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Mike Rodriguez: “Don’t get sidetracked; Never give up”

Don’t get sidetracked; Never give up. I made a commitment long ago that I could live with tiredness, difficulty, and hard work in order to accomplish what I have been called to do, but I also committed that I could not live with the pain of regret. I still haven’t met anyone who can honestly say […]

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Don’t get sidetracked; Never give up. 
I made a commitment long ago that I could live with tiredness, difficulty, and hard work in order to accomplish what I have been called to do, but I also committed that I could not live with the pain of regret. I still haven’t met anyone who can honestly say that they can live with regret. I came to terms with the fact that when I fell, If I didn’t get back up, that I could not live with the results. I could not live a life of mediocrity or failure. Therefore, I get back up.


In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Rodriguez.

Mike is CEO of Mike Rodriguez International LLC (MRI), a global speaking and training firm specializing in leadership, HR, engagement, and change. Mike is also a professional speaker, a master trainer, and a trusted adviser for business and life strategies. As a multi Best-Selling Author Mike has written 15 books and over 75 articles. He was signed by Nightingale Conant, the world’s leader in personal development to produce several of his audio courses. His firm works with clients around the globe and their logos include names like Bank of America, McDonald’s, Thomson Reuters, U.S. Army, and many others in tech/ software. Mike believes that through faith and action, you can overcome the challenges in your life to uncover your greatest potential.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I have learned that your life story can be used as an inspiration to excel or it can serve as anchor to be used as an excuse not to succeed. For me, I grew up with the opportunity to create many excuses, but thankfully I had people in my life who kept pushing me to focus on my potential and not on my circumstances. I went from dropping out of college while working two jobs, to working in a variety of jobs making zero progress with my life. Through a series of poor decisions and reckless actions I got caught up drinking too much and almost destroyed my life. I worked hard at blaming others and making excuses until I decided to take accountability for my life. It was at that point that I was inspired to do something. I went on to have a very successful career in corporate America for close to twenty-five years. Then, when I finally realized my gifts were to help others, I committed to put them to use and I left my career to start my speaking and training business.

Now as I continue to develop my potential, I am focused on growing in all areas of my life as I believe you should never stop learning. I have studied at Harvard Business School online, abroad in Oxford, and I am currently finalizing my master’s degree, all while I speak at over 60 events per year, write books, and coach global leaders. Through my faith, I have cleaned up my life and built a successful career spanning three decades training some of the world’s best-known brands. I also lecture at many universities. I don’t share these things to boast, but to let your readers know that the only true limitations you will have in life are those that you accept and believe. Excuses, blame, bad habits (and people) can and will hold you back, but you only truly fail once you decide to completely give up. Although I have had many reasons to fail, my life purpose has always been much stronger, and it keeps me going. It’s easy to find an excuse, its always harder to get back up, but the payoffs are worth it!

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Early on in my career in my twenties, I was given a ticket to a seminar in Dallas to see the world-famous sales trainer/author Tom Hopkins. There were several thousand people at that event, and everyone was fired-up. It was amazing to see how Tom engaged with the audience and how the crowd hungered to be successful in their profession. That seminar inspired me to not only get my profession in order, but it uncovered how I wanted to speak and help others in the same way. That day at Tom’s seminar, I was honestly imagining myself on the stage doing what Tom was doing.

Fast forward about twenty-eight years later and during a trip I had to Arizona where I was speaking at a seminar, I was invited to Tom’s house. After meeting and connecting, Tom’s people followed up asked me to be a guest speaker at his upcoming seminar in Dallas, it was unbelievable!

