Sometimes success will come to you from the strangest places. It may seem like your passions won’t pay off, but if you push through and continue to grow you’ll find a way to have it work.
It won’t be easy, and there will be plenty of times you’ll want to give up. It may even seem like the smart thing to do. But if you want to feel fulfilled and happy, it can’t be about the money.
It has to be about the love of what you do, and trust that the money will come later.
The perfect example of this comes from today’s guest, Tony Hawk.
I used to love watching Tony Hawk on the X Games. He was an instant legend, and an icon in something that no one saw as a sport when he started out. In fact, learning a new trick was frowned upon when he was starting out.
Today, today is one of the most respected athletes there is. He’s a household name and continues to push the boundaries.
He does this not just in his sport, but also in his business. His video games have become one of the biggest franchises in history. Spoiler: There’s even more coming in October.
I felt so fortunate for Tony to come in and sit down for the podcast. He’s an incredibly smart and dedicated person.
Tony sat down with me to discuss how he has been able to be successful in his marriage as well as his business life. He also discusses if it’s more fulfilling to be relevant or innovative.
He shares where his mind goes when the pressure is on for him to perform a huge trick and how he was able to stay committed to his passion even when there was no money in it.
This is a really powerful one, guys. You won’t want to miss it.
Learn all about what it takes to break limitations and create a legacy, on Episode 674.
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 674, with the iconic Tony Hawk.
Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now, let the class begin.
Jim Rohn said, “All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”
Tony Hawk has done that for this generation. He is one of the most recognised action sports figures in the world, and according to some marketing surveys, one of the most recognisable athletes, of any kind, in the United States.
He is a pro-skateboarder, entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author and so much more. His business skills have helped create a Tony Hawk brand that includes a billion dollar video game franchise. That’s right, a billion dollar franchise, successful businesses such as Birdhouse Skateboards, Hawk Clothing, and a film production company.
He has done some incredible things and he’s paved the way for so many people. I’m excited to dive into this! We talk about what Tony has learned about in creating a successful marriage and family and business life. How to navigate big career transitions when old income sources dry up. Whether it’s more fulfilling to have relevancy or to be innovative in your craft.
Also, where his mind goes when it’s time to hit a huge performance, a huge trick in front of the entire world, how he stays focussed and present. And how to stay committed to your passion when there’s no money in sight within the passion.
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Alright, guys, I’m excited about this one! This is with the legendary, the iconic, Mr Tony Hawk.
Welcome back, everyone, to The School of Greatness Podcast. We’ve got the legend, Tony Hawk, in the house. Good to see you, sir!
Tony Hawk: Thank you! You too!
Lewis Howes: Very excited about this! We were just chatting offline about how amazing it’s been to see your career, as a kid, watching X Games, watching you do the 900, it was this monumental moment and then the video game world blow up for you and just everything continues to blow up!
Tony Hawk: Oh, thank you!
Lewis Howes: So, congrats on everything and congrats for being an amazing icon for what’s possible. I think you are a great symbol and Rob Dyrdek was just texting me, saying how you push the limits constantly, and you haven’t stopped.
And that’s what inspired me to want to have you on, and interview you, because I’m all about how can we unlock our potential. And, as a kid, I remember watching – I never skateboarded, because I didn’t have the co-ordination that was needed on a board – but I remember watching the symbol of what you represented and seeing you break your own fears and your limitations in your mind, on the X Games.
And that was really powerful for me and, I know, for a lot of kids, so I appreciate you for that.
Tony Hawk: Oh, thank you, very much!
Lewis Howes: You’ve been a powerful part of my mental development as a child and a teenager.
Tony Hawk: Oh, cool!
Lewis Howes: Who was the most influential person in your life, growing up, would you say?
Tony Hawk: Oh, that’s tricky. I think it sort of evolved with different people as I grew up, but, for sure, the beginning was my older brother, because he was a surfer – he’s thirteen years older than me – but he was a surfer and then he started skating when skating kind of just got going in the mid-late 70’s.
And I took a lot of cues from him, just in terms of doing something new and something different, and he gave me my first skateboard, so, obviously that was hugely influential to me. And then, once I started skating and I really dove into it, he kind of got out of it, he was in college and he was a writer.
He cared, he still skated a little, but he was just more into a career at that point, and there was no career in skateboarding.
Lewis Howes: Nothing. It was like 1,000 people in the US did it as a hobby, maybe. It was really small.
Tony Hawk: Maybe, yeah, and only a handful of skateparks, and so, when I really got into it, I was looking towards people to emulate. One of them was Steve Caballero because he was my size, he was actually older than me, but he looked a lot younger and he was flying out of these swimming pools.
And when I saw that in a magazine and I saw this guy, my size, literally flying, that gave me the first fire. Like, “How does he do that? I want to learn to do that!” And then I went to the skatepark and I saw people doing it live, and I made it my mission to do that.
And then, as I started learning moves and things, the person I took cues from then was the skater Eddie Elguera, because he was the most innovative skater, as far as I was concerned. At a time when skating was kind of, really low in popularity and learning new tricks was not cool. It was almost like you’re a circus act.
Lewis Howes: Why was it not cool?
Tony Hawk: Because skating was more about the style and the raw power and looking like you’re surfing, and it was this Dogtown and Z-Boys, and people who did tricks were considered robots. And that was truly it. Like, “Oh, look at that robot.”
And I was just this kid, I didn’t have the cool style and the big power, and I was like, “I want to do that stuff!”
Lewis Howes: The tricks.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, “That’s looks awesome!” So, one of the first, sort of, pro level tricks that I learned was a front side rock & roll, because that was Eddie’s trick. That was his signature move. Maybe three people could do it. And because I could do it – I couldn’t do many other tricks – but because I could do it, they bumped me up classes of competition.
