Thursday 18 December 2014

Brian Kelly's Story: A Journey to Discovering Purpose -- Part I

My Story: A Journey to Discovering Purpose -- Part I
December 9, 2014

Believe it or not, this is a short version of a very long story. It tells in two parts, which ultimately build up to the main inspiration of what I, and many others like me all around the world, are now focusing our energy on. If nothing else, I hope that this story inspires all those to read it to play a more active role in creating tangible and lasting world change. Just remember, the real work always starts and finishes within you. ~BK

"The riskiest thing we can do is maintain the status quo." 

For as long as I can remember, I've had a deep inner sense that something was a bit off in the world. Feeling inadequate and not worthy are common symptoms of adolescence, learning more about ourselves through our experiences, and going toe to toe with our own egos. This is normal (as much as I detest that word). I'm more referring to the feeling of life on Earth being out of balance. Incredible confusion because so much of what I saw just didn't seem to make sense.

I remember standing in the welfare line with my dad waiting for our ration of food, milk, cheese, or whatever was offered on any given day. Having no understanding of what "financial hardship" was at the time, it was just hanging out with dad. There was always food when I was hungry, water when thirsty, a soft bed to sleep in, bath to bathe and a roof over my head every night of my life.

As I grew a bit older and began to become more aware, I started to see the injustice in how the poor slept in the street, clothes torn and tattered, with an outstretched hand begging for just a few cents to buy a meal. I remember feeling helpless. The urge to want to help, but not knowing how it was possible to help so many was discouraging. Even then, it hurt. I could feel their suffering. I could feel the pain. The hopelessness. The sense of feeling lost in a world that doesn't care. Looking back on it now, that's where this story really begins...

Fast forward to the ladder part of my college years. Excited but nervous to get out into the world to shake things up. It all started with reading Robert Kiyosaki's book, "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." After years of not knowing what I wanted to "DO" in my life or which "career" I would choose, I suddenly became very passionate about making money and becoming "successful." Even better was, I was starting to see all the possible ways of doing it. I began to learn concepts like, "wealth is a mindset," and "assets over liabilities," becoming fascinated by the idea of financial independence. Fueled by the motivation of not wanting to evolve into my adult life struggling financially, as my parents had, there was no shortage of determination. My goal: make lots of money and retire by the age of 30.

Within six months of graduation I moved to Los Angeles and was recruited by First Security Lending, a high profile mortgage brokerage in Hollywood. After my first six months there, I had passed all the exams to become a licensed Real Estate Broker in the states of California, Washington & Oregon. Traded in my Honda Civic for a $60,000 E-class Mercedes (that was delivered to me at my office) and had my first of many months making over $10,000.

"There is enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed." 

The world was my oyster. Everything I needed was at my finger tips. My boss turned business partner set me up with my own office in Orange County. At one point, I had four other loan officers and ten telemarketers cranking away to bring in new business. Within weeks of signing papers at the new office, I had my first $20,000 month & financed my first condo for 590k. I had only been in business a little over a year and a half and I already found myself on the fast track to success. Everything was perfect...

(Las Vegas 2008 - this is what my life had become)

In the summer of 2007, less than one year after purchasing my condo, I was on a week long vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with my then girlfriend and another couple. Spending lots of money lavishly and not giving an ounce of thought to the possibility everything was about to change. After dropping close to $5,000 in just one week of partying in Cabo, it was time to head home. 

Tired and hungover, I expected to be greeted by smiling faces and a new round of funded loans to replenish what I had spent on my trip. Instead, it was more like an energetic bomb had exploded. Everyone looked shell shocked. While I was gone, New Century Bank, our main sub-prime lender with whom we did the majority of our business, had gone belly up. Within a week a series of other lenders followed suit. The whole market began to crash. The most sobering part? I didn't save ANY money.

Fast forward six months. It's a very humbling experience to have to pour out a cup of change from a grown up piggy bank (a 5 gallon water jug filled half way mostly with quarters), to take to Coin Star, and cash in for bills, just to buy a cheese burger at Jack In the Box for dinner. To not have gas money to fill the tank in my $60k car I could no longer afford while also now four months past due on my mortgage. A random knock on the door to be greeted by a process server letting us know we were being sued by our Homeowner's Association for not paying our dues. All this while trying to continue to pay out employees, leaving absolutely nothing left over for our own sustenance. What the hell was happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? 

"Greed does not rest until it is satisfied and it is never satisfied." 

The climax of this whole downward spiral experience was cooking pancakes by candle light in our cold shell of a home. Our electricity was cut off for excessive non payment. The gas was still on fortunately, and I have to admit, pancakes for dinner never tasted so good! It was in that moment I had the realization that would change my life.  

I wasn't going to die. 

Yes, things were difficult. Yes, in this moment my reality appeared to suck beyond measure. But, was it really that bad? I started thinking about all the people around the planet who, even despite my current circumstances, still had it WAY worse off than me. My problems, in that moment, became laughable. I actually laughed out loud. In all honesty, I think it was more like a half cry/half laugh, but whatever IT was, it was a release. It was confirmation that my situation wasn't that "bad."

I quickly found myself grateful to be alive.

Grateful to have friends and family who cared about me and who would be there if I ever needed a meal, a place to stay, a hug, or reassurance that everything was going to be ok. It was around this time my mom gave me a book to read called "The Power of Intention," by Dr. Wayne Dyer. This marked the beginning stages of my awakening. What followed was "ah hah" moment after "ah hah" moment. Remembering's of Universal Truths that lay dormant inside of my own consciousness, waiting to be triggered out by by pre-designed events, carefully orchestrated to assist in the process of becoming more aware to who I AM and "what" I'm doing here. Answers to the burning questions I held within me dating back to my youth started flushing in. What happened next, you ask?


I quickly realized it wasn't money I was after. It was happiness.

Moral of the Story #1: BE HAPPY

"It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness." 

Now armed with this new level of awareness, a clear head and an open heart, my work continued. Only this time I opted to implement the NATO approach  -- Not Attached to Outcome. Along with Law of Attraction, one of the many new ideologies I began to adopt early in my awakening process. 

Over the next few years, I received a Master's level education in what many call The School of Hard Knocks. Basically, hands on, high speed, high impact, high risk business training. Only this time, it wasn't only focused on the money. It was at this point I really started to grasp and better understand the concept and importance of "value." Success in business would be a direct reflection of how much value we could bring to our customers, strategic partners, employees, investors, et al. In retrospect, I still had much to learn but this was at the very least, a good start.

Moral of the Story #2: PROVIDE VALUE

"Strive not to be a success, strive instead to be of value." 

Once again, in 2009 I was back on the upswing. I was the President & CEO of an advertising and marketing startup, called SkyTek Digital Media. For a $30,000 investment we licensed and became sole distributors of a proprietary digital signage technology that was crushing the market in South Korea. 

Now, I was learning how to draft PPM's (Private Placement Memorandums), write business plans, assemble teams, high and train sales teams and virtually everything in between. In the winter of 2009, I attended a got word of an event called CEO Space, which I raised funds for and received a Certification in Entrepreneurship. What a valuable experience this was for my own self development In one week, I received MBA level training in: Marketing, Branding, Sequencing, Strategic Planning & Execution, Sales Training, Intellectual Property, Raising Capital, Public Relations, Advanced Team Building, Systems Development, Social Networking, & Internet Marketing. I know it doesn't sound feasible to learn that much in seven days, but when it's laser pointed and focused for 10 hours a day straight, it's surprising how much can be accomplished. 

I got to hang out with hugely inspiring and powerful speakers and trainers, the likes of Les Brown, Lisa Nichols, John Assaraf and the founder Berny Dohrmann. It was at this event, we were trained to greet everyone we met with, "what's your WOW, how can I serve you?" This mentality of shifting the focus from self to others was invaluable. 

Our business as a result, became all about empowering businesses through the virtue of cooperation over competition. All designed around the fundamental objective of maximum service to the customer. 

Moral of the Story #3: BE OF SERVICE

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others." 

Shortly after, I attended an event in Atlanta, Georgia, called Gathering of the Angels, where I stood up, knees trembling and scared out of my mind, in front of a room full of angel investors to pitch the concept of Skytek. All in all, after everything was said and done we raised nearly $500k in seed capital. Everything seemed to be on the up and up. I even won some marketing awards for the unique plan I had developed.\
Brian Kelly and SkyTek WIN Big with two Awards in Marketing
Brian Kelly, CEO and president of SkyTek Digital Media in Costa Mesa, a new advertising company specializing in digital signage, announced the company was awarded Best New Product/Service at the San Diego Chapter’s 2010 American Marketing Association’s American Marketer of the Year Award ceremony. The “AMYs” are awarded to those who succeed connecting businesses with their customers and are judged according to effectiveness, quality, style, and execution. 
SkyTek was also named a Finalist at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards for the category of Most Innovative Marketing Plan!
Unfortunately, a year later just as we were building momentum, the whole thing fell apart due to a greedy business partner and a corporate attorney who got busted stealing from some elderly clients at his church. A perfect combination of crazy and shocking. Like I said before, this was all part of my "school of hard knocks." At least things could only go in one direction from here! At least, that's what I hoped :)

After SkyTek went down I was then recruited by a guy to help him launch a concept to bring back drive in movie theaters....accept with a major twist :) Here's a quick vid of me at a rec carpet event talking about it (only 2 min):

While working with LiTEBOX I had another major breakthrough. 