For a guy who was a seminar attendee almost thirty years earlier in Dallas, here I was now sharing the stage in Dallas with one of the biggest names in training in the world. It was humbling and amazing at the same time. From that amazing experience I learned that how you view yourself and the actions you take in your life are your responsibility. Your experiences can create opportunities for you, or they can break you. In everything you do, you are either building or destroying your brand, but it is up to you. My previous success allowed me to believe in me, for Tom to believe in me, and for us to do together what the average person would call luck. Resilient people know that there is no such thing as luck, there are only strategic actions that allow us to be prepared to meet unique opportunities.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

According to our clients, our company stands out because we really aren’t just another speaking and training company. I am a professional committed to the success of the specific people we work with, therefore I take the work we do very seriously. I recognize that every client has different needs because people are dynamic. We deliver customized content based on the client’s needs that we uncover through our engagement process together. It doesn’t matter what industry they are in; it matters how we prepare to teach and inspire their specific people. We also don’t use paid corporate trainers; not that they are bad, but I am an expert in my field and our clients get to experience my professional delivery, content, and expertise first-hand. We build relationships and teach content relative to our client’s challenges, not my topics or agenda. With that, we have many clients but, 92% of our clients are referrals from a previous event.

As an example, I was speaking at a large conference a few years back and afterwards four different people approached me to inquire about booking me at their organizations. One lady said that she was the president of a very large speaker’s organization. She wanted to know if I would be willing to be the keynote speaker at their upcoming conference for their aspiring speakers. She said her members were too cliché’ in their approach and she wanted me to teach my unique delivery to their hundreds of members. I was blown away that such a sharp lady who led a group of aspiring speakers would admire my style, content, and delivery. That request from her created a great feeling knowing I stood out. I always say you are in the ‘people business’ first, so you better be genuine and understand how to work with people; we do.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

You are right, we can never gain success on our own because it’s impossible; we always need help. Although I am grateful to many people who have helped me, I am profoundly grateful for my wife Bonnie and I mean that. Not only is she my best friend, but she is also my business partner and my personal motivator. She simply sees things that I cannot see and has supported me through everything we have faced together. The day I left my twenty-five-year career in corporate America to start speaking and training, I was elated! I finally felt relieved that I was free, and I was excited that I was pursuing my calling. However, the next morning, the realization that I was on my own, without salary and benefits, and with a mortgage, cars, and kids in college slapped me in the face. I was nervous and I started having major doubts. I realized I had to put into action everything I had always talked about, but the reality was overwhelming knowing I was starting from scratch, again. I went for a drive to gather my thoughts and finally came back home to pick up Bonnie to talk. I told her what I was thinking and without skipping a beat, she reminded me of not only ‘why’ I was doing what I was doing, but she told me I was crazy if I didn’t keep pursuing my calling. She helped me to put into perspective that what I was called to do was bigger than me and our current situation, and that I needed to step up and work through my doubts and fears. She was right and I’m so glad I listened.

I often say that looking back now, I am way more afraid of what wouldn’t have happened if I had decided not to take action and stay where I was! I would be in a very different place. I am thankful that I listened to Bonnie that day. Each of us needs to have people in our lives who sincerely care about us to help keep us on track and to help us keep going. The problem with people today is that most people seek out those who will simply tell them what they WANT to hear. But those who really love us, who can see in us what we fail to see, will always tell you what you NEED to hear to keep you moving forward one step at a time.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is such a wonderful word that is often used improperly as a platitude. It is frequently discounted, or it is written off as a magical word for tough people, and that is simply not true. Resilience comes from the Latin word ‘resilire’ which means to ‘rebound’ or ‘start back.’ When I think of resilience or of being resilient, I often visualize hitting a wall and falling, and thinking how it is my responsibility to connect my heart, attitude, and actions to get back up and start going again!

The truth is that we are all going to hit walls or drop in holes in life, and when we do, we will almost always fall. Walls and holes are inevitable, and falling is often the result, but to get back up and to keep going is always a choice! With holes, we can get stuck and not see the way out, but it’s there if we can just rise higher to see it. We must learn that resilience is a choice!

When we choose to be resilient, we aren’t focusing on the wall, the hole, or the fall. Resilient people focus on much bigger things; they focus on WHY they are doing what they are doing, and they focus on WHY they need to get back up!

