In the last three weeks, there have been more people asking me something similar to this question - “Are you ok? You seem not like the usual Dewey that we know...”
For some, they can sense that I am off balance and for sure my poor Jenny and Gabbi get the crappy-short-tempered-not-so-nice Dewey.
I have to admit - I am super tired physically and emotionally. It has been an arduous 16 months....
As an extrovert, it’s funny that I am running out of “extrovert." For the first time in my life, I am admitting that I am beginning to feel my age. The oxymoron is that I feel physically the best that I have ever felt. I feel like I’m surfing better now than before and my jiu-jitsu is solid for a 54 yr old fart at 147lbs (given that I have been off the mat for the last couple years and have shit loads of bad body parts).
Looking back at the last two years, I have breathed Kekoa every day from the moment I rise with the sun to when I put my head on my pillow around the late news hour. Of course I am not complaining; I am reflecting on the moments that I have made and experienced. There have been so many serendipities or miracles. One day I will share it. Many of you will never believe it. Some of the occurrences have defied logic. “It is simply not possible!” one would say.
I went from working for someone since I was 11 years old until I was 51 years old. For almost 40 years I had to somehow modify my sense of self to fit in a corporate world. Now, I no longer have those constraints.
The biggest difference now is that I have no boundaries. For once in my life, I am empowered to do whatever it is my heart desires. We are able to chase any ideas that are not acceptable as the norm, and for Aub, Jeff and I, it feels perfectly brilliant. For example: put Fuji mat right in the front window of a store and make it free for all addicts like us.
We are able to break some of the rules that we have been taught by our families, schools and society. Now, we have no rules...we just operate based upon these three simple truths - honor, gratitude and kindness.
To truly give all of myself without being edited by a set of policies from an organization has done nothing but recharge my spirit. Everyone knows that my F bombs are still strong!
To lead this giant experiment called Kekoa, we must model the way (like I promised you 20 months ago) “We will always be a soulful company." To do this, we must be transparent, authentic, and altruistic.
Before I lay my head down tonight I want to leave you a short (not) story that happened in Oct 2016.
To preface: I have been trying to get an insurance policy on our retail concept so we can secure a lease. I have been rejected four times, and this is my 5th meeting with a local insurance company. (It has only been two months and four “no’s”.)
9:30 am. I am sitting in a conference room at one of Hawaii's oldest and most established insurance companies discussing coverage for Kekoa.
Across the table is one of the founding members of the company. For now, I will call him Mr Watanabe. He is in his early 60's. For sure he surfs. Dressed in a Reyn aloha shirt and a pair of black slacks, his smile reminds me of Jack Lord (but in a Japanese version) from Hawaii 5 O, and his peppered gray hair made him look even more demure than he is. He was referred by a dear friend of mine.
I was trying to explain to him about the Kekoa Collective business model. He was perplexed and could not grasp our concept. He insured many martial arts schools, but Kekoa's business type does not fit in any of the current business models in the insurance world. We are not just a store. We offer yoga, but we do not charge for it...it is based on karma. Shit got even more weird when I tried to explain the jiu jitsu concept. Mr. Watanabe kept repeating that he has many clients who are judo dojo owners, but since we do not charge a fee, it brings a whole new mess of liabilities. I can see clearly that he has no idea of what I am trying to convey.
Out of desperation I said, “Imagine when you rode your first wave? Remember those inexplicable (I’m sure I did not use this word) feelings that turned you into an addict...the ones that spoke to your soul...even though we might not know it then but later in life we surrender to it...that is what I am trying to get an insurance policy for...so I can build it, Mr Watanabe!”
Forty seven minutes later the "aha" moment arrived. His smile could have radiated the entire conference room. He asked, "Why would you want to start a business at 52? Most clients of mine at your age want to protect their portfolio. They have worked so hard to attain their nest eggs, and they want to protect it and make it last.”
I replied, "When you started this company 37 years ago, was everyone 100% supportive of you or did a few of them think you were out of your mind?"
"Of course some of them thought I lost my mind, especially my mother, but I was in my 30's!"
"I have no idea what’s going to happen, but that voice in my opu(belly) is so loud that I can no longer ignore it. I have to do this or ‘regrets’ are eventually going to kill me!”
He explained that our business model was too much of a liability and that most insurance companies would not likely want to insure us. We shook hands, and he said he will review it with his team and get back to me.
Before I departed, he asked, "Did you know that Morgan Freeman did not land his major movie role until he was in his 50s?" (Mr Watanabe was referring to Driving Miss Daisy)
"No I didn't know that...see! What would the world be if we did NOT have Shawshank Redemption?"
“I admire your conviction and let me see if we can help,” Mr Watanabe said with sarcasm and also with some joy & respect.
I'm not sure Kekoa Collective is the next Shawshank Redemption, but for sure it's going to be one of my life's best works.
PS -We intend to keep leading this experiment with our “heart first.”
Please forgive my imperfections while I am slowly recharging my inner light
THANK GOD for my two partners. I cannot imagine going through all of this without them. They lifted me when I needed it the most. I am in deep gratitude for their friendship and love. Jun & Riyoji, mahalo nui loa for giving us a chance....from my heart. As always.
To start a company is easy, but to start a M O V E M E N T is much more challenging than one can imagine. But it’s much more fulfilling. Be forewarned- it is exhausting, and you will need a great support system. Remember we are never great alone (Desi)!
With all my love and my deepest gratitude, thank you for your love and support.