I’m sure we’ve all had to overcome some kind of adversity to gain the privilege of becoming CEOs. For me, most of my first 25 years on this earth were spent angry, confused and misunderstood. However, I ultimately chose to turn adversity into success by learning to change my mindset.

As a child, I had a severe learning disability and could not communicate or read. I struggled from kindergarten through 10th grade and did not make eye contact with teachers. I didn’t know what they were saying, and I didn’t want to be called on and be embarrassed. I had to be separated from my younger brother by 16 months because he was learning to talk like me. Around first grade, I was also diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. In addition to not being able to communicate and read, I felt alone, confused and angry, realizing that I was different.

As a coping mechanism, I learned how to fake my way through school and social settings so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself and be embarrassed. I went to a Catholic high school because of a partial sports scholarship. My parents could not fund the difference so I entered the school’s work-study program, working as a janitor. After school, I had to clean the classrooms, bathrooms and floors. Looking back, although I was embarrassed at the time, I realize it was a humbling experience to be cleaning the school I attended while my fellow classmates were still around watching me do it.

Out of all these childhood experiences, I had a burning desire within me to find a way out and to succeed. I was pissed off but couldn’t articulate why. I had no idea how I was going to escape at the time, but I was determined to do so. This determination led me to develop a tremendous work ethic, and I was blessed with some opportunities to change my mindset and therefore change my life.

PMA: the first turning point

I was fortunate to be introduced to PMA (positive mental attitude) by my high school basketball coaches. We had jerseys and banners with PMA and speakers were brought in to talk about how we could use PMA to become better people and players. It was the first mindset shift that changed my life. I soaked up anything PMA and learned how to apply it in my life.

Mentors to the rescue

During my senior year in high school, I took a bookkeeping class and for the first time in my life, I got it and it was easy. I graduated high school with barely a 2.0 GPA and only a 17 on the ACT. So, I didn’t think I could get into my local college, but I did. While majoring in accounting, suddenly it all clicked. In addition, I had a professor who was a great mentor to me and showed me a path to get out of my circumstances. I did everything he said. I got almost a 4.0 in my accounting classes, got through Toastmasters, became an officer in the Accounting Association, and was asked to join Beta Alpha Psi and Mortar Board. Following my mentor’s advice resulted in me getting eight out of eight offers to what were then the Big 8 accounting firms and passing the CPA exam the first time while still in school.

Life plan to success

Finally I was on a path forward, out of my childhood embarrassment and shame. Even with a newfound PMA mindset, however, I was still occasionally pissed off because of the lingering impacts of the learning issues on my ability to read and speak. It was then that I was introduced to a life-planning system that enabled me to plan out my life in 5-year increments in the following seven areas: career, financial, mental, physical, family, social and spiritual. For my life dreams, I had to visualize the realization of my goals and paste pictures and images of how I viewed success once I achieved each goal. Because of this, for the first time, not only did I have a way out, more importantly, I had a plan and could see myself achieving success.

Dreams come true with good planning

As part of this planning, I pursued an Executive MBA to increase the likelihood of achieving my goal of transitioning from accounting and finance to running companies. I received an EMBA and then in 2000, at age 37, three years before my life plan goal stated, I was promoted to President of Roth Bros., Inc. The company was a national contractor founded in 1923. Then in 2006, at age 44, six years before my life plan goal, I was part of owning the company and lead the purchase of Roth from a large publicly traded company. At age 49, 11 years prior to my life plan goal, I became financially independent by leading the sale of Roth to a large global company for an 83X return on our investment. It was an American dream.

My adoption of PMA, great mentors and developing a life plan all helped to form a positive path forward for me. The burning desire I had to overcome my childhood learning issues fueled my work ethic. Overcoming the adversity I faced gave me coping skills that I often leveraged throughout my career. I have been blessed to have many wonderful people in my life who helped me when I needed it. My anger has turned to gratitude. The combination of all these things have shaped my success.

I started 10X CEO Coaching consistent with my life plan and life mission which is to help others succeed. I have overcome adversity and achieved success, and I coach CEOs to do the same. If you want to find out more about how I can help you and your business grow, let’s connect.