Successful entrepreneurs and business people generally live by a set of principles or a code of conduct. Learn 12 Life Lessons that most successful entrepreneurs have learned and that you need to know to take your life to the next level.Sign Up to Watch
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DANIEL MCKENNA: What's up, guys? My name is Daniel McKenna. I'm the Executive Producer here at Thrive 15, and once I tried out for a college baseball team without ever actually playing baseball. Today, we have Clay Clark sitting down with Sean Kouplen, and we're talking about the 12 life lessons that every human should know in this business education training.
Now, Sean Kouplen is quite the human. He was actually a bank owner before the age of 35. He is also a venture capitalist and has his hands in several different businesses. He knows a thing or two about success. The life lessons that he is going to teach you today are going to help you have success as a human on this planet Earth.
Here at Thrive 15, knowledge and business education without application is meaningless. It's what we say. It's what we believe, which means if you're watching today's lesson and you don't actually learn anything and you don't actually apply anything, watching today's lesson is going to be more meaningless than applying pepper spray as a seasoning.
-How are you, my friend?
-Hey, for anybody watching this today, and if you're not totally up on your Sean Kouplen knowledge, I'm going to just give you a quick, quick history. He owns a bank, and so therefore in my mind, you are qualified to talk about some of these life lessons that we all need to know to become successful.
-That's a low qualification. Yeah.
-Because you didn't start off wealthy. I mean, you weren't raised in a family where all the kids had a bank and--
-No. No. The kids barely had a bedroom.
CLAY CLARK: Could you walk me through when you-- how big is your family?
-There was just four of us, my mom, dad and myself and my sister. My grandfather and father were and are both farmers. And so whenever I graduated from college, my dad informed me that there wasn't enough room for all of us on the farm. So I needed to go get a job. So I really started from scratch.
-So you didn't come from a long line of silver spoon, super wealthy, regal? OK. All right. So I just want to make sure, if you're watching this, I think sometimes when we see successful people, maybe we think, oh well, they must have lucked their way into it or they inherited it.
But you worked your way up. A lot of people helped you along the way, but you did work your way up there. And you wrote a book called 12 Life Lessons Every Graduate Should Know.
And when I was on the beach in South Beach, I had the opportunity to read the Kindle version of this book. And I really am going to just change the title a little bit for us. So it should be 12 Life Lessons Every Human Should Know.
-Because as I read it I thought, you know what?
-You're broadening my market.
-There we go.
-That's very good.
-Well, as I read it I just thought, you know what? These are things that every person needs to know. So I thought how we could do this is I'm going to go ahead and read the life lesson. And I'm going to let you hammer home why it's important for us to know it.
-So here we go. Life lesson number one, the five advancement skills. Time management, communication skills, emotional intelligence, networking, and trust. Let's talk about these five skills and specifically time management. Why do we have to know these skills?
-We try in the book, we try to begin with the end in mind. So our goal is to be successful. All of us, and we define success a different way, all of us do. But I think at the end of the day what I tried to do was say, OK. In my experience, if you have these five skills, you will have a greater chance of being successful than if you don't.
Just a little bit of background. I wrote the book. I love to teach, and I was teaching at night at Oklahoma State University here in Tulsa. And every time I would finish a class, I would have anywhere from 5 to 20 students stay around wanting to talk about success. And primarily, their confusion with success.
How do I know what I want to do when I grow up? I'm in a company that I like and I'm stuck. I'm not moving anywhere.
I'm in a company I don't like. How do I switch jobs? How do I get the job that I want? I know what I want to do, but it's highly competitive.
And so over time and hours of conversation, I began to realize there was really a need for this information. So that's how 12 Life Lessons was born. The five advancement skills, I'll just hit on them briefly.
Time management. What you find is as you progress in your career, you're also progressing in your family. You're also typically progressing in your outside community activities, and time becomes a real issue. In fact, it becomes your most limiting factor.
And so the ability to manage time well, to be organized-- now, you're a time management junkie. I've seen your daily schedule. It scares me. So that is a very critical skill in being successful, and particularly in being an executive.
