Life Lessons from Aaron Walker's Success Story
Hi! I am Aaron Walker, president and founder of View From the Top.
I'm a premier life and business coach, helping ordinary men become extraordinary and I want to help you do the same.
Let me share a little about my life journey to encourage you and share with you some of the key lessons that could help you be more successful and significant.
Phase 1 - Early Years of Success
When I was 13 years old, I was hired by a local pawn shop to clean their shelves and sweep their floor. Twenty-four months into the job, as a 15-year old boy, I decided to pursue pawn broking as a career. I went to summer school and night school for eighteen months and had enough credits to graduate at the beginning of my junior year but decided to postpone graduation so that I could walk the line with my class. However, I was fortunate enough not to attend my junior and senior year.
Then I met and partnered with two gentlemen who owned the 21st largest insurance agency in the country. After months of negotiations we finally launched. I'm extremely grateful I found these two gentlemen. I came from a very humble beginning and I needed their relationships and resources to get started.
Robin and I got married two weeks out of high school. We worked day and night in this business and decided very early in our marriage to delay gratification; we worked hard and saved much. God abundantly blessed the business over the next three years. We took all the money that we made and paid off a 10-year loan in 36 months!
I said to myself, “This is awesome. I came from nothing; now I am 21 years old, and I have a paid-for business.” I'm truly grateful that God blessed our business beyond any of our expectations.
I could not resist the allure of doing another business. We opened our second store and succeeded at it just like we did the first. We lived on an $18,000-a-year salary for a 9-year period. We put every bit of the money that we made back into the business. In the late '70s and early '80s, it was an adequate amount of money for Robin and me. The important point is - we did not live an extravagant life; we poured all the money back into the business. God blessed it, and we did phenomenally well in that business. In 48 months, we were able to pay off the loan for that second store. I'm just grateful that I had strong mentors to guide our decisions.
Life Lesson #1
In your early years, if you delay gratification and live within your means, you can enjoy the benefits later.
Phase 2 - More Success and Early Retirement
When I was just 25 years old, I had two stores that were paid for.
So what else could happen? A third store could be even better. So, we bought a pawn shop in Nashville, Tennessee and it too did extremely well. The following year, across the street, another company came up for sale, and we bought that as well. Now I was 27-years old and had four stores.
Then, a company in Fort Worth Texas called Cash America, a Fortune 500 Company was growing through acquisition and had their sights set on Nashville. They came to me and made me an offer that I could not refuse. So, I sold the business to them.
I was 27-years old and retired! I know, this seems crazy to me too.
I was so thankful to be in this situation at such an early age. Starting with minimal cash and working our way up shows that anyone can have the American Dream if you apply yourself.
After about 18 months, one day Robin woke me up from a nap in the middle of the day, (I should not have been taking a nap in the middle of the day, but I was!) and said, “You have to do something.” I told her I was bored and didn’t have anything to do. She insisted that I do something, that I get a job or start another company, that I not stay home and drive her crazy.
So I did something. I went back to the guy I started with when I was 13-years old and formed a partnership with him. I bought half his company and spent the next nine years quadrupling the business. Things were awesome. I had a 3-day workweek. I worked for three days, and my partner worked for the other three days.
Life Lesson #2
Do not let your initial success make you lazy. Keep pushing yourself towards your life’s purpose.
Phase 3 - The Turning Point
Life was really good until an event that happened in 2001 changed my life forever.
August 1, 2001, after the usual Wednesday morning prayer time at our church, I was on the way to my office. It was a hot August day in Nashville. I had my air turned on high, and I was listening to the radio. I looked to my left, and there was a gentleman crossing the road to catch a local bus that had stopped. As I approached, he didn't look my way and ran out in front of my car.
I ran over and killed him. I can't even begin to express the fear and anxiety I felt.
