054: Jon Gordon: Roadmap To True Accomplishment On The Energy Bus
The journey to true accomplishment is a bumpy ride. How does one acquire a powerful roadmap to overcome adversity and bring out the best in yourself and your team? The Energy Bus, an international best seller by Jon Gordon, takes readers on an enlightening and inspiring ride that reveals 10 secrets for approaching life and work with the kind of positive, forward thinking that leads to true accomplishment – at work and at home. Jon infuses this engaging story with keen insights that will penetrate even the most skeptical mindsets. When you get on The Energy Bus you’ll enjoy the ride of your life!
We’ve got a great episode with Jon Gordon. Jon is a public speaker, author and a guy full of happiness and positivity. In fact, he likes to preach the word of the power of positivity. He has written fifteen books and one of those books is called The Energy Bus. We go through how he got there. He was working at dot-com, his marriage was on the rocks, his wife had it, and he just woke up and this lightning bolt hit him and he was like, “My mission in life is to help others find their happiness.” Obviously, it had to start with him. He did that. He has done a ton of research. He speaks all over the world, has been on CNN, the Today Show, Fox, Golf Channel and a bunch of other channels like that. A number of different sports teams hire him. It’s about the mindset and how you get there and how you overcome these different things. It’s a great conversation with Jon and I was inspired by him and what he had to say. As always, please go rate and review, go to iTunes. It does help. I love the love that you are sharing right now and all the comments that come back. If you have any feedback, if somebody that you think would be a great candidate for this particular format, Finding Your Summit, overcoming adversity and finding their way, please let me know. If you want to find out about my journey, you can do so on MarkPattisonNFL.com. All my social channels are all there.
Listen to the podcast here:
Jon Gordon: Roadmap To True Accomplishment On The Energy Bus
On the pod, we’ve got a guy who I’m going to have a fantastic time speaking with, Jon Gordon. The reason why I’m excited to talk to John is because this is a guy that has published a number of different books and it’s all about the power of positivity. I want to talk to anybody who is tracking on the power of positivity because I keep saying through my life and through the adversity that I’ve gone through, I continued to want to go towards the light and you seem to be one of those guys. Jon, how you doing?
I’m doing good, Mark. Thanks for having me.
What I want to do is I want to set up where your public speaking, where this energy, you wrote a book called The Energy Bus, and where all these things came from. As I was doing my research, it certainly seemed to be that you hit a low point and I want to talk about that. You grew up on the East Coast in Long Island, New York. Walk me through how you emerged as a public speaker and where you felt like this purpose in your life was to do what you’re doing now.
I grew up in Long Island, New York in a Jewish-Italian family. A lot of food, a lot of guilt. My dad was a New York City Police Officer, undercover narcotics. My stepfather raised me since I was five years old but I hate that term because he is my dad and had my mom. It’s a very normal upbringing. My parents weren’t the most positive people in the world but very loving. Then I get to my late 20s, early 30s. I have a wife and two small children. Right after Cornell University, I played lacrosse there, I moved down to Atlanta for some reason. I started bartending, waiting tables and met my wife down there. She was walking by. For me, it was love at first sight. For her, it took a few years but that’s a true story. I finally got her to marry me. We married then moved to Jacksonville. Late 20s, early 30s and two young children, my life is just starting to fall apart. I lost my job during the dot-com crash. I was working for a dot-com. I was unhappy. I was miserable. I was being negative to her.
Why were you negative? Why where were you unhappy?
I don’t know why. Looking back, I was seeking. I was searching for my purpose. I wasn’t living my purpose. When my wife threatened me and said, “I love you, but I’m not going to spend my life with someone who makes me so miserable,” I looked at myself and said, “Why am I still unhappy? Why am I so miserable? What am I born to do? Why am I here?” I had my midlife crisis when I was about 30, 31 years old.
When that happened, was it like a light bulb moment for you, or was this an evolving sequence that happened over time?
She threatens me, I begged her to stay. I literally prayed like, “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” Writing and speaking comes to me. It was this eureka moment. It didn’t happen right away where all of a sudden I became a writer and speaker, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I knew that’s what I was born to do in that moment.
