Recently, the good folks at Firmology (the media company that helps small business owners grow their business through technology and innovation) asked me to share my success story and the below is what I shared. (See the extended Firmology post here.)
Success Catalyst #1: Input
“A mind once stretched never regains its original dimensions.” ~Oliver Holmes
At an early age, my older brother and parents cultivated within me a habit of reading. To this day my creative output suffers if my daily input of content is limited. Books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, Now Discover Your Strengths, Put Your Dream To The Test, and Crush It were instrumental in my growth as an entrepreneur. And daily listening to other entrepreneur’s stories via podcasts like Smart Passive Income, Entrepreneur On Fire, and EntreLeadership gave me the confidence to push through my inner resistance and launch my business.
Success Catalyst #2: Reflection
"Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is the best teacher.” ~John C. Maxwell
After an extra infuriating and stressful day at work, I sat down at my desk in my Atlanta apartment and I reflected on specific times in my life where I received affirmation for a specific task or talent. It was a simple exercise to develop an escape plan from my current work environment. Within minutes, two events stuck out: my brother’s wedding and the high school hockey team my father coached. Affirmations rained after I delivered the best man speech at my brother’s wedding. And my father's hockey team won the Colorado state championship after I delivered motivational pep talks to the team prior to each playoff game. (Dad, you only get a sliver of credit for the wins.) The common thread of affirmation was clear…speaking. My calling had been in plain sight the whole time, but it took intentional reflection to identify it.
Success Catalyst #3: Application
“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” ~James A. Baldwin
After reflecting and identifying, it was time for application. I ramped up my input by reading any book on the topic of public speaking, watched countless TED talks, and began exploring opportunities to speak live. A good friend recommended Toastmasters and after attending 5 different clubs I settled on the club that intimated me the most. I blew through my first 10 speeches learning a ton and continued to gain further affirmation. I’m forever indebted to Toastmasters International and the incredible friends I still have at the club.
Success Catalyst #4: Failure
“The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.” ~John C. Maxwell
After 2 years of honing my speaking skills, it was time to share my passion with the world. So I started a video blog called The Get Intentional Movement (http://thegetintentionalmovement.tumblr.com) where I talked (indirectly and non-maliciously) about all the frustrations and poor leadership that I was experiencing at my current job. Topics also included my thoughts and ideas surrounding social media, technology, and productivity. It’s now cringe worthy to watch any of the 63 videos, but it’s where I had to start. These videos helped me hone the craft of creating content. And now content marketing is my primary marketing tool. True failure is not trying.
51 video episodes, 2 viewers (my wife and mom), and 1 ugly website later...I had failed my way to the breakthrough niche I was looking for. All of my research and reflection was pointing to the unique culture shifts caused by the 80 million technology-equipped and Internet-enabled Millennial generation. This topic grabbed my heart and focus so I yet again ramped up my input reading 20+ books on the topic and interviewing 100s of Millennials. I was passionate to turn my current burden into someone else’s transformation. It was on this new passion and vision that I built Next Generation Catalyst where we equip leaders with the next generation tools, trends, and talent to thrive in tomorrow’s multi-generational marketplace.
Soon I had some good (at least I thought so at the time) material for a 1 hour presentation. So I packaged the content into a presentation and asked local Atlanta Rotary clubs if I could come speak for free. I did and it was terrible. My content was so weak and poorly structured. But again, it was a start. After countless revisions and numerous Rotary talks, I finally got a lead that led to my first of many paid speaking opportunities.
Success Catalyst #5: Association
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ~Jim Rohn
If I was going to be a professional speaker, I needed to hang with professional speakers. Shortly after my first few paid speaking gigs, I joined the Georgia chapter of the National Speakers Association. It was within this extraordinary organization that I met the most humble and selfless people that were willing to help me. I quickly began understanding and applying the nuts and bolts of building a speaking business.
Success Catalyst #6: Persistence
“There is an anchor in the speaking (or any) business that drags along the bottom and impedes your progress. This anchor is called ‘early success.'” ~Alan Weiss
Every inch of my entrepreneurial climb had to be fit into the cracks of life, carefully crafted around my full-time job. But that’s the luxury of today’s connected culture. Entrepreneurs can build a business on the side with greater ease than ever before. My persistence over the years producing keynote speeches, two blog posts per week and 1 podcast episode every month while juggling a full-time job…paid off. The persistence paid (and still pays) off in solidifying my conviction and credibility as a thought leader in the speaking industry.
Success Catalyst #7: Gratitude
“Be driven by gratitude.” ~Gary Vaynerchuk
I’m proof that side hustle in your strength zone can lead to big results but nothing great is ever achieved alone. I’m continual grateful for my (online and offline) audiences' time, attention, and feedback. My friends and mentors who encouraged me along the way. My parents for their countless sacrifices, love, and allowing me to explore my passions. And my incredible wife, Ashley, for her patience, unwavering belief, and endless support.
I’ll leave you with my favorite definition of success: "Success means having those closest to you love and respect you the most.” ~John C. Maxwell.
Respect comes from pursuing your passion. Love comes from selflessly serving others.
Pursue and serve on friend.
Question: What are your success catalysts?