On the Wings of Eagles – Learning to Soar in Life
“In order to fly, you have to let go of the world you’re hanging onto.” Ashley Kurek
At what point in life did you know you had attained success? For many, that moment never comes. For others, that moment may occur multiple times. For me personally, it happened when I drove home one day back in the 1980’s in a new sports car and my brother ran out the door yelling, “Dad, come see this, Brad has a new Porsche.” You see, I dropped out of school at the age of 23 to start a small energy exploration company that would go on to raise millions of dollars to drill for natural resources – oil and natural gas. I had investors and projects in multiple states, in addition to employees and payroll. The strange thing is now that I Iook back after all these years, I really didn’t know much about starting or running a business. What I did know though, is that there were others – CPAs, attorneys, oil and gas professionals that had the things I needed. They would ultimately help guide me. It was strange going into my accountant’s office as a 23-year-old seeking tax advice or negotiating deals that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – but that’s what I was doing back then. A very successful and rich uncle of mine that went on to create a huge business lacking a formal education said to me when I was young, “surround yourself with others that are smarter than you.” That’s stayed with me over the years and I now see that is what many successful business leaders do.
Unfortunately, due to the changing tax laws called the Tax Reform Act of 1987 and collapsing oil prices due to OPEC’s pressure on the industry, I decided to dissolve the company and close the doors to that business. I didn’t want to risk bankruptcy and that was never an option for me. It was hard letting my employees go and closing the doors – and personally for me it was difficult because I lacked a college degree and had grown accustomed to making a six-figure income. Who would hire someone in their early 30’s without a college degree and pay them the kind of income I had grown accustomed to? After taking some time off to really do some soul searching, I returned to school and changed majors. I had studied architecture initially but felt business and finance were now more suited to my career path. I studied hard and graduated early, going to school thru the summer semesters as well and graduating with honors. After a few jobs, it was a cousin of mine that steered me into the career path that I have been on for the last 20+ years – raising capital for investment sponsors and managers. During the course of my career, I have raised close to $2 Billion dollars thru my efforts and the efforts of teams I’ve led. I’ve been the national sales director for multiple managers and achieved what most would call great success earning well into the mid and upper six figures.
My path hasn’t been easy. Many might have given up. The wonderful thing though is that despite the personal hardships, the closing of my business, the frustration of people telling me I couldn’t do this or do that (I actually had a manger tell me that I was at the tail end of my career and that few would hire me. Shortly after, I went on and earned well into the upper six figures when I left his employment) – I persevered. Above all, I have believed in myself. If you take one thing from this initial introduction realize this – many people don’t want you to succeed! Yes, as difficult as that sounds – it is true. Not true in the literal sense perhaps. But many might say, “what do you know about starting a business?” Or they might say, “are you crazy to quit the security of your job and pursue that without a steady paycheck?”
Over the years, this book has largely been on my mind. I started the process of writing this book over a decade ago, but never completed the book as life’s events would seem to take precedence. Whether it was 10 years ago when I was an active real estate investor and accumulated a small portfolio of 13 rental properties, or when I was focused on my triathlon training and running, cycling, and swimming daily. Then it was the birth of my daughter Brooke and the responsibilities of being a proud father. It finally came to reading someone else’s book on establishing and completing goals that got me fired up on dusting off the old draft I had cast aside. I then established the goal of completing what I had started many years ago.
In my book, On the Wings of Eagles – Learning to Soar in Life, I’ve broken apart the copious notes I’ve collected over the years and shared the underlying themes and messages told by many noted speakers I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from at industry events I’ve attended. Whether it is George W. Bush, Oliver North, Joe Namath, Kevin O’Leary, Rudy Ruettiger, Magic Johnson or others – you’ll get a sense as to the message each shared.
Our society unfortunately is centered around what I call conformity. We are trained as we grow up to grow into the expectations of those around us – go to college, become a professional, do this or do that – but at the end of the day it may limit us to reach our full potential in life. These expectations manifest themselves and become beliefs. Many times, the beliefs become limiting and hinder our ability to grow to our fullest potential. This book is largely about that and much more. You see, to achieve HUGE success you sometimes have do things that make you uncomfortable. As they say, “you can’t steal second base by keeping your foot on first.” This book is appropriately titled, “On the Wings of Eagles – Learning to Soar in Life.” It hopefully will be a wake-up call for many, but more importantly it will share stories of how I and others have gone on to achieve success despite many odds. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with one of the many business leaders and mentors that have shaped my life. Walter was a leader in the field of insurance and sold his company for a large sum. At his private home in a beautiful setting in Texas, he conducted training for executives teaching what he called his NEER framework of building relationships. He said, notice how you never see “flocks of eagles.” You see them soaring above catching the thermals and flying alone. You see chicken flocks and turkey flocks -but not eagle flocks. I researched this many years later and this is what I found – eagles are believed to migrate alone, not in groups as some other birds (and even some raptors do), and not even with their mate necessarily, although as we learn more, that might change. For now, we’ve found male and female eagles tend to travel separately to (and from) their breeding areas. I assume because you are reading this that you want to be an eagle. Decide now, do you want to have your head down plucking at the ground, or do you want to fly high and be an eagle. For many, being alone isn’t easy – which is why we have so many chickens and turkeys around us. For those wanting to be eagles I invite you to the skies. Learn to soar and really enjoy the life that you deserve.
Are you the chicken or the pig?