Moral of the Story #4: HAVE FUN

"People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing." 

My philosophy now: if it's not fun, it's not worth it. I got to attend all sorts of awesome events, watch Incubus (one of my then favorite bands ) play from backstage, meet the band Bush and lots of other cool perks. But unfortunately once again, startup challenges reared their ugly head. My boss ran out of money, couldn't pay me or his bills and the whole thing fell apart. Shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a year. Fortunately, I was able to reconcile my anger toward him before he passed. A lesson in itself. 

Going without pay for four months wasn't without it's share of consequences. How I pulled through it though would present what I now consider one of the major defining moments of my life. Here is that story. 

(this video is also embedded in the interview with Hope Girl below)

Moral of the Story #5: GIVE, GIVE, GIVE & then GIVE some MORE

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."

"There is no such thing as a small act of kindness." 

This was right around the time I had just gotten back from a humanitarian trip/mission with my High School Health teacher, Lynne Moquete (Ms. Moquete). Every year she arranges for a group of her students to go to the Dominican Republic to help build homes for the homeless, put down cement in homes that have dirt floors, or whatever other projects need development to better serve the community, in a little village called, La Descubierta. The idea is to help students gain a sense for what life is like out of the "American bubble." It goes without saying, this trip changed my life in so many ways.

The group is called Una Vida. They also have an amazing women's cooperative program that makes authentic Dominican jewelry to enhance and empower the lives of the woman villagers there in the DR. Thank you Lynne for everything you have taught me about living a life of Service.

A few take aways from my experience. First of all, the majority of the town lives way below the poverty line. But what shocked me the most was how inherently happy everyone appeared. These are people who have struggled their entire lives to make ends meet. But on the flip side, were so incredibly grateful for what they did have. The community was more like a family than anything else. Children wandered the streets with no supervision and if strayed too far away from home would be returned by the neighbors. Never any worry about crime or kidnapping.

Lynne calls them a "front yard society," as opposed to "the backyard culture" we have grown so accustomed to in "developed nations." People hang out in the front and everyone knows each other and helps one another.

No running water in the homes. Electricity that only ran for random parts of the day (less than 8 hrs/day) and baths were taken in the local water hole. Despite all of these "supposed hardships" these people were as happy as could be. Talk about putting things into perspective. During those two weeks I lived with a host family in a tiny little shack barely able to speak a word to any of them. I got by with my broken high school Spanish but it wasn't much. They spoke NOT A WORD of English. It didn't matter. By the end of the two weeks that was my family. Mom and dad and brothers and sisters. All this without the use of language to communicate. Helped me to understand the gross limitations of language.

This family would give you the last shirt on their back if needed. MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH. My walls came crashing down.


"Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living." 

The job that I refer to in the giving video was with a company called ADT Security, where I was hired as a Sales Manager for their home security division. After five grueling interviews they finally offered me the job and despite my better judgment of taking on a gig in corporate America, I accepted and got to work.

Major financial struggles resulted in me disregarding my moral #3 (have fun).

This was my first time getting a taste of true Corporate America. It was also my first time since working in finance where I wasn't running the show or at least part of the core leadership team. It paid good money and I was able to offer a lot of value, but there was a few things I didn't resonate with. First, we were trained to sell "peace of mind." But, it didn't take me long to realize we were actually pushing fear. "Did you know one in five homes in the next five years will either have a break in or a fire?"

Secondly, I don't do corporate hierarchies well. I had three bosses at that job. Challenging? Completely. 


"Choose a job you live and you'll never have to work a day in your life." 

It was around this time that the Universe guided me to cross paths with a young, inspiring up and comer, Jake Ducey, at my yoga studio. This 20 year old kid quit his full ride basketball scholarship to travel around the world, on only $8,000, in search for life's purpose. He then came home to write a book about his journey called "Into the Wind" to inspire today's youth to follow their hearts and do what they love. On a flight to Sedona, Arizona for the weekend, I was only able to make it to about page 30 in, before I realized I had to quit my job.

Here is a short video with Jake's message:

Jake is now getting ready to launch his second book published by Penguin, foreword written by his mentor, Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. If you want to see more of Jake, I highly recommend watching his Ted Talk. Click here for the link. 


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