Had you ever spoke to any size group before that?
I had started a nonprofit in Atlanta called the Phoenix Organization. I was in my early twenties. I get down to Atlanta, I’m bartending, and I opened up a bar in Buckhead. I’m 24 years old, I have this bar with a few other partners and investors, and it’s doing phenomenal. I’m making all this money from the bar and I’m meeting all these young people, but I wanted to make a difference in the community. I started this nonprofit and we would raise money for youth-focused charities. We’d have these events where we would just bring young people together, raise a bunch of money, and give it all away. We never took money to run it. We were stupid from our business model planning and succession and so forth, so it didn’t last after we were done. At the time, we were having a great time meeting a lot of people and giving a lot of money away.
I was speaking at those types of events. We would have a monthly meeting. I would speak at the monthly meeting for five, ten minutes, but I wasn’t giving inspirational talks. I would just speak and say, “Thank you all for coming.” I remember I love that. When I thought about being a writer and speaker, I’ve always loved making a difference. I did like impacting and bringing people together. That was one of the impetus to say I actually love that when I was doing that. That was when I was happiest. I need to go out there and do something where I’m making a difference. I can’t just go try to work at a job. I need to have an impact. It was the Phoenix that gave me the idea that I could do something where I’m making a difference. The writing and speaking part just came to me and that’s how I would do it.
[Tweet “Go out there and act like a miracle and be a miracle.”]
Something that we just talked about is the power of contribution. You asked me if was I involved in the Waterboys project. One of the things that was so gratifying in my life was to get involved with Chris Long and Nate Boyer’s Waterboys Foundation which is all about raising money to build water wells for the people of the Maasai tribe down in Tanzania. We actually climbed the mountain, going through those different villages after doing that. On our end, we were doing different public speeches. I teamed up with Jim Mora and we went around and we did these different things and raised over $47,000. We built our own and funded our own well, to go down and see those people and how appreciative and grateful they were considering they have nothing. We have so much in life. People get caught up in, “I’m not living in the right spot, I don’t own the right car, the job.” Anybody who’s never been in the Serengeti, there are no road signs. What they were cheering us for was to turn around and walk over to a spicket and turn that thing on and have water come out. Think about that. We walk in there like the Beatles. Bouncing that back to you, that was my little experience.
I want to ask you first. What was that feeling like when you climbed that mountain, when you raised that money and when you met those people? Where does that compare in the great moments of your life?
I’ve been fortunate to have a number of great moments, playing in the NFL in college and I was the recipient many times of being the last second, catch the touchdown, and walk off the field victorious and all those things. When we talk about this, it’s a different level. Like you, it elevated me to this world of contribution which I’ve followed through on. I continue to raise money for Waterboys. Number two is that there’s a lot more in life than just being on this wheel. The wheels say, “Get up at so and so, go do this, you clock in and you clock out.” I’m trying to do some of the things that you’re doing now. I’m in the beginning phase of it, but going out and telling my story, public speaking, I’ve been traveling around the country and doing this, and it’s so purposeful. When I get up and talk, I talk from the heart and I try to connect and share my story of where I had been or have been in my life in terms of the adversity that I’ve overcome, even though some of the things that I’ve done looked like the shiny object. It pulled me back when in these various villages that we went to, these people have nothing. Life is about perspective. That’s something that hit me hard.
Jim Mora went with you. He is an amazing guy. I got a chance to spend time with Jim. I spoke to his team this year at UCLA before the season and I got a chance to sit down with him. He’s just an amazing guy. I know he’s a friend of yours, but that must have been awesome to be with him. He’s so intense. Was he relaxed during that time of climbing the mountain? Did he relax a little bit?
