How I Lost My Voice by Yelling “Epic” 1,000 Times

by beckystraw on May 5, 2011

I’m writing this in a bumpy van in Northern Uganda. Which is a strange juxtaposition from two week ago.  Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to my first Summit Series. Which essentially was a conference on a cruise ship. Or rather, an opportunity to meet all the entrepreneurs you idolize, and show them just how pale and idiotic you really are. (See video below for an example).

Many had goals of pitching their start-ups, getting venture funding, or simply enjoying a long over-due vacation. My main goal was to not get seasick. Or throw up. Fortunately, I succeeded at both. But not without a few hiccups.

Summit Series

One thousand entrepreneurs’ met the boat in Miami before heading out to a “private island” in the Caribbean for three days. Seeing as how I’m new to this world of “hyper-achievers,” I figured I really only had my sarcasm to pull me through. Most of my conversations went like this:

(Note: these are actual transcripts)

Me: So what do you do?

Tim: Well, I launched an internet marketing company at 14, so I pretty much still do that.

Me: Oh.  So… you are kind of a late-bloomer, then?

Me: “What do you do now?”

Krystal: “Well, I don’t know, actually. Trying to figure out what’s next. I ran for Congress in the fall in Virginia. But… wasn’t elected.

Me: “Wait. How old are you?”

Her: Yea, I know. I was kind of the youngest. I’m 29.

She went on to say she’s now training for an “ultra-marathon” (50 miles) even though she’s never run before. Thought it’d be “fun.”

Forget the celebrities. I realized I fell down a rabbit hole filled with people who’s parents never let them think small. On this boat there were no “normals.”


It was a place where big ideas weren’t just welcome, they were followed by, “Oh, that’s epic.” Just sold your company for half a billion. Sweet. Played basketball with Obama? Sounds rowdy. Flew solo around the world. Nice. Saved 500 humpback whales held hostage in the Congo? Well done! (May have made that last one up).

Most people were “techies” who designed some game-changing-something that I use on a regular basis.

Over a performance by The Roots, I met Pandora. Had a great chat with, at the bar. LivingSocial was…social. And google was, well, everywhere. In the elevator I met (who’s actually Pandora’s older brother).  I learned a lot… about.him.

It was like all of my computer applications suddenly developed faces and a love of rum and coke.

If that weren’t enough, most of the techies had a humanitarian “side-project,” like, defeating terrorism. Or saving a near-extinct species. Or ridding the world of bad denim.

I kept trying to scrub the “deer in headlights look” off my face.  I decided my strategy was to pretend I was, “one of them” by using the best tactics I’ve honed at the most-prestigious academy for high-powered networking. Sorority rush.

“Hi, I’m Becky. I co-founded a start-up that adds venture capital to support entrepreneurs in developing countries.” (Big smile, warm handshake, ask questions about them, not you). It was working really well. So well, I got invited to a “private” lunch for global philanthropists. As I shook hands around the table, a pretty brunette replied, “It’s nice to meet you, too.”

I leaned forward, and exuding sorority confidence, asked, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”

“Oh,” she said, seeming a bit surprised, but not put-off. “I’m Barbara.”

Just as these words left my mouth, “So nice to meet you, Barbara.” I realized whom I was sitting next to.

Barbara Bush.

Awesome, Bec, I thought, as I chugged my glass of wine. While your at it, why don’t you ask her where she grew up and what her parents do for a living.


Now that I’m back at work, and my sunburn has finally peeled its last flake of tan off my body, I think there’s three important things I learned about founders of start-ups:

1. They don’t think small. Ever.

2. They act as if nothing’s impossible. And then they prove that it isn’t.

3. They are mainly men. Who live in San Francisco.

I’m also now realizing, there’s two things I learned about myself:

1. Maybe, I’m actually… one of them?

I spent a lot of time on the boat thinking about how cool and interesting these entrepreneurs are, and how they put action and passion behind big ideas. I forgot to stop and think, “Maybe what you’re doing is equally as epic?” After all, you were also invited on this boat…

In attempting to be modest and in keeping my head in the details, I often forget to look up and realize that what we’re doing is, well, going to be big.

Instead, I should start saying, “Soon, Jody, myself, and our tribe are going to help over a million people out of poverty every year. We’re also going to change how people give. And our goal is to be the biggest investor in social enterprise out there. So, you should give us a million dollars. Thanks.”