Communication skills. You have to have the ability to both verbally and communicate well, both verbally and in a written fashion. That is how we are judged. Our intelligence, our abilities are judged by what we say and write.
And so I think it's critical that we hone those. And I mentioned these skills because I think all of us need to work on these skills our entire life. I don't think it is something that we just stop when we get out of college or high school.
Emotional intelligence. This one is the ability to sense how others are feeling and to react appropriately based upon where they are. I have very intelligent employees who are analytically and technically very proficient.
But they can never become managers or executive level managers, because they don't have the ability to relate to other people around them. They say the wrong thing at the wrong time. They don't connect well with either their employees or clients. And so emotional intelligence, I think is the third important advancement
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-Fourth is the ability to network. There's no question that your opportunities expand, the more people that you know. And I always say, it's not only important how many people know you, it's how many people respect you.
Some people know a lot of people, but they all know them to be fairly worthless in nature. So, that's not going to engender a great deal of opportunities. But assuming that you work hard, do what you say you're going to do, you're sharp, broadening your network, I think, is critical.
And finally, the most important skill is trust. The people around you have to be able to believe in you. They have to know that when you say you're going to do something, you will do it. You don't overpromise. You don't say things just to make them go away. You don't tell them that you're going to follow up and do something, and never follow up.
So in my experience, these five skills-- if you want to run the show someday, and be the CEO and the owner someday, I think you've got to master these five skills.
-And I think if you're if you're watching this, and maybe you're kind of going, gosh, this is a big list, where do I even start? I would just give you an example, from my life. Time management as an individual business owner.
When I started my first business called DJ Connection, I had to manage basically, appointments with clients, and manage time on the phone, and then it became how do I manage that and maintenance and accounting, and then how do I manage-- and over time I just had to get better and better.
And right now, my thing now is I'm trying to actually block out chunks of time just to think. And I'm trying to learn, now, a new level of executive time management where I now am trying to pattern my time management more off of the role that I aspire to have.
And so, I don't think, like you said, you're ever done with that. I also think in terms of communication, I look at my career, and I say-- you know, I used to stutter as a kid-- so learning to speak and articulate has required work over the years to be able to speak proficiently. But you're never done.
And I know of myself, if I were to rate myself on a scale of 1 to 10-- that might be a healthy thing for you to do, if you're watching this. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. If 10 is the highest and 1 is the lowest, and you say, well, time management, maybe you're a wizard, maybe you're a saint. Wow. That's great.
But communication. Maybe you write in some sort of English, Spanish, Greek hybrid that no one else understands. Maybe you're a 2 there. Maybe your emotional intelligence or your communication skills need to be improved.
But it's very unlikely that anybody watching this is a perfect 10 across the board. And I can tell you personally, there's many of these areas that I need to improve upon. And I just think it's important that we realize that it's a process. And we all need to continually work to improve on these.
Do you, even now, at your a status, or your stature, in where you've gotten to-- where you now own several companies, you invest in companies, you're now the head of a bank-- do you still put the work into improving in these areas?
-Yes, no question. I get asked a lot, you know, how does it feel to have "made it" quote unquote. You don't make it. I don't feel like I've made it. I feel like we all just continue to grow day after day after day. And I think that's what life is, is just this continuous growth and development, and I don't think that will ever change.
CLAY CLARK: And one thing that's great, too. I'm married and I have five kids. And I know you're married. And you have a wonderful wife as well. My wife tends to point out whatever my weakest skill is. And she's like your emotional intelligence is pretty low, right now.
SEAN KOUPLEN: If you need to find where in these areas that you need work, just ask your spouse.
CLAY CLARK: There you go.
-That's what I would recommend. Just ask-- or your girlfriend, they will, or boyfriend, they'll tell you.
-And now we're moving on to life lesson number two. And And it says preparation tops talent, every time. When you say that preparation , tops talent every time, how does that happen in business? I mean, what do you mean by that?