The characteristics of resilient people always start with having a positive attitude, a clear purpose, shifts to focus, and ends with another action to keep going, again and again. Resilient people understand and accept that success will never come if they stop, but if they keep going, the results are potentially endless. Resilient people aren’t special people, but they believe in something that is special to them. Because of that belief, they get back up to pursue it when they are knocked down. Resilience starts becoming mandatory in their lives, because it becomes a part of who they are.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, I think of Nick Vujicic, the author of Life Without Limbs. If you haven’t heard of Nick, look him up, he is one of the most inspirationally resilient people alive today. He was born without arms and legs, but he doesn’t focus on that ‘supposed limitation’ that would destroy most people. Throughout his life his parents encouraged him to keep rebounding after he would literally fall, and he ultimately found strength through his faith. Watch 5 minutes of Nick speaking and any reason or limitation you have created in your mind for not getting back up after you fall, while having two arms and two legs, will seem utterly silly.

For a man who has a thousand reasons not to succeed, Nick won’t tell you any of those. Instead, he will challenge you to get back up and to find a way just as he did. He is amazing to watch and hear and understanding his life story should change how you view your life story. Nick lives with and shares love, faith, purpose, positive actions, and hope through his resiliency, and we all could use just a little bit of his mindset in today’s world.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

That has actually been my personal mantra. I’ve always been very determined to pursue my big dreams, so If I’m told I cannot, or that things are impossible, I most certainly choose to find a way.

When I was younger, I used to do things just to prove people wrong because I wanted to show them that I was capable. Now in my life I don’t seek to please people, I seek to encourage people. I challenge people to pursue what is important to them, but that they might believe is impossible due to having a faulty belief system. I also challenge people to rethink the concepts of “quitting” and “failing.” Quitting is a decision, usually made by people who aren’t committed, while failing is a result of taking an action that needs to be re-evaluated. Resilient people learn from failing, while others learn to adapt to quitting, often justifying why they quit.

When I committed to starting my speaking and training business, I was told by many people, including many well-known professional speakers and trainers, that the career was impossible to break into and that I shouldn’t take the risk since I had a family. Some said I should quit, but I was determined to succeed, knowing and understanding that I would face failures. I would politely thank them and remind them that their opinion had absolutely no impact on my career outcome, and that my path was unique for me. Ironically, after starting, my career actually took off within a few months. Before long I was speaking in front of crowds of hundreds and it only grew from there. Those same people are silent today.

When I went to write my first book, that same resistance showed up from a new set of people, but I stayed the course. When I faced failure and was told to give up, I got back up. Now thirteen books later and over 100,000 trained globally, many of those same people ignore me today.

Unfortunately, success is hard for people to pursue and almost impossible for others to accept. Most people aren’t against success, the truth is that most people have big dreams, but very few take action to pursue them. Whether they are afraid of failure, judgment, or they might lack confidence, or maybe even have excuses that they grew up believing, if a person has dreams that they believe are impossible, they will become impossible to them. But that isn’t the biggest problem…the biggest problem can be the fallout from quitting, as those same people sometimes criticize others, because they need to blame someone for their lack of success. This creates a circle of negativity, anger, jealousy, and lashing out; the chronic traits of complainers. For me, my life story has been about people telling me things are impossible, that I shouldn’t do certain things, or that some things just couldn’t happen. I have found that when people tell you that “something is impossible,” that’s only what THEY believe, therefore it will be impossible for them. The better question that I ask people to evaluate is “what do you believe?”

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Yes, just this year has been a fantastic story of resilience. We started off this year very strong, but like most businesses, we were immediately shut down. We had many scheduled events that had to cancel, and it was discouraging. In addition, we quickly realized that most people wouldn’t be holding any new live events with crowds of people anytime soon. Plus, since we are in the travel business, visiting people in crowds,” we also recognized that any new business would vaporize or become extremely anemic. We were knocked down hard, but we knew we had to not only get back up quickly, we had to get started in a new way and even stronger.

