“Making the very complex…awesomely simple” is no mere catch phrase, it is truly John Spence’s mission in life. Driven by an insatiable curiosity to understand the fundamental aspects of what it takes to achieve and sustain excellence in business and life, John Spence has earned a reputation as a leading authority in the areas of Business Excellence, Strategic Thinking, High-Performance Teams, and Advanced Leadership Development, making him one of the most highly sought after executive educators and professional speakers in America.
At the age of just 26, John was named CEO of an international Rockefeller foundation, overseeing projects in 20 countries and reporting directly to the Chairman of the Board, Winthrop P. Rockefeller III. Two years later John was nominated as one of the top CEOs under the age of 40 in Florida and Inc. Magazine’s “Zinc Online” recognized him as one of America’s up and coming young business leaders. John has twice been named one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America and received honorable mention as one of our country’s top 100 Small Business Influencers (along with Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and Apple).
Describe yourself in 3 words: Student, Teacher, and Guide.
What is your life motto? You become what you focus on and similar to the people you surround yourself with.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I started in my current career as an author, trainer and professional speaker in 1994. I had moderate success by 1998 – but really jumped off the launching pad in 2002 or so – and the last 6 years have been phenomenal.
How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? Nearly everything. I absolutely LOVE what I do so working hard at my craft is enjoyable. I spend upwards of 200 days a year on the road, read 120+ business books a year, and write for 2 hours a day – and NONE of it feels like work. So, massive effort… but it has rewarded me with significant happiness, accomplishment and success.
What are the challenges in your line of work? As I mentioned above, the travel can be very challenging – and the time required in order to stay current with all of the latest information. The other challenge is from competitors who do not have the real experience – but position themselves as experts and thereby taint the market by burning potential clients with high fees and little if any results.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Not doing enough homework before I took over as CEO of a company. I was led to believe that it was in MUCH better shape than it was and it turned out to be dramatically more work that I had imagined. But it was a very good learning experience.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? “Build your house on a rock” – a dedication to lifelong learning and constant self-improvement is you very best investment of time and money.
In your mind, is formal training essential? YES – it is absolutely necessary… but NOT sufficient. It must be complimented with self-learning, on-the-job-training; mentoring and every other way a person can add knowledge and skills.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? Not just one, many. Find the people you admire – who you aspire to be like – and ask them to assist you. But the key is – you must also add value to them – help them – give them good ideas – and most importantly… take and apply the advice they pass along to you. It is a waste of time to have a mentor if you do not listen to them.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? 1) Be a fanatic for self-learning – read, listen to audio books, watch business videos – do EVERYTHING you can to constantly build up your knowledge, skills and abilities. 2) Build a HUGE network of people who want to see you succeed – gather around you dozens… hundreds of smart people who are willing to help you achieve your dreams and goals. 3) Go to this group often and ask for help. You are NOT supposed to have all of the answers – no one has them all – but if you have a superior network, you do have direct access to all of the answers and there is great value in that! 4) Protect your reputation at ALL costs – as in the end it is all you really have. If people do not trust you – you are on your own – and you will fail.
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? My personal commitment to be successful and my public commitment to my family and friends that I would achieve my goals in life. I also keep lots of great motivational books within reach so I can read something uplifting if I feel down or defeated.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Perhaps 10% — the rest is all about preparation… for when the lucky opportunity arises.