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What’s the Most Important Lesson You’ve Learned Along Your Journey?

Every twist in our story, challenge we face, and obstacle we overcome is an important part of our story.  These difficulties make us stronger and wiser and prepare us for what’s ahead.  As we grow and succeed we may imagine that soon the challenges will fade away, but in our conversations with business owners, artists, creatives, academics, and others we have learned that the most common experience is that challenges never go away – instead they get more complex as we grow and succeed.  Our ability to to thrive therefore depends heavily on our ability to learn from our experiences and so we are asking some of the city’s best and brightest: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?

Fed Rios | Industrial and Product Design Consultant

The most important lesson I’ve learned so far as a product designer, was to find a company working in a field I was truly passionate about — one that was innovating more than it’s competitors– and rigorously re-make my portfolio until I was able to work for them and get my formative career years and learning there.
For me this company was SRAM, and as an avid cyclist and competitor in many disciplines, I was able to design and test cutting edge suspension and braking components with the best cyclists in the world in mind.
I was then able to use this highly specialized experience I acquired over the years to start my own design studio earlier this year, and I now help founders, startups, and established companies with concept generation and refinement during their early stages of product development.


Casey Krutz | Social Media Community Manager & Singer-Songwriter

Traveling, like life, doesn’t always go as planned, but each adventure has an important lesson to teach us. We learn and grow from each new experience and the people we encounter along the way. We have a lot to be grateful for!


Elizabeth Walhof

Once upon a time, InnEdCO (formerly TIE) was an ed-tech conference.  We’ve learned that we really are so much more.  As a non-profit, we exist to inspire and sustain communities of innovative learners. We strive to tell the story of education innovation, risk-taking, and problem-solving across Colorado.


Damaged Bards | Musicians | Story Tellers

Faith Ford Photography

Art is about being honest. Whether you’re writing music, a movie, a book, a play — anything really — you need to strive to be genuine. Don’t worry about how or when the piece will end; enjoy the journey and learn new things about yourself by being honest.

Tracy Dixon | Morning Show Host on 98.5 KYGO

Mitch Blunn

Trusting my own voice and my own vision.  Too many times speaking your mind is looked at as a negative.  If you are passionate about something, you have to realize no one else will match your own passion so you should trust yourself to make it happen.  That’s not saying you should shut out other people or ideas, but have the inner strength to stand up for your vision.  Be brave enough to be vulnerable, even if it’s with yourself.


GLOWplantbased | Whole Food | Plant-Based Meal Prep recipes and inspo for people like YOU

Like most things in life: Cut yourself some slack, don’t take things too seriously and focus on your objective(s). We are vegan because it is something we are passionate about and it works for us. That doesn’t mean everyone else is going to feel the same. We just think that people eating more plants and learning about the food they eat is super rad. Food is a hot topic: What diet should I follow? What should/shouldn’t I eat? What foods are “bad”? What foods are “healthy”? Our goal is to simplify. Simple is a huge part of what we are about– real, whole food, plant-based, meal prep recipes. Food consumes a significant part of our lives, but how to enjoy a healthy diet shouldn’t consume our lives. 

Ryan Connolly | Owner of Grassroots Clothing and Father

When you are in business you need to be ready for the unexpected to happen and willing to evolve with change.  There will be high’s and low’s in your business and it is what you do when you are at your lowest points that define you as a leader and business down the line. We started our journey as a documentary film and now make merchandise for some of the biggest names in the industry including David Bowie, Jerry Garcia and Method Man  – Ryan Connolly Owner of Grassroots Clothing and Father

Deana Ketchum | Co-Founder of New Collar Goods

When my Husband Jon and I started our business over 4 years ago, we had a very clear idea of how we were going to direct our business, the items we were going to make and how it would all flow. What I have had to learn and come to accept, is that flexibility and adaptability are crucial in the beginning stages of any business. Every Entrepreneur starts off with hopes and ideas of what their business will become, but in an effort to get to where we wanted to be long term, we had to “do our time,” so to speak, before we could truly grab then reigns and guide our business down a more creatively fulfilling path.

Dakota Mancillas | 20 years old | mommy to be | Pharmacy Technician and Nursing Student

The most importance lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is patience. Things happen at there own pace sometimes, and that’s okay. When life isn’t going your way you can’t expect it to just fall into place at the snap of your fingers. Sometimes you have to wait things out. Life has it’s own pace and when you try to rush things it sucks the fun out of you. What’s meant to be, will be and if you don’t have the patience you need you’ll miss out on the great things and opportunities life has to offer.


