Persistence and Faith: Carter's Story
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – MLK Jr
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Varga, but your son won’t grow up to be successful. He just doesn’t have what it takes...”
Distraught, anger, confusion. These are just a few of the emotions that ran through my mother’s head, as these words rang from my elementary school teacher’s mouth. As a mother of three who worked 80-hour weeks as a CPA, while juggling an active social life, the thought of her 7-year old son struggling in school only added to her list of worries. Yet, through all these struggles, she never lost faith in her child, for she saw the bigger picture - she trusted what fate had in store.
It’s my senior year of college, and I’m still looking for an internship to fulfill my graduation requirement after receiving 3 rejection letters from other companies. Balancing my final year of classes on top of my baseball obligations was a challenge within itself, but now, throw finding a job into the mix - I didn’t know if I would make it. Struggling to find my way, I knew exactly where to turn: my mother. A person who knew adversity and tough times, who knew what it felt like to not have a sense of direction, who never lost faith during struggling times, and someone who created their own success.
We had multiple hour-long phones calls throughout the week to try and map out a plan - how to find an internship while managing baseball and extracurriculars. As options became more and more unrealistic, I received a piece of advice from my roommate, Trey Truitt. He suggested that I try for an internship for a new start-up coffee company on campus since I was an international business major. It would allow me to have flexible hours without having to leave campus, as the business operated in the Innovation Center. Little did I know, this advice would lead me to more than just an internship - it would lead to a brotherhood. That brotherhood began in November 2017, as I packaged my first bag of coffee and started my career with Z Beans.
December 2018 - I’m sitting in a local coffee shop in the middle of New York pondering what made me decide to walk 6 blocks at 7 in the morning, in 26 degree windy weather, all for a cup of coffee. Was it my touristic nature to avoid big chains and see what a new city had to offer? Or did it go deeper than that? I think about all the events that have happened in my life, which helped mold my ways of thinking. I can’t help but wonder - what influenced the countless others to make the same decision as me?
I believe everything in life happens for reason and helps shape us as a person. Our successes, failures, disappointments, sacrifices, they shape our lives whether we would like them to or not. If you would have told me two years ago that I would become an entrepreneur after graduation and help start a coffee business, I might have laughed and told you “No way, I don’t even drink coffee.” But as I sit in this shop, I can’t help but to think about what truly made me decide to join Z Beans: the persistence of Shane. From the day I began my internship, Shane sought out ways to make Z Beans sustainable, so he could continue helping the farmers in Ecuador. This meant him giving me an habitual sales pitch. Every day for months, I would get the same, “Top of the mornin to ya! Decided to join Z Beans yet?” greeting when I walked into our offices at the Innovation Center. Every day, same question, same response given, yet he was persistent in finding a way to change my mind and my answer. And come May 2018, that answer finally changed.
Growing up, baseball was my passion. I worked each day to make sure that passion and dream of playing professionally never faded. I worked at baseball the same way I watched my parents work at their jobs: dedicated and never ceasing. I wanted to give back to the ones who sacrificed for me, because without them I would not be here writing this blog. From countless early morning road trips with my father to different tournaments, to helping pay for a continued higher education, to plain old spending quality time together, and always having a meal on the table. Although that plan of playing baseball beyond college came to an end, I took the skills and lessons it had taught me the past 18 years and focused them on growing Z Beans.
One of the greatest lessons I learned in those 18 years wasn’t anything I physically could have improved on, rather it was all mental. I knew finding ways to simplify the game was key to my continued success. I had coaches who would boost me up, and some who would tear me down, yet they all wanted to see me improve. Throughout training and conditioning I had to remain focused on the long-term outcome, and how my struggle now would be my success later on. As Shane mentioned in his prior blog, the quote, “If you can take it, you can make it” was one of my favorites. I would always tell myself that when the alarm went off at 5am - when a timed mile and a half lie before me - when I received rejection letters from potential internships.
The persistence and dedication required when being tasked with unrelenting expectations and confronting them head-on has been a lesson I learned in baseball and have improved while at Z Beans. Whether those challenges are executing a pitch to give your team the chance to win or learning how to run a coffee shop in less than a month, you are expected to perform. And, as Shane always likes to say, “You can’t reward what’s expected.” If you expect a lot of yourself, you’ll never seek rewards - as you’ll fall in love with the process.
Writing this blog has helped me reflect on my journey so far with Z Beans and how far we’ve not only come as a company but as a family and individuals. I could not have asked for a better friend and business partner. I will forever be grateful to Shane for having me join him in building Z Beans, so we can continue to spread the names and stories of our Ecuadorian partners and their families.
Some days may come easier than others, but on those tough days I can’t help but recall those words spoken to my mother 15 years ago. Those words remind me why I decided to join a start-up company when the path ahead wasn’t clear, and why giving up isn’t an option. My parents’ sacrifices and their persistent faith that their child will be able to achieve anything he believes gets me through those tough times. And for that, I’m very grateful.
This past year has been memorable and I’m eager to see what this new year brings for Z Beans!