They would say, “Well, he can do front side rock, so he belongs in 3A division.”
Lewis Howes: Wow!
Tony Hawk: And I didn’t know if that was good or bad. It felt bad at the time, because then I was competing against guys that were much better than me.
Lewis Howes: How old were you then?
Tony Hawk: Eleven? Twelve?
Lewis Howes: Yeah. And you turned pro at fourteen, is that right?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, but, that seems like…
Lewis Howes: You’re not making any money as a pro.
Tony Hawk: You’re not making any money, there’s no ceremony, you basically check the box for ‘pro’ in the entry form of the competition, instead of ‘amateur’. That was it!
Lewis Howes: That was it. You said, “I’m a pro now!”
Tony Hawk: That’s it, yeah, I was a self proclaimed professional.
Lewis Howes: No one said, “You’re in a pro league now.”
Tony Hawk: No, it just meant that I was competing against other skaters and I was competing for $100 first place.
Lewis Howes: Right, and if you won money, then you were a pro, I guess.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, so it was $100 for a first, $75 for a second and $50 for third.
Lewis Howes: Crazy! This is the late 80’s, is that right?
Tony Hawk: Early 80’s. Let’s see, ’82, ’83.
Lewis Howes: Got it, okay. I was born in ’83, so skateboarding was…
Tony Hawk: Yeah, skateboarding was nothing then.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it was very small.
Tony Hawk: Let’s put it this way: So, I’m fourteen, I started winning a few contests, I had about $600 in the bank, I bought a moped and that was a big deal.
Lewis Howes: It was a huge deal!
Tony Hawk: Huge! Because I could get to the skatepark on my own.
Lewis Howes: Wow! You grew up in San Diego, am I right?
Tony Hawk: In San Diego, yeah.
Lewis Howes: And so, luckily, there was a skatepark near you, in San Diego.
Tony Hawk: I got very lucky, in that the one park that was near me, became the only one that remained in California. I believe that if I didn’t have that facility, I probably wouldn’t have been successful, or been able to continue skating.
Lewis Howes: Wow! So a lot of it is where you grew up, having the other influences around you that inspired you. Obviously you have talent, but if you didn’t have the environment, you don’t think you’d be where you’re at?
Tony Hawk: I don’t know. It would have been a struggle. There were some skaters that came from the East Coast during that time that didn’t have parks, but built their own ramps, and would shovel snow off. And I don’t know if I had that kind of commitment to it, you know?
I mean, I would have loved to have done it, but I don’t know if I would have put that much effort into it.
Lewis Howes: Sure. How do you stay committed to something? Because when, I guess, skateboarding kind of died out for a number of years. Before you hit the 900 it was kind of like, dead, and then it came back a little bit. How do you stay committed to your passion when there’s no money in something?
Tony Hawk: I did everything I could to make ends meet. It was just, sort of, making compromises in terms of lifestyle and expense. And also, taking any opportunity, and just putting myself out there. I was hustling a lot in terms of trying to get random work, and things like that, through the early 90’s, mid 90’s, anything that involved skating or stuntwork, or even camera work.
I mean, I did camerawork on a Frosty Flakes commercial, because they wanted someone to ride on a half-pipe and follow someone, and it wasn’t, I wasn’t getting the job of acting, but they knew I had the skill to do that.
Editing videos, I mean, at some point I at least had enough equipment that I could do projects that were outside of skatboarding, so I did random little businesses and I was doing it for dirt cheap, but it was paying my mortgage, so I was pretty much it. And then, whatever would allow me to skate, and I became the sort of go-to consultant for any production that needed skating in it.
Lewis Howes: They would come to you and ask you, “What looks good? What’s the angle or the location,” all that stuff.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, basically. I was consulted on a Coke commercial for Japan.
Lewis Howes: But you weren’t the skater?
Tony Hawk: I wasn’t. But every once in a while, they would need somebody and I’d just get thrown into it. Because, “We need another skater,” and I would do it, and then I’d get stuck in residuals.
Lewis Howes: Amazing! So, they would hire someone else, but then they probably weren’t as good as you, right?
Tony Hawk: Sometimes, but, yeah, you know, I wasn’t the right stunt double type or body type, or, I wasn’t Japanese, in this case.
Lewis Howes: Got it, yeah. Was there ever a time when there was a down time when you thought you were going to give up skateboarding as a profession? Or hopefully a profession and go do something else?
Tony Hawk: I kind of did, around those years, because I wasn’t relying just on my skating to pay the bills, I was doing these other things, like I told you, and it was trying, for sure. And we had just started a skate company, a skate brand, and we were trying to support that, and I’m trying to keep that afloat, with very little success at the time.
But it was more, what I learned was that I would do this, the same thing I was doing, for free. Do you know what I mean? Like, I was getting paid for it, I was getting paid pretty well for it, and then my income, my salaries dropped off significantly, in some cases completely.
And I realised that I just loved doing it. I would do it for free, any day, and getting paid is just incidental. And then, as things came back around, it was suddenly, like, “I’m getting more money than I ever imagined.”
I mean, even today, I get paid ridiculous amounts to ride my skateboard and I would just go do it for free, any day.
Lewis Howes: So that’s what made you realise that you would do it for free anyways, you’d keep pursuing it just because you love it.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, and if I’m going to follow a different career to make money, I mean, I understand reality, I understand that at some point maybe skateboarding was not a key to a career, and I’d have to do something. Maybe I went into video editing. I learned how to use computers very early on, so I was always the one called to help with tech support, things like that.
So I felt like, alright, I have that skill set, I can go pursue that if I want to, but I always knew that, even if I did that, I would still find time to skate.
Lewis Howes: What advice would you give to people who have a passion, but maybe they’re not able to pursue it on a professional level, maybe there’s not that big of a market for them, maybe it’s in a downturn in their industry, and they feel like they have to go work at something else that they don’t love, to make money?
