Tribune's Top 20 under 40 award winners' passion celebrated at luncheon

CEO of, who is a San Luis Obispo resident, lauds recipients of the award at a luncheon, but also tells them there’s a lot more they can accomplish

jlynem@thetribunenews.comJanuary 24, 2013 

Blake Irving, chief executive officer of, the world's largest provider of Web hosting and domain-name registration, knows passion when he sees it.

As a longtime leader in the global technology arena, Irving, formerly chief product officer of Yahoo and corporate vice president at Microsoft, has often interviewed potential hires. Rather than ask standard questions, he has veered off topic, tapping into a candidate’s personal interests, whether it is keg bowling or kite boarding.

“I would see what lights them up,” said Irving, the keynote speaker at The Tribune’s Top 20 Under 40 awards luncheon held Thursday at the Madonna Inn.

Irving would then probe further, to see whether he or she did anything with the passion and were altruistic. Those who had passion and “wore it on their sleeve,” combined with what he calls a “bias for action” and a desire to give back, were often hired.

They are the same qualities that The Tribune’s Top 20 under 40 winners possess, said Irving, who marveled at the diversity of the group, which includes educators, health care professionals, business people, a vintner, filmmaker and fitness instructor.

“Each of you has discovered a passion … something you’ve committed to and that makes a difference in the world,” said Irving, who also praised the winners for making meaningful and significant contributions to lift their communities. “Passion is important and vastly underestimated.”

While Irving, a San Luis Obispo resident, lauded the professionals for their work so far, he reminded them the honor does not come without obligation and they have much more to accomplish.

“It isn’t free,” he said. “There are a couple of things that you owe the community. And if you’re able to get this far, there’s a lot more you can do.”

Irving encouraged the winners to be a catalyst to help others put their ideas into action. He also advised them not to peak at 40.

“I’d love to see you in the Top 20 under 80 group,” he joked.

As well, he urged them to think about how to scale things up so that a seemingly small idea becomes huge.

“You’d be shocked at what you can come up with if you think in billions, not millions,” he remarked.

He advised the winners to lead, inspiring people with their stories of success, to be lifelong learners and to “embrace mistakes.”

“Do all you can to learn from them,” Irving said.

He told the crowd, above all, to be courageous.

He left the group with two quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Mead.

“Do one thing every day that scares you,” Irving said, quoting Roosevelt. “If you’re not, you’re not living.”

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world,” he said, quoting Mead, a renowned cultural anthropologist. “Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

See more photos from the luncheon »

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service