Still working on that, “million dollars” part. But. After visiting our partners in Africa. We got that, “million people” in the bag.

Oh, and the second thing I learned is, “There’s mainly men. Who live in San Francisco.”

Maybe I should move home?

I edited this 10 sec video for two reasons. #1 was to remind myself to close my mouth when I dance, because I look really dumb. #2 is to edit out all people, “in case they ever run for President.”  That’s a verbatim request from @joemarchese. He said it into the FlipVideo. Several times, when I watched it later.

  • Jenn

    Move Home! :) Ok, well either way – that was hilarious. You are too funny. Loved the Barbara Bush encounter. And yes…. you forget that YOU do belong on that boat. You’re making things happen and changing the world – daily. So proud of you Becky – what you do is amazing. It’s even EPIC. (Even if using that word made me throw up in my mouth a little.)

  • rohn

    becky you’re a great dancer !!

  • Kathryn Minshew

    I agree with Nicole — this was such a treat to read! Really brought back the magic of Summit

  • Nicole Patrice Johnson

    this was such a treat to read.. thank you for reminding me… and inspiring :)

  • Raffy

    OMG. So many memories coming back. You really captured the spirit of it. And not just the peeling skin (did I ever send you your lobster picture?). What a great time. Oh, and yes, you probably should move back to SF :)

  • Bethany

    So much fun to read over your shoulder, Becky, and to be encouraged that you are out there – an advocate and a world-changer – interacting with others, making an impression and a name for the causes that will truly help our fellow brothers and sisters around the world. Keep it up! Thanks for all that you do and for being the person you are.

    • becky

      Thanks Bethany! Really appreciate it.

  • Mandy Houle

    wow. this was super fun to read. you are hilarious.

  • Amanda

    Becky, This made me so excited to be apart of the Adventure Project, even in such a small way. I am always inspired to be surrounded by big thinkers, I think it is in most of us, especially as believers, we are made to bring the kingdom. And that requires only EPIC ideas. I love that TAP has EPIC goals and I am honored to be apart of it, and to get to know you!

    • becky

      Thanks Amanda! You’re too sweet. And I’m so thankful to have you “onboard” this little (eh, I mean, “EPIC!”) adventure with us! You seriously rock. Social workers rule.

  • Philip Möjbro

    Never heard about you before, but this post was amazing. Now, I’m gonna go check your project out.

    • becky

      Thanks Philip, hit me up if you have questions!

  • scott harrison

    Dying Laughing Becky. So so funny!

  • samo4prez

    great, great piece!

  • Pingback: today.

  • gary s. chapman


    This post was so funny and so insightful at the same time. And did I mention, inspirational? I can see why Esther loves working with you.

    • becky

      And I love working with her!

  • Bridgette


    I thought I was going to DIE laughing with the whole Barbara Bush thing. “While your at it, why don’t you ask her where she grew up and what her parents do for a living.” I would have been chugging wine myself. You give inspiration to people like me who are dreaming big to fight poverty and feeling like the biggest dream I will ever achieve at this pace is getting a crumb cake to my neighbor!

    • becky

      Crumb cake is a special skill, Bridgette! Same with chugging wine. Pretty sure JC values both equally.

  • esther havens

    Best blogpost EVER! so thankful I get to share in thie ADventure with you!!!

  • E

    You rock, Ms. Straw! Big cheers from all at acr. E

  • Suzanne

    This is fantastic on so many levels. I’d like to also remind you that the way you felt on that boat is basically the way most (super normal) people feel about you….why? Because what you’re doing is so epic, that after we regain our composure from a jaw-dropping first impression, we can’t not be a part of it….

  • Calum

    I laughed so hard I cried. Thanks Becky.

  • Catherine Kirby

    I would love to chat with you about a model for poverty reduction we are piloting in Tanzania and to catch up where you are after leaving Charity Water (GPfD worked with Charity Water while you were there). I like how you think and would love to brainstorm about some big ideas we are launching.

  • jsloniger

    This post is hilarious. Adventure Project is EPIC. And I NEVER use that word.

  • Julie

    You most definitely belong in the EPIC category! What you and Jody are doing is amazing!

Previous post:

Next post: