When I interviewed Jesse Iwuji on LinkedIn Live I found him so inspiring I wanted you to hear his story too.
Jesse, the son of immigrant parents, grew up in Dallas, Texas. In high school, he wanted to play sports, and in Texas, football is the sport. He played high school football and continued to play as an undergrad during his four years with the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduation, Jesse became a surface warfare officer, operating ships in the United States Navy. After several deployments, he was back on land with some free time on the weekends and decided he wanted to become a NASCAR racer.
Let me pause for a moment and explain why that might have seemed like an impossible dream.
NASCAR is the premier motorsport in the United States. People who compete in it usually start racing go-karts as young as five years old. They work their way through various levels of competition to reach the NASCAR pinnacle.
Jesse was coming to this dream in his 20s, with no prior experience, no connections in the sport, and was actively serving in the military.
He had a Corvette and a Challenger that he would drive at local courses on their open track days, weekends when amateurs can bring a car and enjoy driving around the track. But that wasn't going to get him to NASCAR.
First, Jesse needed training which can be expensive. He was resourceful and found a disruptive solution by purchasing a simulator that allowed him to practice cost-effectively at home.
He also needed a sponsor. When few could see the future he envisioned, Jesse embraced his constraint and chose to sponsor himself. He rented local drag strips and invited people to race their cars, held events, and sold concessions to make money. He then paid his way into some low-level races and gradually started working up the ranks of the sport.
Two important lessons are:
- Write your goal down. Jesse wrote his goal on a whiteboard––Become a professional race car driver—so he could see it all the time. He pictured himself becoming what he wanted. The obstacles were irrelevant. He would make this dream a reality.
- Ignore the naysayers. “Sometimes those people who doubt are the closest people to you,” he says. “It could be family; it could be friends but don't let that be something that deters you. When you're going after a big goal and dream, you're taking a lot of risks. You're leaving that safe and secure nest. But there's no way to grow if you stay there.
“Never let someone's opinion of you become your reality.”
That's what I want you to remember. You are the world's foremost expert on you. Let your opinion of you become your reality.
What is it that you want right now? Is something(s) standing in your way? How can you bypass that obstacle, or better yet, turn it into a tool of creation?
This week's podcast is an encore episode with Scott Miller, the former CMO of Franklin Covey and host of one of the world's leading podcasts on leadership. Scott is a fantastic storyteller, a master at the reframe. He continually uses his messes, as he calls them, as tools of creation. Join us and learn how you, too, can do the same for yourself.
As always, thank you for being here!