Farhad Ghafarzade is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Portland and founder and CEO of Green Drop Garage, a chain of eco-friendly, subscription-based car repair shops. Like many entrepreneurs, Farhad's path to his dream wasn't direct. With a major in molecular biology, he planned to start dental school but detoured by living on a boat and working in a brewery before pursuing his passion. As the founder of an award-winning Eco Biz and certified B Corporation named one of Oregon's Fastest Growing Companies in both 2016 and 2017, we asked Farhad about his Aha! Moment. Here's what he shared.
Many entrepreneurs, inventors and artists experience the critical importance of an Aha! Moment: That instant when something clicks and you realize exactly what your next step must be.
For the Greek mathematician Archimedes, "Eureka!" came to him while taking a bath. It happened to Sir Isaac Newton when an apple fell on his head. For Steve Jobs, it was a calligraphy class at Reed College.
In my case, it was a cup of tea at Starbucks. Yes, really.
Before I tell you about that life-changing cup of tea, I'll share the context.
I care deeply about the environment. After college, I started converting friends' diesel cars to run on vegetable oil in my parents' garage. I knew car repair could be sustainable, ethical and fun--but couldn't find a repair shop with green values; at least not in Portland. I knew I could help car owners reduce environmental impact, both in the garage and on the road. But I didn't have skills in repairing cars or running a business.
So, I partnered with an experienced businessperson to start the company, 50-50. He would be the brains behind my passion for creating a new genre in car repair: A shop that wasn't grimy, didn't aggressively push sales and was eco-friendly.
Two weeks before we opened, my business partner asked about his salary. I told him that neither of us would have a salary at first--we were starting a business from scratch! I explained that once we launched and could pay our bills, we might be able to pay ourselves. Skeptical of my plan, he withdrew.
Without his experience and financial contribution, I was just a guy with a green vision.
Disappointed, I went to a nearby Starbucks and ordered a venti tea, which was served in a "The Way I See It" cup that Starbucks offered for a time. Each cup featured a printed quote by a famous person or a comment submitted by a customer.
My tea was emblazoned with The Way I See It quote #76, attributed to a customer named Anne Morris:
"The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating--in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life."
I thought deeply about the importance of commitment as I sipped my tea. It was the ideal message for me to receive at precisely the right moment―it inspired me to take a risk that I knew deep down was well worth taking.
I took the cup home, dried and flattened it. Then I wrote, "I'm doing it anyway!" on the cup and mailed it to my now former business partner.
That's how I ended up starting an eco-friendly car repair chain without knowing how to run a business. But I had made my commitment, so I worked hard to develop the tools, strategies and systems necessary to turn my vision into reality.
In his commencement address to Stanford University students in 2005, Steve Jobs talked about how you can only connect dots by looking backward. When looking forward, you must believe the dots will connect in the future.
Belief empowers you to choose wonder over worry and gives you permission to ignore your internal critic. But belief alone isn't enough. Believing you can fly won't launch you skyward.
What's also needed is commitment. By committing to your vision of flying, you might find yourself creating a hot air balloon or a drone, perhaps even an airplane. When you commit, you make it happen in whatever way possible.
When asked about his many failed attempts to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison famously replied he had not failed but found 10,000 ways that didn't work. Or, as Frank Sinatra put it, "There is something to be said for keeping at a thing, isn't there?"
In my case, I believed in a new kind of car repair shop. Don't think it was a smooth ride―I endured my share of challenges and sleepless nights while getting the company on its feet. But when I look back to the exact moment it all started, it was reading that insightful quote.
Once I committed to my vision, the stars aligned, dots connected and ever since then, I've enjoyed meaningful results.