Light a Candle for Big Success

May 15, 2013 | The ONE Thing | 0 comments


Think back to your childhood, when adults seemed to have magical powers and could do anything. When taking the training wheels off seemed like a sure way to end up with two skinned knees, but was more importantly the key to unlocking your neighborhood. When tossing your sister from one end of the pool to the other was surely only something Super Dad could accomplish, but you set your sights on it anyway – regardless of how your sister felt about it.

Yes, you had fears as a kid – a lot of fears – but moving past those big challenges led to a whole new level of freedom. As kids, we didn’t let fear stop us in our quest to grow. Whether it was learning to ride a bike or swimming to the deep end, solving a complicated math equation or climbing to the “top of the world,” we tackled challenges with determination, knowing that chasing big goals would help us to reach new levels.

And it did. We learned that on the path to big, we got bigger.

Somehow this lesson was forgotten by most of us along the journey. We became content in our achievements and started capping our aptitude. And though we wanted success, we started fearing big.

But big is not bad.

Despite wanting extraordinary results, it turns out that as adults, we’re often afraid that leading a big life will bring unwelcome complications or hurdles. So instead of embracing the opportunity for success, we avoid or sabotage it altogether. As kids, we learned to look back and laugh at the things we once feared. As adults, it’s time we channeled the emotions of our childhood and relearned that “big is bad” is a lie.

When Gary first sat down to write The ONE Thing, he illustrated this lesson through the story of Michael Kittredge, founder of Yankee Candle Company. While his story ultimately didn’t make it into the book, we thought it deserved to be lifted from the cutting room floor, as Michael is a perfect example of a kid who didn’t think big was bad and, as a result, achieved extraordinary success as an adult.

Michael was just a high school student when he made his first candle from melted crayons. Though intended as a gift for his mother, a neighbor saw the candle and asked to buy it. Recognizing the opportunity, Michael sold the would-be gift for enough money to remake his mom’s candle plus one more. That was the moment Yankee Candle Company was born.

Michael continued to embrace the massive potential the single candle had created and continued to make and sell candles throughout college. When he ran out of room for supplies and products at his parents’ house in 1973, he rented space in an old mill. It had no electricity or water, but his operation continued to grow.

Today, Yankee Candle Company is America’s bestselling candle brand with total sales in excess of $785 million. It’s incredible what a 16-year-old can do with one small gift for his mom – that’s big.

Need more inspiration? Check out these brief videos of three more half pints who refused to believe thinking and going big was bad – and impacted the world in a huge way.

1. Craig and Marc Kielburger

2. Molly Katchpole

3. Ryan Hreljac