Passion and vision are great. But nothing beats making a dream come true.
It was April Fools’ day, 1991. Many people thought I was a fool. I left a company that was the 10th fastest growing, privately held business in America. I had a dream job; was the first hire and the top ranked employee out of hundreds. I loved what I did, enjoyed the people I worked with—had title, money, perks, the works.
Two weeks earlier something happened. I was in my backyard, smoking a cigarette at midnight. I heard a voice: “Leave CareerTrack and start the creative team.” Yes, I actually heard those words. The words sounded audible, like they came from the outside. But maybe they came from the inside. It doesn’t matter now. I left and started The Creative Alliance.
Reality set in. After 10 years as a founding member and creative director, I got my last paycheck on March 31st. Since I had a wife of six years and three children under the age of five, I had to work quickly to pay the bills. That, my friend, is an understatement.
Talk about being scared.
Before, I had great pride in working 60-70 hour weeks. That was nothing compared to starting and running my own business. I sweated every day, every week, and every payroll. I could have given up a thousand times in those first, well, 22 years.
Doesn’t sound much like a dream, does it?
It was. And like any dream come true, it has been amazing. I feel as if I have been teaching, coaching, and, at the same time, earning my PhD in creative marketing for 23 years. Thank God we can’t see the future, because if we could, I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it. Leading this business has been the hardest—yet most rewarding—time of my life.
A young college student called this morning as he is going into a career as an entrepreneur, and wanted “10 minutes of advice.” That struck me as sort of funny.
Here’s 30 seconds worth…
Business really is all about people. So, your mother was right. Be yourself. But more than that, strive to be the best version of yourself. Be intentional about being honest and treating everyone—from the CEOs to the cleaning people—with respect. If you ever get the mantle of being a leader, remember, you are now serving others—not telling everyone what to do. That’s the truth. Separate what you can, and can’t control. Spend your energy on what you can control. But don’t give up on things that matter. Hard work is underrated. Real winners are people that work hard, are fun to be around, work diligently on improving their talents and gifts, and genuinely care about others. Find opportunities to give.
One last thing: Well, for now, anyway. Two years ago I was blessed to go through stage four cancer and survive. That makes the paragraph above even more meaningful.
“Leadership is living what you believe.”
– Founder, The Creative Alliance