The CEO Mindset

Working on my first business in 2006, after being paralyzed at the age of 23.

Working on my first business in 2006, after being paralyzed at the age of 23.

What makes you a CEO? Honestly?

I mean, who the fuck am I?

I have “CEO” in my LinkedIn profile and every time I think of someone viewing my profile the first thought that comes to mind is,

“These people are probably laughing their ass off at me, thinking, ‘This guy is a joke!’ writing CEO next to his name.”

I mean it.

Don’t you think so?

These days people everywhere are calling themselves a Founder or a CEO, and it’s a real topic in entrepreneur land.

It’s something that I’ve struggled with, but I also have chosen to OWN despite the stigma it may carry.

Should you, too?

Well, let’s dive into things and see if I can explain.

Back in 2006 I started my first company, Underground FMX Productions, with the goal of putting on freestyle motocross stunt shows at local events around Ontario, Canada.

At the time I was a bricklayer, but knew that I didn’t want to work for someone else for the rest of my life without at least taking a shot at doing my own thing.

I got a $20,000 line of credit, and all of a sudden “BOOM!”, overnight I was a business owner.

Performing a Superman Seat Grab at the Lindsay Fair in 2006.

Performing a Superman Seat Grab at the Lindsay Fair in 2006.

I ordered my own set of ramps, and before they arrived I performed my first jump show on July 1st, 2006 (Canada Day weekend ) and achieved all of my childhood dreams.

  • I performed in front of a crowd

  • I got paid for riding my motorcycle

  • I signed autographs for little kids

  • I was in a magazine through my sponsor

It was amazing.

Then, two weeks later, I crashed.

  • I was at another jump show and wasn’t mentally focused…

  • I was too concerned about the crowd forming

  • I was too concerned about impressing other riders

  • I could ride the ramps but they were off centre, plus the wind was blowing making it uncomfortable to ride

  • I skipped my usual warm up routine

And from all that, on the first jump of the day I had to hit the eject button. I fell 75 feet onto steel ramps and broke my back, pelvis, and ribs, and was instantly paralyzed.

En route to the hospital after my crash.

En route to the hospital after my crash.

(If you want to watch the whole story and a video of the crash, click here.)

Laying in the hospital bed, I asked myself “ What should I do. Should I give up, or should I keep going on this business venture?”.

“Keep going”, I thought.

I chose to go back to school for marketing, graduated, and learned that I lost the love to promote shows or work in the field of marketing and gave it all up, which was the right move for me at that time.

What next?

Well, since I was now living life in a wheelchair, I experienced a lot of problems that you don’t think about as an able bodied person.

I dealt with pressure sores under my legs and was hot all the time sitting in my wheelchair. I hated wearing pants over shorts, so I thought “Let’s start a disabled clothing line!”.

Yeah right, that was a flop.

“What about being a YouTuber?” (Remember this is 2006…)

Nope! I chickened out when I got made fun of early on. (Big regret)

What next?

“Public speaking! Yeah! And you know what? I’m going to call myself “MR. ADVERSITY!” and start a clothing line to promote myself!”

Sounds great, right!?

Well, the public speaking continued, but I dropped the Mr. Adversity thing real quick… and no clothing was ever printed.

What now?

Playing in the 2014 Sochi Paralympics.

Playing in the 2014 Sochi Paralympics.

Fast forward a few years, and thankfully I discovered sledge hockey.

I ended up making Team Canada just after the 2010 Paralympics came through Vancouver, and that set me up with the opportunity to build a personal brand. It gave me a platform to work on my keynote speaking, and in turn also retire with options.

Option One: Do what most athletes do. Take your incredibly transferable high performance skillset into the workplace and land almost any job. With the credentials as an Olympic athlete, most any employer would be happy to bring you into the office.

I applied to two jobs, and in both of interviews I thought to myself,

“If I take this job I’m selling out.”

I couldn’t do it.

Option Two: Start your own business, again. This time, take what you have learned and make it work.

Today, I have created the Sledge Hockey Experience, a corporate team building program to get leaders #buttdown on the ice for a new perspective about life and people with disabilities, helping uncover unconscious bias and build confidence in creating a truly inclusive culture.

“Diversity includes disability.” — The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work

To date, we have ran 35 corporate events and things are rolling. Life is great.

Now let’s get back to the CEO part.

Question one: Does running a business make you a CEO?

Hell no.

There’s so much that goes into running a business that the more I learn about roles within a company, the more I definitely don’t consider myself a CEO.

I have a lot to learn.

Question two: At what point do you call yourself a CEO when you’re stuck in startup mode and still a one man, or one woman, show?

It’s seriously embarrassing calling yourself a CEO when you are the show.

I’ve gone from working with three employees, to alone, back to working part time with a virtual assistant.

Is it number of employees? Is it revenue? Is it how you structure your organization?

What is it? When do you call yourself a CEO?

Which leads to question three: What makes you a CEO?

My answer in entrepreneur land: it’s all about mindset.

In today’s world, mental health is at an all time high of concern. We have people in corporate, out of corporate, entrepreneurs, celebrities, wealthy people, unemployed, people in poverty, teenagers, students, even children under the age of 10 who are all struggling with mental health in their day to day lives, and some even feel suicidal.

There is a major mental health crisis going on in our world today. In Canada, one in five Canadians are expected to experience a mental illness, and I’m telling you that so much of it comes down to your mindset.

