Job, Leadership, Life Goals, Startups

Lunch with Paul Polman, Dinner at Buckingham Palace

It’s times like these where life is pretty nuts.  Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever, was one of my favorite CEO’s even before I met him.  I have read so much about his sustainability initiatives and such, and how he puts his money where his mouth is.  A lot of times you read about these people, and when you actually meet them- it’s a total let down.  This was not one of those cases.  Paul Polman is a true visionary.  He kept dropping knowledge left and right.  And most importantly, I think he really cares.  I know he cares because his staff informed us that this was only supposed to be an hour meeting, but he bumped some poor guy who probably prepared 6 months to make a 30 minute pitch, which is now reduced to 10 minutes.  And he didn’t dodge the hard questions- I definitely asked him my fair share.  He is legit.  Plain and simple.

But one of the main things I realized, while visiting their facilities in London, was how…tiny I was. How young I was.  I was probably younger than 80% of the people in that building.  I was sitting in their 8 story building in the middle of London and I just felt…humbled.  I think in this day and age, with web 2.0 and the like, we forget about product companies.  It was so cool walking into the Unilever store- and it blew my mind to think wow, they MAKE these things.  These products that I grew up with- that I love! Dove, Pureit water filters (I own 2!), Lipton Tea (made it for my parents every weekend growing up), Ben and Jerry’s- I could go on and on. But yeah. Someone makes that. It was awesome thinking about that.  And this company is huge. Just HUGE.  I felt so small in those offices. But in the best way possible.  Like..this could be NextDrop one day.  This could be us. We have so much to look forward to in life.  And so much to learn.  I am so young! Pretty much a baby.  Having that perspective is helpful.  I also realized that…I don’ t think I could work for someone this large.  I really relish the challenge of growing my own company.  It’s really what I live for, turns out.

Also, I spent so much of last year hating on the fact I’m so young.  I usually like to bump up my age 5 years (wherever I can get away with it).  But as I was sitting there in those offices, I realized- wow.  I’m meeting Paul Polman.  And his entire executive team.  Because I’m a finalist for the Young Entrepreneur Sustainability Award.  Not the Seasoned Entrepreneur Sustainability Award.  And to be honest, I was thinking about most of the conversations he would probably have on a daily basis.  Really dry. Lots of agendas.  Lots of egos.  It must get tiring.  But like I said in the last post, the other finalists are amazing.  The topics we talked about weren’t….how can I get more stuff out of you (although, how they could help definitely came up and I because I am shameless I brought it up multiple times/asked how to follow up with those game changing promises) but we were asking about…interesting stuff.  At least I think it’s interesting stuff.  The future of the world as we know it.  What’s the status quo, why is it like that, what can we do to change it, what he has learned in his time on the planet.  The good stuff.  And I feel like he thought it was cool too, because, like I said, he gave us an extra 30 minutes.  How many times do you get to sit back and ponder about life in the work context? How many times do you get to ponder your true purpose (and not in the PR sort of way?)

I don’t know, I guess being young isn’t too shabby.  Got a lot to learn, but I’m getting there.

Yeah, Buckingham Palace was nuts.  They showed our video there and everything (Yes my face was on the big screen at Buckingham Palace- NUTS I’m telling you.)  I kept asking people if this is a normal thing- like every Britisher gets 3 weeks of Prince+Palace dinner time or something.  Apparently that’s not how it works.  Prince Charles said what’s up.  He asked about NextDrop- that was nice of him.  He asked if we were getting behind at work, and I told him that in England they had this invention called the internet  (so I’ve heard) that was really helpful for that sort of thing. He also said he would do everything he could to help, so I said keeping his eye on his friend over at Unilever would be helpful, because it was like Christmas that lunch was.  So many game changing opportunities.  He said ok.  It was a good 3 minutes of Royal time.  (Did I mention I’m shameless when it comes to work?)

I think my biggest realization was that life is shifting into the next gear.  And if I want to succeed, I’ve got to step up my game.  Lots of opportunities I need to take advantage of, mostly because I’m young and I can get access to a lot of things that a lot of older people have a harder time doing.  Which is good. Stressful, but good.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.


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