-There are times in our life when talent will top preparation. For example, I can practice as hard as I want to practice, I'm not going to beat David Robinson in basketball. It's not going to happen. He has a talent, and height, that I do not have, and will never have.
In business, it's all equal. It's all equal. There are-- it doesn't matter whether you're short, tall, rich, poor, what color you are-- it doesn't matter. Those things don't matter. In business, preparation wins.
If you and I are going on a sales call against each other, you are admittedly very handsome, extremely witty. If I know more about that client, I've researched them top to bottom. I know what solutions will fit for them. I'm going to get that deal.
If you and I are going for the same job interview-- and that's really where we focus in this book, is how to get that job that you want-- you can be the most suave, debonair, human being on the face of the planet, if I know the company inside and out, and I am prepared and ready, I'm going to get that job.
-And I want to give an example, because I feel like that this is just one prime example. I was talking to a gentleman the other day, and he said, well, when you do Thrive interviews, that's got to be fun. I mean, you just show up, and the mentors show up, and you just ask them questions.
And I was trying to explain to him, I said, for every five hours of recording, it takes about 25 hours to prep. And so my preparation for interviewing with you is to read your book, and I felt like I owed it to you, but I feel like I owed it to the people that are going to learn from this, for me to know enough about it to be able to a least ask you some questions that make sense, and I think that preparation is so big. It's so big, and I think especially the higher you get up there, when you get asked to lead a board meeting, or you get asked to give a speech, if you haven't prepared, people know.
-And it's just awesome when people watch somebody who has not prepared acting as though they've prepared. It's not a pleasant sight.
-The more you move up the ladder, the more that becomes exposed. You can maybe get by when you're at an entry level, but when you move into the C-suite, when you're not prepared, it's not good.
-Yeah, it's just huge, so I would encourage anybody watching this, just rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. How well are you doing at preparing for the job that you currently have? Because you can always get promoted out of that job to another job.
Now moving on to Life Lesson Number 3. Focus is the single greatest factor in personal and professional success. That's a pretty big statement there. When you say focus, it's the single greatest factor, what do you mean by that?
-Well, let me just give you a quick story, and why I know this to be true. I transferred from one university to another because of an injury my sophomore year, and my grade point was very low. I didn't know anyone at that university, and I happened to meet a guy who taught me the value of goal setting and focus. And he, in essence, talked me into developing five goals that I would achieve by the time I graduated from-- it was Oklahoma State University-- and back them up to today and basically say, OK, what do I need to do today to achieve this goal three or four years from now? And I basically went from what had to be number 4,000 in a class of 4,000 to Outstanding Graduate by the time I graduated.
And so I've thought all of these years, why was I able to do that-- because there were a lot of sharp, sharp kids in my class-- and I think it was because every day I was focused toward where I wanted to go. There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't have a very clear focus.
And so I've tried to carry that through my business career and continually have goals, continually focus to get better, because what you find is 95% of the people-- maybe 99% of the people-- just kind of get pushed around by the waves. They just function, they react to whatever that day brings them, and those people who are intentional and focused just have a tremendous advantage in life.
-I once had it described to me by a mentor of mine, and he had said, if you're hitchhiking on the side of the road and you put your thumb out and, assuming that a good Samaritan pulls you over and says, hey, where do you want to go? If that answer is, I don't know, then he'll probably not take you where you want to go or maybe you'll end up in a weird city or a weird spot. You just don't know.
But if you're intentional and you're hitchhiking and you say, where do you want to go? Well, I want to go here. Well, I'm sorry I'm going there, I can't take you. The next car. Well, I want to go here. OK, well, I can take you halfway there, and you'll eventually get there, but the whole idea is that we're kind of hitchhiking through life, and people are asking you, hey, where do you want to go, and you have to know that.
So if you're watching this today and you're saying, I really don't know where I want to go, don't feel like you're weird, don't feel like you're the only person on the planet to have ever been there, but what I can say though is that nobody drifts their way to success. You need to be very intentional, and I think that's very, very powerful.
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