One of the gals, Kirstie Ennis, is an above-the-knee amputee. She was hurt severely. She’s had 43 surgeries which ultimately ended up in the removal of her leg. If you could imagine basically hopping up this mountain. It was heroic on her end, but at the same time it caused a lot of issues for others just in terms of the pace that we’re able to go. Jim and I had been climbing for years and every day we just go, “We’ll catch up at camp.” Everybody was cool with it so we take off and do our thing. When they would arrive we would greet them obviously and make sure that they were comfortable and we played it that way. It was fantastic. He was my best friend there. I’m praying for him. He was in a Park City skiing and he completely blew out his knee. He’s having that thing repaired right now.
A time for him to rest, recharge and come back stronger.
Let’s go back to what we’re talking about, back when you’re 24 years old and you started this foundation and you’re giving too much money away and not reserving some for the expenses and stuff like that. There’s a bigger purpose for you in life than just that. Even though maybe at that point in your life you didn’t capture it in that moment, but maybe you planted a seed.
It did. I loved it. I loved uniting people. I loved raising money. We worked with the Paralympics. We raised money for them. I’m trying to do that even now raising some money for a couple of Paralympic athletes. One is a table tennis player, ping-pong player and I know his dad. I’m raising money for him. It’s funny how life comes full circle for that. I worked with Evander Holyfield Foundation, his golf tournament. We’ve got involved with that and the Boys & Girls Clubs. We did a lot of fundraising for that. I actually love that. Now I’m trying to raise money for the Mulli Foundation in Kenya and building a big gymnasium for street kids who Mulli is taking care of. He’s has saved over 20,000 of these orphans. He brings them to his place. It’s this huge place now and about 3,000 kids people live there and they become one family. He’s now building this big gym to allow them to continue their rehabilitation through sports because they have a lot of sporting events and they do a lot of sports. This would be their first gym and a basketball gym and be used for volleyball. My goal was to raise about $100,000 for that. The things I was doing then, I’m now still doing but now I’m just going out there speaking on positivity in addition to these other things and I’m writing about these principles as well.
Going back again when you were emerging out of this situation where you lost your job with this dot-com company and your wife is like, “This is it. You either got to change your ways or,” so now you have this moment where, “That’s exactly what I’m going to do and here’s my path forward.” Where did the theme for you, positivity, come through? Was there some beacon, some mentors, or some person in your life in the past that had inspired you and that every morning you wake up and everything is half full, not half empty?
No, I’m actually negative. For me, it was what I needed in my life. We teach what we need to learn. I was working to become more positive. I was studying a lot of the research in the emerging field of positive psychology at the time. Positive psychology was just getting started. I was doing all this research and then I would take these principles and this research that would read about and start to apply it to my life as a coach would. I would see how I could apply it. For instance, I started to take a thank you walk. While I was walking, I would just say what I’m thankful for because the research shows you can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time. By doing this walk each day, I was flooding my brain and body with these positive emotions that uplift you rather than the stress hormones that slowly drain and kill you. I would add prayer to that as well. As I did that each day, it started to transform my mind and my life. I then started to write about what I was researching and what I was doing. I started these positive tips, these weekly positive tips. It started in 2002. I write it every week. I’ve been writing every week since then and I still do to this day. For sixteen years, every week, a positive tip. What I began then, I’m doing now, and that just began a journey of wanting to be more positive. It’s my life’s work to now share what I needed to learn and help others become more positive as well.
Give me a sampler of the tip of the day.
It’s not a day, it’s actually a weekly positive tip that I share. I tweet every day, so I’m always sharing weekly positive tips on Twitter now. For instance, I wrote about Austin Hatch, the Michigan Basketball player who survived two plane crashes. He lost his mom and his brother and sister in one, and then lost his dad and his stepmother in a second crash. He was in both of them and he lived. He just participated in senior day as part of the Michigan basketball team. I reached out to him, talked to him and interviewed him. I wrote about him in my book, The Power Of Positive Leadership, because what he’s overcome is unbelievable. He sees his life as a miracle because the odds of surviving two plane crashes is in the quadrillions. He survived two and he wants to be a miracle for others. I was pointing out that he’s a miracle but you are too. Research shows that our very existence, the fact that you are here, that you are alive, that all your ancestors came together and then your parents eventually came together to form you, the odds of that happening are basically zero. You are a miracle. Go out there and act like a miracle and be a miracle. That was something I wrote this week.
