a cave-like apartment in an ancient walled village named Saint-Paul de Vence?… why not try to improve my terrible high school French?... why not try to do business in 8 countries in 5 days?... why not try to navigate a sporty car through roundabouts with the confidence of Grand Prix driver?… why not try to drink pastis at 9am?... and best of all, why not try to become accepted into the fraternity of the game of pétanque?
We all know how common it is for people to inadvertently convince us not to try new things. Far too often we hear things like, “you will probably fail”, “that won’t work”, “that’s a bad idea”, “you don’t know how to do that”, “nobody is going to help you”, “you can’t make a difference”, “you could be laughed at”. Somehow I was lucky to learn fairly young to say to myself, “bs, why not try?”, when I hear these sorts of cautionary bits of advice.
Your “why not try?” moment may not involve moving to Provence, though I highly recommend visiting the region for more than a couple weeks at least once in your life! Yours might be to build something with your hands, write a book, learn to paint, take up a new sport, start a company, go back to school, learn a new language, or volunteer to try to change something you care deeply about.
My latest “why not try?” is writing my first book; a light-hearted story of that year I spent in Provence. It is titled “Uncorked - My year in Provence studying Pétanque, discovering Chagall, drinking Pastis, and mangling French”. Of course I hope the book will be a sales success, though I did not write it with that as my goal. Rather I wrote it for my children to someday enjoy and to see if I could actually write a compelling book, and I feel almost certain that some positive outcomes that I cannot yet envision will transpire from this new pursuit. I have always believed that if you put yourself in the right places for good things to happen, they probably will!
Pourquoi ne pas essayer?