Tony Hawk: If you’re following a passion for a business, you have to go all in, and you have to take that risk. Just to see it through, to see if it will work. And I think the thing that people don’t realise is that sometimes it takes way longer than you ever imagined.
And a lot of times you have to learn different skills and different techniques and nuances that you never would have been interested in, or cared about. But when I started the skate company, I didn’t know anything about marketing, I didn’t know anything about purchase orders, or displays or retail or wholesale.
I just wanted to make skateboards and have a cool team. But there were only three of us in the office, so I had to figure out how to do all that stuff. And, at some point I just embraced it and it definitely was an advantage to me later on, because I did understand those things.
I mean, when people are talking shop about different brands and stuff, I know what they’re discussing and I actually have valuable input. But a lot of people just want to do the thing they love and not really get out of their comfort zone.
And I think that’s the advantage. Just learn everything about your craft.
Lewis Howes: That’s it, yeah. When skateboarding hit it’s kind of peak and then you did the 900 and all this stuff kept rising for you, and you kind of rose to fame, overnight is what it seemed like from the outside, how did you handle that emotionally, or mentally? Where you had all this news and press and attention, which seemed like overnight.
Tony Hawk: So, what you’re speaking about was sort of my second wave of success, so I’d already kind of lived through this first wave of success in the 80’s, which was very strange, because we were more applauded for our sort of renegade attitude and graphics and hairdo’s as opposed to our actual physical talent.
And that died out very quickly. And licencing just meant that you signed a piece of paper, and someone had the rights to your name, and they just went crazy with it, with really bad products. So, I kind of learned a lot through that process.
And then, when it came back around again, I was at least prepared in terms of keeping my integrity and my quality control, because I already had made these mistakes in the 80’s. But what I wasn’t ready for was the amount of attention that skateboarding got, and me personally.
I never signed up to be rich or famous. I never thought that was an option. No one had gotten that far. Do you know what I mean? Like, people get into sports because they can make a career out of it, they can get the million dollar contract.
And skateboarding was, like, by the time you reached 18, you better find a job, you’re out, like, you’re old.
Lewis Howes: You had to make all your money in the first three years.
Tony Hawk: There was no money!
Lewis Howes: Yeah, maybe make 100 grand if there’s like, three or four people, maybe, right?
Tony Hawk: Not even, no. Like I was telling you, when I turned pro, we were competing for $150. No one was making anything. And if you’re over 18 and you’re trying to pay rent, that just doesn’t work. And we never aspired to being famous.
And so, when that stuff came in , it was very foreign. You know, a lot of times, people are aspiring to that, they get a taste of it, then they lose their motivation. Because it’s like, “Oh, I got everything I wanted.” And I never was looking for that, so I was always motivated to keep skating. And I think that’s what saved me.
A lot of my friends kind of fell off when they had those experiences with success, because suddenly they were just caught up in the party, and the hype, and they weren’t skating any more.
Lewis Howes: And then you don’t hear about them any more, yeah.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, that’s it, and it’s over. And so I got lucky in that, if nothing else, that success allowed me to skate more and skate better.
Lewis Howes: Right. How did you manage the emotions of it all? Like, all the attention, all the interviews? I mean, greatest athlete in the USA, or the most well known, and all these titles?
Tony Hawk: I think it was just more learning to treat everyone with respect, and that came from being an impressionable kid and seeing some of my heroes, and some of them were jerks. And that just crushes you, as a kid. It’s the worst thing that could happen, when you meet these guys you look up to, that are your heroes, and they’re not nice. And they discard you, because you can’t do anything for them.
And I think that, through the years, I just learned that from experience, and also having my own kids, and seeing how people treat them. And it’s just more, like, I’m so thankful to be here, I know absolutely this is one of the luckiest things that could have ever happened and beyond any dream come true, and I don’t take it for granted.
And I still don’t.
Lewis Howes: Did you feel like you went through a challenging time during that, to manage it all, though?
Tony Hawk: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes it was easy to get caught up in the hoopla and also just in terms of being distracted and trying to raise kids. I had to wrestle with that for years because there were things that I was choosing to do, that absolutely were not priorities, but seemed like that’s what you do if you’re in this scene, if you’re on the radar of talk shows and charity.
Like, these guys want you to go to France for a charity event over the weekend, why wouldn’t you do that? And at some point it was like, “Well, because it’s not necessary.” And it’s taking you away from your family and you’re just doing it because the attention’s on you.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What type of dad do you want to be?
Tony Hawk: One that’s present, one that leads by example. And I feel like that definitely has shined through in recent years, for my kids. Where they see me, where I really do – our schedule’s crazy and our kids are all over the place, and they’re all different ages, and we are there for them in the important times, and when they need guidance.
Lewis Howes: When you were kind of growing in the fame and building the businesses and launching brands, how did you manage intimate relationships, with your partners, because you’ve been married a couple of times, is that right?
Tony Hawk: Yeah! They’re all different. The stresses were different in each time, and the dynamics were different and I am as much to blame as anyone, but they all fell apart for different reasons, but a lot of it was because of my schedule, my fame, and my choices, and I accept that.
And it wasn’t really until recent years that I figured out that I’m comfortable in my own skin, and that I don’t always need to be doing something and be distracted. And also, the choices I make and the people I was with, the dynamic wasn’t the best for a healthy relationship.
Lewis Howes: Did you ever feel like you weren’t comfortable in your own skin?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, I think so. Especially once I got a lot of fame and a lot of money, yeah, because I just didn’t know where I belonged. Like I said, a lot of people, that’s what they strive for, and then, once they get there they think this is where I belong. I should be having all the fancy cars and the big houses and be showy about it.
And at some point I was more disappointed that I ever followed that path.
