Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Keys to Success, Happiness and Financial Freedom

Wow, what an amazing experience! I had the great honor of giving the commencement speech to the graduating class of ECPI last Friday. What a lively bunch and what great accomplishments. Most of these students completely overcame the odds and received a degree, despite opportunities and having to work fulltime jobs in most cases. I got good feedback and gave the speech below.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement.

I graduated from Kent State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a minor in math. I was the first person in my family to ever graduate from college and at the time I swore I would never go back.

I graduated with 3 personal core values two of which I learned from being a high school and collegiate athlete and one from a strong Christian upbringing.

When I was 15 I went to the J. Robinson intensive wrestlingcamp for two weeks… a crazy camp in which basic training techniques seemed just to be focused on making young boys call home crying to their parents to come save them…. which I personally witnessed several times.

One evening J. Robinson an U.S. Olympic Wrestler gathered us all around with a promise to the secret of beating anyone at anything… As young boys you have never seen such levels of focus and silence as J. began to deliver his secret.

His response was simple “work twice as hard for twice as long” (as your competition) and you would eventually win. The majority of us were hoping for something much easier…

At that point in my life I adopted two personal core values. Hard Work and Persistence.

The third personal core value was Faith… I believed you needed to believe in something (at a minimal, yourself) that this world was too hard and complex to just be by chance.

And so early on in my life I defined myself through these personal core values Hard Work, Persistence & Faith. These 3 core values served me very well through college and for the next 5 years.

So there I was, just like all of you, graduating from college and ready to take on the world.

I had the great fortune and a Forest Gump level of stupidity to start my first business right out of college… and after 5 years and some success I had a moment of clarity. I realized that despite all my success, I was miserable, I had no real life out side of work…

And so I added a fourth personal core value, Balance… but little did I know, I completely did not understand what Balance was.

So I created a religious like regiment… take lunch at 11:50, leave work at 4:30 and never work on the weekends. And after 9 months I realized that I was even more miserable!

I realized that balance was not a line in the middle between two extremes, but a sine curve oscillating between extremes, never staying at any one for a period too long. This new personal core value of balance did lead to a much better life.


And so, for the next 10 years, I defined myself through the personal core values of Hard Work, Persistence, Faith and Balance.


As a motorcycle rider myself, I know there are two types of riders, those that have gone down and those that are going down.

By mid 2009 I was ready for an additional personal core value… within the prior 5 years I had:
Nearly died in a car accident
Almost destroyed my marriage
Lost two jobs
Lost two immediate family members, one being a twin brother
And had gotten raked over the coals by a business partner.

And as I looked at my current situation, in the midst of creating another new company called SPARC, I was amazed that I was on my feet at all…

It was at that moment that I realized… that life is not about falling, we will all fall, but that life was really about getting back up (and how well you could do that)… and so I added Resilience as my 5th personal core value.

Today I feel like I know myself pretty well and I define myself through these 5 personal core values Hard Work, Persistence, Faith, Balance and Resilience.

Around this same time I created an exercise that has fundamentally changed my life… I call it the "alignment exercise" and I do it every year… I have shared it with 100s of people… I would like to share it with you and challenge you to the same cadence.

Every year I take a piece of paper, fold it in half the long ways and write a title in each column. The first column I call Passion … these are things you would do for free and things that when you do them time disappears.

The second column I call Well… these are things you naturally do wellGod given gifts or natural talents… these are the things that if someone woke you up at 3 AM and needed you to do them you would say “no problem” even though half asleep. Fill in these two columns.

{Mine, show… share}

Now turn the paper over. On the backside do the same thing… The first column here I call Suck@… these are things you are comfortable saying you are not good at and are OK living your life with only minimal skills at.

The second I call Hate. These are the things you hate to do… these are the things that suck the energy from you… these might even be things you naturally do well… but simply loose energy while doing.

{Mine, show… share}

Do this personal alignment exercise yearly. Get your family and support group involved, keep it up to date and tweak it all the time.

…Then make sure you stay on the front side of this sheet as much as possible.

Choose the classes you take, the activities you do, the friends you hang out with and certainly the career you choose based on the front side of this sheet.

Share this sheet with your family, friends and your boss and if you do find yourself on the back side of this sheet… that’s OK… just make sure you set a deadline (light at the end of the tunnel) for when you can get off the back side.

Why share this? Why care about knowing your personal core values and understanding your own alignment?

Because these are the keys to success, happiness, and, yes, even financial freedom. By knowing yourself and by knowing what builds energy within you, anything is achievable, anything is possible.

When you choose to do what you are passionate about, not only will you eventually make more money, but you won’t work a day in your life.

So I will leave you with this final thought… we have been taught to think that it is money that will bring us happiness… this is simply not true!

With a clear set of values and continuous personal alignment.

It is happiness that will make you rich!

Thank you all very much!

So I ask you...  are you focused on just making more money or becoming rich? :D