Everybody can take something away from that. It’s always perspective. Some of the people I’ve talked to, these different corporations, it’s just like, “I’m up there. I’m doing these different things, but anybody can do them.” Maybe not the NFL but somebody can go run a race or you can do a Toughman. There are so many different things that somebody can go do and feel inspired, but you’ve got to create that action which creates reactions every single time. It’s people who tread water who feels stuck. It’s really hard to move the ball down the field.
The only thing that separates me from what I’ve done and all the books I’ve written and the work I do now and all the talks I give is that I was willing to take action. I was willing to just step out. I am very ordinary, but I have an extraordinary drive and discipline to just work every day at it. I have a lot of grit. When I first started writing and speaking, I was speaking everywhere and anywhere. I had five people at one talk and twenty people in another talk. I didn’t have a lot of people come to my talks and then people would bring me into their small little meeting rooms and I would speak there. I was working on my craft. I’m always getting better every day doing it, but I was willing to do it and even when I failed, I remember I left and I’m like, “That was a tough crowd. They hated me and it stunk.” I just kept doing it. I just kept moving forward and doing it.
I truly believe that God doesn’t choose the best. He uses the most willing. If you’re willing, he will mold you and shape you and develop you to be your best. To be an NFL player, you have to have that talent. I was a Division 1 lacrosse player. I had the talent to play at that level. I was recruited for football, not at your level, but I was recruited to play Division 1 football. I don’t think I could’ve played pro, but I had a certain level of talent to go there. I believe that anybody can get up there and speak if you have something to say and if you have a message to give. You go to TED for instance, and you could see anybody pretty much give a ten to fifteen-minute talk on any topic. A lot of them, even though they’re not great speakers, are actually great talks because there’s sharing something that they’re passionate about. In this field, you can make an impact. Just get out there and do it.
[Tweet “God doesn’t choose the best. He uses the most willing.”]
There are a couple things that you say that I have really taken to heart and I’ve done this through observation and that is the difference between willing and want. Everybody wants to become the millionaire. Everybody wants to be on the pro, whatever player that’s out there or the CEO. Are you willing to do anything it takes to put yourself in that position to make that happen? There’s usually a big gap. People start off with the best of intentions and they just fall off. You’ve got to be intentional about what you want and what you want to go after, like you have done with your speaking and really feeling purposeful about the amount of people that you’re impacting even though at times, you’re showing up and there are five people standing there or sitting there listening to this. You have to have that mindset.
It is. I recently gave a talk. I have shared this and I wrote about this. I gave a talk to Avon. There were 6,000 women there. I got that talk because about ten years ago, I did a workshop in Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. It was my friend’s at his family’s resort that they own and I did a retreat there. Only six people showed up. We thought there would be about a hundred, but only six showed up. I said to myself, “You know what? Your mission is to inspire and empower as many people as possible, one person at a time. Make a difference in these six people.” That’s what I did. I poured my heart out to those six people. One of those six people was Betty Palm. Betty Palm was working at a network marketing company, years later she now is one of the top people at Avon and she hires me because she remembers some of the lessons I taught all those years before and she was impacted by that even in that small room, “I think Jon would actually be good for our audience,” and so six turned into 6,000.
You have to be willing. I love what you said. Everyone wants to do it, but what are you willing to do? Everybody wants to be the best. Everyone wants to do what the great ones do, but very few are willing to do what they did to become great. You have to be willing to do the work and to show up. I wrote a book called Training Camp. It’s my favorite book that I’ve written. It’s about a guy trying to make it in the NFL. He gets injured and he learns what it takes to be the best. One of the key principles, there are eleven, is to best to know what they want. Once you know what you want, you will be willing to pay the price that greatness requires, but you have to know what it is you truly want. If you don’t know what you want, you won’t work at it. Once you know, then you become unstoppable.
I want to also talk about a word called grit because you just brought that up. I love that word. Tell me from your perspective how you develop grit in your opinion. I know that you believe that grit will ultimately help you overcome adversity, but how does somebody develop that?