Lewis Howes: Really? Disappointed in yourself? You thought that you were being too showy?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, for sure, because it was just, like, “Why do you have to be on MTV Cribs?”
Lewis Howes: Right. I remember that episode, that was fun.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, but I mean, just to show off all the big stuff you bought? Like, they know you have money, so, you know what I mean? It’s like all the bling and all that stuff, none of that stuff matters, in the end.
Lewis Howes: When you see people showing that stuff off, maybe on social media, their cars or their house, do you feel like they shouldn’t be?
Tony Hawk: They can do what they want, no, I don’t pass judgement on it. I’m just saying, in terms of myself, it just wasn’t important. I can tell you, a lot of times when I see that flash on social media, I can tell that they’re doing it beyond their means.
Lewis Howes: Really?
Tony Hawk: Yeah! Absolutely! Because when you see certain entertainers, you’re like, “They’re not making that much money! Come on! That stuff’s on loan. There’s no way that’s happening,” you know? But in their world, you’ve got to project that image and that’s what counts and I accept that.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it’s hard to live up to that.
Tony Hawk: Oh, absolutely, yeah, yeah. And, you know, I want to provide for my kids. I’m not trying to blow it all.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, well, I don’t know if you’ll ever blow it all.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, well, the video game royalties have dried up, but, hey, were working on a new one.
Lewis Howes: What’s been the biggest lesson in marriage, that you’ve learned, while you strive to follow your dreams and pursue your career path and your businesses, but also having a healthy, thriving relationship, what’s been the biggest lesson? Or the biggest piece of advice you have for other people who are in that path?
Tony Hawk: Be supportive, and I think, also, just be open. Talk about the things that are concerning you, before they fester. Don’t let them get to the point where they’re so big that you can’t talk about them. And then there’s just the elephant in the room, and the tension, and the quietness that will just kill a relationship so fast.
And, ours is super challenging, because, like I said, I have many obligations. My priorities are our kids and those things sometimes don’t line up, because, “Got to go do the thing that makes the money for our family to thrive.” But we find time and we work really hard at it.
It’s work, but it’s worth it! It’s awesome!
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Do you feel like there was a time when you didn’t communicate well?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, for sure! And I really just didn’t understand, when I was a kid, my parents were from the 50’s and they were not showing love outwardly. I didn’t grow up in a very loving home. It wasn’t like they hated each other, there just definitely wasn’t…
Lewis Howes: Didn’t show affection.
Tony Hawk: Not at all! And to me, only through their actions, not through their words, so I really didn’t grow up learning or understanding intimacy like that. And I never wanted to really embrace that, because I thought it was going to be too hard, or I just didn’t know.
Lewis Howes: You though embracing intimacy would be too hard.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, or just scary. I didn’t really understand the process.
Lewis Howes: It is scary!
Tony Hawk: Yeah, and opening yourself up like that, and it just seemed like I had these ridiculous notions of what marriage and parenting are supposed to be. And you do this and you get childcare and this and this and this, and this is how it works, and you know, it was all, like, Ozzie and Harriet, and it was all just such a lie.
And to present this falsehood of contentment. It’s like ‘Fakebook’, you know, it’s like, “This is my life!” That’s not really your life! Those are the cool pictures of your life.
Lewis Howes: I’m showing off the car and that, projecting it, but it’s not real.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, yeah, exactly, and that’s not the core of it, and I feel like I’ve just come to understand and come to terms with the reality of everything, and presenting it as real. And I’m more, what you see is what you get. I mean, there’s not this facade of fantasy out here.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome, let’s say, in the last twenty years, fifteen to twenty years, for you personally? The biggest breakthrough that you’ve had to overcome?
Tony Hawk: Honestly, I think it was in recent years, I started losing a lot of my endorsements. Just because of the way that sponsorships work nowadays. It’s all more based on your social media and they’re all short lived. And I was living through five multi-year contracts and just by sheer coincidence, all of them ended all at once.
And it leaves you with a sense of not knowing your value. It’s hard to explain, but all of a sudden it was like, well, “I haven’t changed what I do, I’m not getting worse at what I do, why is everyone baling out?” And I think I had to wrestle with, “What is my sense of value? And how do I navigate these waters and still do what I love?”
And I kind of figured it out on my own, but very much had to believe in myself more than ever. Or, believe that what I’m doing is still relevant and what I’m doing still has resonance and that people are hopefully still interested in it. And I kind of figured out how to make those, I don’t want to say, “Make those ends meet,” but fill those voids in terms of finances and in terms of being out there through my use of social media.
And, suddenly, I found myself getting different deals, because of what I was doing out there on social media, and how I was presenting myself out there. It wasn’t just social media, because I was absolutely skating as hard as ever, and then I just started putting out video parts of myself, and that was just a weird notion.
It used to be, if you were in a video, it was because your team made a video, and you’re working towards that video and it’s a group effort and you present it as the team video. And it was more, like, “I got to get busy, get some tricks on video and make a video section and just put it out there.
And, luckily, with technology, now, you can.
Lewis Howes: Right away, yeah.
Tony Hawk: Right away.
Lewis Howes: Do you feel like, since these sponsors are looking for social media followers, or they’re looking for the younger guys that are coming up in the sport.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, and I mean, that’s not lost on me, either. I’m the old skater dude, I’m like the guinea pig for how far you can push this in terms of age, and so, that was never a secret to me, but it did feel like, all of a sudden, “Why all at once?”
And a lot of it was because our industry was struggling, surfing and skating industry, the companies, they were all really having hard times and that was, I was a by-product of that.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Do you feel like you need to chase relevancy still then? Do you feel like, “If I’m not putting out videos, or if I’m not with these skaters, or with these…”
Tony Hawk: I think it’s more my pride than anything, that is, in terms of what I think is relevant. So, every once in a while, I’ve got to learn a new trick, just so that I feel like I’m really still doing it. Not because I want everyone to be like, “Look, everyone! I just did something new!”
