Three Moments in My Life that Encouraged Meaningful Risk
Three moments stand out to me when I look back at what has shaped the trajectory of my adult life thus far. While I originally set out to study medicine, eight years later I find myself in the process of launching my third business venture as a young entrepreneur. I haven’t taken a single business class, but my background is in kinesiology with a heavy emphasis on sport & exercise physiology and a crazy, deep love for chocolate. I currently own and operate Those Girls at the Market, Julianna Tan Health & Wellness (through Prestige Health), and my newest project, The Little Market Box.
1. A Road vs. A Mountainscape My first whiff of bravery to explore the unknown was between high school and post-secondary education. I was luckily chosen to interview for and receive the Loran Award, a scholarship annually granted to approximately 30 young students across Canada from a pool of over 5,000 applicants. The award recognizes and fosters character, leadership, and service, but even the interview process itself is transformative. During one of the interviews, I was asked a simple question and it prompted a profound perspective.
“What is your biggest fear moving forward?”
For me, it was choosing a single path and waking up ten years down the road to realize this path was not the one for me and I missed my true calling. The lady across the table presented to me the viewpoint that life is not a “road.” It is not a singular, linear path you travel along. It’s more like a mountainscape where you set out to climb a mountain and as you ascend your perspective changes, your view expands, and you can see more than you have ever seen before. You see bigger, bolder, and more beautiful mountains within your reach and at any point you can pause, you can pivot, and you can pursue new heights.
2. Let it Hurt then Let it Go, Less Force & More Flow. The second aha-moment came to me early during the second year of university. I had spent the summer volunteering in Colombia with families living under the line of poverty. After returning, one month into classes I got a phone call that my father only had a few weeks left to live. The following day I was on the plane back home and I spent the next three weeks by his side before he passed away. After the funeral I did what we all had to do: just move on.
I spent months living my back-to-normal life constantly asking myself,
“Is this it?”
I grasped for meaning and purpose from both my experiences of living in a country stricken by poverty and the sudden passing of my father. It felt off going back to “normal life” after experiencing the loss of two things: 1) a piece of myself that believed the world was a safe and secure place and 2) the person I loved the most. It forced me to turn inwards and seek spiritual solace. It was during this time that I learned to let go and stop ruminating on the past, focus less on who and where I need to be in the future, and spend more time enjoying the gift that the present moment is today. For me, this has become what living is. When you can find bliss in the day to day, who and where you want to be comes naturally with less force and more flow.
3. Drafting Your Novel The third lesson that significantly influenced my path came as I entered my third year of university. I was still pursuing the dream of practicing medicine at the time. Through my mentor, Bill Black, I was able to meet with the CEO of The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. Over coffee, he gave the analogy of life as a novel. Every novel has a beginning and an end. The journey in between is what you’re drafting, so consider what makes a novel worthy of reading. He reminded me that if you get stuck in a certain storyline, you miss out on opportunities to develop your character. The more you develop your character, the deeper your story gets. He himself pursued Latin poetry at Harvard and law at McGill before graduating as a Doctor of Medicine at Dalhousie University, backpacking across Europe, making music in his garage, and meeting people along every step of the way.
At the time, my draft was rather predictable: finishing school, establishing a career within my field, getting married, having children, and eventually retiring to somewhere warm. It is a perfectly fine vision for life, but I realized it wasn’t read-worthy for me. I needed to reconsider what my definition of a successful and fulfilling life was in terms that reflected my shifting perspectives over the last couple of years. So that summer, I let go of the deep need to achieve academic and professional accolades and opened up a chocolate booth at the local farmers’ market purely for the love of chocolate and simple, joyful fun.
My Journey in Business It was that summer that I abandoned the need to hold on to the path I set out for myself years before. I had found a new mountain that was soul-filling, exciting, and completely new to me. It felt risky letting go of something I had been holding on to and diving into something I knew nothing about, but savouring the joy in my present experience gave me the courage to continue. I began pursuing chocolate-making full time, eventually graduating as a professional chocolatier and opening the doors to our very own chocolate shop. How’s that for a second draft?
As our business grew over five years and we invested in larger equipment, it provided me with the financial flow and down-time to continue studying the human body through the lens of eastern medicine and holistic health. I was particularly drawn to the study of reflexology and became a Registered Canadian Reflexology Therapist (RCRT). This prompted me to open my own health & wellness business, and over the last 18 months I’ve been able to practice and grow as a reflexology therapist and through other non-invasive healing modalities.
My next challenge is close to my heart: innovating the local farmers’ market culture in Saskatoon. It’s an opportunity that presented itself to me in the wake of a controversial relocation of the farmers’ market away from core downtown and into the northern industrial area of the city. We’re aiming to increase accessibility to fresh local food across the city and improve the viability of making a meaningful income as a local producer in our community. I don’t have it all planned out, but the fastest way to figure it out is to jump in and make mistakes.
Final Thoughts What I’ve realized during my journey as an entrepreneur is that once your tank has a little bit of fuel in it, all it takes is a spark to get the engine going. That spark is courage. Like a car, if you don't start the engine you're not going to get anywhere.
It’s important to distinguish that courage is not the absence of fear — it’s making the choice to face that fear. If you know the “what”, it’s okay to not know the “how” quite yet. Starting out as a total beginner is better than never trying and it’s only through practice and experience that you become better.
Courage is also not the uncalculated act of impulse, but rather the radical responsibility to allocate your resources in a way that feeds your soul and serves a deeper purpose. If you have the courage to take risks in life, you’ll climb more mountains and open up new opportunities that weren’t available to you before. Always remember that every expert was once a beginner, and — to borrow from Teddy Roosevelt — it’s the [wo]man in the arena that counts.