Learn how America's millionaire school teacher grew up before he became a big success.Sign Up to Watch
entrepreneur mentoring like udacity, grow your business
-My name is Clay Clark. And I'm the CEO of Thrive15.com. Today we are joined with Clay Staires, the millionaire school teacher and business mentor. And he's going to be teaching us specifically how he went from the classroom as a teacher all the way up to being a millionaire.
If right now you're stuck at a job that you're not too excited about, or maybe you'retrying to grow your business that's not that profitable and you've ever thought to yourself, man, how could I become a millionaire, today's training is going to teach you specifically what you need to do to become a millionaire just like Clay Staires. The guy was a schoolteacher. And today he is a millionaire and business mentor.
At Thrive15 we always want to make sure that all of our trainings are powerful and worth a lot. But I believe that today's training might just be worth a million dollars to you. Remember, at Thrive15.com we all believe that knowledge without application is absolutely meaningless.
So if you're watching today's episode, take the time to ask yourself, what do you need to do to specifically apply these principles in your own life and business? Otherwise, today's episode may just be more meaningless than yelling "Free Bird" at any concert other than Lynyrd Skynyrd.
All right. Today we are joined by Clay Staires, the millionaire schoolteacher. Clay, thank you for being here, my friend.
-Hey, it's great to be here, Clay. Well, first off, a little background-- you are a schoolteacher who's gone on to achieve massive financial success. And you travel around the country as a leadership speaker, motivational speaker. It's amazing what you've been able to do. And so I'm just going to dive into it here.
CLAY STAIRES: Let's go.
-Where did you grow up?
-In Avant, Oklahoma.
CLAY CLARK: Really?
-Yes. It's like 300 people. But everybody knows it pretty much because it's on Bird Creek.
-Is that like the tourist capital of Oklahoma?
-Well, pretty much, pretty much. Yes. Bird Creek floods all the time. So everybody knows it because it's flooding all the time.
-That's why you'd probably want to book a trip to--
-Yes. Let me get the Johnny boat!
-What was your childhood like?
-Wow. Well, it's kind of the classic Andy Taylor-- I was Opie-- type of thing. And so it's just small town. Again, about 300 people in the town. And grew up on a 100-acre ranch. We had horses, ton of dogs, goats, and things like that.
-When you say a ton of dogs, how many dogs did you have?
-We had several. And they were all stray dogs. Because we kept finding out that if you buy a dog, it dies. So we just went with stray dogs, which was wonderful. So I grew up with a bunch of stray dogs. But I tell you, just living in the country, constantly outside.
This was back in the day before anyone really was concerned about insurance or concerned about injuries. So I just spent all day just out playing around in the woods. I used to be up in the woods-- Clay, this is hilarious. I used to be up in the woods. And I would lift up rocks to see if I could find snakes.
-Yes. Doesn't seem really smart. But that's what I used to do. Never did find one, though.
-That's a strategy that I haven't employed in my quest for financial success. But I might just start doing that if that's how you do it. You just look under the rocks for snakes?
-Well that's interesting. Maybe that is a part. Maybe it's kind of a silent part that I wasn't aware of.
-Now, did you start out wanting to become a leadership expert? Or what kinds of activities were you involved in during high school?
-Well, I think probably where the leadership piece came in for me is that I was the youngest of four kids. And so I grew up in a family of leaders. My mom and dad had started a nonprofit that-- I grew up in the ministry. I grew up on a summer camp facility.
CLAY CLARK: Really?
-So I was always looking at my big brother-- six years older than I was-- and he was always funny. And so I was going, oh, I want to be like him, I want to be like him. And my dad always had so much influence with people that were all over the place. It seemed like everywhere we'd go, well, you're Don's boy. He just knew everyone.
-Now, for the folks at home who might not know what camp you're referring to, but they want to Google it or check it out, what was the name of the camp?
-Shepherd's Fold Ranch.
-And how many kids would go to that ranch on a typical summer?
-On a typical summer? Probably around 1,500, 2,000 kids.
