Kyle Conley – University of Missouri
When I was fourteen I was given a book on becoming a star by a man who had managed the top people in Hollywood. At the time I wanted to be an actor so my mom gave me the book to most likely stomp out my ambition and make me realize that I would be better suited as a doctor or politician. As any other fourteen year old would do, I read the first four chapters and got distracted by C.S.I. My life was pretty average up through High School. I wasn’t the top of my class but got As and Bs. I volunteered here and there, but didn’t really change the community. I wasn’t extremely popular, but had the close friends I needed. I didn’t play any major sports but was an active member of the speech and debate team. And, I’m sure like most people that have ever walked the earth; I had had a very different upbringing that featured events in my life that weren’t the greatest. I had essentially learned how to make it through life, and you would think I’d have learned, through minor successes, something greater. But the one thing I had never learned how to do was to be happy.
Flash forward to almost a year after I graduated. My freshman year had gone well, and I received all A’s throughout, I coached a two high school students to a national speech tournament, became the President of two organizations and had the girlfriend I had always wanted. But one thing was still missing, I wasn’t happy.
Then one night in late April, while watching a movie and sitting on the bunk in my dorm room, I came to the realization that I really didn’t like who I was as a person. I sat in wonder as to how I had come eighteen years without becoming best friends with the person I spent more time with than anyone. About five minutes later I got a phone call from a total stranger named Anthony Merkel. He invited me to a meeting for Southwestern Advantage and was, in my opinion, incredibly vague as to what the company was about. But I figured that this was a sign from God. I couldn’t be more right.
My first summer was a blur. I was on a bike in Connecticut during its rainiest season on record. I spent my first days hungry for success, and got lost in each demonstration that I gave. But one day when it had not stopped raining by nine in the evening my confidence was nearly destroyed. I sat on the curb outside of a house and burst into tears. I had done what they told me to do, I was sitting at 29 demos and had worked for nearly fourteen hours yet I didn’t have a single sale to my name for the day. But I remembered Anthony telling me that I was my best friend during the summer, and my best friend in life. I wiped off the tears and knocked on the door behind me. He ended up being exactly what I needed at the right time. A recently divorced dad who loved his children so much that he teared up when we began to talk about their education. While riding my bike down a hill that night in the pouring rain I realized something incredibly important. It’s not about me, and it never would be. It’s what I do for other people. For perhaps the first time in my life, I was truly happy.
I finished that summer strong and was expected to come back and have an extraordinary second summer. After spending time recruiting, becoming more coachable, and studying my brains out by asking everyone who had done incredible with the company what they had done, that is exactly what I got. I increased my summer profit about $11,000 from my previous summer and became somewhat of a Cinderella story. I relished in it.
My third summer would no doubt be incredible. I spoke at meetings about growth and recruiting. About challenging yourself and becoming something you had never imagined. I put in the time, the effort, and at one point was told by company record holder Dave Brown that I had everything it took to be the top in the company.
Then that summer, something happened that I had never seen coming, I failed. I thought I would hit high numbers and placed the pressure on myself at every house. I got angry at everything that happened and lost all control as seemingly everything that could go wrong did.
I spent the last few months hating who I was for my third summer. I distanced myself from everyone else and focused on all of the things that were wrong with me. I acted as though my entire self worth was caught up in work stats and profit. But a few hours ago, while walking through the cold of October I came to a startling realization after interviewing a student for Southwestern Advantage. The words Anthony had taught me three years earlier that I had started to forget. I’m my best friend during the summer, and my best friend in life.
Beating myself up for something that had happened in the past is meaningless and the only thing I can do is to look at what happened as a humbling experience. And humility never comes easy. I like to compare it to the life of a butterfly. There isn’t a single butterfly that looks exactly like another one. They all grow at different levels, some taking months to grow wings, some taking only a day. But my growth as a person has no relation to the growth of the people around me, how fast they are rising, or how much better they are at something. I don’t need to become anything other than a better version of who I already am.
Money is meaningless, because I can waste a dollar and get it back. Experience is arbitrary because it is a natural occurrence, icing on the cake. But meaning, belief, attitude, and self worth are the cake. And no other victory, accomplishment or goal can be done without them. It could take days, months, or in my case, my entire life up to this point to realize the power of self worth, and the ability to transform the lives of those around me. For that, I owe it all to Southwestern Advantage .