Probably the realization once in it that the career I had always planned for myself (being a professor), wasn’t the last or only career I was going to have, and that I was going to have to ‘swtich’ again in life—with all the growing pains, mistakes, risks and losses that this can entail, likely. My first career was as a corporate marketer (Nestle, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson), but once I finished my PhD (which I also mostly completed while working full-time) it made sense to become a professor. I was a professor for a couple of years before I started being asked to consult and speak quite a bit back in corporate environments. At first it was manageable with my teaching, research, and service load, but after a while it became apparent that I was going to have to make a choice. Gone were my days of energy enough to have more than one full-time gig and experience had taught me that I didn’t ‘multi-task’ as well as I thought I did (brain science informs that nobody does!). I realized I was going to have to set up a company and start my own formal business—like an entrepreneur. At first this felt like a demotion—cushy corporate jobs and government salaries paid better than my proprietorship did at first and I found myself working alone most days. Further, a concerted sales effort led to many a figurative ‘slammed door’ in my face or flat-out ‘no’s’ to my service offerings. Likely a story for another time, but I will tell you that going out on my own had some dark, lonely, profit-less days. In good news, now I love it—there was light at the end of that tunnel!
The freedom, clients, content, and venues I deliver to now are my passion, all of my choosing, and the struggle gave me a chance to hone my process and skill – complete with the battle-field stories and scars to prove it! Now I see all of that adversity for the opportunity it was, though back then, most days, in the thick of it, I would have been loath to believe it.
In my MBA days (which I did full-time while working full-time—a life choice I do not recommend!), I remember my colleague Danny often insisting on working alongside me on projects or assignments because he said I ‘was a machine’—my reputation was that I would persist through at all costs, no matter what, without stopping until the project was done. I had always naturally been like this, so for Danny to value it and give it a name was neat to me. If I have one at all, my specialty would be in seeing patterns and opportunity for disciplines to inform each other; in merging disciplines – like business and brain-science, as an example. My first graduate studies were in brain sciences (e.g. psychology, neuroscience), and I fell in love: brain science was all I thought about, read about, cared about for a while. I was/am a real nerd. At the time, I was also working in corporate marketing (Nestle; someone had to pay my bills!) and noticed that so much of what I was learning was applicable to my customers, the sales process, best-practice marketing – the intersection of these two disparate realms of my life at the time really fascinated me. While I was reading it in books, I really learned about ‘influence’ and ‘persuasion’, as example, by putting ‘foot to pavement’ so-to-speak in a sales role. Back in my ‘brain science days’, no one had ever heard of ‘neuromarketing’, ‘neuroleadership’, or ‘neuromanagement’ and the disciplines they became didn’t yet have names (further, most I tried to discuss it with seemed to think I was looney!).
What has been your greatest moment of success?
I hope it is still to come in my life or career. I think I will know it when I see it. My biggest success to date really isn’t mine at all, it was probably luck: the good fortune to have been born into the family I was; in a nation of affluence, equality and opportunity; where constitutional rights are upheld and freedom is a virtue. I/We can’t take any of this for granted—currently Billions of people living on this earth do not have these circumstantial ‘advantages’. So I know any success I have now or ever was really built from chance, on a lucky foundation – I think of this often, I don’t take this for granted, and I do work hard every day in the interest of honoring these gifts in life. I aspire to continue to do the work that I do now – professional keynote speaking – on bigger stages, to larger audiences, in farther-reaching places. I feel so incredibly fortunate to do what I do, for the colleagues I learn from, for the audiences I meet, for the clients I have, and I don’t take that for granted. I pray for the health and opportunity that will allow me to keep growing this business and spreading the message of business-brain science.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Aspiring entrepreneurs or speakers out there, please take it as affirmative evidence that your persistence is key: keep at it, whatever it is, your hard work will pay off.
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