SE Thoughts from a SEAL

Whether you’re into quantum mechanics or Karma, to truly succeed means you’ve helped others succeed. Below are three short vignettes of what can happen when you help others – these are true stories about things that have happened to me throughout my professional life, and they represent some of my major milestones.

Story #1: Easter “SEALs”

It’s early January1992 and I’m about half way through SEAL training – when I was dragged out of the water mid-way through a weekly two mile ocean swim. My lungs were filling with blood and phlegm – I can honestly say I know what it feels like to drown. Getting pulled from a swim is one step away from quitting. In my case, I was taken directly to medical for evaluation. After some lengthy tests, they discovered an “antigen” in my blood and that’s when I confessed…I had been sneaking asthma medication called Theodur. Something I had been taking since I was 12. As much as I had worked to convince myself I wasn’t asthmatic, I still hadn’t left behind my medicinal “crutch”. I was given an option to quit via a medical drop, or be removed from my current class, take something called a methacholine challenge and let the results of the test decide my fate. I opted for the latter. I had six weeks before I could rejoin a new class and wait for the scheduling of the test. Up until that point, I hadn’t really done much volunteering unless you count the mandatory stuff at the Academy. But I’m not counting that because I was only doing that to check a box. Since I was limited duty, I had some free time and though I can’t remember who it was, I ended up volunteering to help some severely disabled children “swim”. Imagine an extra large hot-tub with ramps and special lifts to lower children and adults into this massive warm water bathtub for the sensation of floating. Myself and another SEAL candidate swam these children around in the pool. We did it for a few hours a week, and I did it for no other reason or expectation than to help them (and keep them from drowning). I had no hidden agenda, just some extra time while I waited out my medical “sentencing” at SEAL training medical…weeks later, I pass the “challenge”, join BUD/S class 182 and graduate in July of 1992. (And I continued for the next 10 years helping special needs kids as a coach with the Special Olympics.)

Story #2: From Bankruptcy to Best in the Business

It’s 2006 and we are essentially broke. My business partner Mark and I hadn’t taken a salary in a year – we had $25k left from $1.5 million that we had raised over three years- not even enough to pay our bills to suppliers. We just didn’t want to admit it. While we’re floundering on what to do next , I get “promoted” to president of a local 150 person charity that I had been volunteering with since 2000. This is long-standing (founded in 1947) non-profit called the Guardsmen,  and it’s charter is to raise money to send under-privileged and at-risk Bay Area kids to camp and school. It was honor to receive the vote of confidence from my Guardsmen peers, but definitely not the ideal time for me to be president of this great group. My business was collapsing around me and being the president was a full-time job in itself. Again, I had no agenda other than not to let down the 150 volunteers and the kids that counted on our million dollars plus per year in donations. I gave that presidency role everything I had and then even more than I thought I had. I didn’t miss a single event (we had about 40 that year) and I even left the hospital within hours after my third son was born to attend an event. The volunteering there wasn’t completely selfless, I had made some of my closest friends during those years and it was a joy to be with them…but needless to say, it was a massive amount of work…and it was also the year we created and launched a little product that we hoped would help us pay some bills…that product was called The Perfect Pushup, and during my time as president our sales soared from $500k to $32 million. A year later, our little company was recognized by Inc Magazine as the fastest growing consumer products company in America.

Story #3: Building Bonds

In 2011, we sold Perfect Fitness to a larger company called Implus Corporation out of North Carolina. A perfect match really, they have the operational excellence and we have the design and marketing excellence. I promised to serve as the head of their new fitness division for three years, and as my three year anniversary approached I have an unexpected visitor at our home on an August weekend in 2014. Our guest is a well-known volunteer for our public schools in our community (where all four of my boys attend) and she’s asking for my help. Our public schools are stretched to twice the size of their intended capacity and for a variety of reasons, it’s been determined that an upcoming November vote is the best shot we have at getting a $30 million construction bond passed. Not only is the vote only three plus months away, it requires raising over $30k non-tax deductible dollars to set up an independent bond campaign… and because of the circumstances, for the bond to pass we need a super-majority (67%) of votes from our community.  I had NO campaign experience and nor did my teammates that joined our little committee (and the fall is the busiest time of year for the fitness division of Implus). But what we lacked in expertise we made up for in working our collective butts off. From conducting newspaper interviews to gymnasium sized community outreach meetings to multiple volunteer phone banks to “get-out-the-vote” calls, our efforts paid off and we got the votes (over 70%!) forthe bond that will improve our schools….and a month later, Implusstarts the process of selling to a larger private equity firm…which when complete four months later sets my family on a course to fulfill a twenty year dream of living overseas.

The point of these stories is to build a mental bridge for you between your actions and the achievement you seek. More to the point commit this ancient quotation to memory:

“Whatever you want from life, You must do for someone else first.”

– Jey Rinpoche (1357-1419), teacher of the First Dalai Lama

Okay, so by now you can probably see where I’m going. Of course I didn’t at the time, I just gave when I could and nor did I do it with much purpose-driven focus. Enter the The d. Read this book and you’ll understand why I’m sharing these three stories. Essentially this book summarizes how Karma works. No, I’m not turning into a Tibetan Monk nor am I Geshe Michael Roach (the author of the Diamond Cutter) trying to convert you into one! However, we’d both like to see you succeed which also means helping others succeed: enter SErtified

Whether you’ve already “made” it or you’re still on your path to success, helping others will help you in more ways than you can imagine….and that’s the point of SErtified. Help others and those efforts of help will boomer-rang back to you.

John Keagy started SErtified to help others but he can’t do it alone – none of us can. It’s takes teams of teams to transform entrepreneurial dreams into reality. He knows this first hand, as does every one of us who’ve already signed on-board to help promote social entrepreneurship. Trust me, you’ll get more out of it than they will – at least that’s been my experience every single time I’ve volunteered. Postpone one of those “Madmen” or “Game of Thrones” episodes to help give a little time to the SErtified community, get online in the Forums for an hour – YOU WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED!

The more you give – the more you receive,

Alden Mills