Michael G. Maestas | Large Format Printer Operator | Photographer

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is… You have to do plenty of self reflection! It’s definitely the most important to me and the journey I’m on!Remembering all the mistakes I made along the way. Learning from these mistakes. Using them to influence the good choices in the next days journey! Always live life with no regret and look forward to being the best you! Our days are definitely numbered and life is short so its important to try and live it and love it the best you can!


Zach Connor | QA Manager & New Father

Zach Connor ZRC Photography

Honestly, that’s a tough one! Trying to think of just one is a challenge as I have learned / experienced so much since starting my journey as a photographer. If it’s okay I would like to share two impactful things I have learned since starting photography. First, as a photographer, don’t forget to not be a photographer sometimes. As the world continues to evolve in technology everyone seems to have a camera these days. With your face behind your rig, it is easy to focus on your images, composition, settings etc. and forget about the experience. We go to some amazing places, and have some amazing experiences as photographers. Don’t forget to put the camera down once in a while and appreciate the scene, without looking at it through your glass. Second, our world is more fragile than we realize. In today’s world it is getting harder and harder to find places to photograph that are untouched by the hand of man. Whether it’s roads, trash, dams etc. there always seems to be something we leave behind. It is important to remember that we have an impact on our world. No matter how small or insignificant you may think your impact is, it is still an impact. Be mindful of our fragile planet, and continue to try and leave no trace. My business, and photography motto is “Photograph the world to help open the eyes of those who are blind to it, and enrich the minds of those who see it differently than you.” I have this in mind every time I release my shutter. I hope that by showing how wonderful, and beautiful our planet is to those who see it differently than me, will inspire them to treat it with respect.


Julia Escobar | Artist

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey so far is to be my most authentic self. When I give myself the opportunity to fully be me, to embrace my weirdness or my interests, that’s when I’m the most creative and active with my work. Self comparison is a soul killer and ultimately could leave you feeling stuck and sad, but when you allow yourself to just be you, the universe then delivers you with unique opportunities designed specifically just for YOU. Quote: Don’t see life as a destination but rather a path. And if in this path you are fully present and mindful, you will see that everything vibrates with the rhythm of your own music. Simply enjoy it.

Elizabeth Bear | Interior Stylist | Designer and Brand Influencer

To just go for it. I would rather look back and see that I had tried rather than see missed opportunities. If you try and fail…try again…that, to me, is better than not trying at all.


Sabrina Patterson | Education Manager & Master Stylist for Matthew Morris Salons

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is you must care for those who can do nothing in return, to be the light in the darkest hours of someone else is one of life’s greatest rewards.

Quote: Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.


Jillian Jones | FIT4MOM Greater Denver | Pre and post natal fitness

The most important lesson that I have learned in my journey so far is to give myself grace.  I am not the same person that I was yesterday, a year ago or 10 years ago, and that is okay.  At times, life may be a beautiful chaos, but the life I have built with my beautiful family is one I would never change. 

Kevin Anderson | Woodworker | Designer Craftsman

The most important lesson that I’ve learned in my journey so far is the importance of having function as the main driving force behind a design. Rather than trying to force functionality into the design of a piece for the sake of originality, I start with the functional requirements of a given piece of furniture, and design around that. Learning the relationship of how function informs design and design informs how a piece is constructed is a key lesson I have learned, and is critical to my work. 

Silver Lining Builders | Saving the world one house at a time

Isaac Savitz

Challenges in life are like working out in the gym.  But instead of your body getting exhausted it is your soul.  And like your body, when you recover, it is stronger.  Construction is the same.  Sometimes it takes a complete redo of a house to make it into your dream.

Cezary “Caesar” Czajowski | Creative Gentleman | Human Resources Professional | Data Analyst

Everything that you need is within you. It is as simple and as complex as that.

Our thoughts create us, our world, our emotional responses. If you control your mind and work on learning and improving your qualities every day, not only your world will become a better place, but also of those around you.
No excuses are valid – only positive, creative force of own mind is worth your time and strength.

The planet and all its inhabitants deserve more respect and sustainable existence.

The quality of this world is an expression of who we are. Do not live at anybody’s expense, do not blame.

Instead, try to make it a better place by setting a better example through being kind, responsible, knowledgeable, polite.  Know your honor.

Garrett Prather | Praytheorem | Musician | Mental Health Advocate

The most important lesson I have learned so far is putting others before myself. It seems like a cliche saying, but the task is truly easier said than done. I have tried to create my music from my own questions, struggles, and pains along the way in hopes to help at least one person to know they’re not alone; or to open their minds to look at life through a different lens. Music has saved my life, and I pray that my lyrics can do the same for someone else.


