Jim's Open Road

JIM KOCH

Founder/Brewmaster
Samuel Adams

“The big risk would have been staying at a job that wasn’t fulfilling and wasting my life. That’s a risk. Quitting it to do something that I really loved and believed in, that’s not a risk.”

INTERESTS:

Entrepreneurship Food

THEMES DISCUSSED:

Fulfillment Money & Financial Security Risk Culture Values

TAGS:

beer, business school, climbing, consulting firm, expectations, happiness, law school, outdoors, outward bound, perception, resources, wealth

BIOGRAPHY:

Jim Koch was out of college and into his first year in law and business school when he had a realization: he’d never done anything but go to school. So he dropped out. For the next three and a half years, he worked as an Outward Bound instructor: climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, and generally doing all of the things that he might not get another chance to do again. Basically, he was using his 20s for what they’re best for, he says: screwing around and trying out lots of different things. After his foray into being an outdoorsman, he went back and finished his JD and MBA and got a job at a consulting group in Boston. It was a great job, he had a great office, and he made a great amount of money. But after seven years, he got to thinking again: Is this it? My last job forever? So he quit and started over, and this time he chose something that he knew would make him happy: brewing beer. His new company started with nothing; it was two guys, brewing in Jim’s home kitchen, taking meetings in bars, writing invoices on loose slips of paper. “Culture and values can substitute for hard resources,” Jim says. “We were able to change the world of American beer with nothing.” He harks back to his rock climbing days and the difference between perceived risk and actual risk. When you rappel down a cliff, it seems like you’re jumping off a cliff backwards, but the reality is that you’re pretty safe, because that cable could hold a car. “When I left the consulting firm, it was in a lot of ways the same situation,” he says. “The perceived risk was high, I was walking off the cliff backwards...People said, ‘Gee, you took a lot of risk.’ Well, the reality was the big risk would have been staying at a job that wasn’t fulfilling and wasting my life. That’s a risk. Quitting it to do something that I really loved and believed in, that’s not a risk.”

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