I don’t think you actually develop it. There are a lot of people that are talking about developing it and training your mind for grit. I have a lot of friends who are sports psychologist. I believe that you’re born with grit. I believe that you already have it. You’re born with it. It’s remembering the grit that you were actually born with. When you see a child learn to walk for the first time, that child is displaying grit. No one taught this child grit. They got knocked down, they fell down, they get back up, and then they keep moving forward. To me, that’s what grit is all about, when you get knocked down and you keep moving forward. Everyone talks about growth mindset, seeing a baby learning to walk has a growth mindset. We have to remember that it’s already truly inside of us. I believe though that it’s inspired by vision, and then you have this purpose, an optimism that keeps you moving forward, passion, good old-fashioned stubbornness, and resilience. When you want to prove yourself like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, these guys were told they couldn’t do it. No one believed in them. Those are the kind of guys that for some reason always still feel like they have something to prove and that’s a big part of grit. There are a lot of factors that go into what make someone gritty. Again, I don’t think you necessarily develop it. Life reveals it. Does that make sense?
I love that. There’s so much overlap between the way you think and the way I think. I also talk about it too because I believe it and that is your vision board. You said the word vision and I say the word vision board. Some of the little things that I do as I try to become the first NFL player to climb the Seven Summits is on my refrigerator, I’ve got a picture of every single mountain I’ve climbed. I’m on top. I’m taking the top, my hands are in like I just scored a touchdown. It’s just a constant daily reminder of where I’m trying to go so I don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal that you talked about. Another thing that I do, because now I walk out the door and go about my business, I wear a key every single day. I’m going to climb with it. I work out with it on. It’s a key that says, “Believe.”
Not everybody has to have a key around their neck, but that’s just has been my daily reminder to keep your mind on those things that are most important and what is the ultimate prize. As you know, you get inspired by certain things and then life happens and there are all these distractions that take you off course. You’ve got to do whatever it takes to maintain that vision on exactly what you want in order for those things to come true. Like you’re talking about, some of that grit aspect that you’re going to overcome, maybe something hits you and you’re not where you thought you would be. My life has been this zigzag. Again, we call it vision or vision board. That’s so important to have in your life.
Is your key a giving key?
Caitlin Crosby, I love what she started with that and the key. I have written a book with my two friends, Dan and Jimmy, called One Word That Will Change Your Life. Dan and Jimmy came up with this concept over twenty years now. They come up with their Word for the Year. Before anyone was doing these keys, they were coming up with their word, just the two of them. Every year they would share their world with each other. About eight years ago, they told me about this concept of just picking a word for the year because we forget New Year’s resolutions or we give up. We lose sight of the big picture but one word sticks and we could all focus on our word each year. Each year, they believe that there’s a word that’s meant for you if you’re open to what that word is. We started to share this about eight years ago, the next thing you know they said, “Let’s write a book.” We wrote a book together and I’ve been sharing this idea of just one word.
It’s amazing how many teams and organizations have done it. We don’t have products associated with it. We just like to share the message of One Word because it’s so powerful. When Dabo Swinney was being interviewed after National Championship, he said, “My word all year was love. I knew that our love for each other would make the difference.” Every year, Dabo picks his word. Yours is believe. We also believe that there’s a life word, that there’s a word that’s actually meant for you if you’re open to what that life word is to help you live to the fullest and leave your greatest legacy. Mine for instance is positive. I know that my life’s work is positive, so for me that’s my life’s word. Every year you pick up a yearly word and then start to think about what your life word might be to define your life with that word that mattered most. It helps you create the most meaning.
I absolutely love that and I’m going to take that into my life. It’s great.
It’s powerful. Going back to grit, I wrote something. I just found this and I want to share with you because I tweeted this. It was one of the best things I’ve ever written and it just came to me. Everyone’s talking about grit. I said, “What is it? I believe it’s driven by love, inspired by vision and purpose, fueled by optimism and belief, powered by faith and hope, revived by resilience, kept alive by stubbornness, and if we’re honest, includes some fear of failure and desire to prove oneself.” Going back to love, I truly believe that’s it. If you love it, you won’t quit. If you love it, you just won’t give up because we don’t quit because it’s hard. I believe we quit because we don’t love it enough. If you truly love it, you’ll continue to move forward to build something great.
