Two weeks ago, I was named to the 2017 Forbes Under 30 List in the “Food and Drink” category. The list (“U30”) is comprised of those “redefining the way we eat, drink, and think about food” – and I am so honored to be included in this group of game changers who are innovating how we feed the world.
If I had to choose one word to describe the feeling of learning I made the Forbes Under 30 List, it would be [overwhelming] humility.
I remember thinking immediately, “Wow, this is the single greatest recognition I have ever received.”
I was surprised because making the list also means that the ideas I have around food innovation, sustainability, and nutrition aren’t so crazy after all. Being named validated much of the work I do, and the motivation I have to change how we can provide healthy, affordable nourishment to school kids. I am not the only one who sees the opportunity – others are starting to see it too – and in a big way.
The journey to get here has been tough, but it has been amazing. There are so many incredible people that supported, guided, collaborated with, and championed me along that way that I couldn’t possibly do justice in thanking them all.
The Forbes Under 30 list is not a destination; it’s one small step along a very long journey. A lot of people have asked me what it feels like to have “made it” on the list. While I am honored, proud, and thankful for the recognition and opportunity, I do not believe it should be viewed as “making it” in any sense. The list is about vision, change, empowerment, and doing good in the world. It has nothing to do with money, fame, growth, and scale. While those aspects of success may be important to many people, it is irrelevant if you do not believe you are leaving the world in a better place than you found it.
Success, in my eyes, is doing what you love. If you follow your passion and work hard at it, good things will come. Success will find you naturally if, deep down, you’re doing what you truly believe in.
Of the 600 Under 30 List Members across 20 categories, nearly half (48%) describe success as “achieving your potential, or liking yourself and what you do (also 48%).” Further, only 4% pursue success for fame and fortune, and 35% believe grit is the most important trait for entrepreneurs; followed by Passion at 21%.*
Why is this important?
Many people associate Forbes with Money and Power. But what we are seeing here, and very clearly, is that the Forbes Under 30 “listers” are driven by purpose, passion, personal fulfilment and making a difference. The U30 list is not about money and power and this is the part people miss. There is too much focus on company size, growth rates, and how much money you make (or raise).
Why are we always so focused on companies like Uber, Snapchat, or Blue Apron and Plated (the latter two in my industry) when odds are so small that any business will grow at those rates? We focus on the 0.000001% instead of the bigger picture and doing good in the world. My advice is: do not try and be like them. As stated above, the next generation of entrepreneurs and true gamechangers don’t copycat the past for fame and fortune. They take risks, invent, try, fail, and once in a while succeed – but they are driven to make a difference.
We are a generation less driven by capital gain and more focused on leaving the world a better place.
So, how can you make your way onto the U30 list?
· Stay focused – set goals (short and long term)
· Stay the course – persistence and resilience go a long way
· Be patient – success (and recognition) will not come overnight
· Work hard – if it was easy, everyone would do it
· Stay humble – confidence (not arrogance) is key
· Find your tribe – surround yourself with likeminded people to stay motivated and get through the tough times
· Celebrate the small wins – you may not achieve your biggest goal, but taking time to celebrate small accomplishments is important in building your confidence and your team culture
· Share your story – don't be afraid to “self promote”…get your story out there and get noticed
· Let it happen – keep working toward your goals and success will find you!
I am always happy to connect with others. To contact me, please follow up at Chefmikelevine@gmail.com