I was 32 and had just left my big corporate job to start my first business, the CBI Group.
My kids were 3 and 5 years old and with a growing family, there were many more conventional options than risking it all on a dream. But Kim, my wife, knew I would never really be fulfilled unless I gave entrepreneurship a try. With her undying support, I was going to run a company and make it work – one way or another. It’s what I always said I would do.
Before making the leap, I had 10 solid years of business leadership under my belt. My strengths were confidence, stamina, energy, work ethic, communication skills and the insatiable desire to always be better than the day before.
My weaknesses? Man, where do I even begin? I was glib, maybe a little naive and I felt invincible. I didn’t have any concept of what it meant to run a business during economic crises. To keep afloat, I attempted to work every waking hour thinking it was a good thing thinking that every burned-out hour would make me more deserving of the term “leader”.
I took every dollar I had and put into the business. I worked for “free” for two-plus years. But wait! It gets better: My wife was our bookkeeper and she also worked for free, bless her. To say money was tight was an understatement. I had saved and prepared for this journey – but nowhere near enough. And during this time; of course, the small trials of life were still happening stacking around each other like a game of Tetris.
Those early years were exhilarating and exhausting. With every mishap, I would think, “Oh well, I have nothing to lose but time.” Twenty years ago, it truly felt like I had an abundance of it. I am living the entrepreneur’s dream: risk everything, start a business, find a market, serve it well, grow, scale and try to run the business well and across its many iterations.
So, what surprises me most about where I am in life right now?
1 – I’m the old guy now. I knew this one was coming as you can’t cheat time, but man it does catch me off guard sometimes. I was always the youngest person in the room being 32 when I started my first company. The people I worked with and served were older than me. Today, I look up and I am the old dude in the room. My customers have moved on, generally are retired or stepping back into next career downshifts moving out of the corner office. Time is weird.
2 – I have no problem knowing who I am. I know my personal philosophies and culture, and this makes navigating life a bit simpler. When we start off in business we try ideas, approaches, we mirror those we respect or like until we decide who we are and what we stand for. Once I was clear about who I am, life got a lot easier.
3 – True leadership is the rarest skill of all. Mastering leadership is a journey of self-discovery and perseverance, and one where failure is the greatest teacher.
4 – That I still give a shit. My family was told recently that Burkhards are special because they care a little more and it shows. Business is personal to me, and that will never change.
5 – I consider my self-confidence my greatest strength, at this point in my career. I know how to think, have lived a lot of life, experienced many things and it’s satisfying for me to help others navigate the world of leadership and business.
6 – I live to teach and coach. Everything I do that gives me joy involves helping people in my life live the life they want at work, at home and in life.
I’m excited to share the lessons that have guided my leadership journey, will now be available first in my first audiobook, Opposite the Crowd, this fall. I’m proud to say the book was co-authored with my dad and mentor, Alan. The book includes lessons that center around a core idea: People can have the life they want if they know who they are deep down. More to come closer to completing the book
By the way, this book is a life/ bucket list item for me.
When we lose things we gain things. I can’t throw a baseball any longer or even throw overhand. I can’t sprint either with arthritis and other ailments; however, I think I have learned to appreciate that once I could do those things. I appreciate what I can do a whole lot more than I used to, in fact, I am much more likely to view whatever comes my way as a blessing or lesson to learn. The young me would have stewed for days or worse yet explained it away as beyond my control or someone else’s fault. Failure, or a loss used to bother me. Today I view them with detachment and have perspective. A life well lived gives you that!
So, tell me – what surprises you most about where you’re at now? What younger you would be completely shocked by or happy to learn? At the end of the day, would younger you be proud not because you were perfect, but because you gave your dreams a chance? Reply and let me know.
Until next time, friends.
If you enjoyed this article, I recommend reading these past Outside Insights posts:
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