Who Cares About Vision? — with Brad Wenneberg

My second guest today was Brad Wenneberg. He’s the author of Unleash your Inner Warrior.

At the age of 25, Brad was a police officer. His dream from the age of six was to become a cop, yet at 25 he was mired in alcoholism and depression, and one night he tried to shoot himself in the head. Fortunately his wife, sensing a crisis, had unloaded his service revolver. The next thing Brad remembered was, waking up in a hospital in the mental ward. He had lost his vision and passion.

Somebody can commit you to a hospital, but they cannot make you get better — you have to do that yourself. For Brad, what enabled him to get better was rediscovering his conviction that what he wanted most on earth was to leave a positive legacy.

When he thought back on why he wanted to be a police officer, it was to protect and serve help other people. And he realized he couldn’t do that while strapped to a bed in a mental ward. And it was there that he achieved a moment of clarity, and was able to rededicate himself to his original vision.

Brad left the police department, started a 12 step program, and maintained sobriety. He tried private investigation and found that he absolutely hated it. Then he tried insurance, and was very successful and have a lucrative career. On the side, he was teaching karate.

Then one day, someone suggested that he follow his passion. Brad went home and told his wife that he was quitting insurance to open a karate studio. She said “you must be crazy.” She also knows her husband very well, and ultimately told him that she supported his decision because she wanted him to do the thing that most inspired him. (Brad also had the foresight to marry an outstanding woman.)

Today, 17 years later, Brad and his wife own one of the largest karate studios in the country. They teach over 500 families, with students from age 5 to age 72. They have multiple employees and run a college inside the studio. And what they have today is exactly what Brad envisioned 17 years ago.

In 1992, they had a 1000 square-foot studio. Today, the studio is 15,000 square feet. The entire experience the students have is the one that Brad intended — that there is something going on that is larger than Brad, that is passionate, that is bigger than any one person.

Brad relates that his success was based on building new habits, and on being able to envision the future so clearly — and to share that vision and mission with others — that it becomes easy to bring it about.

One of the messages of Brad’s book is the importance of being flexible when pursuing a vision or a purpose. Everybody has a purpose in life. Once we determine what our purpose is, the purpose doesn’t change. For Brad, it was interacting with other people, helping and guiding them. When he could no longer do that as a police officer, he pursued the same purpose through insurance, and then through teaching karate.

If he had believed that his purpose was tied to being a police officer, he would’ve been miserable once that was closed to him.

Anytime a person finds themselves doing a job that is disconnected from their purpose and their passion, they’re almost certain to be miserable. If you find yourself miserable, step back from what you are doing, and figure out whether it’s the right thing for you to be doing.

What Brad does when coaching and advising people is ask them, what hobbies do you have that really excite you?

Sometimes, people get into a line of work that was recommended to them, or that is sensible, or that his lucrative, rather than one that makes them happy.

It is almost impossible to be on honest and passionate about something you don’t like. It will not feel good in your soul. You will not be able to be a good leader when you are miserable.

Another important ingredient is to get other people to buy in to the vision. There’s an old saying about people being dead at 21 and buried at 65. Those are people who don’t have vision, and who lose their passion for life.

That’s not to say that people should quit the job that keeps a roof over their heads. However, you should build your life around the things that make you inspired and passionate. When you do that, the money follows, the success follows. It creates an atmosphere of success and people catch it.

Ultimately, Brad says, he had to stop making excuses. He had to stop blaming others, stop blaming alcohol, stop blaming his upbringing. He had to take responsibility. He had creative vision for himself but was positive and inspiring. He had to believe in himself and take action. And then he had to inspire others.

And you have to be teachable. You have to be able to follow guidance with humility. You can’t take responsibility for all successes and think it’s all you. We will all ultimately be judged based on our actions — not just our intentions.

Create a purpose, create a vision, develop a passion, and everything else will follow. Find out what the Why is, and go do it.

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