I don’t have a comment because it’s so well-worded in terms of finding your purpose and not giving up on what you’re trying to set out. Everybody’s goals are obviously different. Another thing I love is watching you on your TEDx talk. The reason why I love that is because they pulled you out of the car two hours ago and go, “Somebody bailed out on us and will you actually go up and do a TEDX talk?”
I was there to speak at an education conference the next day and when I showed up, literally I just spoke to the 49ers the night before, got up at 4 AM to fly there to Ohio and I land. They were wearing TED shirts and I said, “I’ve never spoken on a TED.” “That’s so funny. We just had someone cancel, do you want to speak?” It was literally twenty minutes later that I would be speaking.
I watched it from beginning to end, is that they have the format nailed down to and I don’t know if you did or it didn’t really matter. It’s an eighteen-minute speech that you deliver and it’s well-rehearsed. For you to essentially get off a plane, get out of the car, walk in and be that guy up there and introduced and say, “I didn’t know I was doing this hour ago,” and actually make it happen is really impressive. It was awesome.
I appreciate that. I did wing it. To put it together and then to organize it, I said things that I’ve never said before and then to have the time crunch and look at the time and be able to somehow put together, I can’t take credit for that. I don’t know how that came together.
I’m like in Little League right now in terms of my public speaking and where I’m at and you’re like the NFL in my eyes. One of the things that has really shone through is your professionalism in terms of public speaking. You’ve done this a lot. There are a lot of different assets that you could pull out of the air. You did, you packaged that, and it came off great.
I appreciate that. One of the keys as a speaker is I believe that you have to know the thing you want to talk about, but always leave room within your talk. Have your guard rails on, “I’m going to speak here, then I’m going to share this principle. I’m going to go here.” You leave some room in between those to allow some improvisations and to allow new ideas to come in. If you don’t, it’s going to be stale. When you allow these new things to come in, you can speak knowing that you’re going to the next point. The next guard rail allows you to have some structure and yet allows the freedom in between, if that makes sense.
One of my goals in life, and you’ve paved the way for me here, but I have not done a book, not fifteen. How do you pull off fifteen books?
What’s the core thing you want to share? That should be your first book. A lot of times people try to write their first book and they try to put four books into one. No. Start with the one book. What’s the core? If you died tomorrow, what’s the message you want to share? What’s the most important thing you need to share and that you want people to hear? That’s what you start with.
[Tweet “You have to know the thing you want to talk about but always leave room within your talk.”]
I’m headed to Denali for my fifth summit. I was on last year. It got pushed back so I’m back at it again, but that will be in my ears as I make my way up the mountain. The Energy Bus, was that your first one?
The name of your podcast would make a great book. The Energy Bus was my first fable I wrote. I wrote two books before that, but I don’t even talk about those books because I consider The Energy Bus my first book. Wiley published it and it was rejected by over 30 publishers before that. It finally comes out. I would say that’s my core message of what I’m truly about. It’s what I’m most known for. It hit a million copies. That was exciting to have that milestone and that’s domestic. It’s already done about 1.5 million, including Korea, because I’m big in South Korea.
How did that come about? You are, for sure, not South Korean.
This is a true story. I write it and not one book store in United States would carry the book. I asked a friend what should I do? I prayed and it became a huge bestseller in South Korea. He said, “You should be specific with your prayers next time,” because it was this huge hit in South Korea. To this to this day, we don’t know how it happened, we don’t know why, it just became very popular in South Korea. Every time I have a book that comes out now, the first translation is Korean and it becomes a big hit there. I had people come over even from Korea, they saw me at an event, they’re like, “You’re very famous in Korea.” Remember that movie, Singles? Matt Dillon would always say, “We’re big in Belgium.” No one heard about them in the United States and then he’d go, “We’re really big in Belgium.” That was me at first. I’m getting all these requests to speak at South Korea, but not one bookstore in the United States would carry the book.
