How Do You Keep Your Past From Limiting You?

Do you have embarrassing things about your past that you don't like to think or talk about? I do. My past contains plenty of mistakes, slack efforts, biting off more than I could chew, and simply bad choices. Some folks I know still take delight in reminding me of these embarrassing moments. You know the type.

Recently, through the Successful Entrepreneurship series, I've had the privilege to hear the stories and messages of some of the most successful people in the history of South Carolina. Most people think these leaders came to prominence with ease and a lot of luck. To the contrary, however, what really stands out to me is that all of them have overcome some sort of adversity. For example, consider Randy Dobbs. He's an investor, author, and former CEO for General Electric. His story makes me shake. I can still feel his tension as he told us the story of defending his mother from a beating by his alcoholic stepfather and how he worked and went to school on a 20-hour-per-day schedule. Listening to Randy, my past was a cake walk. Other great folks like Joe Erwin and Ray Lattimore told us in the class about overcoming huge odds to scratch their way to the "luck" they currently enjoy. Over and over, most of our speakers have underlined the importance of getting up from setbacks and moving forward. The timid and the weak need not apply for starting and growing a business.

After learning how these super achievers overcame such incredible odds against them, I'm reframing my past. The truth is that all of my setbacks set me up for an amazing comeback. In fact, some of the toughest parts of my life actually trained me for my greatest achievements. One of the most difficult periods in my life came as a young man during college on a football scholarship at Clemson, which was paid for with the sweat and blood I left on the practice field. I had big dreams of playing a starring role and being a sports hero. That did not happen: four years practicing and I never got in a game enough to earn a letter. But maybe that's how I learned to overcome personally staggering setbacks. How many times can you open a door that slams? I'm good at it.

Visit to check out the list of speakers and apply for our Spring class. I'm fired up about this group more than ever. We will be at the Clemson ICAR campus with a 292-seat auditorium, a great stage, and a state-of-the-art audiovisual system. You will hear—and feel—real life stories and authentic lessons from people who were trained by their past and not whipped by it.

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