CLAY CLARK: Wow.
-Yeah. I think over the years-- when did we start? Like 1972 was when we started. I think we've had about 25,000 kids since then.
-So did you have some adversity in high school you faced? Or was it a pretty easy, smooth kind of deal, or what?
-My adversity didn't hit until just after college.
CLAY CLARK: Really?
-But up through there, everything was going pretty smooth. I was the guy. I had a lot of natural likeability. I was good-looking, not unlike today at all.
-It's actually probably too good-looking now.
-Thank you. Thank you very much. Just bring the lights down a little bit.
-But also, I made good grades. I was very likable by all the teachers. I knew how to manipulate really well, probably unlike you. And so I got a lot of things to go my way. I had some very natural athletic talent. And so I was able to have success in athletics without really having to work at it. And ended up going to college playing football in college, which was a lot of fun.
-Where'd you go play?
-University of Oklahoma.
-Were you any good?
-I was good enough to travel, how about that? But not good enough to get in a game.
-So how tall are you?
-At that point, I was like, what, 5' 8'', 5' 9''.
CLAY CLARK: And so you were playing--
-I've grown a lot. I'm 5' 10'' now.
-You were playing Division I college football?
CLAY STAIRES: Yes.
-Were you getting just rocked?
-Oh, I was getting killed. Because not only was I small, but I weighed like 150 soaking wet.
-Are you serious?
-I am totally serious.
-So you weighed 150 pounds.
-And you're 5' 8''.
-And I'm 5' 8''. I don't know if we can do this part. But I was a white boy playing in the wishbone offense with Barry Switzer back in the early '80s.
-So you ran across the middle and just get smashed?
-Oh, yeah. They said, Clay, we're going to have you go crackback-- because this was back in the days of crackback-- we want you to crackback on the line backers. At that point, it was Jackie Shipp and Thomas Benson that were playing for OU. And they would catch me in the air and throw me to the side and then go make the catch.
-So you were kind of like practice fodder.
-Oh, totally. Oh, totally.
-Now, what's the crackback? Just if I don't know what that is.
-That's when a linebacker is watching the quarterback. The quarterback's running this way. The linebacker's following and tracking the quarterback. And I come here and try to take him out. OK? And you try to hit high. But of course, I'm 150 pounds. So if I hit high, I'm just going to bounce. So I'd always try to go low. But then I'd just get caught in their legs. And it was just blender time.
-So when did you start to encounter some adversity? Did it start when you started getting just crushed every time you caught a pass in practice?
-Well, I think that's when things started for me. Because up until that point, things had come really natural. And I had spoken with Barry Switzer and the staff there at OU. And by the time I was graduating, there weren't any scholarships left for me. But I came as an invited walk-on, kind of a glorified walk-on. So I got some perks. And they didn't treat me too bad.
But all of a sudden, things weren't coming really natural. I was having to work for things. (FUNNY VOICE) They didn't notice me. And I didn't have a scholarship. So I was number four on the depth chart. But I don't know. Even if the first three guys had gotten shot in the middle of the game--
-Coach would have just ran into the game.
-Yeah. I think somebody else would have gotten in. You know, Clay, sit down type of thing. But had a lot of fun doing it. But that was probably the first time that I encountered this concept in my life of, I'm going to have to work for something? And Clay, I just didn't have the capacity for that.
And so when the struggle hit, I didn't know how to get through it. I didn't have the tools. I didn't have the resources-- emotional, mental, physical. I just didn't have the resources to work through that. So I played for about a year and a half and then ended up quitting. And joined a fraternity. Whoo-hoo.
-Oh, did you?
-Did you graduate from college?
-I did. I graduated from OU.
-And then, what did you do after OU?
-Scared to death, Clay. Scared to death. Graduated, and I remember walking across campus after my last final, and the realization kind of set in on me, and I felt it across my back, and in lower places. And all of a sudden, it was just like, oh my, what am I going to do?
And I began to panic, because I didn't feel like I was ready. Once again, all of a sudden encountering that I was getting ready to move into a place here, that required this level of capacity, but I was still here. And so, I just felt overwhelmed. So I panicked and became a youth director.
