This episode is the story of a man who thought he had hit rock bottom – then the floor fell out from under him. Drawing lessons from his struggle from being laid off twice, losing his wife, and starting a failed business, Chris Sprague bounced back and built a very successful business. He did that by figure out exactly what he was wired and meant to do. In this episode, Chris shares his process for figuring out what YOU are wired to do so that you can be successful too.
Meredith: Okay, so Chris you have a really interesting story. A lot of people say that your life starts when you hit rock bottom, but in our little pre-conversation, you talked about bouncing from bottom to bottom to bottom before you finally started coming up again. Can you tell us a little bit about that and a little bit about how you got started in your speaking business?
Chris: Sure and first of all, thanks a lot for having me on today. It’s great, I’m looking forward to it, I’m honored to be on the show. And it’s going to be interesting; it’s going to be a fun time. So if we had 6 days, 17 hours and 32 minutes- yes, I have now calculated it- I could tell you my whole life story, but in the interest of time and the fact the we don’t have that much time, I’m going to give you the really short version. See I’ve been blessed to be in front of people and on a stage in one way, shape or form for close to 40 years now, but in the middle I took a detour. I took the detour that every great public speaker takes and that is Information Technology. Yeah, I know it’s kind of ironic to hear somebody who loves to be on the stage and loves to be in front of people, jumping into Information Technology. Well, I did that because it was one of the couple of gifts that God had given me, and let’s face it, it paid real well. The reason I bring it up is because toward the end of my career in IT which lasted about 15 years, I got laid off twice, and I thought that the second layoff was kind of rock bottom. At that point I was still married, still had a beautiful house, still had everything that the world would say was successful: money, cars, the whole nine yards. But I had also just lost a very lucrative job, I was Senior Director for a Fortune 500 company, so I kind of thought that I had hit bottom.
I then proceeded to not be able to get back into the workforce, in my chosen profession, because this was 2010 and people just weren’t hiring people at my level, because they were trying to save money. So I then had thought, once again, that I had hit rock bottom when people were telling me “no” pretty much every other day and I couldn’t get back into my profession. I thought I’d started coming out of it when I joined the John Maxwell team as a founding partner in his coaching, teaching, public speaking certification program and figured that that was going to change my life. And boy, did it ever, for good and for bad. To really wrap this up and to short cut, in the years that have gone on since then, my wife has left me, because the business wasn’t successful and because at one point, she just looked at me and she said, “Look, get a real job. This business isn’t successful, I’ done with the stress. Get a real job or I’m moving on.” And I felt so confident, at that point, that I could make the business successful that I stuck to me guns and so did she.
And when I talk about finally hitting really rock bottom, it was after she had left that I remember one day, I was laying on the couch here and I put one foot on the ground and put it back up and said, “Yay”. That was my only excitement for the day and that was when I realized that I was at the bottom, because my wife had left and I was going through financial turmoil, my birth mom had been diagnosed with cancer and little did I know that she was going to die very shortly after that, and also I was going to lose my last grandparent. So it was just a very, very rough time. Now, I just want to say one thing. I could’ve avoided all of this by understanding how I was wired and making my business successful much sooner than I actually did.
Jasper: Now, the interesting thing though is that you were still determined to go the business route, having your own business, rather than still persevere, trying to go back into paid work. Because that’s the thing here, there’s a lot of security or a lot of people think there’s security in that paid job whereas you can look at running your own business as very risky. How did that equate in terms of your decision making process in going forward with that despite all the problems that went with it?
Chris: I knew in my heart and my soul, with every fiber of my being, that I was meant to do what I’m doing. I knew I was meant to be on the stage. I knew I was meant to inspire, transform and empower people’s lives. I thought it was in a bit of a different way back then. It wasn’t until later I realized it was meant to be through empowerment, not leadership, as the lead-in, but I knew with every fiber of my being. And I also knew that if I made the business successful, I could overcome everything, because I believed the financial stress was the biggest worry. So rather than settling for a short-term financial gain, which I had no promise that that was going to work either. I mean, let’s face it, you can’t go back and make minimum wage and still survive in this world, even with two people working. And I had no guarantee that trying to go back and rekindle my IT career which I had been out of, at that point, for a few years and out of the deep hands-on technical stuff for even longer, there was no guarantee that that was going to work. So I had two no-guarantee situations, but I knew that I had much more control over creating a business that would be successful, than I did over going to find another job to get back into the workforce.