As a speaker, my keynote is about The Hero Mindset which is focusing on the small things that make the big difference, helping you drive results and embrace change.

People always ask me how I survived all that I went through? How did I get out of my own depression and suicidal thoughts, and how did I rebuild my life after my father took his own life?

(Oh yeah, I didn’t mention that one to you earlier, did I?)

I’m telling you, it’s not easy, but it’s simple.

I have worked extremely hard on keeping my mindset right by focusing on my own internal beliefs every single day.

You can read about some of my cognitive behavioural therapy techniques that I use in this article on How To Spiral Up, Not Down, but as far as being a business owner goes, there are three sources of inspiration I have found from unconventional CEO’s who started out young and worked their way to the top, in their own style, that I would like to recommend to you here.

Number one: Andy Frisella

Andy is the MotherFucking CEO. Straight up.

He started the supplement company called 1st Phorm and runs a podcast called the MFCEO Project, which is all about you becoming the MotherFucking CEO of your own life!

It’s vulgar, it’s ruthless, and that’s why I like it. It’s a no BS mentality to you owning your own life and all the decisions that go along with it, and showing up despite the odds to make your dreams come true!

It’s about eliminating excuses for why you aren’t where you want to be, taking responsibility for your own life, and showing the fuck up even when you don’t feel like it.

Listen to Andy’s podcast here, and be sure to bring a change of underwear.

Andy screams a lot trying to get his point across.

Number two: Charlie Jabley

Charlie Square.jpg

Today, Charlie Jabley is “Charlie Rocket”, but back in the day he began as CEO Charlie.

Charlie dreamt big as a kid. He carried a briefcase to high school (which I think would guarantee you to be laughed at).

He wore suits all the time.

He attempted to start many businesses out of his mom’s basement (many of which were complete failures) until he finally got connected with Travis Porter and 2Chainz after many years of incredibly hard work.

He soon started selling millions of records and earning millions of dollars, but at the same time says “as the business grew, he grew”, and was at one point over 300lbs.

Today, Charlie has become a Nike athlete and was featured in the popular Dream Crazy commercial. He is on a mission to help inspire others through his story and show that it does all start with a dream,

but in those early days you have to be willing to be laughed at.

You have to be the one who creates your own identity of belief in you and what you do, no matter how ridiculous you may feel… no matter what others might say about you.

At the end of the day it is YOU that will make things happen!

And it starts with belief within yourself.

Number three: Gary Vaynerchuck (Gary Vee)

Meeting Gary Vee in front of the Fairmont Hotel in 2017.

Meeting Gary Vee in front of the Fairmont Hotel in 2017.

Gary Vee is my fucking idol.

Just like when I used to look up to FMX riders as a teenager, I now look up to and want to be like Gary Vee.

He is a gangster in entrepreneur land who created VaynerMedia after he built his dad’s wine business from three to 60 million in revenue in just under five years — on the back of email marketing.

Gary preaches things like patience, hard work, hustle, and “owning your shit”.

He’s a no B.S. guy who just like Andy, tells it how it is.

Gary talks often about caring obsessively about what people say about him, and at the same time completely not giving a shit whatsoever, and if you put his LinkedIn profile beside mine, it doesn’t take a clown to tell you that I am the one who looks like a joke.

Gary is the man and deserves all the credit for those three letters as his title.

Not me.

But here’s my point.

Gary, or anyone like Andy or Charlie who is there to support you to go after what you want, what you believe in, and pursue what you choose to do with your life, will all tell you the same thing:

“Fuck’em!”

These people aren’t paying your bills. These people are all trying to figure out their own shit, and some of them might want to do the same as you are but are too scared to do it.

At the end of the day, it comes down to you, your mindset, and doing whatever it is you need to do in order for you succeed.

If you get your teeth knocked out along the way, take the hits like you’re supposed to, and keep on going.

That’s what a real entrepreneur/CEO does.

We have to.

Today, I partnered up with K Swiss to help promote their line as The shoe for entrepreneurs”.

Their tagline is #CEOsWearSneakers, and it’s all about the next generation going after what they want, not conforming to society’s standards, falling for the false security of corporate life, and creating your own luck along the way.

I think that is something that so many of us young hustlers can identify with

As we crest July 15th this year, it’s coming up on the 13 years since I started my entrepreneurial journey, and I choose to rock K Swiss on the daily as I continue to try and build my own empire like the three CEO’s mentioned above.

At the end of the day, I believe, that it doesn’t matter what your title says in your LinkedIn bio or your Instagram profile, what matters is what’s inside your head.

Every day you wake up, you have to Be The Hero of Your Own Movie.

You need to be the one to adopt the mindset that you are responsible for your own life, you are in control, you make the decisions, and you have a massive opportunity to drive results and create the change that you desire.

What you call yourself is irrelevant.

What matters is your mindset.

If it takes calling yourself a CEO to make your dreams happen, then I say do it.

Because as the CEO, you’re in charge of your own fucking life.

Call yourself whatever you want, clown.
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Enjoyed this article? Here are 3 more articles to help you succeed:

These Words Saved Me From Suicide
Life Doesn’t Give You What You Want, Life Gives You What You Need
How To Turn Depression Around: Spiral Up, Not Down

Kevin Rempel

I help people adopt the mindset about life and people with disabilities that drive results and embrace change.