-You became a youth director?
-Youth director, right out of college. That's the degree put to good use.
-So what was your plan? What was your plan, at that point? You'll be a youth director? What does it mean to be a youth director?
-Yeah, not a whole lot. It It's hilarious, as a youth director. You know, to get this job and everything. But really, you're supposed to go to hang out with kids, get to know them, and build relationships, and stuff like that. But probably the primary purpose of a youth director, obviously, is to engage with the kids and help them navigate through struggles and difficulties.
-Who was the employer? Was it the camp that was employing you, or it was a school, or who--
-Now see, it was a church. It was a church in Oklahoma City. So graduated from OU, there in Norman. Lived in Oklahoma City as a youth director. But the whole idea, kind of my plan, was I was just buying time. And really, that was kind of why I went to college, too, because my whole plan in life was to do what-- go to college, get the degree, but then go out to Shepherd's Fold, work with the family business for the rest of my life.
My dad would be the executive director. My brother would be the camp director. And I would be the other guy.
-So at what point in your career did you decide to get serious about saving up some money, and serious about certain to earn money, and take your career more seriously.
-Wow, great question. The point in my career was when I was probably 47 years old.
-Yeah. Because up until that point, Clay-- I mean, I was trapped. I was locked in this place called the wage cage. Eventually, I put my degree to work, and I took a job as a teacher. After I had been up in Massachusetts, doing this job, and I was a personal trainer, and things like that, and doing some substitute teaching in the school. But eventually, I put my degree to work, and I became a teacher.
And it was the classic thing of, I'm going to teach, and it's not rocket science to find out-- if I stay here for 35 years, all I've got to do is look at the little salary scale there and go down to the bottom right. After 35 years, I could retire at $50,000. And I was thinking, hey, it sounds like a good deal. And so I jumped on to that boat, or jumped into that trap, and in a big sense, really got stuck.
And so I'm a teacher for 15 years. But the idea there is that I get trapped. I think it was wonderful for me to be there, to learn my unique, special gift-- my wonder twin power that I'd been given in my life is to teach, and develop, and train, and coach. That's something I've been doing since I've been a little kid. So being in the classroom and being a coach out on the field gave me wonderful experience in doing that-- being up in front of folks, being able to answer questions really quick.
So if you have any questions on the integumentary system, I'd be glad to go there.
Yeah, I have a lot of those questions over here.
-But it gave me some wonderful years of experience. And I found out, Clay, that I was good at it. I could teach, and I could engage the kids. And kids liked me, and other teachers like me, and things like that. It was like, all of a sudden, I was kind of finding a groove.
I was discovering, again, some of these wonder twin powers that I was born with-- kind of that unique, special gift that I had. But unfortunately, even though I was doing well, and I was even winning awards, my salary wasn't changing. And so I wasn't moving any place-- I wasn't getting where I wanted to get. And even though I had another year's experience, had a little bit more money, I was still spending about everything that I was making. And so to look forward, and to try to make plans of where I was heading in the future was really difficult.
-Were you a big saver? Did you buy stocks and bonds?
-No, I was terrible. I mean, I'm a last-born. Oh, it'll be fine-- someone else will take care of it. And so again, always spending pretty much everything that I was making. If I was saving-- here's a great thing-- Clay, you're saving money?
Well, of course I am. I'm a great saver. But really, I'm just saving money to spend it later on, because I'm saving it for a washer, or I'm saving it for a car, or I'm saving it for something else. So I'm going to save for a little bit, but then I'm going to blow it all on something.
-So you started making the change in your life financially when you're in your 40s?
-Yes. Yes. Late 40s.
-And so how did that transition happen? What did you do?
-After 15 years of teaching, I'm 37 years old, and it's time for me now to move on into the next thing. It just so happened that my brother, it was time for him to move away from the ranch, from Shepherd's Fold. And so boom, finally I'm going to get my chance to take over the world type of thing. And so that was the first step. It kind of broke me out of the trap of the salary that I had found myself in at that point.
