Lucas Michael Payne: “People that run towards danger are always the most inspiring”

​People that run towards danger are always the most inspiring, like the healthcare workers who go out every day, conversely, those who simply refuse to wear a mask to protect others are beyond disappointing. The pandemic exposes our global interconnectedness. We are deeply impacted by an enemy we can’t see, and this enemy does not […]

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​People that run towards danger are always the most inspiring, like the healthcare workers who go out every day, conversely, those who simply refuse to wear a mask to protect others are beyond disappointing.

The pandemic exposes our global interconnectedness. We are deeply impacted by an enemy we can’t see, and this enemy does not respect borders or social classes.

As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucas Michael Payne, co-founder and President of Force Energy Group, LLC. Lucas previously served as Vice President of Sales & Director of Business Development at Verde Solutions. Lucas led Verde Solutions to explosive 1500% growth resulting in being listed as one of Inc. 500’s fastest-growing businesses in 2017.

Prior to his work with Verde, Lucas was the Vice President of Sales and Product Development at Trans-Lux Energy, where he oversaw global supply chain sourcing, OEM manufacturing, and R&D of LED lighting, energy-efficient equipment, and components; in addition to maintaining annual sales in excess of 10M dollars per year.

Prior to his time at Trans-Lux Lucas Co-founded Advanced Custom Energy Solutions (ACES) and EcoStar, both LED Lighting and Distribution companies in Chicago, IL.

Lucas is an advocate of social justice. He is active in his church and his beloved community of the South Side of Chicago where he and his wife, Marquita Payne work with teens and young adults in local community organizations and not for profits.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago (Elgin IL). I think it was a great place to grow up. We were living severely below the poverty line, and I was in and out of foster care, but I was exposed to people of all races, income levels, religions, and ethnicities. I think it gave me a unique perspective and ability to empathize with people who look and think differently than I do. Having exposure to middle-class families we thought were “rich” also gave me something to aspire to (and beyond) my circumstances.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

​Napoleon Hill’s 17 Keys to Success had an extraordinary impact on me. Though it’s “old school” it’s truths still resonate. I took the challenge to have a “Definiteness of Purpose” and wrote out my purpose. I still have it on an old scrawled up piece of notebook paper almost 30 years later.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

​Bill Gates once said, “Beware of the articulate incompetent”. I took this as a warning not so much for others, as I did for myself. I strive to learn as much as I can about any particular endeavor and always want to back up my words with action and accountability.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

​Back in March of this year, we formed Force Medical Supply with the goal of cutting traditional supply chains and getting critical PPE in the hands of the most vulnerable people in our community. To date, we have been able to donate over 100,000 masks to teachers, first responders, home caregivers, and community outreach professionals. Most importantly we have gotten PPE in the hands of those in black and brown communities who could not afford it.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

Desiring, and actively promoting the well being of others is the very best we can do. It’s what makes heroes.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

Selflessness- I think of the nurses and doctors in hospitals all over the world that are putting themselves in harm’s way everyday to help people and stop this virus.

Strength- When we think of heroes we often forget the things that they have to overcome. The recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminds me of her strength to fight multiple bouts of cancer and personal loss to keep fighting for what she believed in.

Responsibility- My wife’s favorite quote is “ to whom much is given, much is required”. I think that at any stage in our lives, when we have power, influence, wealth or anything that puts us in a position to help, we have to rise to the call.

Empathy- Understanding the plight of others is what motivates us to help.

Fearlessness- Watching these unarmed teenagers stare down guns, tear gas, and armored vehicles to simply remind the world that “Black Lives Matter” is truly awe-inspiring.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

​When we look at a situation and say “I can do something”, that feeling propels us to action.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

​I think the minute we knew we had a skillset and access to goods we had to act.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

​Everyday people doing extraordinary things, fighting for human lives in the hospital to human rights in protest. I am especially hopeful for the millennials who are challenging the norms we have held so long in society.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

​I am fearful that we are getting tired of a pandemic that is not tired of us. We want to socialize, go out to eat, and watch football and return to normal life in a time that is not normal. All the while, we are approaching Flu season and a time historically that other Coronaviruses spread. I believe that we have not yet seen the worst of this virus. The most difficult thing to watch is the politicization of science and what is best for people despite who you want to be President.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

​Ultimately, I believe in people. We have been and will be tested by this virus and soon enough the only way we will beat this pandemic will be coming together.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

​People that run towards danger are always the most inspiring, like the healthcare workers who go out every day, conversely, those who simply refuse to wear a mask to protect others are beyond disappointing.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

​The pandemic exposes our global interconnectedness. We are deeply impacted by an enemy we can’t see, and this enemy does not respect borders or social classes.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

​In American society in the short term I would love to see universal health care become the law of the land, and then mirror it across the globe.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

​Don’t wait to be great! I think a lot of young people think that there isn’t anything they can do, or worse that they have to have attained levels of wealth or experience to act. Get out there and do something. You will learn from mistakes, you will grow and become more effective but you can’t do anything from the sidelines.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

​I want people to form nonprofits and humanitarian endeavors with exit strategies. In any solid business plan you will find an exit strategy. When we say we want to eradicate hunger, beat cancer, or end racism we shouldn’t form organizations meant to be here for 100 years. Let’s go boldly after our goals and work ourselves out of a job.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

​I think Jeff Bezos is the world’s greatest entrepreneur and I would want to work with him to deploy and distribute Covid-19 testing, ppe, and ultimately build the critical infrastructure we need to fight this and the world’s next pandemic.

How can our readers follow you online?

@lucasmichaelpayne Instagram


This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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