Introduction to Volume 12

Success is not accident, success is actually a choice.” – Stephen Curry

The story of Golden State Warriors point guard and NBA MVP, Stephen Curry, is well documented. It entails doubt, persistence and hard work ultimately resulting in triumph on the basketball court. Of course he had talent, but it really started with the choice he made to create good work habits and to maintain the discipline he needed to stick to those habits no matter what came his way. He was on a mission to become one of the best shooters on the planet.

There’s a reason we often turn to sports stories for inspiration. Professional athletes endure grueling training schedules, injuries, missed milestones, heartbreaking failures, sacrifices and often personal adversity. In business, as in sports, having a talent is not enough to succeed. Whether creatively visionary or technically gifted, any professional who is serious about becoming a leader in today’s environment is going to require a meaningful purpose, sacrificial effort and persistence.

Freeman Hrabowski learned about sacrificial effort at a very early age after hearing Rev. Martin Luther King preach at his church in Birmingham. Only 12 years old, he led a peaceful children’s march for the freedom to attend a better school and was promptly jailed for five days. But he wasn’t deterred because he knew he was working for something important. It was a lesson he carries in his work today as President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where their message as a campus is that “you don’t have to be wealthy to be extraordinarily good.” Hrabowski describes enlightened leadership as a collective—a group of people working toward a common goal.

What is one of your most memorable achievements? Maybe it was earning an advanced degree, or the first time your new business operated in the black, or when you organized a fund raiser that generated greater than expected funds. Regardless of the achievement, it didn’t just happen by accident. There was no winging-it or delegating the heavy lifting. You were focused and committed to the long-haul. You had purpose.

Jim George, the founder and Chairman of Management Support Technology, Inc. learned from his mother during the latter years of the great depression what was required to succeed. “In all things, she relied on herself, her dreams and her capabilities to make them a success. It taught me to do the same.” As a small-business owner that is driven by a mission to play a positive role in the country’s economic success, Jim echoes his mother’s emphasis on self-reliance, the importance of ensuring personal and business economic security, and consideration of the end-game in order to figure out what needs to be done to get there.

Today’s technology provides significant opportunities to connect with more people, and conduct business more efficiently. However, it also is developing insatiable appetites for immediate results which just aren’t realistic. Research from Louisiana State University indicates that believing that you will succeed actually makes it more likely that you will. However, you need to let go of some flawed expectations that will only get in your way and put in the hard work to achieve your goals. After all, when you limit yourself to only what drops in your lap, then you are at the mercy of others and limited in your achievements.

“Air cadets was a defining experience in my life because it changed me from a carefree kid into a very disciplined person,” reflects Dean Kattler, President and CEO of EnviroSolutions, Inc. “And through that change, I started to know what it felt like to be successful and to win.” The discipline and work-ethic he observed from his parents and implemented as a cadet served him well as a successful entrepreneur. He was no stranger to long days and perseverance in the face of many challenges, and developed a proven track record for turning around struggling businesses.

There are always going to be people in this world who’ve been given a leg-up…maybe through an inheritance, a family connection or dumb luck. But now, having completed 12 volumes of profiles and interviewing nearly 500 individuals, I can say confidently that there are so many more executive leaders among us who have fought hard against personal and professional struggles until they achieved their mission. It was no accident that got them where they are today. With real purpose, effort and persistence you can realize success just as you have defined it.

We all have a role to play in nourishing future business leaders. Surveys tell us that Millennials place a high value on authentic, transparent relationships, the ability to be philanthropic or mission-driven in their work life, and the importance of mentor/mentee relationships in order to learn and share. So I urge you to share your stories of perseverance and offer a peek into your life and career in order to help progress the next generation of diverse leaders who will continue our country’s strong history of entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity.

Gordon J. Bernhardt,
President and Founder
Bernhardt Wealth Management, Inc.

Since establishing his firm in 1994, Gordon Bern­hardt has been focused on providing high-quality ser­vice and independent financial advice in order to help his clients make smart decisions about their money. He specializes in addressing the unique needs of successful professionals, entrepreneurs and retirees, as well as wom­en in transition throughout the Washington, DC area. Over the years, Gordon has been sought out by numer­ous media outlets including MSN Money, CNN Money, Kiplinger and The New York Times for his insight into subjects related to personal finance.