MF 122 : James Nowlin’s Formula for Success (Hint: “Read the Freakin’ Manual!̶
James Nowlin is CEO of Excel Global Partners and author of the hit book, ‘The Purposeful Millionaire.’ Today, James will share how to achieve great success by following a simple rule: “read the freakin’ manual!”
Successes at a glance:
Successful attorney turned entrepreneur, author, speaker
CEO and Managing Partner, Excel Global Partners
Author of the best-selling book, ‘The Purposeful Millionaire’
Setback failure or time when things fell apart:
James walked away from what on the surface looked like a dream career. He worked hard and succeeded, becoming the first in his family to pursue higher education, get a graduate degree and break through into white collar success. James had the corner office w/ the floor-to-ceiling glass, a secretary and paralegal working for him. He was commanding a six-figure salary at age 26. James was successful but he was not fulfilled. He faced daily torment from a boss who harbored prejudice against James for qualities that had nothing to do w/ his intelligence or work ethic. As you will learn, later on, James walked away and decided to branch out on his own.
While walking away from a 6-figure job is bold on its own, imagine doing so during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Soon after James left the corporate world to start his consulting business, the economy bottomed out. As the housing bubble burst, James saw many of his friends lose their homes and several declare bankruptcy. James was “skyhigh” in law school debt and had gotten used to living a 6-figure lifestyle that included a BMW, house and material objects that at the time he thought was necessary to show his success. On top of this, and due to the recession, James had no clients and no income. James wasn’t entrepreneurial bravado, he was scared, laying awake at night, questioning the sanity of his decision. While many might have given up and sought their way back into a corporate job, James wasn’t content to do that.
The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:
Let’s go back to the beginning: James has had quite the journey of moving forward. He left his parents’ house at the age of 17 to go to college. The first “aha” or awakening occurred when James saw demonstrations of familial love from his classmates. James had grown up in a fractured environment, replete w/ domestic violence. Seeing and listening to students talking to their parents on the phone, having conversations about money, books, classes and peppered w/ “I love you” statements, gave James great pause. He had never known this growing up. So James decided to start modeling the communication behavior and end conversations w/ “I love you” to his mom. James also started modeling some of the financial decisions he saw fellow students making, especially when it came to investing in their education. Specifically, he saw students asking their parents for money; not to buy things but to audit courses and to learn beyond their majors and standard curricula. These were two very big “aha” moments that permanently set James on a path of self-empowerment, uplift and more authentic communication w/ those who are close to him.
Following college, James went to medical school before dropping out to pursue a law degree, which he completed. James became an attorney and was recruited as an associated at a prestigious law firm in Dallas. Sounds like a pretty good success story, right? Actually, this was the precursor to the amazing life that James leads now. Like many young individuals w/ aspirations to do better for themselves, James pursued a professional degree and landed the 6-figure job. The age-old narrative of education then stable corporate job that many of us grew up w/. James was the first in his family to break through into the white collar world. The problem was, the fairy tale career wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Despite all the trappings of success, James never felt that practicing law in a firm environment was his calling. While James was recognized for his talents and work ethic, his boss let him know in no subtle terms that he was not comfortable working w/ James who is a gay man, of color. James knew that staying in a toxic environment was the wrong choice; one that would ultimately cause him to “self-destruct” or “implode” if he stayed. Moreover, James knew he didn’t deserve this kind of treatment and that he should be judged by his intelligence and the content of his character. James made the decision to walk away.
James started his own business, Excel Global Partners, leaving both the firm and the practice of law behind. James made the pivot into business consulting. James’ entrepreneurial goal was to help businesses optimize financial and managerial performance.
Although starting a business w/ no clients and no income during the worst recession in recent history was a big setback, James now looks back on it as part of his growth. He is now more financially conservative and doesn’t equate wealth w/ material possessions or toys. He also attributes this difficult period w/ giving him the humility and wisdom to be a better businessman, leader, and person. As James reminds us, it is the tough times that stretch us and test us to our limits.