Marc Phillips | Owner & Lead Ecu Calibrator at Apex Powered LLC

The most important lesson that I have learned so far would to ALWAYS be honest. No matter how hard it might seem at the time to tell the truth. It might sound a little cliche but it is extremely true.
Be honest with yourself, be honest with your colleagues, be honest with your clients. Honesty is one of the few traits that rolls over into every aspect of your life. It may seem to have little to no monetary value on the surface but it pays back in ways you may not expect. Like for instance setting you apart from other competitors in the business world.      I’ve seen multiple sizable business deals fall apart over the years due to “white lies” as well as habitual lies all the same.

Honesty is a huge part of ethics, and ethics is one of the major building blocks of a successful business. Therefore in order to have an ethical business it requires you to be honest! 

Matthew Koucky | Certified Personal Trainer and Yoga Addict

The most important thing I have learned throughout my journey is that failure and discipline are the most important tools we have. At the end of the day, pushing yourself to failure, then pushing yourself past your previous failure, knowing that whatever you think you are capable of is far short, that what your true capabilities are is comforting. Knowing that if you show up every day, regardless of how you feel, and giving it your everything will always make you stronger, better, and more tough mentally, physically, and emotionally!


Logan Marie Torres | Student | Athlete | Adventurer

By far the most important thing I have learned, is to live with a mindset of limitless potential, and to encourage that mindset in others. I am a statistic of potential limitations. I am of tiny frame. I am female. I am a mixed ethnicity first- generation student. I am a survivor of assault. I have to work to pay for school. I have battled the genetic statistics that my family possesses like diabetes and keep a clean lifestyle to bolster myself against our other statistic of cancer. We all have things about us that would tell us that our potential lies between a specific set of rules. I have developed an aggressively opposing mindset after years of challenging limits that both the world and my own doubts have attempted to set.

One of my earliest experiences with challenging limits was within the industries of pageantry and modeling. This was because I am short for typical model standards, and pageants are expensive. I decided early on that height was not a good enough reason for me to not pursue modeling. I raised funds and worked to pay for pageants. I had years of rejection and losing before I finally saw my efforts pay off. I waited out many phases of self-doubt.  Now, many pageant crowns, scholarships, and modeling contracts later, I had developed a high threshold for criticism. I also have a well-honed disregard for what people tell me is my limiting factor. Those early experiences in highly competitive, highly critical professional environments gave me skills that I use every day.

The next major phase of my life so far has been a reinforcement of a mindset of limitless potential. At twenty years old I was in the middle of pursuing my bachelor’s degree when I suddenly found myself jolted off course. One day I was like any other pre-med student, and the next I was a survivor of assault. When I emerged on the other side of ensuring legal justice was served upon my assailant, I realized that depression was going to win out if I continued to let what had happened limit me to surviving instead of thriving. That time had its rightful place of brokenness and healing. However, I then needed to go someplace where nobody knew that I was the broken assaulted girl from campus, or the pageant queen from Denver. I wanted to be in a position to rebuild myself without presumptions of what I was capable of due to my background and my newly minted scars.  I wanted to do something that had greater purpose. On my twenty-first birthday I announced that I was scheduled to process into the U.S. Army. A week later I signed my contract and began preparing to leave for basic training. Almost a year later I returned. Home was the same. Thankfully, I was not.

At five feet six inches, one hundred and eight pounds, and a petite frame, I am not what people usually picture when they think of a Sergeant in the Army. When I enlisted, I received plenty of discouragement. I was often told that, due to my stature alone, I was not likely to be successful. I already knew what to do when others and myself confronted me with their plans of limitations. Since then I have graduated top of my class in almost every military school I have attended and achieved recognition for my high standard of physical fitness regardless of age, sex, or stature.

Likewise, I am now wrapping up my pursuit of a degree in Integrative Physiology. One day I hope to work with prosthetics in the rehabilitation of Veterans. I want to help them break the limits they have been handed as well. I am still modeling. I participate in sports and hiking to continue to live fully and challenge my own limits.

If I had allowed the limits that others have attempted to set for me to become my reality, I would not have half of the experiences that I do. I don’t know how I would have seen the other side of truly dark and miserable times. I wouldn’t have had the victories or faith that I do. If I had not started, I of course, could never have succeeded. So my mindset includes actively encouraging others to have a similar mindset. Living knowing that your potential is limitless comes likes anything else, with practice. After proving one limitation to be false, another can be conquered, and another, and so on. I have to admit, there must be surrender of a perfect pretty picture. That alone is another limitation that will cripple big dreams. The experiences I have had are not a pretty picture, but more beautiful to me now that I ever could have expected. There are no limits to what the rest of my picture will look like.

