While I was in DC recently, I learned a valuable lesson: Doers realize that being open-minded helps them set big, audacious goals––and figure out how to accomplish them. This trip was a reminder that it is an incredible world we live in, and that there are amazing people and meaningful accomplishments going on all around us. It was a reminder that you have to be present, pay attention, be open-minded and always understand your place as a humble servant.

The primary purpose of my visit was to meet Chef Fabio Watanabe and his team and go with them to present their amazing cassava pizza crust to Partnership for a Healthier America. But, as often happens, another friend and colleague, Alex, with the Carlyle Global Health Summit, was also in town. We met for dinner and he arranged for me to attend and speak at a series of curated forums on health and wellness that was being hosting at Mount Vernon the next day.

I have to admit, when I got to Mount Vernon I really did not pay close attention during the talks. The speaker was with Foundation for a Smoke Free World. He was talking about smoking cessation and the effects of smoking around the globe. But to me, smoking is a choice, so I was a little checked out. I was focused on Chef Fabio and team, who where flying in that afternoon to present their healthy pizza crust. For some reason, my mind was not open to what was being said, so I left.

I came back in a bit later, and a film about Malawi tobacco farmers and what was needed to get them to stop growing tobacco, was playing. I left again.

This time, I ran into another person I had met at the dinner the night before, a woman named Nancy. I visited with her, but again, I didn’t know much about her. We chatted about the pluses and minuses of vaping before going on our way.

I realize now that I made 3 important mistakes here: Mistake #1 was not realizing what a huge global impact smoking cessation and the Foundation for a Smoke Free World would have on the planet and on the pizza crust project. Mistake #2 was not paying attention to who I was talking with at the dinner the night before the event and, #3 was not staying to watch the film.

I know it seems like smoking cessation and Malawi farmers could not possibly have an impact on healthy pizza crust––and that I couldn’t have known the importance of these three things at the time––but that’s where the idea that you need to be open-minded and present comes in. Had I been present at dinner or during the talks, had I been open-minded about what was being discussed, I would have immediately seen the connection.

I bet you are hooked now, and wondering what that connection could be, right? Read on…

Chef Fabio Watanabe
Chef Fabio Watanabe making his revolutionary cassava pizza crust

So, the next morning, I was excited and scared for the meeting with a Partnership for a Healthier America. The strategy was that Chef would go practice on the conveyer belt in a local pizza place, while I prayed that a cassava pizza crust would hold up in a way that would make it possible to produce several hundred pizzas an hour. A smaller team would go to the Partnership for a Healthier America’s offices and discuss the pizza project. I was on pins and needles just waiting for a text from Chef saying it worked.

What I got was better. I got a picture of the “pie.” YEAH! We all walked over to the pizza shop for the tasting––and it was fabulous! The staff at Partnership for a Healthier America liked the pizza. Oh, my! I thought, “This is going to be real!”

Chef Fabio, Harry, Bill, David, Kathleen, all of us––couldn’t have been more pleased and I felt like the proverbial dog who bites the tire and then says, “Now what do we do?” Because there is little to no distribution for cassava in the US, I knew we had a steep hill to climb. I could hardly sleep that night thinking about the work ahead.

I was so excited, in fact, that I almost forgot I had agreed to moderate a forum on breakfast food trends for Alex the next morning.

I have to admit here, one potential mistake (and an uncomfortable realization for me) is that I really didn’t want to go to the breakfast trends talk that morning. I was even challenging myself as to why I’d agreed to moderate the breakfast at all. But when I got to the breakfast trends meeting room, the smoking cessation speaker from the day before, Derek, was at the table, so we started talking trends.

He was coming at it from a very big, macro view, which amazed me. As we dug in a little deeper, I realized he is more than amazing, he is a Doer with big audacious goals.

How big? What if I told you he got a billion dollars from Phillip Morris for his smoking cessation plan? It starts with those Malawi farmers having a cash crop they can grow in place of tobacco.

Did you guess that the plan is that the Malawi farmers are going to start growing cassava? Yep! Through the Foundation for a Smoke Free World, the US will have a supply of cassava as a way to help eliminate childhood obesity––because pizza is the biggest contributor to obesity in children, with sugary drinks a close second.

This all happened in just a couple of days, and I thank Alex for arranging the introductions and reminding all of us to have big audacious goals, and reminding me to pay attention and not assume anything is unimportant. There are incredible things going on all around us, all the time. We just have to be open-minded and humble enough to receive them.

Okay, so, lessons learned: You should take your goals up a big notch right now. Yes, right now! Write that big audacious goal down. Pay attention to everything around you. Be open-minded and humble. Embrace whatever comes your way. Got it? Good!

Oh, I almost forgot to explain about my new friend, Nancy. She was telling her story during one of the sessions at the Mount Vernon gathering. Turns out her sister, Susan B. Komen, died of breast cancer 40 years ago. When she was dying, she asked Nancy to make sure that her death wasn’t in vain. So Nancy Goodman Brinker built, and still leads, Susan B. Komen, a foundation that has given an estimated 1.4 billion to breast cancer research, advocacy and education. Now, that’s a Doer–and another illustration of what a mistake it can be when you are not being open-minded or aware of who you are talking with.

Do you think you can make a difference on that kind of scale? Yep! You can get a billion dollars from a major CPG for a cause. Yes, you can raise 1.4 billion for cancer research. Yes! Yes! Yes, you can! You just need to start right now by writing your goal down, then you are immediately one step closer. Then make your goal bigger, and even bigger and more audacious. Write it down again, then open yourself up to everyone around you that’s going to help make it happen.

Pay attention to everyone around you, even at Starbucks, even at the grocery store or at a dinner party. I am sure you will find a person that will help you with your big audacious goal.

Rock on–