My life changed that day. I don't know if you've ever had anything really serious happen in your life before, but when it happens, everything slows down almost to a crawl. Things literally move in slow motion. I saw the elderly gentleman lying face down on the street, motionless and my heart sank. I was absolutely devastated. The police let me go since people testified that it was not my fault and that he had run out in front of me.
But my life changed that day forever. I went home and talked to Robin. We prayed. A couple of weeks went by, we thought about it and decided to retire. Until that moment, I had been chasing money my entire life. I had only been thinking about myself and all that I wanted - a bigger house, a nicer car, the next vacation home, a condo on the beach, another house on the hill, etc.
This incident helped me realize one important thing: my life is not all about me; there are things that I need to do that are significant though not necessarily successful.
Life Lesson #3
Significance is more important than success. Your life is not just about you and the stuff you possess. Do something useful with your life.
So, I decided to retire. I sold the business, and I took the next five years off. Robin and I moved to a new place and built a new house. We also traveled extensively.
You don't kill a pedestrian and just get over it. It is only God who gave me the grace to deal with it. But it took about five years for me to work through it.
Phase 4 - Success in the Construction Business:
After five years, my wife woke me up again from a nap in the middle of the day (!) and said, “You are getting fat and lazy again!” It was time for me to go back to work.
I went into the construction business and partnered with the gentleman that had built a new home for me. We took that business in 9 years to the number 1 position and we stayed there for three consecutive years. It was an absolute joy and delight to be able to build beautiful homes and small commercial properties.
When I was 50 years old; I finally decided to retire. That was five years ago.
My First Mastermind Experience
Let me back up a bit. Twenty years prior to my retirement, I met Dave Ramsey, the national bestselling author, television personality and radio host. I became the second sponsor on his radio station. For the next 21 years, we advertised and promoted our businesses on his radio shows.
We became good friends. One day, he invited me to join his Mastermind group. This group of unbiased people, with Dave Ramsey and ten other gentlemen, became my trusted advisors.
For the next ten years, I blocked out 4 hours from my calendar on Wednesdays, from 6 am to 10 am. It took an hour to drive to and from and the remainder of the time spent with the guys. You may say, ”Why in the world would you block out 4 hours a week, for over a decade?”
When I look back, I realize that I grew more during that 10-year period than I have ever grown in my entire life. They encouraged, challenged, questioned and edified me. I made myself accountable to them. That is the value of Mastermind. It was amazing what we were able to do together as a group of like-minded people.
In the Mastermind group, we read books every week; we even went on vacations, hunting trips, skiing, fishing, and ball games together.
Life Lesson #4
Get a group of trusted advisors & counselors around you who will speak the truth to you, advise you, encourage you and help you succeed.
Phase 5 - Life as a Coach
Now let us fast-forward 20 years. I was enjoying my retired life hunting, fishing, playing golf and relaxing. One day, my good friend Dan Miller, who wrote the book 48 Days To The Work You Love, told me that I was too young to retire and asked me to consider becoming a coach. I told him that I was not ready to coach anyone. I had started working at 13. I was now going to enjoy the fruits of my labor at 50.
However, he persuaded me to join his ‘Innovate’ program, where he taught people how to become a coach. I loved it; it was an incredible experience. That evening Dan Miller asked me if I noticed how people were leaning in and listening to what I was saying in the program. I said, “Dan, that’s just because I’m a good storyteller!”
But Dan pointed out to me that I had an important message that could help people. I had owned 12 businesses, I was successful at an early age, I knew what it took to be successful, Robin & I were married for 30+ years (now 36 years!), and I was a good communicator; he thought that I could add great value to people by being a coach. I told him I would think about it.
Then my friend Dave Ramsey called me one day and invited me to his EntreLeadership Mastery Series. When I went there, I experienced the same thing that I had experienced at Innovate. I discovered that I had a message that could help people. I had 38+ years of experience with businesses and 30+ years of marriage, and with all the experience and wisdom, it seemed like I could add some value to others and help them.