It’s more like, I’ve just got to feel good about what I’m doing and it’s not going to be some groundbreaking new spin or anything, but it’s maybe a little thing that I thought of and figured out how to make my board move differently. And it’s like, “Oh, it’s a new trick.”
Lewis Howes: That’s cool! And what’s the biggest fear for you, right now, at this stage of your life?
Tony Hawk: It’s mostly just for the peace of mind for our children and giving them the opportunities to chase their dreams, and being supportive. And I think it’s more that any of them feel slighted in terms of our time and support. That’s one of the hardest things to deal with. Because, like I said, we have kids, we have a couple.
We have one in college, one’s going to college, two are at home, and they all have different interests, they all have different priorities and we want to be equally supportive to all of them.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, of course. How do you raise kids, with your fame and the financial success you’ve had, how do you raise kids to feel like they can go out and do it on their own? Or, not, either living off of your name, or what you’ve built and they still have the desire to chase their dreams?
How do you instil that?
Tony Hawk: First, by example. Absolutely. They’ve seen that I’ve built this, whatever it is, this business, or this success through my own actions and through my own perseverance, and over the years, in creativity and what not. But I think that they all want to stand out on their own. Especially my oldest son is a pro skater. He definitely is living in my shadow, so to speak, in terms of what’s expected of him.
Lewis Howes: It’s a lot of pressure.
Tony Hawk: It is, but he found a way to make it his own. He’s a different style of skater, he’s more street, he doesn’t compete, but he’s learned how to be very creative and have his own following and his own style and his own, really his own vibe.
And I’m really proud of him for that. Because I think my success discouraged him, initially, from skating. And so, our other kids, they’re excited to pave their own way. I think that’s the best way of putting it. They all are motivated to continue their schooling. They’re all motivated to find their own niche or career, and I’m really proud of how they are hustling for themselves.
It’s funny, like, they definitely don’t just rely on our money. Like my oldest son, when he’s got downtime at home – well, not my oldest, my second oldest – he’ll be a DoorDash driver.
Lewis Howes: Really? Hustling!
Tony Hawk: Hustling, yeah! And it’s not hard, but obviously there’s part of you that’s like, “Well, how much are you really making with that?” But at the same time, “Hey, I’m proud of you for working at it!” Like, “Go do it! Learn how to be responsible.”
Lewis Howes: I’m curious about the way you think in the most challenging times during competition. You know, I think of the 900 moment and watching you struggle and fail over and over and not land the trick over and over and then you have one chance left.
You had many moments like that in lots of competitions, I’m assuming, that just weren’t captured where the pressure was on, you had to nail the trick, or the moment. Where does your mind go in those moments, when there is all that pressure to perform at the highest of your ability?
Tony Hawk: I think the first thing is, telling yourself you can do it. That’s my only key to true success, is having the confidence. So, if I’m in that moment, and I know I’ve got to absolutely put it all at risk, I feel capable of doing so. That’s one of the first things.
And if you go in with any sense of doubt…
Lewis Howes: It’s not going to happen.
Tony Hawk: It’s not going to happen, and whatever the worst case scenario is that you think of, that’s going to play out in the end.
Lewis Howes: So, don’t think of the worst case scenario.
Tony Hawk: Or, this is it, this is, if you’re ever going to make this trick, like, exactly with the 900. I had been trying it for years, I’d been trying it on ramps.
Lewis Howes: About ten years, right?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, almost ten years. I was trying it on backyard ramps, and I would even have my friends shoot videos of me, like, “Today’s the day, maybe.” And I’d have them shoot video, and I definitely gave it my all, like I actually landed a couple of times, broke my rib on the bottom of the ramp, but I was there.
And then, when they started having best trick competitions, through the year, a couple of them I tried 900’s, but I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it that day, or whatever it was. And then when the X Games happened and then when my spin was – but it was more about the ramp.
The ramp was ideal for that situation, because it was kind of sticky, and it was really big. Big for what was big then. Now we have 30ft ramps, but so, I started spinning it and it was consistent and I could see, I could spot my landing, and it was like, “Well, if you’re ever going to really make it, this is the time to make it.”
And so, it was the same mindset when I broke my rib. That was the one. I was like, “I’m going to make it, this is the one I’m going to make. I’m putting it on the wall, committed to it,” and I fell forward.
Lewis Howes: You broke your rib.
Tony Hawk: Broke my rib, yeah. But I did land, so it was there.
Lewis Howes: It was close, you knew you could do it.
Tony Hawk: So it was stuck in the back of my mind it was there and that I could do it. And so, at the X Games, when I finally was committing to it, I was leaning back a little bit, to compensate for that broken rib, and if you watch it play out, you’ll see, that in the first couple I land, I was leaning too far back.
Lewis Howes: End up falling on your knees, right?
Tony Hawk: Well, no, they’re always on your knees, but instead of committing to my front leg and falling forward, I was more leaning back and I was shooting out.
Lewis Howes: But you’ve got to commit all the way, to land it.
Tony Hawk: Well I had to find the balance between leaning too far forward and leaning too far back. And ultimately that’s what happened.
Lewis Howes: And how many times did you fall before you got it right?
Tony Hawk: I don’t really know. I think it was ten or eleven, but I don’t have many more each time I do it. Like, I only have, generally about fifteen or twenty in the bank before I’m exhausted or before I get hurt.
Lewis Howes: And this was the last moment, the last chance?
Tony Hawk: Well, not really.
Lewis Howes: It could have gone longer if you had more energy?
