Lewis Howes on Success, Failure & The School of Greatness


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I'm Emily — a resourceful mom but, if I'm being honest, a terrible prepper. It wasn't until I realized that...

Meet Emily

Today I’m sharing the first video I published on my Entrepreneur column! This interview with Lewis Howes kicked off the first of many interviews with successful and inspiring entrepreneurs.  

He is truly authentic and opens up about not only his massive success, but real, raw failures and his mental strategies for overcoming them. So many takeaways in this interview! One of my favorite parts hits around minute 8:30.

Failure = Feedback.


We also talked about his book that was about to release at the time, The School of Greatness

Check out the interview or read through the transcript below!

Emily: Hello, I’m Emily Richett, and joining me is former pro athlete turned entrepreneur, author, and renowned speaker, Lewis Howes. Thank you so much for being here.

Lewis: Thank you so much for having me.

Emily: Let’s talk a little bit about how you got started- you were in college, got a great opportunity to do pro football… and things took a pretty quick change from there.

Lewis: Yeah, my dream was to be a professional athlete my entire life, that’s all I really wanted, and I achieved it.

I played arena football, and I was working my way up to the NFL, but in the second game of the season, I got injured. I broke my wrist and played the rest of the season with a broken wrist… thought I was going to be fine.

I thought the surgery was going to take maybe a few weeks to recover and that was just my stupid mindset at the time. It took six months in a cast and then another year of rehab and recovery and so I had to skip the next season and figure out what I was going to do next with my life.

I was 24… had no backup plan… had never made money in my life before. I was not an entrepreneurial minded guy and never worked a job before. All I did was train in the summers for football… so I was trying to figure out what was I going to do next.

Emily: I think it’s safe to say you did just fine! And that’s what we’re going to talk about today… how you made this incredible transition. You took a trauma, this devastating injury that could have ended most people, I mean it ended your professional sports career, but for a lot of people it may have just ended their entire professional career.

How did you use this to catapult you to massive success?

Lewis: Early on I connected with mentors and family, because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, so I just asked people: what would you do if you were in my situation?

These mentors really became my coaches in life. I was really good at being an athlete and taking coaching, so I said:  how can I make my life a sport?

These mentors guided me to learn new skills: go practice public speaking, go learn about social media, start doing the things that other people are doing right now, and see what you like. Because I had no clue what I enjoyed doing.

So I just started trying different things, failing at everything, and started to see what I enjoyed doing… which was connecting with people and social media was my wheelhouse.

I realized I just liked being around people, and I like connecting with people and learning about their success, and that’s kind of how I built my business now.

Emily: All right let’s talk about that business. First of all a lot of people listen to The School of Greatness, you have a blog, a podcast, you have a program- the academy is starting soon.

Lewis: Yes.

Emily: Actually, you’ve got to run from here to go do your live webinar.

Lewis: Yes, exactly.

Emily: I was thrilled to hear though, that it’s such a priority for you.  You weren’t going to change the time, well, you can’t change your webinar since you have thousands of people signed up… but you do them live, even though there are software programs where you don’t have to do them live.

Lewis: Yeah, you can automate them. 

Emily: So you’re going to be doing it live. Who is this program for?

Lewis: This is for entrepreneurs or individuals that want to take their life, and their business to the next level.

So anyone that feels stuck, anyone that feels like they’re not satisfied with where they want to be right now… it’s for people that will really get a game plan on their vision, and take that vision to the next level.

Emily: Looking back at how you started this entrepreneurial path…that was unexpected yet so successful- if you could change something to improve it, or get here faster, what would you have done differently?

Lewis: That’s a great question. To be honest, I think I would have focused more on emotional intelligence and learning how to be emotionally fit.

As an entrepreneur, there’s so much adversity, challenges, and ups and downs that come our way, especially when we’re starting our business from scratch.

And if we’ve never started one from scratch, there’s going to be a lot of emotional challenges with people on your team, with vendors, with customers… that you’re going to have to deal with on a day to day basis.

I don’t think I was fully equipped with my emotional intelligence.With my own personalities, my own things that happened to me in my life, and in learning how to connect with people with where they are at, I don’t think I was equipped with that. So for me, I would have dove in deeper early on with emotional intelligence training, learning how to connect to my emotions, and my heart better, as opposed to coming from an egotistical place.

Emily: I read somewhere that you said you do not have the upper limit problem… you have no fear of massive success or massive failure.

Lewis: Yeah.

Emily: Have you always been that way? Most entrepreneurs have that constant feeling of fraud.

Lewis: I always wanted to be successful, I wasn’t really afraid to fail. I was afraid to not be seen.

I was afraid to walk around the world without people knowing who I was and to see my gifts be unknown.

So that was my fear… it wasn’t like, I knew I was going to fail at things all the time, because in sports I experienced that on a daily basis.

I experienced myself not being able to make the 3 pointer when I was a 7 year old or something, or not being able to dunk, I would try it over and over and over again in my early teens, and I couldn’t do it until I was about 15, 16.

So I remember constantly failing, and that was what drove me to learn.

That’s what gave me the data and the feedback I needed to see what wasn’t working, and what was working.

Failure wasn’t really a failure, it was feedback.

… to see what I need to learn still, how I need to grow, to achieve the success I want.

Success, I was always all about it, I was like yeah, I want to be successful! I don’t care, the responsibility that comes my way… I was willing to take that challenge.

But I think most entrepreneurs are afraid to fail. They don’t want to go out there because they don’t want to be made fun of… they don’t want to lose their reputation, they don’t want people to say I told you so. I don’t care about that.