I often say that when you face a difficulty, you don’t change your goal, you change how you get there. For us, we had to change our methods to reach our goals of helping people with our strategic content. We quickly launched our virtual speaking and training business, teaching and inspiring via ‘live’ online sessions and seminars. The result was that people started engaging. They told us that through their current difficulties, they appreciated having a viable option to train and motivate their people live online with a pro. The change hasn’t been easy but change never is. I often say that through faith and action ALL things are possible. I still believe that if people aren’t finding a way to learn to attain their goals and dreams, that they will find an excuse and quit. Setbacks are a given, but quitting should never be an option for those who are committed; you must find a new way.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

My parents are resilient people and I have been impacted by their life lessons. Both my mom and dad were raised poor and had a million excuses to fail, but they always fought to create a way together. Without speaking English and without a formal education, my dad joined the U.S. Army when he was about 17. As a Hispanic, he fought to build a career at a time when it wasn’t fashionable for minorities to excel in the military. My dad built a 44-year career in the Army, overcoming many crazy obstacles. His resilience allowed him to retire as a Chief Warrant Officer 5, which is a pretty high rank. My dad had more reasons than most people I know not to succeed, but he chose to not let his excuses define him. I believe that if more people today thought like my father, we would have more success stories and less complainers. Instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, he knew what he had inside, and he put it to work for himself. The payoff was tremendous as he built his career in the U.S. Army.

As a child of an Army Soldier, my family moved around a lot and I had to change schools and make new friends every couple of years. In addition, my father was frequently off on other assignments (at war, etc.,) many times. I had the privilege of being raised by a mother who was often by herself, but she successfully raised five kids by choice! My mom encouraged us to keep going, and my father taught us not to focus on what we ‘can’t’ do, but to figure out what we ‘could’ do and to get it done!

My life experiences taught me what focusing on my limitations would get me, and I wasn’t ok with that. I have always been driven by possibilities, so I’ve never listened to others who were negative.

By moving around so much, I had to learn to make things happen and that mindset still grows in me to this day.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Like muscles, everyone has access to resilience inside of them to recognize and build. Here are my five steps anyone can take to become more resilient:

Recognize that you have resilience inside of you and that you can use it if you choose to.
Throughout my life, every time I experienced long-periods of failure, I was always not recognizing my resilience therefore I wasn’t using it. Instead, I was focusing on failure, excuses, blame, self-pity, and other life anchors, or I was hanging around the wrong people. I tell people to look back on their lives and find an opportunity where they could have permanently failed, but they didn’t because they kept going. Now review what was going on at that time and work to apply those principles to your life today. When you can believe and accept that you do indeed have a choice about your life direction, you can get back up, and move to step two:

Determine your BIG purpose that inspires you.
Purpose is the fuel that prompts you to get back up and keep going. For me it wasn’t until I figured out my true purpose that I got on track for success. I often tell people that if they lack purpose, they will probably never get started, or if they do get started, and their purpose isn’t genuine or their own, they will probably quit when things get too tough. Many times, I meet people who aren’t succeeding in their lives because they aren’t following their own dream, therefore it’s not important to them. As a result, it’s easier for them to give up. I was in the business world for twenty-five years and although I never quit, I never realized my true potential. Don’t get me wrong, I was very successful, but because I wasn’t doing what was aligned with my heart and skillset, I wasn’t using my gifts to their fullest. When you realize what is important to you, you will remove the things that aren’t important; you will accept nothing less than your purpose. That leads us to the next step:

Commit to your Big purpose.
Most people don’t make commitments, simply because they don’t have the right purpose or if they do commit, they won’t make it public to avoid accountability if they fail. Instead most people use the phrase “I’ll try.” The truth is that you will not succeed in anything you are only ‘trying to do’ and you will not commit to something that isn’t important to you.

