News - The Unpredictable Road to Success

The Unpredictable Road to Success

by Rachel Heston-Davis

Daniel LienA passion for business, a desire for meaningful work, and a willingness to follow God’s lead down unexpected paths combined to take Daniel Lien ’05 on an adventurous journey through the business world.

As the 2004 executive director of AgapeFest with a double-major in business and music, Lien had acquired some experience in and cultivated a deep appreciation for business, as well as personal convictions that Christians could use their gifts in the business world.

This would lead to his work with a nonprofit Christian music organization, success with starting a home building company, a graduate degree, and an eventual climb up the ladder of a growing overseas business—things he never saw coming when he said goodbye to his alma mater.

Nothing According to Plan

Lien sums up his post-GC days with a laugh. He recalls that he had a plan, and that nothing went according to plan.

He anticipated a short stop in Phoenix to visit family, followed by a move to California. Instead, a string of exciting plot twists began.

  • 21st Century Music Ministries—An opening at this nonprofit Christian organization allowed Lien to combine his love of music and business, but kept him in Phoenix. The ministry utilized concerts around the U.S. and the world to witness and connect seekers with local Christians. Lien became president and CEO of the organization, leading it out of the red within 6 months.
  • The entrepreneurial spirit—Lien took advantage of the booming Phoenix housing market and built houses with his brother. They experienced great success, until the day they got an odd feeling. “I don’t know if we were smart, or lucky, but we looked at each other one day and said, ‘Maybe we should stop,’” Lien remembers. People thought they were nuts—until the 2008 crash crippled the housing market shortly after.  Following the crash, they used their profits to invest in real estate which continue to have success.
  • Thunderbird School of Global Management—When fellow GC graduates talked of the “next stage” of life, a restless Lien found himself contemplating graduate studies. Once again, he looked to God-given passions to dictate a course. He loved business, travel, and “dealing with other cultures and people from around the world.” So he pursued an MBA at Thunderbird School of Global Management.
  • A move to Mongolia—Lien completed an internship in Mongolia. He didn’t plan a return to that country until a passing acquaintance from grad school connected him with a job prospect there. While in Germany for a different job interview, Lien received an e-mail asking him to interview with the Mongolian subsidiary of U.S.-based Wagner Equipment Co. So back to Mongolia he went, beginning in sales and working his way into senior management.
  • Love and marriage—Lien met and married the love of his life in Mongolia. When given the chance to return to the U.S. working on special projects at Wagner, he accepted, bringing his new wife to Denver to set up a life together.

How Success is Born

“I wasn’t necessarily planning on it, but through a lot of different opportunities, it happened,” Lien says of his position with Wagner. In truth, this quote could sum up most of his life since graduation.

Lien explains the success of his whirlwind twenties as a mix of personal effort and guidance from God. “Of course I work hard and I take a lot of pride in my work, but in reality, I think [my success] is just trusting in God and listening when he says go—and maybe a bit of being lucky.”

The Greenville College Influence

Lien believes Greenville College helped grow him into a person who could take on these challenges.

He remembers never feeling like a number in GC classrooms. “The staff at GC, the professors, they’re just phenomenal. They always took time to make sure you understood everything.”

He especially remembers business classes with Jack Chism and the mentor relationship he developed with Norm Hall, which he says “made a huge impact.”

Lien also remains grateful for the bonds he formed with peers. “I still remain close friends with a lot of classmates to this day, and they’re still very influential—I would say influential in that they continue to keep me grounded.” Many of them moved to Arizona around the same time he did, and were instrumental in inspiring him to consider graduate school. They have studied, worked, and even traveled together. “Those relationships are by far, to me, the most valuable aspect,” Lien says. 

Lien's Advice to Current GC Students

  • “Trust God and follow where he’s leading you. Don’t be afraid.”
  • “Spend a lot of time with your classmates and build those relationships.”
  • “If you’re struggling with class, don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance."

Read more alumni stories of post-GC careers:

Prepared to Prepare: Rod Kim Talks About Transitioning from College to Career

Education that Prepares for Evolution

Erin and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Job

Read more about GC's business education:

GC Celebrates Launch of the Briner School of Business



This story was published on March 08, 2016

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