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The Starting Place

Carlos was a seasonal ski instructor and a part-time bartender living in a local ski area. He divided his typical day into two shifts: Teaching ski lessons by day and tending a bar at night. He enjoyed both jobs equally. He loved the mountain's physical adventure, and he loved having a warm community at the pub that he could come home to after a long, cold day on the mountain. He was perfectly happy with his life, in other words—except for the problem that neither of these positions offered any opportunity for advancement, and there was no real way for Carlos to scale up his income over time. He made barely enough to pay his living expenses on a week-to-week basis.

Carlos made many friends, climbed a lot of mountains, learned from many a traveler, and lived each new day as an adventure. He was 28 and living the happiest days of his life. He didn't have one penny to his name, and he didn't care one bit. Until the realization hit him: Unless he made a change in his career, he never would be able to save a penny, let alone provide for a family in the future. Before the age of 30, Carlos had already run into his first income ceiling.

Carlos never had time to think of what he wanted to do. He had spent most of his life just doing what he needed to do. When he found financial stability, it came in the form of overlapping seasonal and part-time jobs, which didn't offer any long-term security. He enjoyed teaching ski lessons and tending bars, but between all of the work, he never found enough time to ask himself where he's going or what he wants to do at the next stage of life.

The Coaching Experience

When he sought help from a Career Storybook advisor, he was surprised to find that he had already inadvertently started down the correct path and that he was exactly where he needed to be.

Career Storybook assigned Marilyn to advise Carlos. The first thing she did was interview him about a wide range of things—not just within his professional life, but even more profound questions about his childhood, which Carlos had not thought about for years.

Then she put together a list of goals: Carlos needs to keep his community. He does not want to leave where's he at right now. He does need to break through this income barrier—he wants a scalable income to provide for family members in the future. He has creative, risk-taking, adventurous, and entrepreneurial personality traits. He loves the wild outdoors, and he could never be happy living in a city.

She mulled over the points for a week and then decided on a plan. Carlos can keep doing what he loves to do. He is on the right track. He needs to own his labor, and he needs a career that can scale up over time.

He needs to start his own business. He has all the traits to make it happen. He's creative, driven, and genuinely passionate about his community. He should build his own community space—a perfect space that can only be designed by a community member.

So after two weeks of interviewing and reflective exercises, Marilyn proposed the plan to Carlos, and he seized on it right away, as if the idea had been waiting for him this whole time: To open up his ski-in mountain café and bar.

The Transformation

Carlos loved the ski-by-day, gather-around-the-fire-by-night culture. He wasn't a professional athlete, and neither did he want to party all night every night—but he was an adventurer, and the atmosphere of a ski-up bar nestled on the side of a picturesque mountain turned out to be the perfect picture of his future.

By exploring his career goals and his inner personality traits, Carlos learned how to make this vision his own. He added bookshelves and a library corner, with small rooms, couches, and fireplaces nestled in the corners for people to read, write, and sit quietly. He installed a coffee and tea bar around the corner, where non-alcoholic drinkers could find a cup of caffeine anytime day or night. He added a wide-open stage in the back where traveling musicians and spoken word artists could come to perform, and he set up an events manager to book an act at least three times a week.

By learning about himself, Carlos created a new vision of an establishment that was truly unique and had unique market value. He didn't do any of that by taking graduate-level business classes. He did it by reflecting on who he is and what kind of coffeehouse-pub culture makes him feel most relaxed and comfortable after a long day of skiing and hiking out in the mountains. It was a culture that invited everyone—a proper place of community.

The Results

He didn't have the funds to start the place, and it turns out he never needed them. He opened a low-cost line of business credit. He received support set aside for local start-ups and small business investments. He ran the place on credit for almost two years before paying off the interest on the loan and turning a profit. He worried about making it, but he believed in this vision. He had spent months crafting it with his career coach, and he knew now beyond any doubt that this was what he wanted to do.

Furthermore, he knew that he was an exceptional and unique person—he was one of the very few people who had the genuine drive to make this vision into a reality. This had always been true, of course. The difference was that now Carlos knew it was true.

Opening up his bar turned out to solve a lot of problems all at once. It eliminated his income cap; it opened up new opportunities; it allowed him to maintain the community he cherished above all else. It allowed him the creative space to create his perfect mountain lodge—an idea he had been toying with as a hobby all his life.

Today, the Ridgeline Tavern and Coffeehouse sits at the top of an iconic mountain, and it has grown to become an equally iconic establishment for the entire Mountain community.

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