Jasper: Well, I guess, that’s the thing is that it’s all in your hands, not in somebody else’s hands, isn’t it? That’s the key thing.
Chris: Yes, exactly, and let’s face it, I make no bones about it. While I wasn’t happy in the beginning… By the way, any of you powerful, successful women put there that are good-looking, and like hiking, camping and kayaking, give me a call. There ends the dating portion of my shell, please don’t cut that portion. I like to throw that in every time.
But no, the point of it is even though when you own a business, and when you own a business like I do, you are still at the whim of your customers, you still can accept 100% responsibility for success or failure. It took me a long time to really own that. But I admit, I could’ve done things and figured out things to make things more successful sooner. I didn’t. I didn’t come upon some realizations until it was too late. But that’s on me. It’s not on anybody else. So it’s not like there was a CEO out there making a decision that, like my last layoff, I was seven months into a Senior Directorship and the CEO said, “Well, we’re going to reorganize and we’re going to layoff a thousand people.” Okay. I didn’t have to go through that. Both were scary, but it’s something that if you like being in control of situations, working and doing your passion, living to your passion is a much better situation to be in than just living for a pay check.
Meredith: Also, as a business, you don’t have all your eggs in the one basket. You have more than one client and so if one client doesn’t work, you, hopefully, have more. But what I wanted to touch on is that you were talking about how things might’ve been different for you if you had realized earlier that you needed to really play to your strengths and really do what you were meant to do. When did you come to that realization in your journey?
Chris: Yeah, that came way, way too late. And partially, the reason why I talk about how you’re wired and I don’t focus on strengths as much is because I think we’re all born with a few strengths and a few gifts, so to speak. I’m lucky enough to be born with a couple. One is sharing which is we’re doing right now. Two is I was a fairly good bowler when I was younger and that was actually my chosen profession originally. And three is IT. So I was kind of blessed with a couple of different strengths, but it didn’t mean that’s how I was wired. I’m wired to share. So originally, I thought I was wired to share leadership tips and practices as a lead-in. I thought I was wired to teach people leadership, because I had been in leadership everywhere I went. Here was the challenge, and I’m going to keep this really short. The reason I was in leadership everywhere I went was because I was bullied as a kid and my brain wanted to keep me safe and didn’t want me to be bullied again. And I equated being a leader with never having to take guff from anybody, never having to take flack, never being bullied, because if you’re number one, nobody bullies you. Yeah, that’s a fallacy. If you’re number one, you’ve got a target on your back. Everybody wants a piece of you.
So the point is this is I misunderstood. I knew I was wired to share, but I misunderstood what I was wired to share at the beginning. And I thought it was leadership because of things that had happened to me over my life, but it wasn’t until seven or eight months after my wife had left that I realized that I was meant to share and teach people how to understand how they are wired and to inspire, empower and transform their lives in that way.
Favorite Book: 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
Want to get a free audiobook version of the book recommended by this week’s guest? Click here to download it.
Guest: Chris Sprague
Chris M. Sprague is the International Transformation and Empowerment Ambassador, keynote speaker, best-selling author and a pioneer in the study of how people are wired. His purpose in life is to inspire and empower people to
understand how they are wired and, in turn, transform their life. Through research, personal experience and working with countless clients, Chris has discovered that once you understand how you are wired, you will be able to eliminate many frustrations and transform your life and business. Chris is also a thought leader and accomplished professional speaker delivering a message of transformation and hope for the future. He speaks to audiences from 10 to over 10,000 and empowers people to transform their future by transforming their thoughts using an open, honest, straight-forward approach to change
Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn
[smart_podcast_player url="http://ic.instantcustomer.com/instantcasts/feed/podcast/b73e1c68b8dcbd3a779ada4e46c02210" color="3B9400" show_name="Paycheck To Passion Podcast" ]