It seems impossible for Aaron Walker to catch a break — from success. Every time he’s built a business up and tried to retire (at various points between 27 and 50), he finds himself back in the fray and ready to do it all over again. While he could try to take sole credit for having the gumption to stay in the game, he knows he’d probably be a hundred pounds heavier and perhaps too well-versed in Andy Griffith trivia if it weren’t for the gentle nudging of his loving wife of 38 years to remain active and keep doing what he loves: entrepreneurship.
Serial entrepreneur Aaron Walker’s early success in business in spite of severely humble beginnings (as detailed in his last appearance on this show) gave him a sense of confidence that, he now reflects, may have been inflated to an unhealthy degree. An extreme entrepreneurial drive and proven track record of financial success seemed a surefire recipe for fulfillment. But it wasn’t until he was 41 that it became brutally clear what ingredient was missing from this recipe: a sense of purpose — significance — beyond chasing money.
“I was headed to the office [and] had a very tragic automobile accident that really was the paradigm shift of my life, without a question,” says Aaron. “I unfortunately ran over and killed a pedestrian. My life came to a screeching halt that day.”
This event sent Aaron into a five-year tailspin that caused him to question his own success — and evaluate the shallowness of the legacy he’d leave behind once his ticket was up. He came to understand that true success requires a measure of significance — thinking of others and helping them succeed. He considers his business ventures since this paradigm shift to be the most successful of his life — even more than cashing out to a Fortune 500 company by the time he was 27.
“The enemy of excellence is isolation.”
While Aaron’s focus has changed in recent years, his determination has always been steadfast. Coming from a household where his mother wouldn’t even allow the kids to say “can’t,” he was able to transcend the point where his father’s entrepreneurial ambitions seemed to falter by being more afraid to miss an opportunity than failure.
This is the mindset he hopes to pass along by participating in mastermind groups that help others not just aspire to succeed, but learn how to succeed. He knows this is best achieved by collaborating with others and learning from their successes and failures while being humble enough to share his own.
“A lot of people won’t do that,” says Aaron. “A lot of people say, ‘Hey, I’m going to keep you at arm’s length; I’m not going to share things where I struggle. I’m not going to share with you that I don’t know what I’m talking about.’ See, I ask a lot of questions…I don’t allow my pride or ego to get in the way, because strength starts at the base. You’ve got to let the veil down. You’ve got to be transparent. You’ve got to be vulnerable. That’s why I’ve been in mastermind groups for twenty years. Without those guys, I don’t know where I would be. These guys have different lenses. They have different filters.
“You only have one life experience. You can only see things one way. No matter how hard you try, you’ve only got one filter and one life experience by which to determine. But when you surround yourself with people that don’t have anything to gain or lose — non-biased people — they have different life experiences. They have different filters. They can say, ‘You know what? I’ve done that before and life teaches me this.’ Or, ‘I’ve done that before and it sounds good in the textbook, but in reality, this is the way.’
“You get this general consensus of the multitudes. Because you put smart people in a room, now the IQ level goes to genius. Because you’ve got multiple people in the room that can help you. But people don’t want to subject themselves to that kind of scrutiny because they want their buddy to think [they] know what’s going on. The truth of the matter is, you can’t know what’s going on in every arena. And so I surround myself and keep myself surrounded with people on a daily basis so that I can maybe look foolish or silly in that group, but it protects me from looking silly and foolish out in the world.”
Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn more about how Aaron was able to break away from his family’s cycle of poverty to achieve the beginnings of success so early in life, how recently consulting with his mastermind group about what seemed like a surefire deal saved Aaron untold money and hardship, the importance of giving credit to those who help us succeed over satisfying our own egos, why we should be thankful for tough advice from the people we trust, how helping others repays dividends far beyond the time it takes to do so, why looking outwards and boosting others toward success relieves the fears we feel about our own success, how Aaron turned an alliance with his own competition into a win/win scenario, who to invite into your mastermind group (and who you probably shouldn’t), and lots more.
THANKS, AARON WALKER!
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AJ Harbinger - author of 1157 posts on The Art of Charm
AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality.
Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.
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