Embracing our uniqueness is one of the most powerful things that you can do.
A survivor of a childhood riddled with domestic violence and alcoholism in the rural foothills of southern Virginia, James R. Nowlin is now the CEO and founder of Austin-based executive consulting firm, Excel Global Partners (EGP). He founded the company in 2007 and has since led successful engagements in 15 countries and in more than 20 states. He is also about to release his first book, The Purposeful Millionaire, a guidebook of 52 rules that teaches people about mastering the millionaire mindset and getting the most out of life–doing more, living more, and achieving more!
James, 36, put himself through college at the University of Virginia as a pre-med student, one year of medical school at Howard University, and three years of law school at Duke University–but ultimately, he decided that being a doctor or lawyer was not for him. “I used to think that you had to be the Huxtables to be successful,” he says of his favorite TV show growing up. “But now I know there is another path that is my calling.”
Throughout his adult life, James has used his daily habits and purposeful mindset to become a millionaire businessman, speaker, and author. At the age of 31, he also survived near impossible odds in a drowning accident and considers this event his second awakening.
Where did the idea for The Purposeful Millionaire, 52 Rules for Creating a Life of Wealth and Happiness Now, come from?
The main reason why I wrote The Purposeful Millionaire is that so many people encouraged me to do so. Over the past 10 years, I have served as the founder and CEO of executive consulting firm, Excel Global Partners, and we have grown tremendously. Having served clients in more than 15 states and 20 countries, that growth led to me speaking at conferences and connecting with people by sharing my personal and professional stories… particularly about the challenges that I have overcome including having grown up in a home of alcoholism and severe domestic violence. People would tell me, “You should write a book about your life!” I took the encouragement and decided to write The Purposeful Millionaire two years ago to encourage others in that if I can achieve it–they can too!
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
I am very committed to waking at the same time each day as well as going to sleep at the same time each day, regardless of where I find myself in the world. This predictable routine helps me to get really good restorative rest, which is needed with a hectic schedule like mine, and it also helps to keep me in a highly productive state. I talk about in my book how adhering to positive habits like this can contribute to productivity and a positive mental state. After I wake, I exercise by either going for a run, doing yoga, or body weight exercises. Then, after taking a shower, I plow right into work and dive into the most difficult tasks. By 10 a.m., it feels good knowing that I have a head start on the world, and my most challenging work is out of the way. After that, the rest of the day is usually pretty easy and filled with client meetings and other obligations.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The first thing that I do is to make sure that I scrutinize the idea by creating a list of pros and cons, as well as by evaluating how challenging it will be to bring the idea to full fruition. Lots of people have ideas and never achieve them, simply because they cannot organize their thoughts or move from the idea phase to the execution phase. My formula in my book that I share with others is Idea + Plan + Execution = Success. The execution phase is where we should spend about 90 percent of our time. Ideas are cheap and should be thoroughly scrutinized. After the idea is fleshed out, I come up with a plan–and execute like crazy!
What’s one trend that excites you?
Technology keeps making more and more tools available today that simply were not available five or 10 years ago. Because I travel a great deal, having data and communication capabilities at my fingertips helps to make me so much more productive. The downside to this is that I have had to learn how to shut things down and to force myself to take breaks from technology and people having 24-hour access to me. We all need to take the time to recharge, though our laptops, phones, and smart devices may make us feel as though we should be working 24 hours a day.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I love checklists. Each day, I print out my calendar and create a checklist of everything that I need to accomplish that day. I choose the three most important things on the list, and I focus on them early in the morning when my brain and creative abilities are the most fresh. I knock them out, and the rest of the day is pretty easy after that. Also, I have a great sense of accomplishment from having knocked out the hardest tasks first.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t compete–be unique! Embracing our uniqueness is one of the most powerful things that you can do. Because I was severely bullied in bullied in school during the day and faced horrifying domestic violence in my home at night and on weekends, I never felt safe, and I most certainly never felt free to be myself. It was not until I embraced my personality and uniqueness as an adult, that I realized the power of authenticity. Today, CEOs from around the world reach out to me because I am absolutely authentic to myself and don’t waste my time trying to compete with others or compare myself to others.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Most people are really good at dreaming, but they are not very good at planning or executing. This laser focus on execution ideology has been one of the key competitive differentiators for my firm, Excel Global Partners, and our value proposition. We beat the competition, simply because we stay squarely focused on nailing down the strategy and then executing the heck out of it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Yoga and meditative breathing. Yoga helps me to be at one with my body and mind and deep breathing helps me to tap into my brainpower and not make decisions based on emotions. I truly believe that this is a competitive advantage for me, particularly when faced with difficult situations or conversations. By breathing deeply and focusing, I am able to hear what the other person is saying, listen to the issue, digest it, and come up with the best possible solution.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Take breaks and pace yourself! My best creative ideas have come to me when I stepped away from my desk and took the time to escape and do something outside, especially when it’s sunny!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of my clients took advantage of our firm several years back by tortiously interfering with our contract and directly hiring one of our employees away from us. Previously, I had become very close with the client, who were wealthy siblings that had inherited a large company from their parents. However, I later learned that they did not value me or my business and that they saw people as truly fungible. After having to sue the former client, and subsequently winning, I vowed to not to commingle my personal life with business affairs and to always be watchful of people’s motives. In addition, the client thought that they owned me. I gave a lot and they took more than what they paid for. Going forward, if I believe that a client and I do not share a similar value system, I am now confident enough to tell them that they should find another firm.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Gobble up as much real estate as possible as soon as possible. In addition to your main business, you should definitely invest in real estate and create that as a separate business or a subsidiary of your parent company.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)
I gave up briefcases and bought a really great backpack. It’s much better for my back, much more organized than a briefcase, and as I get older, I don’t mind being a nonconformist in the corporate world. I am a much happier traveler and more organized business person because of my backpack. It rocks!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
My firm loves to use join.me with our clients as well as for our internal business meetings. It allows us to screenshare and teleconference seamlessly, and so far, it has been the most reliable screen sharing and conference meeting software that we have utilized.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Aside from my book, they should read the classic by Wallace Wattles, “The Science of Getting Rich.” This book is the foundation upon which many contemporary books are based on the philosophy of abundance consciousness and prosperity creation.
What is your favorite quote?
“Would you rather be right, or would you rather be rich?” Being a great consultant and coach to C-suite executives is not about being right–it’s about helping to guide the client to the best possible solution. My ideas, though tested by more than a decade of leading client engagements, is not always what the client wants, even if I do feel that it is the best path. They want my help with being guided to get to the best solution, not help with having me force my thoughts or my experienced-based solutions down their throats.
- Embracing our uniqueness is one of the most powerful things that you can do.
- Take breaks and pace yourself! My best creative ideas have come to me when I stepped away from my desk and took the time to escape and do something outside, especially when it’s sunny!
- Most people are really good at dreaming, but they are not very good at planning or executing.
James book at: www.PurposefulMillionaire.me
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James Nowlin on Twitter: @JamesNowlinTPM
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.