I have a sticky note on my bathroom mirror. It’s the first thing I see each morning.
“I will not let tradition cage my ambition.”
Several years ago, I participated in a mastermind group. The group is a fascinating collection of successful entrepreneurs from a diverse range of industries. Our keynote speaker was the stratospherically successful, and bestselling author, 41-year-old Brendon Burchard. Brendon shared that he grew up in an economically depressed, Montana copper mining town. Except for his teachers and pastor, everyone he knew worked in the mines or at a blue collar job. Few aspired to college. This was the life his friends and peers expected for him.
Fast forward to today. Brendon is the highest paid personal development and marketing trainer in the world. His Facebook page has an astounding 5.2 million “likes.” He heads his own multi-million-dollar company.
Brendon asked our group, “How many of you are the most successful person in your family?” Everyone in the room raised their hand. He then followed with, “How many of you are the most successful person from your hometown?” Many (but not all) hands raised again.
Brendon commented that when he typically asks those two questions, only a few raise their hands. No doubt, our group was exceptional. The biggest question, then, is “why?”
Like Brendon, most of my mastermind members did not come from affluence. They didn’t have the benefit of connections or influential families. Yet each has been wildly successful. What was the common denominator? They were all mavericks, rule breakers.
Each had envisioned a different and bigger future for themselves, beyond their families, friends, and even their hometowns. Like Brendon, they had broken through expectations, viewing traditional rules as a place to start, not stop. They had redefined norms and rules, expanded thought, broken boundaries and shook off the flak from those too rigid to see beyond “the way it’s supposed to be.” They didn’t just dream, they barreled into the unknown, with a passion to make their dreams come true.
One “rule breaking” member of our group is my good friend and business maverick, Brandon Steiner. Brandon grew up in a Brooklyn apartment, with a single mom who struggled to put food on the table. Like Brendon, Brandon’s community had low expectations for themselves and for him. Brandon would not accept what others expected. He looked for what I call “gaps in the herd.” What normal was, he did differently.
In Brandon’s terrific book, You Gotta Have Balls, he shares how he leveraged a meager $4,000 in savings into a mega-successful $50 million sports empire, Steiner Sports, by breaking the traditional rules in the sports industry, finding ways to take the old guard off guard every day.
Brandon’s “rent-an-athlete” program is a sports-industry rule breaker. It enables an individual or company to hire a celebrity athlete to attend a corporate or charity event, do a meet-and-greet, or even attend your birthday party without having to deal with an agent or players’ union. Brandon initially received major flak when he dreamed up this norm-breaking program because it eliminated red tape and middlemen. He shook off the resistance and naysayers, refused to accept no, and made it work.
Speaking of flak, you had better expect it when you break from what others think you should do. I’ve done this several times in real estate, receiving accolades from consumers, but sometimes daggers from my competition. We all know there are legal rules we must follow or risk fines and imprisonment. But that’s not true with the rules of business and life.
I’ve learned not to blindly succumb to what’s typical in my town, traditional in my family, set by my company, expected by my peers, restricted by my capability, limited by my energy and barred by my fear. I question everything and don’t let normal be my norm.
“Never forget . . . if you don’t set your own rules, someone else will.”