I go on a 28-city tour to start to share the message from city to city. This was back then when you could do that more and more. I was doing a lot of local TV shows, which was easier to get on local TV shows, and I was sharing tips on TV. We’d have a book signing at a coffee shop or a bookstore. It was really inefficient, not great, but I was just going out there and doing it, just being bold, and learning the craft. That band that works in the small towns and starts to develop a following and over time they’re playing the big arenas, that’s what my journey was like. It taught me grit and it taught me to work hard. It taught me definitely to be humble. When I go places now and it’s a big audience and they’re like, “Jon Gordon’s here,” I’m thinking, “You don’t understand. I’m not very special at all.” I know where I’ve been and so it’s a fun part of the journey to have remembered and lived through that. It makes you appreciate, as you talked about gratitude earlier, every opportunity and every moment to be able to share this message.
I was telling somebody this and I spoke in front of 200 people and a lot of people were coming up afterwards and said a lot of nice things to me. They were like, “How did that make you feel?” I said I went through that stage back when I was playing college and we were very successful at the University of Washington and also in the NFL where the fans are going crazy. It just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter and this goes back to exactly what you’re up to, which is being so purposeful about spreading the power of positivity and achievement and other people living out what they’re meant to do. As long as I’m doing that and I know you’re doing the exact same thing, that’s all that matters and all that other stuff is just noise.
Do you know what keeps you going? After you speak, that one person that comes up to you and says, “I needed to hear that. You really touched me. You really impacted me,” it’s those words that keep you going when you know that that’s your purpose and you want to make a difference. Hearing those words and knowing you’re impacting people, that’s what really keeps me going when I’m able to hear that. You’re right, it’s all on purpose. A good friend of mine, Tom Flick, he played at Washington. I’m sure you know Tom. Tom is one of the busiest speakers on the planet. Tom honed his craft speaking to high schools, and now he’s speaking to corporations all over. He beat me out for In-N-Out Burger. He got the gig and I didn’t, but I was very happy that he got it. He’s amazing and I love Tom. He’s a very purposeful guy. I’m just saying, “How can we go out there and make a difference and make an impact?” You’re right, that’s what drives you.
I built this website about eight months ago and the whole purpose behind that was so I’d have a platform that I could put my podcast on and then it also talks about, “Mark’s available to come and public speak.” Things have been going a long time and then at the beginning of the year, I finally got a gig. I call Tom. I go, “Tom, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is I finally booked a public speaking event. The bad news is I’m freaking out. I have no idea.” Tom spent an hour on the phone with me, literally giving me the playbook and tips as his best as he could on, “Mark’s going to go and he’s going to do this event. Here are the key things that you need to know.” I’ve literally taken them to heart and practice, but Tom has been an absolute guy in his position to really give back his time to me. I’m so grateful for it. It’s amazing.
He’s amazing. I freaked out the first couple as well. I tried to get out of the first few and the fact that you had people come up to you and tell you that they really enjoyed it even though that’s not what drove you and you weren’t doing it for the applause, you were doing it for the cause, the fact that they came up to you, to me that’s always a good sign. If no one’s coming up to you afterwards and you’re not having an impact and you’re not getting any reaction, if that does happen five, six, seven times you do events and no one’s talking to you, then maybe you’re not making an impact. You might be thinking about doing something else perhaps. If a few people are coming up to you and let you know you’re making a difference, that lets you know you’re on the right track and you should keep doing it. I did 80 free talks before I even got paid. I just went out there and spoke anywhere and everywhere and that was really a great training ground. I remember it was those few people that would come up, “Let me know I’m on the right track,” because I would ask myself, “Should I continue doing this?” There were many times I actually thought, “I should give up,” so I’m glad I kept doing it.
