In the summer of 2009, my brother Mike and I decided to quit our jobs to go all-in on our passion project — Holstee, originally created as a functional and sustainable apparel company. Our name is a nice reminder of our early efforts: holster pocket (for a phone or notebook) + tee-shirt = Holstee :-)
Without a formal business plan or experience in fashion, we knew it was a long shot. But we told ourselves that in the worst-case scenario, it would be the most memorable summer of our lives.
A photo from that summer in 2009 with us wearing the first round of Holstee tees.
More than anything, we wanted to create a company that aligned with our personal values, work with people we love, and do work that we felt had a positive impact on the world around us.
One sunny day, Mike and I sat down with our best friend and co-founder, Fabian, to reflect and write down why we were starting Holstee. We sat on the steps of Union Square in New York City and, together, defined what success would look like. Not the typical kind of success — based on extrinsic motivators like wealth or status — but a different kind, based intrinsic motivators like putting energy into things that feed our soul and spending time with the people we care about.
Ten years later, the story of the “most memorable summer of our lives” is still unfolding.
After a couple years of sitting quietly on our site, the 14 sentences we wrote on that sunny day “went viral”. The unexpected spread of the Holstee Manifesto took us by surprise. In time, the popularity of the poster overtook the T-shirt business we had worked so hard to create.
Late one night around 2011 rolling posters and packing tubes to keep up with shipments after our warehouse sold out.
But what did it mean to actually live those words?
We spent years trying to answer this question and distill it down in a way we could share with our community. Seeking to learn from others who had been on a similar path, we turned to the literature of a life well lived, from classic philosophers like Aristotle, Seneca, and Nietzsche to modern thinkers like Martin Seligman, Carol Dweck, Tal Ben-Shahar, and Brené Brown (just to name a few).
The common thread was that living well is an ongoing practice, not a destination.
As Annie Dillard so perfectly captured, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”. And deciding where to spend our time, we’ve learned, is a process of self-discovery. To guide this discovery, we created the Holstee Membership — our effort to share what we were learning about the art and science of living well.
Mike on my shoulders trying to get the perfect poster product shot around 2013.
It’s been a few years since we launched the monthly Membership, and we’ve loved deepening our relationships and connecting personally with so many in our community. Inspired by our conversations, we began brainstorming how we could build a more meaningful experience for our digital members to supplement the art, guides, and resources we already share.
The ideas and iterations grew far beyond our existing offering — and eventually, the foundation for a new idea was set.
To be continued next week…
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This article is part of our series on the theme of Passion.EXPLORE Passion
Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.VIEW OUR THEMES