And so I became the executive director of Shepherd's Fold ranch. And what was interesting is as soon as I became the director at Shepherd's Fold, I begin to function in all of the ways, in all of the-- again, the Wonder Twin powers that I had-- and I began to teach, I begin to train. Another gifting that I have is just visionary and being a pioneer. So I started new things, new programs. We actually started a discipleship training school at the ranch at this point. I was writing curriculum and doing a lot of teaching.
And so that broke me out of the classroom. But I jumped out of the classroom and the salaried world right into the nonprofit world. That was a good time. So once again, here I am. Kind of my progression here is, I learned growing up if you need money, you ask for it, because I grew up in a non-profit world. And I'd notice-- hey Dad, need some money. And he'd go, OK, here you go.
As you get a little bit older you have to go through the guilt trip-- oh man, are you kidding? What do you think? Money grows on trees, type of thing. And so you go through the guilt trip, but eventually he'd give you the money. Well the same thing in my parents, since they were running the nonprofit, if we needed money for the business, what did we do? We did a fundraiser and we asked people for money.
So that's kind of how I learned if you need money, you ask for it. But then I moved out of that into the salary world. So now if you need money, you work more. You put in more hours. And you know, Clay, we need you to take tickets at the football game or something like that. How much does it pay type of thing, because I'm going to be there for a while. So well, it pays $25. You're on. And so I'd do those different things. If I needed more money, I'd have to work more for it.
And so now, here I come back into the nonprofit world again, and I found that I had a gift to influence people. I had a gift to be able to sit down, to explain and paint a picture, cast a vision in people's hearts. So all of a sudden I'm able to raise some money. And I went hey, I'm set. This is going to be awesome. I was thinking, OK. I'm set. This was my goal from the very beginning.
But then, Clay, after about eight years there I began to feel the itch again, began to feel like there's something more. There something more. And we had been able to take the ranch from a place where it was struggling, where they were having some difficulty. We were able to bring it to a point where it's winning some awards, doing really good, a lot of notoriety. But I definitely understood it's time for me now to turn this thing over, because now I'm in my mid 40s and I'm realizing OK, there are some things I'm really good at and there are some things that I'm not really good at.
And one of the things that I really struggled with was just the daily grind of management, just all the little weeds, all the little details of management. And I knew for the ranch to go further, to be able to grow, they needed a manager. So I was able to hire a manager to take my spot.
-Well you know, you hear all the time, it says-- there's a book called The Millionaire Next Door. And the research in that book shows that 80%--
-I've read that book.
-Oh yeah, my brother-in-law told me about it.
-Well, it says 80% of America's millionaires are first generation affluent. Does that surprise you?
-Not at all.
-So I mean-- for you, the transition from being, I guess, poor to not poor, was it a road that involved a lot of saving consistently over time, or did you, how did you get to where you are now?
-Well again, I think the key thing when I moved from Shepherd's Fold and had turned the reins over to a new person, all of a sudden it was like, OK, if I hire you there's no money for me to have a paycheck. And my next thing is not to go back into the classroom. And I felt compelled to move out into my own thing.
And you begin to take all of the skills, all of the talents that I had learned and gained through each of these different jobs that I had had and now begin to use them for my own power, begin to take over the world for myself rather than for other companies. So-- not unlike yourself, Clay.
-So really, the road to self employment has proven to be very successful for you. That's where you've-- do you feel like you're thriving now that you're in self employment?
-Oh, definitely. It has provided a freedom for me. And what is it that we hear so often with entrepreneurship-- that either we're going to choose safety, we're going to choose freedom. And so the whole idea is that you can choose security if you want, but the more security that you want, if you continue to grab hold of more and more and more security you will have to give up more and more and more freedom, until eventually you find yourself in what we call maximum security where you have lost all of your freedom.
-So you felt like for a lot of your career you were giving up the potential to make really good money and to offer a lot of value for salary.
Send us your email address, and our team of elite minds will get right on it.