Tony Hawk: No, it was just that time for the event was already over. So they were just allowing me to keep trying it. And I didn’t think it was going to count for the competition, I just wanted to get it done! And that’s the mindset of skating, you know? It wasn’t for the glory, it was just, like, “I want to finally get this trick.”
I’m finally in the mode, I finally can do it. And I never thought that they’re going to put it on TV, I never thought that they would let me win after the time had run out. Because that’s just never how it was.
When I learned 720’s, which is a double spin, I learned it on, I literally learned it on a backyard ramp in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1985, with three people watching me. And no video. That’s what I was used to, in terms of learning new tricks. That’s the scenario.
So, all of a sudden it was broadcast live on ESPN, it was, like, a Sports Centre highlight. I wasn’t ready for any of that, nor did I expect it.
Lewis Howes: You just wanted to play a trick.
Tony Hawk: I would start walking through airports at that time, and people would stop me. “Tony Hawk! 900!” And I was like, “How do you know? Why do you care?” It was weird!
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it was iconic, it was iconic. After that moment, when you were still competing, how were you able to work through the pressure of competition, without, like, “Oh, I’ve got to land the bigger trick, and the bigger trick.”?
Tony Hawk: Well, I always have that in my head, I’ve got to step t up or I’ve got to do my best.
Lewis Howes: Do you think you were able to thrive under the pressure better, with the pressure and the attention? Or better without the attention?
Tony Hawk: It all depends. I got the point, when I was truly just in competition mode, I would get to the point where I would practice so much that I would have a really difficult routine dialled in so it just seemed robotic to me, it was almost boring.
Lewis Howes: You’d done it so much and practiced.
Tony Hawk: Did it so much, yes, and then I would have this handful of tricks in my back pocket that, if I needed to step it up, I could do a harder trick here, here, or here. But generally it was the same line, same routine.
And it wasn’t until after that, in 1999, when, I always said, I mean, I didn’t always say, but that year I decided was going to be my last year of competition, before the year started. So when I made the 900, it was like, “Oh, that’s…”
Lewis Howes: Now it’s just beginning!
Tony Hawk: “… a good out!”
Lewis Howes: Oh, it was the out.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, it was like, “Okay, we end on a high note.” And I did a couple of competitions after that, but I knew, at the end of the year, that was going to be it. But then it allowed me to start doing exhibitions and that’s when I created the Boom Boom HuckJam Tour, which was skateboarding, motocross and BMX and it was artists, sports and entertainment.
And in doing so, I found a new way of skating shows, that I hadn’t explored before, and that was exciting. And, honestly, those were my best years of skating. I was skating way better in those shows than I was in any competition. Because I was loose, and even though we were doing routines and we didn’t want to fall, but if you did fall, you could get up and try again.
And the crowd liked that. You can’t do that in a competition, generally. You can in a best trick competition, to an extent, but they really liked that aspect. And we were creating really complicated routines of incorporating everyone all together, and it was more like I found this new avenue of performing and it was a blast.
Lewis Howes: Wow! Was that kind of like, pre Nitro Circus then?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, it was. Actually, we went to the first live Nitro Circus show and I’ve actually said this to them, so it’s not going to be a big shock to them.
Lewis Howes: Sure, sure, they stole your show kind of idea.
Tony Hawk: No, no, it wasn’t that, it was kind of like that we had a big halfpipe in the middle of the area floor. We had a motocross track that went around the outside, jumped over the halfpipe and then we had this giant ramp that came in from the ceiling and then a jump for us to go over the ramp, through the middle, and then this 20ft quarter pipe.
It was about 2 million dollars worth of ramps that filled the floor. We went to the first Nitro Circus show, and it was basically the roll in and a jump and a landing and an airbag. And they were filling arenas, left and right. And I was like, “Is that all I had to do?”
Lewis Howes: Yeah! Just make a really big jump and an airbag.
Tony Hawk: Yeah! And every year we’d step it up. Like okay, we’d do that, so now we have a loop. So I’d have the same company build us a loop, and the loop is five minutes of the show, because once you see someone go round the loop, next. That was it.
Lewis Howes: That was it, yeah. Trick’s over! They want to see something different. How hard is that, going in the loop? It seems almost impossible.
Tony Hawk: It’s funny, it’s not, when you do it, what it takes physically, is not hard at all. The mindset of not hitting a ramp and turning around, is so hard to get through. And I see plenty of people who really want to do it and they can not make that turn in terms of understanding that you’re riding one track, and you’re not coming down the same side.
You know, as a ramp skater, once you get here, turn around and go back. And so, when you finally determine that it is this sort of carve, and it’s not a trick, that’s when it works. That being said, one false move, and you break your pelvis, like I did.
Lewis Howes: Oh, my gosh! I’m curious about the video game explosion, because when your games came out, this is what, in the 2000’s, right? Early 2000’s when it came out?
Tony Hawk: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: This took skateboarding, it seemed like, for me, on a whole new level of awareness, is that right? Around the world?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I think, if nothing else, it created a fan base for skating that hadn’t existed before, in terms of, the people that used to love skating, I would say in the 80’s, early 90’s, were only skaters themselves. There was no one watching from at home, thinking, like, “Cool McTwist!”
Lewis Howes: Yeah, I didn’t watch before that, because I didn’t skate.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, and they didn’t understand it. And so, what I think our video game allowed then to do was appreciate the dynamics of skating and the difficulty of it, and then suddenly there was this fan base of people who played our games that suddenly understood trick names and understood locations and got to know some of the figures.
And it was crazy how it exploded and suddenly we were thrust into the spotlight, and we inspired kids to start skating. That was probably the best by product of our video games, is that it really inspired a few, not a few, thousands of kids to pick up skateboards and try it for themselves.
Lewis Howes: Really? Did the industry in general get bigger then? Like, clothing and gear?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, absolutely, yeah.
Lewis Howes: And you had a lot of those brands.
