On Monday, July 24th, interns at the Veloz Group heard from Stuart Cohen, an entrepreneur in the insurance and financial services as well as motivational speaker. Although Cohen has been blessed with many successes in his life, he has dealt with just as many obstacles. His varied experiences left him with valuable advice interns were able to identify with.
“The process is the roses.”
If you’re simply fixated on the end goal, with blinders on during the middle part, you’re essentially missing the most important moments. You need to be hyperaware of all the moving parts in the journey because life is the exact opposite of predictable. You’re learning things when you least expect. Things are changing dramatically, and you have to be able to keep up with them. One of these changing things is people. You’re the result of your 5 best friends, so if they’re not wholeheartedly supporting and motivating you, you need to come to terms with the fact that they’re bringing you down.
With these important points as his introduction, Cohen jumped right into his “rollercoaster” of a life. In high school, with a subpar GPA and SAT score, Cohen was not an ideal candidate for top colleges. However, following in his brother’s footsteps, he strongly wished to attend USC. He knew he was more than just numbers on a paper and was determined to get a meeting with the dean; after the receptionist said a meeting with the dean was not possible, Cohen called the office every day for 3 weeks. Finally, the receptionist asked if he would ever stop calling. The answer was, “Not until I get a meeting.” At this point, Cohen was willing to come to the offices and wait in person. The receptionist caved and just a week after Cohen’s meeting with the dean, he was offered an acceptance to the prestigious institute. Cohen says you need this determined entrepreneurial mind to do anything in life.
After 4 years at USC, Cohen graduated and passed the insurance test after 7 attempts. His father was highly regarded in the insurance world, and Cohen wanted to follow his example. His father’s passing completely changed his world but he was more motivated than ever to be #1 in the company so that he would speak on his father’s behalf at the following year’s banquet. At 32 years old, Cohen became the youngest person to finish first in the company. He worked extremely hard, taking advantage of all the opportunities presented to him and succeeding. He emphasizes the importance of actively looking for opportunities, devising a plan on how to get yourself to these opportunities, and then letting nothing stop you until you’re there.
To an outsider, at a young age, Cohen had the picture perfect life: huge house, beautiful family, more than financially stable work. He had sold his company and was even rebuilding somewhat of a dream house. Somewhere along the way though, Cohen lost his focus, and his understanding of the “why.” The 2008 recession hit him extremely hard and his previous lifestyle—the house, the vacations, the gifts—was no longer attainable for him and his family. He says he was extremely blessed to have a family that supported each other through all this though; they loved each other more than life itself; these are the kinds of people you need in life.
There’ll be times like these when life serves you disappointment after disappointment. It’ll feel like a cruel, sick twist of fate, and you’ll wonder if things will ever get better. They will though. Although it took longer than he expected, Cohen found his “why” back, and accordingly, rebuilt his life. Motivated by leadership expert Simon Sinek’s model for inspirational leadership (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action#t-492353), Cohen reveals that you must be so, so confident in your “why.” Why are you doing what you’re doing? And if people believe in what you believe in, they’ll follow you anywhere. Just be sure of your cause and your purpose. It’s never about the product, but always about the belief.
As for some more tangible advice, Cohen urges interns to spend at least an hour every morning and night reading, writing, and following mentors. He says self-education is the most important kind. With the Internet, everything we want to learn is literally just a few clicks away. What a time to be living. Take advantage of it.