4. Interview with M. Curtis McCoy

I’m an author, business owner, and keynote speaker. I write books that help readers in communication, leadership, and personal branding.

In this book, I share conversations with other leaders and entrepreneurs about success and personal growth. Below are my answers to the questions I asked them.

What is your definition of success?

I often think of the quote from Earl Nightingale, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile dream.” Although I’ve experienced many difficulties after surviving brain cancer, I’ve been able to surround myself with an incredible team, and I’ve built some great friendships while writing this book!

Success is about doing something that improves the lives of others and makes you truly happy.

When did you consider yourself a success?

I’d like to share a quick story that made me feel pretty special. We all have secret admirers, but if you look up to someone, make an effort to let them know!

Shortly after publishing my third book, someone chased me down at the San Francisco International Airport. They said, “I just wanted to let you know I’ve read all your books. You are amazing, Mr. McCoy. I’m your biggest fan!” I didn’t even know I had any fans at the time.

Being asked to speak at events or being interviewed by a major publication feels nice, but being admired by a fan has more impact on me.

What steps do you take daily to improve?

  • For personal growth, I listen to podcasts, motivational videos, and attend success talks and seminars. I read a lot of self-improvement books and make it a point to surround myself with positive people.
  • To improve physically, I mountain bike, hike, or go to the gym regularly, and much of my diet consists of locally grown, organic foods.
  • I write or blog 5 to 6 days per week. Writing quality content requires studying and forces me to organize my thoughts and reflect on them.
  • For spiritual health, I strive to study the Bible daily.

What have you recognized as your greatest strengths, and how have they impacted your success?

  • I’ve always had great foresight and the ability to take advantage of opportunities that no one else sees.
  • I take pride in being able to surround myself with incredible people in pursuit of a mutual goal. Every member of my team has skills that complement my own and make up for areas I’m lacking.
  • I’m a problem solver. I may not have all the answers, but if there’s a problem, you can bet I’ll find a solution!

Tell me about a weakness or personal character flaw, and what you’re doing to overcome it?

In the past, I often trusted people too quickly. One of my most significant weaknesses was not having the discernment to recognize when someone was not trustworthy. In an early business venture, I made the mistake of taking a group of “friends” at their word. Unfortunately, my trust was poorly founded, and one of them preyed on my goodwill to illegally take control of my company. Although he did end up in prison for his crimes, I lost a multi-million dollar opportunity in the process. I still trust people, but I have learned to get every agreement in writing to protect myself in business.

How do you make important decisions?

I’ve never been an impulsive person. I try to pray for guidance and weigh risk versus benefit to make crucial decisions. I created a modified version of a pros and cons sheet for myself, like the method Benjamin Franklin used. My version also includes urgency, importance, and cost to calculate whether an opportunity is worth taking.

Was there a pivotal moment that set you on the path to where you are now?

As a teenager, my mom used to take my little brother and me to business seminars and conferences. We heard from speakers like Robert Kiyosaki, Zig Ziglar, John C. Maxwell, Dr. Robert Rohm, Gary Chapman, Les Brown, and others. From a very young age, these powerhouse mentors inspired me. I knew my path in life was that of an entrepreneur.

Are there any books you’ve read more than once? Why?

I’ve read the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie more than a dozen times. I’ve also re-read “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman several times. I often re-read books so I can remind myself of essential details.

Tell me about a difficult commitment you’ve made, and would you make it again?

I’ve sacrificed years of energy and financial resources to develop different companies, but the most challenging commitment was building Best Cellular. As the company grew and expanded nationwide, we borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars while taking little (or no) pay.

We knew we were competing against billion-dollar corporations. We had nothing but sheer willpower and a shoe-string budget. Our CFO (Paul Silzell) and my parents all worked countless hours for no compensation while spending their retirement savings on growing the company. My parents lived in the back of the Hotchkiss store while I lived in another one of the retail stores. I had no shower, no kitchen, slept on a futon mattress in the back storage room and showered at the gym for almost three years to save money so we could grow the company.

It was far more difficult than we imagined, but we’ve seen the lives of so many of our employees and customers affected positively. I would make the sacrifice again!

What character traits do you value most in others?

I am inspired by those who seek to possess traits of humility, modesty, diligence, and imagination. I admire those who take risks, and especially those who practice self-discipline. In the book of Proverbs, it says,

“Get wisdom. Though it may cost all you have, get understanding.”

I value courage, honesty, and integrity. I respect those who are willing to stand up and do what is right, even when it’s unpopular. Loyalty and commitment mean a lot to me. I’m always inspired when I meet a couple who have been married for 40 years or someone who’s been a critical player in the same company for their entire career.

How do you push through your worst times?

As anyone with diabetes will attest, glucose fluctuations cause mood swings. The brain tumor I survived also caused severe depression, short-term memory loss, and loss of energy. I had to do something to stay upbeat. Positive books and podcasts have played a considerable role in keeping me motivated, even in the worst times.

What keeps you awake at night?

I think a lot about how to be a positive influence on the lives of my friends, family, employees, and those reading my books. I continuously study to improve and want to ensure that I leave a positive legacy for those I encounter.

In the early days, we spent a lot of sleepless nights, figuring out how to make payroll and cover expenses and take care of our excellent team. Any successful entrepreneur can relate to the early stages of their business. They could see the vision, and the company was growing like crazy, but there simply wasn’t enough money to cover all the costs.

I had to learn how to be the kind of person that attracted incredible employees like the ones we have now, even though there wasn’t enough money to pay them what they were worth.

What inspires you?

Hustlers and go-getters inspire me. I’m inspired not only by winners but more so by those who refuse to give up. I love supporting the “underdog.” It inspires me to see someone take a risk that no one else understands, and watch them work their guts out to accomplish it, even if no one else believes in their cause (until they succeed). I get incredibly motivated listening to talks given by passionate people who are living their dreams.

How do you manage and prioritize opportunities?

People often approach me with ideas that “could make a lot of money.” We have to recognize our strengths and our limitations.

I study trends in the economy and keep an eye on competitors who are succeeding and those who are experiencing failure to capitalize on cultural trends and demands. Even what political parties are in office can be a determining factor in whether a business will thrive or fail. I view every financial decision as a calculated risk and strive to weigh the risk versus benefit of each opportunity.

Recently, someone approached me looking for an investment in an organic fish hatchery. He said he could guarantee a 225% return on my investment. That may have been an incredible opportunity for the right investor. I don’t know anything about fish, or the risks and expenses involved in operating fish hatcheries, so I declined. It may have been an incredible opportunity, but it wasn’t a risk I would be comfortable investing in.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Nothing is out of your reach. Failure isn’t final. I love the saying,

“You learn more from failure than from success. Don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.”

There were periods in my life when I’d devoted too much time and energy to projects that simply wouldn’t succeed no matter how hard I worked. Another piece of advice I’d share is to know when to cut your losses and move on.