When it comes to commitment, much like resilience, we must understand what the word means. My definition is that “commitment doesn’t mean you won’t fail it means you refuse to give up. No excuses, no exit plans.” Resilience and commitment are critical components that must be present and used together. When I started speaking, we encountered many failures as we launched, but because I was committed, we would evaluate failures and learn from them to find a new way. When you commit to something that you believe in, that’s positive and good for others and this world, then you will want to keep going to create a positive impact. This type of commitment is what keeps you on track through the difficult times. Don’t try, commit and find a way!

Have faith and avoid people without it
This is another word that is often shared as a platitude. Faith means that we are focusing on things that we do not see today, but that we know will be possible for tomorrow, if we only keep going today. Throughout my life, my faith was often diluted or absent when I listened to discouragers or let the negativity of others compromise my faith. Today I tell people that others probably won’t understand your dreams and goals, and that’s ok, it’s not for them to understand, but you better have faith if it is your dream. Throughout my life I have had many distractions. Whether I was hanging out with the wrong people or group, or being involved with unhealthy things, I always felt that I could do more and become more. I believe distractions are the key to failure for most people today. Distractions fill time, but don’t help to build people up. Distractions cause most people to simply believe that they cannot do more or become more. It’s another self-destructive lie. The people you hang out with and the things you are doing are indeed having a critical impact on your life. You should honestly ask yourself “Am I growing or slowing?” If you are slowing, then you are being distracted and you need to take action today to break free.

For every success I have had, my faith has always pulled me through. Although I have had people encouraging me, I have also always had a group of people who sought to discourage me, sometimes those who were very close to me. You must have good friends, but again, look for people who will guide you and encourage you to keep going.

Don’t get sidetracked; never give up. 
I made a commitment long ago that I could live with tiredness, difficulty, and hard work in order to accomplish what I have been called to do, but I also committed that I could not live with the pain of regret. I still haven’t met anyone who can honestly say that they can live with regret. I came to terms with the fact that when I fell, If I didn’t get back up, that I could not live with the results. I could not live a life of mediocrity or failure. Therefore, I get back up.

I have also committed to the fact that when you give up, not only are you choosing not to rebound, but more important, you are choosing not to be a better you. The question is can you live with that decision?

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 would like to inspire the movement to work together to “Find A Way!” so we can eradicate negativity and complaining. I’m not saying to act like all things are wonderful. But what I am saying is that we all should be looking for truth, not complaints; we should offer solutions, not resistance, and we should stop gossiping and posting about what we don’t like, but we should promote what we love.

In today’s world too many people are focused on hate all in the name of love and they want to share that hate with everyone, all in the name of love. It’s ironic and destructive chaos. Real love forgives and seeks resolution; it seeks to find a way.

Whether you or someone you know is facing a difficulty or has been knocked down, and their purpose is valid and beneficial to all, remind them that through faith and action all things are possible.

Don’t complain about life or focus on what you don’t like, focus on what you DO have, what you CAN do, and then get it done.

Negativity itself is a movement that seeks to prevent success, impede productivity, destroy faith, and create resistance. Complaining is the preferred tool of negative people to propagate anger, which holds people back and stops us from finding a way. It destroys lives by suppressing the very idea of resilience.

We all should choose to discover our purpose, to commit to it, to create a positive impact in this world, and then to passionately pursue it while we encourage others with positivity. If we want to change the world, we must first commit to changing our own lives first; we must find a way.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

When I look at my life and career, Robert Herjavec is a person that I would love to share time with. As a trainer of leaders, I am in the business of genuinely helping people to think bigger and to realize their true purpose by focusing on the big picture in their lives. This requires helping people to connect their hearts and minds, something that is missing in this world today. Robert does a fantastic job of expressing genuine interest and involvement in not only what he does, but also in the people he is working with; he connects hearts and minds in a forward-thinking way. He is a great example of what a leader in today’s world should look like, and I have a unique question for him.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m very active on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikerodspeaker/

and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MikeRodSpeaker/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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