Tori Gray | Personal Trainer & Dental Student

The most important thing I’ve learned during my journey in fitness is to take every opportunity to improve myself. Everyday I’m given a chance to grow, whether it be in the gym or in school. Having a mindset that is positive and goal oriented has excelled me in everything that I do and has pushed me to become the best version of myself. I’ll never miss an opportunity to grow and learn!


Kelly Stone | Physical Therapist and Competitive CrossFitter

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey thus far is that consistent, daily habits translate to far greater success than haphazard efforts. The rules I consistently strive to live by are:

1. Set goals often
2. Work hard daily
3. Do not make excuses for things you “can’t do” or “don’t have time for”
4. Pursue things that you are passionate about. Happiness is the greatest form of wealth.
5. Do not let the opinion of others influence your choices and what makes you feel alive.
6. Do not let the fear of failure keep you from trying
7. Invest in yourself – mind, body, and spirit
8. Surround yourself with positive and motivating influences
9. Eat well and exercise often


Theoh | Music Producer & DJ

Phat So Le

For me, the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in my journey as an artist, would be how important it is to simply be patient. When I first started making music I didn’t truly realize how much work it actually took to create and create things that people could truly enjoy. Including myself. The amount of time, effort and dedication it took for me to simply get to where I’m at now, was much more than anything I had ever anticipated. By simply being patient and authentic to myself, I’ve been able to reach goals I only used to dream of achieving. No matter what you’re doing in life or what you want, things take time to curate and manifest.  Whether that’s physical health, relationships, finishing your education, starting your business or in my case, being an artist.  Patience, hard work and authenticity…

Thomas James | Creative Director and Casi Elizabeth | Soulful Creative/Writer

Casi – “Trust in the timing of your life and that you’ll always be guided to gain your personal power”.  When I lean in and trust my path, no matter how hard or tough the situation, I end up always finding the light and coming through stronger on the other side.  I have resisted, I have fought wanting to feel the hard stuff.  We all have.  For me personally once I get to the point of allowing the pain and feeling my way through it, that’s where the growth has come from. Thomas – “The company you keep will either build you up or break you down.  Pay attention to both.”  Passion is more important than a paycheck and leaning into what lights you up and following that guidance has brought abundance into my life in every single way.  Working with the right people and people with whom you align with and share similar goals/values will always lead you in the right direction.  People who don’t, well, there is always a great lesson in that as well. 

Alex Delia | Artist & Director

Always be making stuff. Striving for perfection is a losing battle. It’s infinitely better to make as much stuff as you can and iterate as you go.



David Gelbert | Photographer & Graphic Designer

I’ve learned a lot in my recent years. One important lesson that I’ve came to know is that I shouldn’t think about things too much—at least when it comes to hiking and photography. Obviously I think about my safety and my surroundings while hiking but I shouldn’t sit on an idea to sporadically get out and go take photos. There’s no opportunity like the present.

Barry DeBoard  | Philosopher | Vegan | Stunt rider | Entrepreneur

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey so far is about love, true love is unconditional, meaning with out conditions or expectations. When speaking about the self or another, unconditional love is the total acceptance of what is and total allowance of who you are and who they are. This means no negative judgment of your self or others, no expectations of your actions or the actions of others, no expectations about your state of being, no expectations of what is said or not said, no expectations of anything. You simply love yourself or them for the unique creation that we are. That is true unconditional love, if you’re wondering what that looks like, just look in the eyes of a dog while it looks at its owner. No matter what you do to your dog it will forgive you and show you unconditional love. Our animal friends and especially canines are here to show us how to love this way. They are our teachers in this way. So cherish ALL of them, as they are a wonderful gift from our creator.


Penelope L. Wong, CEC | Executive Chef | Owner Yuan Wonton

Perseverance and Integrity. There have been numerous times throughout this entrepreneurial journey where I’ve thought to myself, “just give it up and go get a regular job.” It’s incredible how deflating this process can be when things don’t work out according to plans or schedules. But I’ve reminded myself every step of the way that I have no choice but to succeed, and it keeps me going. I’ve also learned throughout my 20+ years as a professional chef that integrity in what you do is key. Maintaining integrity in my cuisine and ethics as a chef embodies everything I learned growing up in this industry amongst a family of restaurateurs. To this day, my cuisine is reflective of both my Chinese and Thai heritage, with skills learned from my mother, father, both grandparents and aunts.  Growing up with the work ethic of restaurateurs taught me the very important lesson that you don’t stop until you’re done.



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