Podcast #1: The Start of Something Big
A little over a year ago I released a book called The Age of Ideas about discovering your purpose and unlocking your creative potential. As I recorded the audio book I realized it would be more generous to transform the story into a scripted podcast. The book’s purpose is to guide, inspire, and share knowledge, a FREE podcast is way more accessible medium than a $30 book.
Then one day everything changed.
We are now living through an unprecedented time defined by uncertainty. After thinking about it, I decided there would be no better time to release this story into the world and hope it imparts positivity, inspiration, and peace to anyone in need.
Control your thoughts, control your reality. Let’s start creating the future today.
Peace, Love, & Protection,
“These were, by their résumés, very superior people. And
I thought, gee, maybe there is something here, something
more valuable than just being an employee.”
—Arthur Rock, venture capitalist
On a hot summer morning in San Francisco in 1957, eight of the
most talented young scientists in America convened for a clandestine meeting at the Clift Hotel. They gathered over breakfast in the
famed Redwood Room, a bastion of the city’s old guard. A nervous energy consumed the table, fueled by uncertainty, possibility,
and fresh-brewed coffee. The eight worked on developing silicon
semiconductors—a groundbreaking new technology—at Shockley
Semiconductor outside of Palo Alto. The company’s founder, Nobel
Prize–winning scientist William Shockley, was a brilliant but difficult
manager: erratic, mistrustful, and impatient. He had even gone so
far as to hire detectives to give his employees lie-detector tests,
and these employees, experts in a field in which there were few,
were frustrated and angry.
After considering numerous options, the men decided they
must defect. They planned to establish their own company under
the leadership of MIT graduate Robert Noyce, a charming, personable twenty-nine-year-old electrical engineer from smalltown
Iowa. Getting Noyce on board hadn’t been easy. He was the leader
they needed, but he had a young family, and he needed to be persuaded to leave his guaranteed paycheck for something with no
model—creating a new company in a new field based on nothing
more than combined knowledge, faith, ideas, and passion.
As Tom Wolfe would later write in Esquire:
“In this business, it dawned on them, capital assets in the traditional sense of plant, equipment, and raw materials counted for
next to nothing. The only plant you needed was a shed big enough
for the worktables. The only equipment you needed was some kilns,
goggles, microscopes, tweezers, and diamond cutters. The materials, silicon and germanium, came from dirt and coal. Brainpower
was the entire franchise.”
Brainpower was the entire franchise.
After the meeting, the group’s first move was to approach
Shockley’s main investor, Arnold Beckman. Beckman had been
arguing with Shockley for months about spiraling research costs.
Shockley had threatened to take his team elsewhere and find new
money. But the eight scientists knew this was a bluff, and informed
Beckman of their plan to leave. Despite a trio of positive meetings,
Beckman ultimately said he was planning to stick with the senior
Fortunately for the employees, they had also contacted other
possible investors, including thirty-year-old New York financier
Arthur Rock, recipient of a letter they’d written explaining their
situation. Their letter intrigued Rock, who was impressed with
their backgrounds and experience, and Rock told them he wanted
to go out and raise the money necessary for them to start their
own company. The scientists agreed, and Rock began by sitting
down with a copy of the Wall Street Journal, using it to compile
a list of the thirty-five largest American companies. During the
next few months, Rock diligently reached out to every one of them,
and one by one they all said no. Disheartened, ready to move on,
Rock received one last lead. An associate suggested he meet with
Sherman Fairchild, a colorful, prominent entrepreneur and investor
known for unconventional thinking. Founder of Fairchild Camera
and Instrument, the son of IBM’s first chairman, Fairchild immediately recognized a potent opportunity and backed the men to the
tune of $1.5 million.
On that June 1957 morning, the eight men didn’t have an
official contract, so instead they all signed a crisp dollar bill. One by
one, these technology pioneers—Robert Noyce, Julius Blank, Victor
Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, and Sheldon Roberts—added a signature to their own declaration of
independence, framing what would be a history-making choice:
they would pursue their visionary ideas inside the structure of a
new, innovative company.
With the financial backing of Fairchild, the eight men founded
Fairchild Semiconductor in a location just twelve blocks from Shockley’s facility. Long before the term “Silicon Valley startup” existed,
this trailblazing operation in Mountain View, California, helped
produce technology destined to change the world, and incubated
Two of the “traitorous eight,” as Shockley called them—Noyce
and Moore—would eventually leave to found Intel Corporation. Austrian-born industrial engineer Eugene Kleiner invested in Intel before
starting the legendary venture capital firm Kleiner-Perkins in 1972,
a firm that would one day fund Amazon, Google, AOL, Compaq,
Genentech, and many others. As for Arthur Rock, he unknowingly
gave birth to the multi-billion-dollar industry of tech-based venture
capital. In time Rock himself would lead the investment in Apple. To
complete our circle, Apple founder Steve Jobs would consider Robert Noyce a mentor, and even, some would say, a surrogate father.
Taken together, the original employees of Fairchild Semiconductor
can be said to have created or helped create hundreds of new companies and technologies.
A revolution of consciousness and creative capital had begun.
A Night in Little Italy
My story begins in January 2008. I’d just returned from Christmas
vacation and was in good spirits. The hospitality marketing company I’d been running since college had completed its best year ever.
We’d doubled revenues for a third consecutive year. My partners and
I were so encouraged that we decided to expand our office, invest
in new computers and phone systems, and hire new employees,
including my older brother, who was tasked with creating a new
sponsorship marketing division. Things were looking good.
And then it all fell apart.
Mere months after our expansion, the global financial system
imploded. We went from having more than a dozen high-profile
clients paying tens of thousands of dollars in monthly retainers to
zero in roughly a week. Nothing quite prepares you for an experience
like that. It immediately resets your priorities and puts you face to
face with your biggest fears as an entrepreneur—failure and letting
down the people who count on you.
