If I could reach the stars
Pull one down for you,
Shine it on my heart
So you could see the truth.
- Eric Clapton, lyrics from Change the World
We all know the truth: the reflection of your true heart and desire is what can inspire each and every one of us. There is no other way, especially if you want to live a life and leave a legacy.
The question becomes is your story one worth sharing? I for one, believe that it is. Why wouldn’t it be?
After all, everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (108): Fulfilled
It hit him hard the moment he saw the big man come on stage and share his message.
Gerard Adams was right there in the front row, gazing up at the man who could change his life, or at least make sure he was heading down the right path to get him there. Up on that stage Tony Robbins can seem larger than life. For Gerard, the words Tony Robbins would share would change his life.
“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.”
Those words hung in the air for a moment, and then inside Gerard’s brain for days and weeks to come. Sometimes one idea, one message, one moment in time can change the trajectory of your life.
And what about that life? Gerard Adams is a serial entrepreneur, co-founder of Elite Daily, and now at age 31, worth millions. So how do you get “there from here”?
Gerard says growing up in New Jersey he was taught to be tough.”My early childhood was beautiful,” says Gerard. “I have such great parents who both worked 7 days a week. I was an outdoors kid. There was no smartphone so I went outside to play baseball, basketball, hockey. In high school I got into some trouble, and I knew my family didn’t have a lot of money, so I started hustling t-shirts. I would by them at wholesale and re-sell them for a profit.”
“I also learned very early in my life that nothing would be handed to me,” says Gerard. “I had to have faith and confidence and be a leader. I wanted to study entrepreneurship and business and finance in college but I couldn’t get into any of those classes because I had to earn other credits just to get the opportunity to step up to the classes I really wanted. I started studying student loan debt and decided I could self-educate. A lot of people judged me for dropping out of college. They said, ‘you won’t be successful, we knew you would always drop out’. But college was not for me. I saw it as big business. It forced me to get into debt and didn’t allow me to learn what I wanted to learn to start a company and learn how to invest. I dropped out during finals at the end of the first semester.”
“I went against everybody, including my parents. Everyone looked upon me as a failure. My parents said to me ‘look it’s your life, you have to live with your decision. If you fail then you have to figure out a way to get back up and get back to school’. I liked the challenge. I put destiny in my own hands. I wanted to prove to everybody, my parents, my town, everybody. I work well under pressure.”
That’s also when Gerard says he started failing. But failing forward.
“My first failure was my next challenge which was starting my business. It was Wall Street Grand, a forum for investors and traders. The website included a 5-star rating system to evaluate those who wrote about investing. If they got 5-stars they were gold and a guru. I got to about 10,000 members, (reportedly worth about $10 million), then I got a call about helping promote a technology to build a nano battery, a battery with an infinite shelf life.
“So we do a big launch for this company, mPhase, with investors, brokers, bankers…I will never forget that day. I do my first public speech to introduce the product and the founders. I hit the button to prove this infinite battery to the crowd and nothing works. It was over right then, big failure. Or at least I thought it was over. But I decided I would not let this shape me. I would learn from it.”
Like any great entrepreneur knows, failure is simply success deferred. But there was more to come.
In 2008 the stock market crashed and Gerard says he lost everything. His business was in shambles, he made some bad investments, his dad got laid off and his friends were graduating and couldn’t get jobs.
“I started making documentaries on the economy”, says Gerard. “I made videos about college conspiracy, about inflation, I exposed the student loan debt crisis and got millions of views and got on TV. That got me hooked up with David Arabov. He said he wanted to start this website, Elite Wall Street. I said no way, Wall Street is tainted, why don’t we create a HuffPost for millennials. I had a couple of folding tables and chairs in my apartment and David, Jonathan Francis and I got to work connecting millennials and what they really wanted to read with no filter. We were being judged for not being real journalists, but we knew we were on to something, because the millennials were reading and sharing, it was going viral.
The site is called Elite Daily and by the end of 2013 it had earned $400,000 in profit and averaged 80 million readers a month. It got so big it was a hot commodity for an acquisition. Which is exactly what happened. Gerard and his partners sold Elite Daily to Daily Mail, for $50 million.
Failing forward. Success deferred. But once you have the success – as Gerard heard Tony Robbins say, you need fulfillment.
Gerard says he had this dream, and it should be every entrepreneurs dream – when the company gets big – to give back to the people who supported you your whole life and to do great things. He credits his Tony Robbins experience with helping him to have this moment of clarity.
“To see Tony Robbins up close, I was in the 2nd row, his energy is infectious. He helps you take a deep dive into your soul and purpose in life. I did the hot coal walk and when I was done I was asking myself what does my legacy look like? I thought it would be so cool to go back to Jersey and help the youth and help the community where they really need it. To help them have what I didn’t – an education on how to start a business, overcome obstacles and bounce back from failure. Things you don’t really get in school.”
The experience has led Gerard to create FOWNders, (http://www.fownders.com/). FOWNders is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a community for young entrepreneurs in Newark’s University Heights neighborhood. The FOWNders building is a live-work space boasting a restaurant, large roof deck, and event space for their members in addition to luxury apartments. It’s much like MIT’s Building 20 – a magical incubator of collaboration.
Gerard says: “I’m building a program where every 12 weeks there are hack-a-thons and we allow five start-ups to work in the space. Depending on how disciplined and how well they do I will switch it up. I’m working on the curriculum, which start-ups to invite, the age brackets, seeing what is needed, talking to the community and finding out what they are looking for.”
It’s all about legacy. “Our generation is not thinking about legacy and impact, they are lost,” says Gerard. “So much has changed in the past ten years. The amount of information shifts all the time – you have to look on it as an opportunity and take an idea you are passionate about and build it into an empire and leave an impact. This is the time to take those risks – now.”
What it all comes down to says Gerard is giving, living and getting in the game: “A lot of the young people I meet, even older people, they let their egos get in the way. We need to let go of our egos and really look in the mirror. Forget what happened in the past. What am I doing right now? Today, tomorrow the next five years, what am I going to do to make an impact around me and leave a legacy that will make you happy in life?”
“What can you do to bring value to other people’s lives? Stop blaming other people and other things. Stop looking at what you can take from this world, look at what you can give. Start taking action.”
Until next time thanks for taking the time (and taking action),
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