Friday, January 08, 2010

Can't start a business only eating a Tombstone pizza every day

"Dreams are always a work in progress." - Dale Levitski, almost winner of Top Chef Season 3

I love following examples of people doing things small. Taking baby steps to get somewhere. All of us seem to have a crazy impatience inside to accomplish everything right now. We want to pick up a golf club for the first time and be Tiger Woods. We want to open our business and be Steve Jobs tomorrow.

This impatience unfortunately makes many of us just give up on the challenge. The climb just looks too daunting. And if anything gets in our way, we can't deal with it and we cave.

I know how that impatience feels. I had it when we started Inkling. We started with just 18k from Y Combinator over 4 years ago that dried up on paying rent for 3 months. It's real easy to give up at that point. Real easy to give up when a few deals go south or take a lot longer to accomplish than planned. But we've persisted and now run a profitable business that feels pretty great to run every single day.

Here's an example of just giving up. Thankfully though he picked himself up again.

Dale Levitski lives a block from me. I see him constantly. He was cooking at this lounge on Thursdays that my wife and I would go to. We went there 5 or 6 times, and it was delicious.

I started a conversation with him at that lounge so now I can say hi to him on the street and he comes over and just chats with me. :)

We always found it confusing though. He was a tremendous chef. We loved his food. But he only cooked this one night a week, and bartended on another night. What's his story? Why isn't he running some crazy restaurant?

Dale almost won Top Chef. Came in second. But second means very little. He had some idea in his head to open a 200 person restaurant in downtown Chicago called Town and Country. And he needed 4 million dollars to do it. He was going to use the Top Chef winnings of $100,000 as a stepping stone to get there.

Problem is he lost Top Chef, and never could get his 4 million.

So he gave up. Sat in an apartment he couldn't pay for. Ate a Tombstone pizza every day and gained 30 pounds.

Unfortunately it took his mom dying to realize he needed to get off his ass and keep trying.

Through some renewed persistence he got "lucky". He didn't just get lucky sitting around drinking, not answering his phone and being lazy. He got lucky AFTER he started persisting again. People look lucky, but often it's a result of their persistence putting themselves out there in the world. Their idea. Their name. Their hustle.

Today Dale is now the executive chef of a restaurant in Chicago called Sprout. It's just 35 seats. It's not the empire he had in his mind he wanted tomorrow. But it's a start. It's a baby step in the right direction. And a 5 star rating on Yelp isn't a bad baby step at that.


Time to read more about Dale? Here's a couple other great articles on his efforts. Time Out Chicago and the Chicago Tribune.

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