Tony Hawk: Oh, yeah, well a lot of our Birdhouse brand was definitely the one that was most affected, the most positively, because, up to that point, we were still kind of struggling with the brand and keeping it alive. I’d say from the years ’92 to ’97, were very trying, and then ’97 it started to turn, and then the game hit, and then…
Lewis Howes: It blew up.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, it blew up.
Lewis Howes: What’s the think you’re still yet to create or achieve that you haven’t done yet?
Tony Hawk: That’s a good question. I’ve never been able to work on some sort of either TV or a movie that truly captures the spirit of skating beyond Dogtown and Z-Boys era. And I think that that’s long overdue.
I know Jono Hill’s working on something, I have something in the works that’s more of a comedy of sort of an older school group of guys that are trying to skate, you know, ones that were skating in the 80’s, and what not, but I feel like there’s room for something in between there, that really has a lot of heart.
Lewis Howes: A TV series, or a movie?
Tony Hawk: I think a TV series, yeah.
Lewis Howes: Have you seen that new Karate Kid show on YouTube?
Tony Hawk: No.
Lewis Howes: Have you heard of it?
Tony Hawk: I’ve heard of it, yeah.
Lewis Howes: It’s like the Karate Kid Comeback, but now they’re older and they’re competing against each other, the actors, and maybe there’s something with that, where the old time skateboarders do a series. I don’t know, I’m thinking of the comedy side of it.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, that’s the only thing. I feel like, when you’re dealing with all the old school guys, that’s leaning more towards comedy, but I’m feeling like something that does take place within that era that was very experimental within the 90’s.
But that being said, I am working on a Broadway project with Mark Mothersbough, that is a reality, where we bought the rights to a Nick Hornby book, called ‘Slam’, about teenage skater, a teenage pregnancy, but the kid skates, and we want to bring live skating, and Mark’s music, and the story, to Broadway.
And that is something that’s very exciting to me, because I feel like it’s very unique and it’s going to be a fun challenge. And, for me, it’s the Dream Team: Mark Mothersbough, I’ve just been a huge Diva fan, and his soundtrack work through the years, and then I’ve read all of Nick Hornby’s books. So, it’s pretty exciting.
Lewis Howes: Wow! You already working on that?
Tony Hawk: We’re working on that, yeah.
Lewis Howes: Wow, that’s cool! You’ve got a new game as well?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, a mobile game. I’m working with Maple Media, we’re doing a mobile skating game.
Lewis Howes: For iPhone, or android?
Tony Hawk: Both, yeah.That’s going to be out in October. It’s not yet named, I mean, I know what the name is, but it’s not announced yet. But it’ll be out there. It’s pretty cool. I think we’ve done really well for the limitations of a phone.
Lewis Howes: Okay, cool, so if we search Tony Hawk in the AppStore in October, we’ll find it.
Tony Hawk: In October, yes.
Lewis Howes: Got you! Well, if we follow you on Instagram, I’m sure you’ll be announcing it in the next couple of months, you’ll be promoting it everywhere.
Tony Hawk: Absolutely.
Lewis Howes: What’s the question you wish more people would ask you about?
Tony Hawk: What you’ve covered in terms of balancing family life, you know, that’s something that people don’t try to dive into. It’s not really the big celebrity type of stuff, but I think it’s important, so I feel like you really covered it and just in terms of trying to give guidance to others who might be getting into those kind of situations, where, at some point, you really have to start embracing your responsibilities as well as your success.
Lewis Howes: I think the reason I asked that is because there’s a lot of driven entrepreneurs or people who are passionate about their career, the businesses that they’re creating, who listen, or their passions, and sometimes we can get caught up too much in the passion and not enough in the connection, with family members.
Tony Hawk: Oh, absolutely, yeah! And also, just learning to play. That’s a huge important thing that people forget about. They get so caught up in the day to day and the kids and the school and the work, and then it’s just like, you’ve got to remember to goof around.
Lewis Howes: Do you goof around a lot?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, with the kids, for sure, yeah.
Lewis Howes: The kids probably make you goof around, because you got to play with the toys with them.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, yeah, and we become the go-to house for the VR, so that’s been pretty fun. We like it, it’s sort of a hazing process when people come. You’ve got to put on the VR, put you in the scary game. Just so we can video their reactions.
Lewis Howes: Really? How scary is it?
Tony Hawk: Well, some are way too scary, but some are really fun. And that’s another thing I would love to do, is make a VR skating game, but at this point, I’m not having any leads on it. And, also, it’s tricky, because if it’s a reality based skating game, and you’re really skating, it’s probably going to cause motion sickness.
Lewis Howes: I’m very motion sick, like, any type of spinning, I get dizzy and nauseous. I went to Disneyland a few years ago with my girlfriend. We went in a simulator, the first ride we went on was a simulator. I think it was a Star Wars, and I literally started sweating profusely, my whole body, within fifteen seconds.
Tony Hawk: Oh, you went on Star Tourist.
Lewis Howes: I think that’s what it was. I was sitting there, and I took the glasses off instantly, and it didn’t help. I was so gone, I was in the nurse’s office for the next six hours of the day. It was so embarrassing!
I always want to do rides, but when they go upside down and do crazy stuff, it’s like, I’m done. I don’t know what it is. I want to be able to train myself to get beyond that.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, I’ve sort of had to not force, but strongly suggest my daughter to do that. Because she always is very hesitant, and it’s like, “Let’s just go,” and she’s like, “What if? What if?” Like, “What if? I’m fifty years old. No what if’s have been happening to me.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s right, yeah. What’s the thing you want more people to know about you, that they maybe don’t know?
Tony Hawk: I don’t know, I never really think in those sort of lofty terms. I’m just thankful to be here, and all this stuff that I’ve been able to do and experience, and people that I get to meet, and it’s beyond any dream.
