Finding fulfillment is not for lightweights. If it was easy, we’d all have it. Faced with the real world, we have to work at it to have a chance. Our lives need to be about dreams, about taking risks – not stupid ones – meaningful, turning-point risks that keep us from being victims of the norm.

But, it’s not only about taking risks, even the right ones … it is much more important to commit fully to the choices we’ve made. Without that commitment, any risk is likely to be foolhardy. I want to share three related stories about good friends that help to illustrate what I mean.

Jesse Kurvink was always a bright and talented kid, achieving at a high level, including being Junior Class President at Huntington Beach High School. He was also in the most popular rock band at HB High. While many kids were preparing college applications, Jesse and the boys were being courted by Drive-Thru Records.

Jesse and his friends soon had a big choice to make: a big risk to take. Jesse skipped his senior year, passed the GED to get his diploma, and prepared to hit the road in 2003. Jesse – whose parents had been friends of mine since before he was born – told me that he would give this a try for as long as the ride lasted, and then he would be off to college.

Fast forward: a few weeks ago, I saw Jesse, now 22, play with his band, Hellogoodbye, as the headliner at The Grove of Anaheim. Their 2006 hit song, Here in Your Arms, has gone Platinum – 1 million copies sold. After 2½ years on the road, the band is coming home to record their next CD and see how much longer the ride can last. Jesse is a committed risk taker, and success came early.

Back around 1994, another young man, this one in Seattle, had similar dreams. Damian DeRobbio didn’t have Jesse’s advantage; he didn’t get signed out of high school. For the next 5 years he pursued a musician’s life before finally connecting with the right group; in 1999, Damian started playing bass with an established Latin-Reggae group called the B-Side Players.

Damian’s Dad and I went to see them play in early 2006 at the Roxy in Hollywood; I remember Damian, then 32 years old, saying to us after a show: “All I want is to make one record, that’s all, and then I’ll get a real job.”

In the summer of 2006, the B-Side Players were signed to Concord Picante Records and their debut CD, Fire in the Youth, was released this year and was the #1 Album on the ITUNES Latino Alternative charts. Damian and the group are now on the road for the next year to promote the CD and to build their fan base; it looks like his dream has become a reality. Damian is a committed risk taker, and success came after a long hard ride.

Back in time a bit, in 1983, Erick Pipes also had similar dreams. He hit the road at 17 as part of a tight touring band, but instead of a recording contract, Erick and the band got to see the world and have a great 15-year ride as professional musicians. But when his first child was on the way, he knew it was time to call this phase of his life a success and go back home.

Along with the start of his family, Erick’s post-road dream also included finishing his degree and becoming a teacher. His life experience as a performer helps him support the artistic lives of his own kids who perform in Community Theater, and it also helps make him a great volunteer at the theater and a positive influence on a whole lot of other people too. I’ll bet he has a similar effect on the 5th graders who are lucky enough to be in his class.

Just like Jesse and Damian, Erick is a committed risk taker. He took the risk and chased the dream as a musician, then leveraged the experiences into fulfilling new dreams – just like Jesse and Damian will down the road.

Now let’s face it, we don’t all aspire to be rock stars. I am certainly no rock star, but the risk I took leaving my own comfortable corporate life required the same kind of commitment to see things through.

When you think about your own lives, it could be that taking the path less traveled may lead you closer to your dreams. It just may be that a dream is only a risk when it’s not supported by the commitment to make it come true.

Thanks for sharing time with me and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

An exciting update on a recent story: A recent story of mine – “Building a Subculture of Starfish,” – was about our firm’s experience with our own decentralized movement and our participation in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Rod Beckstrom, the author of the book that was referenced in that story – The Starfish and the Spider – issues a newsletter called The Starfish Report, and my story was featured in the November issue. You can view it at: