We had the good fortune of connecting with Sterling Hawkins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sterling, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
There was less thought and more feeling when starting my business. Several years back I found myself at rock-bottom after quite a rollercoaster ride. I’d started a company right out of college with my dad. We sold it to a group in Silicon Valley that went on to become the Apple Pay before Apple Pay (biometric payment where you would scan your finger for access to an electronic wallet), and I was riding high on success. We raised something like 550 million dollars at a multi-billion-dollar valuation, had offices all over the world, and employed over 700 people. Before I could blink, I was at the top where first class tickets, swanky offices, a gorgeous girlfriend and a penthouse apartment were waiting for me. It was like a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street! And then the global housing market collapsed, our investments dried up and within another blink of an eye, I was jobless, bankrupt, and even my girlfriend broke up with me. I went from penthouse to parents’ house. It played out like the lyrics to a bad country song.
That’s where I was the day I was listlessly staring at the computer screen and a random spam message popped up about a business conference. At that moment, one of my mom’s sayings popped into my mind. She had a lot of adages from when I was a kid like, “It’s cheaper to milk a cow than buy one.” What? Or, “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” I still don’t know what that means. But the saying that struck me that day – and suddenly made perfect sense – was, “The way out is through.” (Okay, it turns out that’s actually Robert Frost’s saying, but to me it will always be my mom’s.)
If I wanted to get out of the situation I was in, I had to go through discomfort to get there. Without thinking I hit the reply button and wrote, “Why don’t you have me speak? Best, Sterling.” They wrote back offering to discuss, and after several conversations, they offered me the opportunity to be the keynote speaker! I accepted – terrified – and then worked my tail off on the presentation and trying to acclimate to the severe discomfort I had of public speaking. All through those months leading up to the conference I was driven by the unrelenting discomfort and fear of what I had agreed to take on.
Only when I stepped off the stage after delivering my address did I finally feel some blessed relief. I think I blacked out during part of it I was so nervous. What a journey it had been! Little did I know, it was actually just starting. The conference director sought me out immediately, despite my attempt to hide from him. He looked me in the eye and said, “Sterling, that’s the best talk I’ve seen in all my years of doing this!” To this day I’m not entirely convinced he heard the same talk I gave but I will remain ever grateful to him for the chance to speak at his conference and going on to refer me through his networks. With some hard work and more discomfort than I knew existed, I pushed through and on the other side I discovered a brand-new career sharing with people my experience of how to overcome obstacles, #NoMatterWhat gets in their way.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have a lot to be grateful for to be where I am at these days. I’ve reached hundreds of thousands from the keynote stage, have been on adventures around the world and dramatically transformed my life and business. But for as much as I’ve gotten out of it, what others are doing with the 5 step #NoMatterWhat system is even more inspiring.
I’ve had people create 7-figure businesses, transform departments of public companies, and even overcome severe health issues.
I Think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that none of that is easy — for me or the people that have done it — but it can be done.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m new to Denver! I moved to the city less than a year ago from Los Angeles, so more often than not I am that friend being shown around. Especially since I moved mid-pandemic and the social scene has been, let’s say… dampened.
Considering, the mountains are my go-to. I always recommend visitors check out Lookout mountain (at least if they can’t make it up to Vail). And the REI store in the restored Denver tramway building is sure to have any gear that’s needed. I live in Cherry Creek — I’m told not the coolest neighborhood — but walking the shops and restaurants in the area makes for a really nice evening.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The people we surround ourselves with don’t just help with our success — they’re the reason for it. I call the people closest to me my “Street Gang” — not because I look like I’ve been in a gang (I did a few boy scout meetings as a kid if you count that), but because they look out for you regardless of the situations. Someone who has been a big part of my Street Gang actually referred me to you — Johnny King. This is a guy that has been through the wringer and has come back stronger, smarter and more generous than ever. I really respect what he’s up to and am grateful for his support over the years.