by Doug Newburg on March 22, 2012 in Uncategorized with no comments


Follow your bliss. Do what you love. Live your dream and the money will follow.

We’ve all heard this.  Usually from someone who’s made it big.  Someone we don’t really know or have never met.  We want to believe it.

So when I saw the Holstee manifesto (see the picture above) online, I had the same reaction a lot of people did.  I was inspired.  I wanted to quit my job (wait, I already had).  I wanted to stop watching TV and do something that mattered.  I wanted to be more than I felt I was.

But here’s the reality I hear in my work. Too many people have spent their lives doing what they were supposed to do to the point that they have no idea what their passion is, what or who they love, or what their dream is.  As Netsys Co-founder and Professional Poker player Phil Gordon told me once “I was living the American Dream and not my own.”  Or as someone recently told me after reading my book The Most Important Lesson No One Ever Taught Me, “I don’t have a dream.  I haven’t for a long time.”

Something about the Holstee Manifesto felt different to me, though, so I reached out to them.  I told them my concerns, why so many people don’t live their dreams, why so many people seem stuck.   They don’t know what they love.

What I got back from them inspired me far more than their poster–an invitation to a discussion.  Mike Radparvar, one of the co-founders of Holstee, wrote back to me and we’ve had a dialogue ever since.  In other words, they walk the talk.

Mike is 29 with a background in organizational development.  Mike, his brother Dave, and friend Fabian Pfortmuller, started Holstee as a side project, creating and selling tee shirts, mostly to friends and family.  They quit their jobs and one day felt the need to capture what they were feeling in those early moments, feelings they never wanted to forget.  The Holstee Manifesto was born.

According to their website, “It wasn’t about shirts and it wasn’t about our old jobs. It was about what we wanted from life and how to create a company that breathes that passion into the world everyday. It was a reminder of what we live for.”

The Holstee Manifesto has been viewed over 60 million times online.

Holstee is about “creating products that encourage people to live a certain lifestyle.”  It’s line of Recycled Tees is made of 100% recycled plastic  bottles.  The Holstee wallet is made of plastic bags collected from the streets of Delhi and was created simply because Mike needed a new wallet.  They invest 10% of their revenues through a micro-lending organization called to help entrepreneurs in extreme poverty.

How does Mike live and do what he loves?

1.  This is Your Life.

“I don’t worry too much about failing,” Mike told me.  “We have plenty of other people who worry for us.  Holstee could have come to life in many ways. The actual product is not as critical in our case as the values that our new lifestyle would be built upon. We had a sense what that could look like, and weren’t convinced that anyone could create that for us as well as we could for ourselves.  We had to hit life’s reset button.  What looks like sacrifice to others doesn’t feel that way to us.  Living in survival mode actually excites us.”

In other words,  you are not only responsible for your own life, you are the best vehicle to live the life you love.

2.  Do What You Love and Do It Often— What does that mean, to do what you love?  The answer became obvious as Mike spoke.

“I like solving problems,” Mike said, “bringing people together.  I have trouble sitting still.  We wanted to work together, to work with our best friends.  We like meeting new people, creating the structure that allows us to live the way we like to live.  We like being creative, even figuring out office spaces and supplies. Internalizing it then putting it into action.  Giving it life to grow it and protect it.  We like experimentation, trying new things, solving problems along the way.  Seeing challenge instead of risk.  Owning every aspect of it to the point it keeps the fire alive inside us, to feel the burning desire to act on it.”

Love is not chasing what you want, but expressing what’s inside you in a meaningful way, that connects you to others, and moves you forward.  Doing what you love means building the structures, creating the relationships, and designing your life around those experiences.

Mike knows the difference between the life he feels solving problems, working with his best friends, being creative rather than working for the money to buy the latest toy, live up to the expectations of others, or living his life chasing someone else’s dream.  What seems risky to us feeds and nurtures what he loves.  In other words, to DO love, we need to FEEL love.  Feel it, feed it, and follow it, instead of chasing it.

3. Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself– We wake up on too many days, do our usual routine, do our jobs, go home, go to bed, and do it over and over again. Yet why do so many people feel lost if they literally know where they’re going everyday?  Because the “what we’re supposed to do path” hasn’t led us where we thought it would.

“We sat down and wrote what we saw as our successful life.  We wrote it for ourselves, a message for our future selves.  A “How we want to be lifestyle.”  That’s what Holstee is.  It is not just a thing or a company, but living and creating the lifestyle we want to live.  A way for us to encourage other people to do the same.  And that is how we choose the products we make and sell.  We want our products to encourage and support the lifestyle for others.

“If we had we written a business plan we would never have done it.  We simply enjoy what we do and getting it out to our friends.  We enjoy working with new designers and finding better ways to make a difference.  The Manifesto helped our brand extension of who we are and what we wanted to do.  But we wrote it for ourselves.  We put it on our “About” page and it sat there for about a year before anyone really noticed it.  Then we made it into a poster and sales of  it took off.”

Getting lost means following the best of what’s inside you to wherever it leads.  You might get lost, but you’ll find yourself along the way because it might be all you have that’s worth keeping.  What looks like sacrifice feels liberating.

4. Some Opportunities Will Only Come Once.  Seize Them– Remember that person you never asked out, never approached?  The job you didn’t take because it didn’t pay enough?  The novel you never wrote? Wish you could have that chance again?  We all do.

“You have to make a prototype and get it out there.  You won’t get it right, but you’ll learn what to do better the next time.  But if you don’t do it, you get stuck in the idea stage until those ideas suffocate in your head.  They need to breathe if they are ever going to live.  Do rapid prototyping.  Explore.  We’ve created the ten percent project at Holstee.  Our people can use ten percent of their time to explore and create other  opportunities even if they have nothing to do with Holstee.  We want to encourage that fire of creating your own things and then sharing it with others.

“We see the risks worth taking as challenges, as opportunities lost if we don’t take them.  We’re not stuck in the worry of what might go wrong.  We want to see what happens. We like the flexibility we have to solve problems right away.  We like being creative in solving them. Meeting and finding new people and new ideas. We’re curious.  That’s what feeds the fire.  That’s sustainable.”

I said “Wonder instead of worry.” Mike said “Exactly right.” The flexibility of lessons learned, of what might be, instead of the heavy baggage of regret.

5.  Live Your Dream, Share Your Passion–This might be the most important take away from my interview with Mike, why he inspired me so, as much or more as any of the hundreds of people I’ve interviewed. Too often I’ve heard from people about the “pressure” they feel being told to do what they love, to pursue their passion, or to live their dream when they have no idea what it is.  Worry where wonder used to be.

So what makes the Holstee Manifesto different?  It’s an invitation.

When Bruce Springsteen was on Storytellers, he talked about the cover of Born to Run:

‎”What’s it about? It’s an invitation. We invite you to something. Something is opening up to you, what I was hoping it would be is what I got out of  rock and roll music.  A sense of a larger life, greater experience, a sense of fun, personal exploration and the possibilities in us, the idea that it was all aligned inside of you just there on the edge of town.”

The Holstee Manifesto is an invitation in that same spirit. To find what you love inside you and around you. To feel it, feed it, and follow it instead of chase it. To share the journey along the way. To build a prototype and keep refining it. To fire the desire into action.

Studs Terkel once wrote that too many of us “have jobs too small for our spirits.” But we all have work to do, work that is an expression and extension of the spirit inside us. The Holstee Manifesto is more than a call to quit the jobs that hinder our work. It is an invitation to find and do what matters. Together.






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