Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Smooth Transition from Captain to Caffeine - Andrew Russo's Story

My friend, Andrew Russo, has made a fascinating transition from his role as a U.S. Army Captain to one of budding entrepreneur. Knowing that his story may serve as an inspiration to others who are in the midst of - or contemplating - a similar transition, I asked him to share with readers of The White Rhino Report some of that story. While I feel he is much too generous in crediting me with the small amount of encouragement I have been able to offer along the way, I am pleased to offer his story as one that should warm your heart on this cold New England winter day - almost like a hot shot of espresso!

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The journey from soldier to civilian is, at times, a strenuous one. Leaving active service was both a time of immense excitement and one of enormous uncertainty. With each step taken towards the gates along Yadkin Road at Fort Bragg, the path seemed to fork in infinite directions. I contemplated the moment in 2009 when I officially became Mr. Russo over a cup of coffee in a Boston suburb. My questions were many, my answers were few, but my primary concern was to tackle one of the most difficult questions many of us face: What to do with my life? Luckily, Dr. Al Chase was there to help me answer it.

Transitioning can be a struggle that many veterans face after separating, he explained, and the answer on how best to approach it is not an easy one to find. However, he believed that I was asking the wrong questions and needed to shift focus. I then explained how I had stumbled into a job that neither excited nor challenged me and, most importantly, failed to satisfy my craving for knowledge. At first, I focused on seeking his advice concerning how to approach aspects of this new career. Dr. Chase sat for a moment and nodded before posing an interesting question to me. “You are a lifelong learner Andrew,” he began, “so what do you want to learn?” I replied that I have always had an interest in three things, history, cigars, and coffee, and that my passion lay with them. He blinked and grinned before leaning in and asking rhetorically, “So you know what you love, why aren’t you working at that then?”

The statement was so simple, and yet so powerful. Our discussion moved steadily forward as I nodded and began debating hypothetical scenarios with increasing enthusiasm. After we parted ways and I collected my thoughts, our conversation filled me with an incredible sense of motivation. For the next six months, I flooded myself with tasks created by that simple question. The words rekindled my desire to pursue a life revolving around what I loved to do and not a life learning to love what I do.

For those of you that know Dr. Al Chase, the result of such a five minute discussion with the “White Rhino” is an explosion of energy that sends you sprinting towards your goal and breaking down all barriers in the way. It is, as one colleague put it, “The White Rhino Effect.” Dr. Al Chase’s simple statement truly changed my direction and led me to research, develop, and now launch a coffee venture inspired by the history I love and, hopefully, leading to the cigars I enjoy. He continues to inspire me with ideas, offers words of encouragement. We still meet for the occasional sit down to ensure that the path I have taken is proving rewarding. For that, I am truly thankful.

Andrew M. Russo

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Andrew is a former US Army Officer who served 4 years of active duty in the 3rd BN, 27th FAR (HIMARS) at Fort Bragg, NC. He currently works for another veteran at Red Barn Coffee Roasters and will be launching his own coffee venture, Minuteman Coffee & Espresso, in the Spring of 2011.

Stay tuned for an update when Andrew launches Minuteman Coffee & Espresso in the spring.


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