Problem-solving is in my DNA. For as long as I can remember, I’ve derived immense satisfaction from the process of finding creative solutions for puzzling issues. Through life’s twists and turns, this curiosity has remained a constant: at Cornell, where I earned an Engineering degree; on the playing field, where I sought improvement and mastery in lacrosse and football; and now in my home, as a husband and a dad.
But nowhere was this devotion to finding solutions more evident than in my business pursuits, which have all involved helping people in one way or another. In my 20's and 30's, I fell in love with starting and growing businesses, each with the objective of creating a valued service or product that a customer would buy and where a market was formed: an ultimate example of problem-solving. Then, in 2009, my mom passed away and my world was turned upside down. Shortly after that, my most recent business failed. I was consumed by a new and profound sense of loss.
At that point, my penchant for solving problems took on a lot more meaning. The fragility of life became so very clear to me. I had to take a step back to evaluate myself and the path I was on. While I couldn’t have told you exactly what my best life looked like, one thing was abundantly clear: the ways I filled my free time—coaching young people, teaching at University of Colorado and Colorado School of Mines, and mentoring at Techstars Boulder—made me come alive.
In other words, I realized that my core purpose is to unleash greatness in the people around me.
That realization was a step, but then what? Is it possible to build a career as a Greatness Unleasher?
If the desire is there, it turns out, it is (see: Turning Thoughts into Reality). But this was far from a solo endeavor. I have countless people to thank for helping me discover my core purpose and execute this daunting transition, including my business partners who jumped onboard and believed so early on; my personal mentors who taught me how to motivate and inspire entrepreneurs to drive tremendous change; my investment partners who taught me that it is critical to invest in people first, markets second, and products third; and especially my family, who has seen me in my best and worst, who supported me, built me up, and had my back. I am humbled, grateful, and truly thankful.
Borrowing foundational concepts from greats like Napoleon Hill (his Go-Giver model) and Andrew Carnegie (his start-to-finish strategy), and inspired by Techstars and the startup community they're building, the concept of Black Lab Sports took root. And at this unique intersection of art, athletics, and business, my former pastimes took center stage. I now spend each day doing what I love most: challenging, equipping, and uplifting others, so their purpose is defined, their goals are clear, and their skillsets grow stronger.
I ask almost everyone I meet the same question: What is your core purpose? Yet I'd guess that less than 2% of them are prepared to answer. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to identify your core purpose. To some, it might be obvious, while to others, it might take days or weeks of introspection to find. But the sooner you can be truthful with yourself and recognize the things that set your heart on fire, the more fulfilling your world will be.