Then other people are afraid of the massive success because of the responsibility that comes with it. I welcome that. I want that because I want to serve the world in a bigger way.

Emily: Would you say with the massive success you’ve had in your personal brand and business… your multimillion dollar company, (I would think it’s safe to say people know who you are btw), would you say: mission accomplished, if it was all over tomorrow. Or is there a lot left to do?

Lewis: No, I mean my mission is to serve a million people in the world and to show them how to make a full time living doing what they love.

I believe when we make money doing the things that fill us up and you’re getting rewarded financially, to be able to take care of your needs, make sure your family is taken care of… I feel like that’s the way to go.

So many people aren’t doing what they love. They’re making money in a way that they’re not enjoying their time and I feel like that’s a waste of their life.

That’s a waste of an experience. There are going to be moments where you’re going to have to struggle and go through experiences you don’t want to do so that you can have what you want… but I think if people aren’t working towards that and seeing the opportunities that are in front of them… that’s the challenge that I want to help people overcome.

Emily: You do a lot of interviews… you’ve been interviewed, and interviewee…  but the tables are turned here a little bit today. You are a great interviewer!

Lewis: Thank you.

Emily: People love your podcast and you’re very selective on who you interview. Who is your dream interviewee that you have yet to talk to?

Lewis: From the beginning, I had three people that was just like these would be cool people to have: One was Tony Robbins, one was The Rock, and one is Will Smith.

They all just have really inspiring careers in my mind. So I’ve interviewed Tony Robbins, I’m working on The Rock, and Will Smith right now, but there are a lot more people I’d love to interview still. 

Emily: Everyone loves to celebrate success… and like you said you’re not afraid of success. You’re also not afraid of failure. So, can we talk about a recent– either personal or professional– failure? And what you learned from it?

Lewis: Yeah, I tried to launch a magazine earlier this year… a digital magazine.

I invested all this time and money and a lot of bandwidth with my team and it ended up just fizzling out. We launched one issue online but we never promoted it because I didn’t feel like it was ready.

I realized that with my book coming out and other things we had going on were a higher priority, so we just kind of let it go. But for almost six months I put a lot of time and money into it and didn’t do anything with it… it was just sitting there.

So I look at it as a failure but I also look at it as feedback: It didn’t launch… so, why didn’t it launch?

Well, I didn’t have the right team in place. I was really ambitious with it and I tried to put it together quickly as opposed to think it out and have a better process. I didn’t do enough research. So, I look at it as my responsibility as great feedback for moving forward… how to do it in a better way next time. But, that’s definitely a recent failure.

Emily: I love that you think of failure as feedback.

Lewis: That’s it.

Emily: I haven’t heard that before.

Lewis: It’s all feedback… anything we do. If we try to do something and we don’t succeed, it’s literally data and information that we’re given that says: “okay, why didn’t you succeed? Here are the reasons why” and that’s the feedback you need to get to the next step.

Emily: But knowing to listen to it is key.

Lewis: Of course! I don’t listen to my failures all the time… I’m bullheaded.

Emily: I don’t know how much time we have until you have to get running to your webinar, so we’ve got to get to this.. The School of Greatness book.

Lewis: October 27th

Emily: Releases October 27… are you ready for this?

Lewis: I’m so pumped. This is a dream I had about eight years ago.

I had a vision. I read a book that literally changed the course of my life. After I was done playing football, my brother gave me a gift that Christmas break in 2007… we do the whole secret Santa thing.

He literally didn’t even have it wrapped. He just said: here’s your gift brother. And it was a book. The book was The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Farris. Have you read the book?

Emily: Yeah, of course.

Lewis: I had no clue. It was really hard for me to read growing up…  I probably read cover to cover 10 books before that time, before I was 23.

I’d tried to start a bunch of books but I wouldn’t be able to finish them. 

I read this book in three days. I was so blown away by the possibilities that you could create in your life… I didn’t know anything about business or entrepreneurship until that book.

I was like, “wow… there’s a whole new world that’s open for me and I didn’t know it was possible.”

I started taking action and literally, I would not be an entrepreneur today without that book.

So when I finished… I closed the book and I said one day I’m going to write a book that inspires millions of people with possibilities the way this book did for me.

I don’t know how I’m going to do it… I don’t know how I’m going to get the credibility, but I’m going to make it happen.

That was literally almost eight years ago… and I remember also saying one day I’m going to become good friends with Tim Farris and whoever his agent was for this book is going to be my agent because they put together a great package for this book.

Now I’m good friends with Tim and his agent is my agent for the book. 

Emily: Congratulations!

Lewis: Thank you.

Emily: It’s a beautiful book. I’m sure it is just packed with all kinds of knowledge and tips that people are going to apply to their lives the day they read it.

Lewis: Thank you, I appreciate it.

Emily: I love to ask successful entrepreneurs this question- are entrepreneurs born or made?

Lewis: I believe they are made. Growing up, I didn’t really feel like I had the ability to make money.

I never had a job… I was not entrepreneurial minded and it scared me to think about selling, marketing, promoting, and building a company.

So for me, right when I got that book and seeing it was possible with the right tools and resources.. and how to make it happen… and then I started applying it and getting little successes over time… I built the confidence in myself. So I say made as opposed to born, because I didn’t believe I was born an entrepreneur.

Emily: Well Lewis, I think you’re going to make a lot of entrepreneurs when The School of Greatness hits stands October 27th. So get your copy everyone, or you can buy it, download it onto your phone… just read it and go to lewishowes.com. The academy starts soon too?

Lewis: Yes it does. You can go check it out at schoolofgreatness.com.