I want to tie one last thing before we end in that is where we started, there was this point in time in your life. Two kids, a wife, and she finally had her limit. She said, “Jon, it’s either this or that.” If you’re doing 80 free gigs, how did she get on the bus and be onboard with what you’re trying to do when you weren’t necessarily monetizing it at that time?
I was fortunate enough that when I knew I wanted to write and speak I said, “I have to make some money first.” Since I had been in the bar business, I opened up Moe’s Southwest Grill in Jacksonville, Florida. It was the first Moe’s in Florida. We second mortgaged our home, $20,000 in credit cards and that was another scary time. That’s a whole other story but the goal is trying to make that store successful so that I can write and speak. That’s what happened. It took me about seven, eight months to get it going and once we started making a profit, then I gave my first talk to New York Life, a local partners meeting. I did it for free. I met the managing partner at my Moe’s actually and that began that. I was making money from the restaurant.
Several years later in 2005, I had the sign that it was time to sell. I knew it was time to sell so I can focus on writing and speaking. I wasn’t doing a lot of writing and speaking at the time, I wasn’t making a lot. I was probably making like $5,000 to $7,000 to $8,000 a month writing and speaking, which is still pretty good but I was making a lot more in the restaurants because I had opened up four of them. I’m making a lot of money for the restaurants. I know I want to sell and focus on this. My wife at that time was like, “No, we can’t sell. What happens if your writing and speaking doesn’t make it?” I said, “There are no other options. I have to focus on what I’m born to do.” She finally agreed, we sold and then 2006 comes and I’m running out of money because we had sold. We were living off of that money, the writing and speaking is not going great but that’s when The Energy Bus came to me in 2006. I wrote it in 2006, it comes out in 2007. It was a journey of faith and of trusting and moving on to the next thing. I had to let go of the restaurants to truly pursue what I was born to do and do this full-time.
When your back is against the wall, you just have to totally focus on what you want to do. Good things can happen if you’re just totally driven in one area.
I’ll do some times in a month what I would make in the restaurants in a year. I’m not doing it for the money, that’s just a byproduct of writing and speaking and impacting.
[Tweet “I’m going to go live the life that I felt I was born to live and that I felt called to live.”]
The one thing I want to end with and you said this so it must be true, at the end of your life, know that you went for it. I think there’s probably more to it than that, but I think this whole notion, just like you did where you had your vision. You knew what you wanted to do. You had to clear off some of the noise that was around you with the restaurants. There is no worse crime to me than sitting there at the very end when your life of regrets is about to end.
I want to live without regrets. That was my thing. I’m going to go for it. I’m going to go live the life that I felt I was born to live and that I felt called to live, and I wasn’t going to live in fear. I’m just going to go for it. My journey is not about fear but about wanting to make an impact. I want to have an impact. Billy Graham just died and you see the impact he’s had on people. I don’t think I’ll make as an impact like him, but I want to make the greatest impact that I can make. Seeing that, I always tell my wife and kids I want a great funeral. I’m working every day for a great funeral so that at the end of my life people come and talk about the impact I had on their lives. Contrast that when my biological father left when he said, “Don’t come to my funeral, I’ll be dead. I won’t care.” For me, I want people to come to my funeral knowing that I had an impact on their lives. I’m living with the end in mind and wanting to make an impact.
You have the complete right mindset to inspire others and get out there and make it happen and you’re doing all those things. Congrats to you on all that. Where can people find you?
Jon, it’s been great as I stated at the very beginning. I want to be around anybody who’s sharing the word of positivity. It’s great energy that you have. We’re all trying to go to a higher purpose and you’re certainly in that group. Thank you so much.
Thanks for having me. Keep up the amazing work you’re doing.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Jon Gordon
- The Energy Bus
- Finding Your Summit on iTunes
- Phoenix Organization
- Waterboys Foundation
- Jim Mora
- Kirstie Ennis
- Evander Holyfield Foundation
- the Boys & Girls Clubs
- Mulli Foundation
- The Power Of Positive Leadership
- Training Camp
- Caitlin Crosby
- One Word That Will Change Your Life
- Tom Flick
- Twitter @JonGordon11
- Instagram @JonGordon11