I was chatting with a good friend of mine the other day who knows I am consumed in writing this book. He said that he was training for his first triathlon, a half Ironman. Now I’ve done my fair share of long-distance running, competing in various endurance races, even doing a few triathlons along the way. I know the intense training almost becomes a lifestyle choice for many. Knowing I’ve competed in a few races, he asked for some pointers and tips that might help him along the journey.
While visiting with him, we got to talking about his level of commitment. The conversation then shifted to his frequency and level of training. I asked him if he was working with a professional coach, something I did and recommend for those serious in crossing the finish line.
He said, “Look, I’m into this pretty seriously, and I’m committed no matter what it takes.”
I thought to myself, doesn’t that make sense? It’s exactly the answer I’d expect to get from anybody training for a half Ironman.
Can you imagine making the decision to compete in a half Ironman (swimming 1.2 miles in open water, then cycling 56 miles and finishing with a ½ marathon of 13.1 miles) and not being fully committed? It wouldn’t make sense.
I asked him if he ever went out for one of his long runs of 10 miles or more and stopped before completing the run because he felt tired or his “head was elsewhere.” He openly admitted that had happened more than once on occasion. I then said, “how do you expect to cover 70.3 miles if you’re already giving up and turning back in simply running 10 miles?
I have news for most of you reading this book. Many of you wanting to change your life for the better aren’t committed. Many will read this book, like what you’ve read – BUT won’t take the initiative to set in motion the plan for creating positive change. The reality is that some people just won’t commit to doing whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. I know that to be a fact. In business, there are entrepreneurs who set things in motion and there are “wantrepreneurs” - (those wanting to be entrepreneurs but who never commit).
These people will say, “Well, I tried it.” Or say, “I gave it 3 months,” or “It was too difficult, and I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.” That is a complete joke and I’ve heard many excuses.
Quitting anything after such a short investment of time is a complete waste of one’s time and energy. It’s like the poster I’ve seen on commitment with the eggs and bacon – the chicken was involved (in laying the eggs), but the pig was committed (in being slaughtered for the bacon).
In speaking with my friend, I said the ability to complete a half Ironman has more to do with “training your mind and the self-talk, than the physical training.” Now don’t get me wrong, there is a tremendous amount of physical training as well, but the mental training is just as important in the process.
As you’re reading this, you’re probably asking yourself, “how does he know most people have a problem with commitment?” I know people have a problem with it because I hear just about every excuse about why people can’t do this or do that.
In putting together the outline for this book, I spoke with multiple people. I also had the rare pleasure of hearing many great leaders in business, sports and politics speak on the subjects of success, leadership, teamwork and commitment. One resonating theme many of them had was – just don’t give up. They said the same thing, as many of them have observed and/or worked with others as well - it’s unfathomable to me how many excuses are out there.
It’s pretty straightforward. You can come up with excuses for yourself all day long, or you can commit 100% to passionately pursuing something better for yourself. But you cannot do both.
Many people have a problem with commitment. If you have trouble with commitment or you get a negative gut reaction when you hear the word, it most likely is not your fault. It’s the way you have been programmed and the paradigms that have been embedded into your subconscious.
Let me share a story with you that will hopefully make you understand what it takes to be fully committed.
I remember my first ½ marathon vividly. I had trained for many months and felt prepared for the big day. The morning of the event, 1,000’s of runners lined up on the starting line. They came from all age groups, in different sizes and from all walks of life. As the race got under way, a wave of people took off heading for the long journey of completing the 13.1 miles that was laid out before us. Many of the runners were not as prepared as I was. Along the route, I saw numerous runners stopping to walk – but they kept going. I also saw a second group of runners stopping along the way as well. After walking a short distance, they gave up and headed to the sidelines - only to exit the event before even finishing.
As I was coming up on mile 12, I started approaching a group of about 12 other runners. One of the runners hopped up on the curb as we were approaching a turn and as he hopped off, he twisted his ankle. At that moment, he fell to the ground in pain and could barely walk. You could see the expression of pain on his face as he tried to stand up only to fall again, hobbling on one leg. Finally, he started to crawl on his hands and knees. That’s right, he literally crawled almost ¾ of a mile to the finish line. The message here is he finished the race. He entered with the goal of completing a ½ marathon and he did, despite the fact he crawled the last ¾ of a mile to do it. Talk about commitment. This person crawled to the applause of thousands that witnessed his fall and cheered him on to the finish. To this day, that memory stays with me as it truly reflects the difference between someone that was 100% committed to finish despite the odds. Contrast that with the folks who simply gave up because they felt tired or had other reasons floating around in their heads.
Imagine for a moment that you are deserted in the Grand Canyon National Park. You were hiking with a group and got separated from your party. It’s hot and you have run out of water. You realize that in order to survive the human body needs a few things – water, shelter, food, sleep. You prioritize things and realize that the body can survive for a while without food, but water is essential to survival – especially in the hot sun. You begin searching for water – anything like a pond, river, even a stream or brook from which you can get hydrated. Three hours have gone by and you haven’t seen any signs of water. Would you give up? Of course not! Why? Because your life depends on it. That’s the kind of commitment you need to stay focused 100% on achieving the things you want in life when the naysayers throw you curveballs and try to “knock you down.” When others are saying you’re crazy or that you can’t do this or do that, you put your head down and plow ahead. Decide for yourself this very moment as you begin the journey to self-transformation. Are you a chicken or a pig? Pursue positive change like your life depends on it and commit like a pig! I wish you the best of luck and hope this book helps transform your life into something better. In the pages ahead, you’ll get a glimpse into the minds of some of the greatest leaders in sports, business and politics. I guarantee you each was committed 100% in the dreams they had, and they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are today without an unwavering desire that literally consumed them.