Life Lesson #5
You have learned many lessons from your life. Share them with others.
View From The Top
Then organizations started hiring me for consulting, and podcast hosts started interviewing me. Since then, I have done 260 podcast interviews. I get to talk to people from all around the world.
I have seven mastermind groups that I facilitate on a weekly basis. I have some of the greatest guys on the planet in our groups. And their lives are changing. Many of the guys were just like me early on with a lack of clarity. Some of them had bad relationships with their wives; now they have awesome relationships. Many of the guys were floundering in their businesses, and now all the ISI Mastermind members have shared resources, encouragement and they have been connected to the right people. And since we have people all over the world in our Community, guys are exposed to so many amazing connections that they may not have had previously.
Each week, we have an accountability tool that we fill out. You rank yourself from 1 to 10, in 10 different areas of your life - the way you treat your wife, your children, your faith, your savings, your debt retirement, etc. We pay attention to many of these important areas of life on a weekly basis.
We have books that we read every week; we have assignments where you come prepared to answer three questions each week. We strongly encourage everyone to do personal development.
I want to encourage you also to think through how you make difficult decisions:
• Do you have trusted advisors around you?
• Do you have people that will encourage you and lift your arms up when you get tired?
• Do you have people who can make the right connections & relationships for you?
• Do you have people who teach you how to build relationships and teams?
• Do you have people who teach you how to be the best husband?
• Do you have people who teach you how to be the greatest dad?
• Do you have people who teach you how to be the businessman that you didn't imagine you could ever be?
We do all of that in our mastermind group. If you want to achieve great things, you cannot do it alone. Isolation is the enemy of excellence. You need to have trusted advisors to be able to excel.
Life Lesson #6
Isolation is the enemy of excellence. Surround yourself with the right people.
Who are your advisors?
I would like to encourage you today to think through who your trusted advisors are. Who are the people that you go to when you have a problem or a dilemma that you need solved? I want to encourage you to pour yourself into those relationships. One day, you're going to need those advisors who can help you and support you.
Being in a Mastermind group is like having your own board of directors who are non-biased, who are ready to pour into your life and be your trusted advisors. There is wisdom in the council of the multitudes. You only have one lens; you have only one perspective; you only have one life experience. When you can tap into the wisdom of 9 or 10 other people, why would you not want to do that?
What are you afraid of?
If you have a fear of failure and are hesitating to take a step forward towards an opportunity, I tell you, “Fear missing an opportunity, more than you fear failure.” If you will look at any action objectively, you either succeed or you learn. Once you do one of those things, you learn what not to do in the future. So, I want to encourage you to forget failure. Wipe that out of your vocabulary and don't even use that word.
Life Lesson #7
Fear missing an opportunity more than you fear failure. Remove fear of failure from your life.
My mom had a mantra when I was a kid growing up; she would never allow us to say the word ‘can't.' I would argue with her that there were some things that I couldn’t do. But she insisted that I try it before deciding whether or not I could do it. She would say, “Can’t couldn’t do it, and Could did it all.” So I got the word ‘can’t’ out of my vocabulary. It is a mindset shift. You can do it too.
Carol Dweck wrote a great book called Mindset that says that you could have either a ‘growth’ mindset or a ‘fixed’ mindset. I want to encourage you to have a growth mindset. With enough training, education and people around you who could support you and hold you accountable, there's nothing that will hold you back. You can absolutely do anything you want to. Jim Rohn says that we are the average of the five people that we are closest to. Who are your five people? If you want to know where your future is headed, look at your five friends, and I can tell you that that is what your life is going to be like. You need to be around people who are successful. You need to be around people who can help take you to the next level.
I want to encourage you to be the best that you can be because you deserve it, and you can do it.
Leave your comment below and let me know what you think. If you need input in any area of your life, I will try to help you by answering your questions.
Have a great day!
Live on purpose,