The Kickstart Story Part 3 : From Osaka with Love for Valerie Pringle

February 11, 2008

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Just as we were about to start, just as we had contacted the first set of potential interviewees, Paul decided to go to Japan. He was chasing a girl, so he was wholly justified in doing so, but it was a bit of a pain nonetheless. This was especially true given that our first interviewee was going to be journalist Valerie Pringle and she had initially agreed to sit with us because Paul had tutoured her son the year before.
When Paul phoned Ms. Pringle to alert her that two others would be arriving at her house the next week – but two wonderful and upstanding young men – she didn’t seem the least bit fazed. She seemed far more interested in talking about the wonderful contradictions at the heart of Japanese culture. Oh, and would I be going to the Golden Temple?

So, while Paul walked around the streets of Kyoto, Alex and Andrew rang the bell at Ms. Pringle’s Toronto home, introduced themselves, and sat down to ask her about her internship at CFRB Radio. The interview was a huge success, not only because Ms. Pringle was charming and buoyantly funny, but because it validated their belief that, yes, people would talk with candour about the struggles of their twenties.

Valerie’s career in journalism was hardly a smooth escalator ride up the ranks of Canadian radio and TV. She not only had to push her way in the door with dogged perseverence, but she also had to deal with constant dismissals that she was “too shrill” to go on air. She even went back to her high school drama teacher for voice lessons.

The next two interviews – with cardiac surgeon Tirone David and HuskyPlastic Moldings CEO Robert Schad – confirmed the very same thing. While so many of our friends hesitate to discuss their struggles and self-doubt, wishing to project airs of immense confidence in the inevitability of success, those who have been through it and can look back on their twenties with greater ironic distance are far more willing to say “God, I was frightened. I wasn’t sure I could do it.”

Paul ultimately spent three months in Japan, and later China and Indonesia. Alex and Andrew, meanwhile, pushed on. As they went, the standard template of questions slowly began to evolve. What had started out being a book about how people became successful began to focus just as much on the things that didn’t work. We decided that, if someone spent six years in jobs they hated, unsure of what to do, that was just as interesting as their stories of finally getting around to starting their business. What, after all, was Paul doing? He was off searching for something, trying to learn more about the world, who he was, and what he wanted. The search, the pursuit and the myriad stumbles along the way are what give the final prize real value. As we progressed with our interviews, we came to see that that would be at the core of what our book was about.

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