So how did James pivot and create a successful business that has made him a Purposeful Millionaire? James didn’t have a lot of role models growing up but he knew that mentors had the power to shape, guide, and inspire. He sought counsel and it was one particular mentor that taught James a valuable lesson w/ one question: “would you rather be right or would you rather be rich?” While many entrepreneurs see their path as getting away from a boss, James takes a different approach. He sees his clients as his many bosses and as such, he takes the philosophy that he can’t be right all the time (even when he is). In other words, James’ role is to help his clients navigate to the best possible solution and not preach to them what they should or should not be doing. It was upon hearing that advice that gave James a big “aha” moment: he realized that failure is an option and that it’s ok to fall flat on your face sometimes. As James shares “if you risk nothing, you gain nothing.” This has strengthened James’ “courage muscle” to keep executing and to keep trying, even when it doesn’t end up working. This has translated into a mindset hack that James shares when it comes to working w/ clients: don’t tell them what they “need” to hear. Instead, learn what they want and adjust. This means that sometimes when you tell a client what you think is the best solution, they may outright reject it. Instead of stewing or resisting this, James digs deeper to find out what the client wants. When he minimized his ego, James found his business and his happiness expanding. That is James choosing to be rich over right.
Today, Excel Global Partners, is a leader in business consulting, serving clients throughout the US and abroad, James has found incredible success and recently published his first book, ‘The Purposeful Millionaire,’ which quickly became a top best-seller.
Though his journey hasn’t been an easy one, through it all, James has found himself and his purpose. It all started when James started modeling healthy and empowering behaviors from fellow students in college. This led James to develop habits of self-development, reading books, learning and investing in assets over things. James sums up his 19-year, “overnight” success journey w/ one simple mantra: RTFM (“reading the freakin’ manual”). This allowed James to develop the self-awareness in his identity and dignity: standing up for himself and the conviction that he does not deserve to be treated like a second class citizen; making the brave decision to walk away from a toxic corporate environment. James took a leap of faith and pursued his “divine calling” to be a leader in business and help inspire and empower others. Today, James is living a happy, healthy, wealthy, and purposeful life, filled w/ abundance and joy.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired James to move forward:
An African Proverb: “When you pray, move your feet.” For James, it starts w/ intention and then taking action.
Favorite app/website/resource or productivity hack:
Join.me: allows James and his team members to share their computer screens. James like it bc it’s fast, reliable and gets the job done!
James’ hack: text a link to share a computer screen when talking to someone and you have to describe what you see the screen.
3 minute mindfulness: a mindfulness app that sends daily reminders to breathe and reflect on the day.
How James recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
James admits this is a challenge. With a successful business and a highly successful book launch, James has been putting in 16 hour days. This has been taxing w/ fatigue and a strain on his system. Now that the book launch is complete, James is looking forward to getting away, turning off the phone and spending time w/ his partner.
James also makes his home his sanctuary, complete w/ soothing sounds, and scents; making it the ideal environment to recharge.
Turn off the external, turn on the internal.
Meditation hack: still meditation doesn’t work for James so he does his meditation while in motion; during yoga or free body weight exercises. During this time, James is super focused on being intentional w/ his breathing and his thoughts.
FLOW philosophy: fulfilling life by optimizing work. Executing the administrative responsibilities as quickly as possible so he can maximize the time he spends on sharing his gift w/ the world.
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Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:
“Don’t compete, be unique!” For James, finding himself meant he had to stop chasing after something, whether it was being a lawyer, a doctor or collecting material possessions that we often equate w/ wealth. James grew up w/o healthy or positive models for success. This led James to struggle w/ trying to look successful to eventually figuring out that success wasn’t about the car you drive or the gadgets you have in your home. James only found his purpose when he stopped trying to be someone else and just embraced who he was and the gifts he could offer to others. James took a long journey to become a happy, successful, and healthy, Purposeful Millionaire.
Parting wisdom (in a few words):
“Be Yourself and Diversify as Quickly as Possible!”
Connect with James:
Purchase James’ best-selling book, ‘The Purposeful Millionaire’