Dave Wilkin's Self-Discovery Lessons on how conversations over coffee have changed his life

After watching Dave Wilkin’s TedTalk, I reached out and invited Dave to be part of my #FuelPersistence interview series. Dave is the Founder of TenThousandCoffees.com- the world’s first movement democratizing opportunity by connecting industry leaders with the next generation, over coffee. Being a Millennial myself, I really resonated with his message; mentorship and authentic conversations over coffee have influenced my personal and professional growth as well. Fitting that today, Sept. 29th, is National Coffee Day.

Photo Credit: Dave Wilkin
Photo Credit: Dave Wilkin

Social entrepreneur Dave Wilkin is developing innovative ways for global organizations, governments, and industries to better connect with the next generation. Experts from over 800 organizations spanning 30 industries nationwide have already joined the movement and its network is growing everyday. Dave’s first-hand experience and unique outlook on 21st-century mentorship have earned him speaking opportunities for global audiences of top CEOs, including YPO events and a recent TedX talk entitled “The Death of the Résumé.” He is the recipient of Profit Guide’s 2012 FuEL Award, Strategy’s Gold Shopper Innovation Award, and has twice been recognized as a Marketing Magazine Top 30 Entrepreneur Under 30. A Millennial himself, Dave and his Ten Thousand Coffees team are on a mission to bridge the gap between the leaders of today and the leaders of tomorrow, fostering mutually beneficial conversations that shape what’s next.

Earlier this week, with a coffee in hand, I talked with Dave over the phone, asking him questions about how he overcame obstacles on his road to success. Dave’s entrepreneurial passion was infectious; I could hear this enthusiasm in his voice. Our conversation was empowering! Please read Dave’s answers to my questions on the importance of mentorship and authentic conversations, after you have watched his TedTalk below:

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Who did you receive it from?

“Start a company” by my mentor Mia Pearson. She told me there are three things you need to do: create business cards, create a company name, and go start talking to people.

How important is mentorship in terms of your success?

I was given my best piece of advice over a cup of coffee. I got my first job offer over a cup of coffee.

It started with having genuine authentic conversations over coffee with hundreds of people. Those meetings turned into collaborations. Over the course of time, those individuals became my mentors.

What has been the best moment in your life so far?

I’m a serial optimist and think every day is exciting! One of my colleagues remarked recently on how our work environment breeds optimism from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

If I had to pick the best moment, though, I would have to say the launch of Ten Thousand Coffees. The official launch to the media was Jan. 21st, 2014 – when news was released to the media at 1.a.m everyone was so excited! I had been working on creating a space that helps young people since I was 16 years-old; on this day, it happened.


What tips would you have for living a healthy life?

  • The more you take from yourself, the more you give back to yourself.
  • Find your balance.
  • Don’t ever sacrifice exercise.
  • Work at both your mental and physical health; each is equally important – practice them every day!

How do you motivate yourself to persist despite setbacks?

I don’t like to refer to them as setbacks; rather, I see them as having pointed us to strength. They are different next steps that you couldn’t anticipate. Each setback leads you on a new trajectory, and you learn from it.

What has been your biggest setback?

When I created Redwood Strategic (the award-winning team behind TenThousandCoffees.com ), it was more of a vision and not a business plan. Over time and on a project-by-project basis, the vision evolved into the global platform it is today.

How do you deal with critics?

Whether they are critics, pessimists, optimists, etc., each has his or her own perspective. Look at all of their outlooks from your own lens; do so remembering that you have your hand on the steering wheel. Don’t let one of them steer you off course!

How important is social support in overcoming obstacles?

Critical; you are the company you keep.

I have wonderful support in my family and friends. Also, I have amazing colleagues. Focus on who is on the bus with you.

What advice would you give others about goal setting?

“30 days in 30 years” - Focus on what you can get done in the next thirty days (i.e., short-term goals) but also be targeted on the next 30 years (i.e., long-term vision). In steps, set out what you will do to achieve your targeted end result and to keep you moving in the right direction.

My favourite daily practice. What's yours?

What is your record worthy practice (i.e., a daily strategy that you do to feel your best)?

  • Coffee in the morning.
  • Walking to work.
  • Always looking to see circumstances as stepping stones.
  • Evaluation.

Thank you, Dave, for sharing your life lessons with us and for truly speaking from your heart. Keep up the amazing work you and the rest of the Ten Thousand Coffees team are doing!

If you are just starting out and seeking advice, I really encourage you to join Ten Thousand Coffees and set up a coffee chat with an expert. I am on there as an expert too :) You never know where your conversation will lead.

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the Comments section below.

After all this talk about coffee, I’m now craving one. See you at the beach!