By Beverly Kuykendall
“If you always do, what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”
As I nervously stood before a sea of what seemed to be thousands of other entrepreneurs in Washington, DC during a formal announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), I felt the need to reinforce my resolve by running this quote through my head over and over again. The DVA had just completed a presentation describing the reason for “reinventing government.” This announcement had been pending for months. Now it was being formally announced and many small businesses, like mine, had made the trip to hear how the government’s plan would impact our small medical supply companies.
Many of us were selling to the 172 Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, 800 Community Based Outpatient Clinics, 135 Community Living Centers and 48 domiciliaries, for years. This announcement was about to change the way we did business and possibly eliminate our business with the federal government for good. I approached the microphone in the front of the auditorium, walking past hundreds of people on the way. I was armed with official federal procurement guidelines, including the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These would be the basis of my inquiry. This one meeting, this one circumstance changed my life forever! As I reviewed my notes and opened my mouth to quote the FAR Regulations and ask my question, I wondered to myself “how did I get here?”, and who was I to make these inquiries?
Since that day, I have found myself in a variety of similar situations, studying circumstances and working to make an impact that changes the trajectory. Born and raised in an environment that had no appreciation for what I might offer to the future and, I received no formal nurturing or coaching to prepare me for what I am doing today. I am a self-proclaimed, “outlier” as defined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success.
An Outlier is a scientific term to describe phenomena that lie outside the normal experience. Gladwell states, in his book, that success in any field is not the result of talent, but the result of 10,000 hours of practice. This “10,000 hours of practice” rule, it is said, will lead to success no matter the field of endeavor. I believe that practice AND exposure, not necessarily raw talent, are the key to the possibility of success. What else explains where I came from and where I am now?
I’ve come to the realization that it does not matter what others think or do. What does matter is what I think and what I choose to do. It is all about choices. The most important part of that philosophy is the word “choose.” One thing I will always have, and that we all have, is a choice. We have the choice to move in one direction or another, to take one path or another. I chose to take what for me was an exploratory path. I moved in a direction that was different than the one chosen by so many of my neighborhood peers. It occurs to me that what I thought was a choice, was really my life being guided by some strong force.
I consider myself an “Outlier” as described by Malcolm Gladwell, This book chronicles how our path in life creates wonderful situations that lead us to success. My hope is to be the inspiration that nurtures the Outlier in you in order to help you to capitalize on your exceptional gifts—because as Gladwell states so well, “no one ever makes it alone.”