And people say, “Are you living the dream?” I’m like, “I never imagined… This dream didn’t exist! We’re creating the dream!” It’s insane, and it’s super fun! The one thing that you might not know about me is that I’m tired.
Lewis Howes: You’re tired?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, because our schedule’s insane.
Lewis Howes: You’re nuts. You’re going to Detroit right after this, you travel all the time.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, I’m taking a red eye to Detroit to skate there tomorrow. That kind of stuff, where people don’t see, you know, they think it’s all glamorous.
Lewis Howes: It’s a lot of work.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, you’re being carried through town and being feathered, and it’s like, “No, I’m getting off of red eye, and I’m going to rent a car and maybe got take a nap and got to the skate event. But that’s my choice, I can’t complain. It’s just the way it is.
Lewis Howes: And what’s the thing you’re most proud of, would you say?
Tony Hawk: That I’ve managed to raise really stable, fun children through all this chaos and commitments and the fire of success. That, truly, they are grounded and appreciative and that they treat people well.
Lewis Howes: That’s a great quality, yeah. A couple of final questions. This one is something that I ask everybody at the end of the show. It’s called The Three Truths. So, I want you to imagine that you’ve achieved everything you want. You’ve had the relationships you dreamed of, the kids have grown up and done everything that they want to do, and you get to decide when it’s your last day.
It could be hundreds of years from now, it could be whenever you want it to be. So, your last day here on Earth, right? So you choose, it’s a happy moment, but for whatever reason, all of the thing’s you’ve created, you’ve got to take with you, so you can’t really leave anything behind, you’ve go to take everything with you.
But your family gives you a piece of paper and a pen, and they say, “Will you write down the three things you know to be true, from all your experiences and lessons, the three lessons you would leave behind, or truths, and this is all we would have, physically, tangibly, to be reminded of you, besides our memories.”
What would you say are your Three Truths?
Tony Hawk: Wow! Easy questions last, huh?
Lewis Howes: Got to warm you up for it.
Tony Hawk: Three Truths. I think people deserve respect, you have to believe in yourself, and you should help others that can’t help themselves.
Lewis Howes: Do you feel like you’re doing a good job of helping others?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, through my foundation, I do, absolutely.
Lewis Howes: That’s great, yeah. You work with a lot of kids in your foundation, right?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, we help provide public skateparks in low income areas, and so we help people get the resources or jump through all the right hoops for them to get a park built in their area. And we’ve been doing it for sixteen years now and helped to fund almost 600 parks, so I feel really proud of that, of our work there.
So, you know, I guess that third truth could be somewhere between that and, ‘you’ve got to give back’.
Lewis Howes: Be of service, yeah.
Tony Hawk: Be of service, yeah.
Lewis Howes: If someone wants to donate, or they want to nominate a location for your foundation, where can they go to support that?
Tony Hawk: Yeah, tonyhawkfoundation.org, all the info is there. We literally have a guide to getting a public skatepark in your area. We try to empower communities who are already trying to help themselves. We don’t just say, like, “We need a park in X city and we’ll go build it and we get all the glory.”
We want to empower the communities so that they feel like they have a sense of ownership and pride.
Lewis Howes: And they take care of it, yeah.
Tony Hawk: Yeah. And also that they’re the ones that did the groundwork for it, but we’re giving them the map, in order to get it done.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, and where can we connect with you personally, or online, or where do you hang out, on what media platforms?
Tony Hawk: Tony Hawk on all platforms.
Lewis Howes: Are you on Instagram mostly, or Facebook?
Tony Hawk: I spread it across… Facebook is weird with all their algorithms, things kind of get buried and it seems to be less attraction there, unless you want to pay for it, and I’m not one to pay for it, so if you find me there, that’s great.
But I think my Instagram is probably my go-to and my stories.
Lewis Howes: Cool! Insta Stories?
Tony Hawk: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Alright, we’ll check you guys out.
Tony Hawk: Yeah, because I find myself in absurd situations, and crazy…
Lewis Howes: And you’re like, “I have to film this!”
Tony Hawk: Yeah, and just, like last night, we went to The Spy Who Dumped Me premier, and found myself between Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, with their poster behind them, like, “Oh, this is cool! Get in this shot!”
Lewis Howes: Okay, right! So we’ll check you out there. Make sure to follow Tony on all those platforms.
Before I ask the final question, I want to acknowledge you, for a moment, Tony, for being an incredible inspiration to so many people. For me, as a kid growing up and watching that one moment in time, and then watching everything you’ve been able to do afterwards, it gives a platform and an opportunity for me to see, this is a model that I can live for my life, and lots of other people.
Tony Hawk: Well, thank you, very much!
Lewis Howes: Yeah! I just want to acknowledge you for your generosity, your kind heart and your humility. I love the fact that you say, “You know what? I’d be doing this anyways, even if the money wasn’t here.” I know you have obligations and things you’ve got to show for, but the fact that you love your art and your craft and your sport that much, is truly inspiring.
Tony Hawk: Oh, yeah! I still, selfishly, the fact that we get to build more skateparks, I get more places to skate!
Lewis Howes: There you go! All over the world, when you’ve got to travel!
Tony Hawk: Exactly!
Lewis Howes: I love that! This is the final question. It’s: What is your definition of greatness?
Tony Hawk: Huh! Pushing boundaries while still being approachable. That’s my best shot.
Lewis Howes: Love it! Love it! Tony, thank you, man!
Tony Hawk: Alright, thank you!
Lewis Howes: Appreciate you very much. Appreciate you, brother.
There you have it, my friends! I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did. Make sure to share it with your friends. Spread the inspiration! The best thing you can do today is to listen and consume and learn something new for yourself and develop your mind, develop your ability to grow, to think differently.
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