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Steve Bartlett: Embracing whatever comes down the pipe

Young entrepreneur says tough times are when support for innovation is needed most.
Entrepreneurism

My sister is a prof. (Yes, trolls, she’s the one with all the brains.)

Steve Bartlett
Steve Bartlett

She teaches business in hometown and, while there last week, she asked if I’d speak to a class about entrepreneurship, specifically about the need to pivot, or change directions quickly.

I’m not an entrepreneur — no tolerance for such risk — but I’ve got considerable experience with pivoting.

Anyone who has worked in journalism within the last decade has often had to change directions quickly due to disruptions in business and technology.

But how do I make that relevant to students?

I decided to offer some broader suggestions based on my experience, advising they:

• find something they loved doing because it will never feel like work;

• work hard to achieve personal and business success;

• succeed by embracing whatever change comes down the pipe and adapting to it.

I also encouraged them to put problems into perspective, that overacting to minor issues consumes too much energy and time.

After a few questions, there was some time left and I decided to tell them about Hong, whose story I wrote 16 years ago next month.

It has nothing to do with business, but Hong remains a reminder about the value of doing work you love and being open to changing gears.

Hong was an international student who walked into my office in an emotional and desperate situation.

His mother had been murdered because of her religious beliefs and his father was missing, likely imprisoned.

His parents were also a financial pipeline, meaning he didn't know how he could afford to stay or leave.

Hong was visibly distraught, not only due to pain and predicament but also because he feared his government was coming to Canada to get him.

I explained that I wasn’t a bureaucrat or in an official capacity to help.

However, I noted, I could write a story on his predicament.

I was reluctant to say this because I was swamped with other things at the time.

Hong agreed, provided his real name didn’t appear in the paper or his face wasn’t pictured — again due to the fear of being tracked down.

I published his story and what happened next was magical.

The community responded and in a big way.

People asked how they could help.

Some, including high-ranking politicians, made anonymous financial contributions.

One couple took Hong into their home and let him stay for free.

The young man was blown away.

So was I, at having made such a difference in an individual’s life.

Not one second of the experience felt like work.

And if I didn’t stop what I was doing and pivot to tell Hong’s story — I could have referred him to the bureaucracy — none of it would have happened.

I went a little long relaying this story to the business class, but the students stayed in their chairs and clapped. (Maybe because I was finally done.)

Hopefully, they’ll always remember Hong, and how doing something you love and being flexible can result in meaningful rewards — for everyone involved.

Steve Bartlett is an editor with SaltWire Network. He wants trolls to realize he puts his name on every piece he writes. Reach him via email at steve.bartlett@thetelegram.com.

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