Let’s take a step back in time. I grew up in Parma, Ohio a blue-collar town on the southwest side of Cleveland, Ohio. We lived in a very modest three-bedroom home on the north side of Orchard Ave. We had one bathroom to share between my parents, me and my younger sister. My father worked as a color technician at the Sherman Williams paint factory about 5 miles from our home. My mother stayed at home to care for my sister and me. It was a house full of love, great meals and family fun complete with a Chevy and a dog.
For me, from a young age, I was always asking questions. I wondered how some people were so successful and yet others were not. Etched into my memory was a Saturday afternoon in the fall of the year, when my mother drove me to the new “Great Northern” shopping center in North Olmstead, Ohio to buy new “school clothes.” As we drove down Mastic Road, certainly a more affluent area than Parma, I admired the beautiful houses that lined the street on both sides. I said to my mother that I wanted to someday live in a house like the ones we were driving by. She asked me, “How I was going to accomplish that?”
As only a young boy could, I replied, “I’ll just go up and knock on the door and asked them what they did for a living? How did they make the money necessary to live in this house? “
My mother, being the wise soul that she was, asked me what would happen if the first house was occupied by a doctor? What if the next house was occupied by a banker? What if the next house was occupied by a business owner? This continued curiosity led me into graduate school to receive a master’s degree in human behavior. Ultimately, I earned a master’s degree in business administration. The MBA fueled my curiosity even further. Why is it some companies are so much more successful than others?
When speaking, I refer to my hours of research and countless interviews of successful individuals. In my personal library, I have accumulated well over 100 books on the psychology of human performance and human behavior. These have served well as a reference source throughout my teaching career and lectures. I have drawn upon a consensus of thought by many behavioral psychologists, as well as great coaches and recognized leaders in their professions. I also turned to the biographies of successful people who I grew to admire.
I’ve always been hugely fascinated by individuals who have overcome great odds to become successful. In my book, The Privilege of Adversity, the definition of success is explored. The reader will find it to be a rather fluid and relative definition. My own personal definition of success has evolved. Clearly as our values and perceptions in life change, so does our purpose, passions and our pursuits. Thus, my definition of success has evolved throughout my life. Early on, success was thought to be hugely economic based, as well as educational attainment. As I got older, it became more about character and contribution. It is still evolving into a degree of security and significance.
In the book, individuals who I’ve interviewed, offer their definitions of success. These are people who have overcome great odds and challenges to achieve remarkable accomplishment. We discuss their journey from very humble, challenging beginnings, to their attainment of extraordinary achievement. Adversity is the common thread in every story. There are also common characteristics shared by each achiever. Over the 55 years of my career in education and business, I have distilled the positive qualities these achievers exhibit into five fundamental, foundational character traits.
The book discusses each of the 5-traits in depth. The goal is to validate the concept that if they did this then the reader may find extraordinary achievement as well, i.e. if they did it…,then so can I.