You Never Know Until You Try

How a cherry pit spitting experience relates to our VC fund

Since 2002, my resume has always had one bullet point in every single version — “Dignitary Champion at the 29th International Cherry Pit Spitting Competition”. This was my favorite ice-breaker. During almost every interview, my interviewer would ask me what it was about.
 So here’s the story.
 It was summer 2002. My friends dragged me from Chicago to Eau Claire, MI for cherry picking. Cherry picking was never my cup of tea so I was reluctant to go. I’d rather go to grocery store for cherries. However, a driver was needed, and I wanted to be nice so I ended up cherry-picking for the first time in my life. When we arrived at a farm called “Treemendous” outside Eau Claire, we saw a huge banner saying “29th International Cherry Pit Spitting Competition”. Everyone was welcomed to sign up and each participant was provided free lunch. “Free lunch?!” With my graduate student’s mentality for free food, I instantly signed up and thought I had already made my day. 
 Don’t laugh. This competition isn’t a joke but a serious annual event that dates back to the 1970s. Each participant picks a cherry, eats the pulp and saves the pit. When it’s your turn, just spit the pit as far as you can. 
 My high-school physics teacher would definitely be proud of me since I remembered very well that in theory a 45-degree angle is the best way to achieve a trajectory with the furthest distance. Therefore, I tried my best for 45 degrees.
 No one else in the dignitary group beat this distance. The closest still came a few inches short.
 I won!
 The whole cherry-picking trip suddenly became really interesting. The crowd cheered for me. I was awarded a medal, a plaque, a $25 gift certificate and a box of produce. (It was more than free lunch!) A boy even asked me for an autograph while I was interviewed by a local newspaper reporter. Wow, I felt like celebrity for the rest of my tour at the farm.
 When I told the reporter why I signed up and how little I expected to win, a woman who listened to the conversation made a comment, “you never know until you try.” 
 Many years have gone. I’m not sure I can replicate my success in cherry pit spitting, but I still recall this scene and that one single line “you never know until you try”. I always made it clear to everyone that this is the key takeaway message from such a fun experience, despite my unchanged reluctance to go cherry picking.
 You never know until you try.
 When I reflect on my experiences, I know this is 100% right. If I didn’t try, I would never have tasted what I have in life and my career including getting a new VC fund up and running. Effort doesn’t always guarantee a successful outcome. But without even trying, we will simply go nowhere.
 Starting a new fund is tough, but this is just another step along the journey for everyone on the team. I know we won’t stop trying.
 So what do you think? Time to get some cherries and start the pit spitting practice?

Han Shen
Note: According to the Guinness Book of Records, the record distance of cherry pit spitting is 95 feet and 6.5 inches (29.12 m).

Note: Someone later reminded me that 45 degrees is the angle only when I would spit from the ground surface. Considering the height where my mouth is, the optimal angle should be slightly less than 45.