We went into survival mode. We had enough cash on hand to
carry us through maybe two months, but we needed to figure out
a way to cut costs and get some revenue coming in. Time was not
on our side. We scrapped, fought, landed a client or two, moved
into an office share, cut unnecessary expenses, and survived. And
though shared struggle often creates stronger bonds, in this case
that didn’t happen. The world had changed, the business had
changed, and so had I.
The crash—and my failure—woke me from a self-indulgent
slumber and forced me to take a hard look at what I had been
doing and why. When I started in the hospitality business, it had
been because of my passion for food and for watching people enjoy the experiences we created. Since boyhood, to me a good meal
meant a connection to all my favorite things in the world—it was
love. This passion had led me, at age sixteen, to score a coveted
culinary stage in Wolfgang Puck’s kitchen at the original Spago on
Sunset Boulevard. From there, it took me to Cornell’s Hotel School
and got me in the door for some great hospitality and business
But somewhere along the way I’d gotten off track. I had
been seduced by the energy and ego of the entertainment world.
I became more interested in short-term material success and getting my name in the newspaper than in building something that
was high quality and had deeper meaning. Something that would
last. Something of substance. While my approach had worked for a
while, my financial success really was just an enabler, allowing me
to avoid seeing the real issues with the business and with myself.
That challenging experience in 2008 proved pivotal. Early the
next year, I made decisions that redirected my path. As 2009 began,
it was clear my company was no longer where my passion resided.
After much soul-searching, I came to the realization that I needed
to get back to what I loved most—food and hospitality.
But it wasn’t until a late night out in New York City when an
unexpected encounter unlocked a new, creative direction in my life.
My cousin Rob and I hit a bar in Little Italy and afterward decided
to get some pasta. The only problem? It was after two in the morning. We went to the one place we could find open, and over plates
of spaghetti and meatballs we struck up a conversation with the
establishment’s owner. I’ll call him Gino. Gino told us he was losing
money and needed a way to generate more revenue. His restaurant
had expanded aggressively from its original location in the building’s basement. At three times the size and staff, the costs were
too much for him to handle. Gino told us the original space—once
a famous hangout for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack—remained
in vintage condition, serving now as a private party space with its
Gino gave us a tour of the former Sinatra haunt, and as he
did, a realization hit. If I wanted to get back to my roots in the
restaurant business, the best way to do it—the best way to prove
what I was capable of—would be to create a pop-up, a temporary restaurant. And here was an amazing space with a legendary past
known to almost no one in one of the world’s great restaurant cities. I had to give it a shot.
The stars seemed to be aligned, because everything came
together perfectly. Reservations for the multiday run sold out in
under twenty-four hours. Our concept was not only a financial
success, it was covered by local, national, and international media
outlets, with a feature in W magazine, a segment on The Cooking
Channel, and articles in the New York Post, the New York Times,
and Crain’s, among others. Reality-TV producers descended, but we
avoided them like the plague. The opening night, celebrity chef Tom
Colicchio of Top Chef was there, along with a who’s who of the New
York food world. But more rewarding than the prominent clientele
was the fact that everyone enjoyed themselves—the room’s mood
was warm, beautiful, fun. And those present loved the idea that
they were enjoying a one-of-a-kind dining experience, shared with
a cozy number of fellow food-lovers.
It was a memorable night for a burgeoning community of
food enthusiasts at exactly the right moment. I was ecstatic. For
the first time in my adult life, I was doing something purely for the
joy of sharing my passion with the world, rather than to stroke my
ego or make money. It felt like I was finally living my purpose. I was
manifesting my dreams, making tangible an inspiration that came
from deep within.
I followed that first pop-up with many more. My team and I
launched a temporary art installation-restaurant in a hotel construction site in midtown Manhattan; a Roaring Twenties steakhouse with the amazing chef Seamus Mullen (with whom I would
later open a restaurant in London); a downtown version of New
York’s famous Le Cirque; and a short-run satellite of Cantinetta
Antinori, a Tuscan restaurant run by the Antinori wine family, the
oldest family-run business in the world.
Since then I’ve continued to produce curated dining and
hospitality experiences, most recently with Dinner Party, a multicity
dining experience in partnership with Vice Media. Dinner Party has
featured food from chefs such as Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, Carlo
Mirarchi of Roberta’s, and Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski of
State Bird Provisions. These pop-up enterprises connect with guests because they bring together people—both employees and customers—who care deeply about the project, and share a special
Creating the pop-ups—doing something that was a pure
reflection of my passions—changed my life. The core idea and drive to
execute what I envisioned enabled me to realize my potential for the
first time. That shift in how I approached the world supercharged all
other areas of my existence. I went from being a struggling entrepreneur to heading up a food and beverage business with $150 million in
annual revenue to chief marketing officer of a publicly-traded hotel
company to head of brand and experience at a billion-dollar startup
in less than five years. And not only did the pop-up restaurant experience provide me with the opportunity to share my creativity on a
large scale while supporting my family, it also gave me the gift of
fulfillment and the confidence to trust my instincts and enjoy the
journey as much as, if not more than, the result.
All of that flowed from manifesting an idea that aligned with
my purpose. By “manifesting,” I simply mean making the intangible
tangible. Making a dream reality. Executing on a vision. It changed
my life, this idea, but if you think about it, a pop-up restaurant is
really just a catering event repackaged with creativity and purpose.
However, because we live in a time when purpose-driven ideas
have more power than ever before, the concept transcended its
My goal in this book to show you how this all works. I want
to give you the confidence and knowledge to unleash your superpower—your own creative potential.
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