Business Self

There is a story I like to tell about my time as a TA. In graduate school, I had the opportunity to be a Teacher's Assistant for several introductory courses, one of which was Intro to Archaeology. It was a huge class, nearly 300, for two reasons. One, the professor was fantastic—extremely engaging and everyone loved watching her teach. Two, the class fulfilled the Humanities requirement for majors such as business and engineering.

Every week, my thirty students would traipse into their weekly section, and we'd dissect the material from the lecture courses and discuss their assignments. Every semester, the students would have to write three short papers (three to five pages in length) and, inevitably, some would object—a few vehemently. Fortunately, our professor had prepared us for the most common objection, and I was ready. 

"Why do I have to write papers; my intended vocation won't require me to write papers," it came, from a business student. Of course. I stepped onto my soapbox and commenced the rehearsed diatribe. I wish I could remember it verbatim; however, it underscored the incredible need for everyone, regardless of major or vocation, to effectively communicate ideas. I used humor (the introduction to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to be precise), famous moments in mis-communicated history—all peppered with hypotheticals from every day life. 

I went on, at length, about how college was not simply a vocational school, about the importance of synthesizing large amounts of complicated material and the merits of one's ability to paraphrase, summarize, support, research, consider, counter, and influence complex ideas. I must have spoken for over ten minutes. Needless to say, rather than amaze this particular student—or shame him into accepting his assignment—I had nearly put him to sleep, my zeal making me oblivious as half the class tried not to doze. When the student realized I was done, he looked at me, scoffed, and said (I kid you not), "Well, I'll obviously have a secretary for that."

I won't bother to expound upon my rejoinder; it wasn't good. I did not win a convert to the Humanities that day. Yet, to be entirely fair to the student, I was also harboring a secret judgment. I'll never go into business. Business is full of charts, boring meetings, and employees who think too much of themselves; it's stuffy and repetitive and motivated by greed. 

Seven years later, I've owned an operating business for nearly seven months. I've written another diatribe that I wish I could go back and give to the student about business and the amazing realm of creativity available to someone. Business is like a big, complicated puzzle, where the picture can be almost anything you want it to, provided you can determine how to put the pieces together. It is challenging, it is unique, and there is lots of writing involved. Maybe I would convince him. 

There is a caveat, however, that's limited to my own experience: The beer business is a special kind of business, it seems. Your competitors welcome you with open arms, share their ideas, and get excited about working together. Intrepid Sojourner teamed up with Spice Trade Brewing Company for its first collaboration, a gingerbread bock. Other businesses—including Root Shoot Malting, Inland Island Yeast Company, The Modern Eater and Drinker Radio Show, and Savory Spice Company—leapt on board to throw a fantastic holiday party. I can't imagine another industry with so much support and symbiosis. 

Beer is community at the Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project. As a former archaeologist, it's one of the things that drew me to the industry. Namely, that history comprises numerous occasions during which beer functioned as the social lubricant for momentous events. History is full of beer bringing the world together, and it's great to see the sentiment is alive and well. Perhaps this lofty rhetoric turns you off, or seems too pie-in-the-sky—that's just my Humanities self asserting himself to my business self. And I'll be damned if I can't be them both.