Cameron Smith experienced incredible success as he joined Joel Clark in taking Kodiak Cakes from two employees and less than $1 million in revenue to over $500 million in retail sales and over 130 employees. But even as the company they were building was seeing tremendous growth, Smith had moments of discouragement. In a recent interview on the All In podcast, he recalled how an anecdote shared by President Hugh B. Brown in 1968. The story was famously retold by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in his 2011 general conference address, “As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten.” You can watch a video of Elder Christofferson’s retelling below.
Despite being told more than 50 years ago, President Brown’s personal experience continues to have an impact.
“Sometimes when you hear a story in conference or from one of the leaders of the Church and you’re like, ‘Man, what a cool story,’” Smith said. ”And it becomes very different when you actually live through the story.”
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: So one thing when I reached out to you, Cameron, and I asked for your thoughts as it relates to building this business and the things that you’ve experienced and how the gospel has played into that. One of the things that you said was that there have been times when you struggled and wondered if God was aware of you. How have you seen God’s hand throughout this experience and recognized his awareness of you in those times when you’ve struggled?
Cameron Smith: Yeah, it’s something I’ve thought a lot about. I mean, I’ve even throughout this experience, my mind is a little more of an analytical mind, and so I’ve thought, “Hey, what’s the purpose and what is God preparing me for? And how is this part of His plan?” Because I feel like whether it’s this temporal success that we might have I have here, whatever that looks like, I don’t know that that’s really the purpose of why we’re here and what we’re trying to do. And so, throughout this experience, I’ve thought, “What is that purpose? What am I supposed to be doing in these moments?” And a little bit ago, I just had these feelings that I need to be growing, I need to be learning and I need to continue to develop myself as a leader. And when I felt like it was for a very distinct purpose, I felt like I was going to be developing myself as a leader for this clear purpose.
And I started going down that path, I felt really good about it. I had a leadership coach and was feeling great about those moments and what I was learning. And I felt like, “Okay, there’s an opportunity in front of me, I know what I’m doing, this feels really good.” And then it felt like, in that moment that it got pulled out from underneath me. And it felt like that opportunity that I was sure I was preparing for and working towards and growing for, that was what I was supposed to be doing and it didn’t happen. And I remember thinking in the moment, like, this is really hard. And I had a lot of feelings of pain, sadness, discouragement, and disappointment. And I remember saying a prayer and saying, “Man, Heavenly Father, this is hard. What am I supposed to do?” To kind of express how hard this was. And I heard so clearly in that moment. ”I know. And I know you, and I love you.” … And then my mind was taken to the story by President Hugh Brown that I absolutely love and sometimes when you hear a story in conference, or from one of the leaders of the Church, and you’re like, “Man, what a cool story.” And it becomes very different when you actually live through the story.
But he talks about a currant bush, and he talks about how he had bought this farm, and there was this currant bush that had grown a lot bigger than what it was supposed to actually do. And so one day, he took out some shears and really cut it down. And he said, in the moment, he saw that the currant bush almost looked like it had tears—like it was crying—and he said, I almost heard in my mind, the currant bush saying, “How could you do this to me, I was growing so well. And you cut me down.” Then he said to the currant bush in that moment, like, “Hey, I’m the gardener here. I know what I want you to be” and then he recounted a story when he was up for a promotion, and it didn’t happen and how he was frustrated with God in that moment. And as I thought about that moment, for me, I was reminded that I’m not the gardener. And I thought I knew what I was supposed to be because I felt like, “This is what I’m supposed to be growing for, I’m preparing for this.” So when it didn’t happen. I was like, “Heavenly Father, I thought this is what I was preparing for.” And then that reminder of, “I’m still preparing you.” But you might not know what for yet…and in that moment, I wasn’t frustrated. I was like, “Okay, sounds good.” And this one felt a lot different.
Now, I can look back and say, “Okay, if He knew then what His plan was, I know He knows now. I have to trust him.” And I have to be okay with that, which can be hard. Because oftentimes, we want to control everything that we want to control and feel like we need to, but it’s just really interesting. Like I said, when you hear one of those stories, and I remember hearing that currant bush story years ago, thinking, “Man, what a cool story. That’s so awesome.” And then when I went through it, I’m like, “Oh man, that’s hard. I can feel what that currant bush was feeling.” But then I also look back and I’m like, “Okay, God is aware of me. He loves me and He knows me. So I am sure He has something better than I can even possibly imagine if I just stay on the path of learning, of growing.” It’s not a one-time thing, it’s a constant path that we stay on so that was a clear moment. There have’ been other moments, but that was really a clear moment where I realized even more so that He knows me better than I know myself.