“Quitters never win, and winners never quit”, Will Matthews and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

It may be helpful to envision the best place on Earth according to you. For some people, it may be in their wife’s arms, holding their baby, etc. For me, I either think about being on the beach or since I love traveling, being in front of the Eiffel Tower. Just think, “What is your […]

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It may be helpful to envision the best place on Earth according to you. For some people, it may be in their wife’s arms, holding their baby, etc. For me, I either think about being on the beach or since I love traveling, being in front of the Eiffel Tower. Just think, “What is your happy place?” and go there for 10 seconds. This visualization technique both gives me a feeling of happiness and encourages me to keep moving forward.

As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingWill Matthews.

William S. Matthews is a modern-day renaissance man. With interests in philanthropy, event planning, real estate, and marketing, his unique blend of skills and characteristics makes for a powerful offering to his clientele, business associates, and community. This year, he plans to release his third book, “Everything I Needed to Know About Corporate America,” on succeeding in corporate America geared towards young professionals. Previously, Matthews has written guides to personal finance and event planning.

A native of Houston, Texas, Matthews combines his insights and knowledge gleaned from over 10 years working with some of Houston’s most important social, corporate, and non-profit institutions. Named one of Houston Business Journal 2019’s 40 under 40 honorees, his work includes community outreach, project management, workshop felicitation, fundraising, and keynote speaking.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Of course- thank you so much for having me! I grew up in Houston, and my parents were real estate brokers. Because of my parents’ jobs, I spent many hours surrounded by entrepreneurs of all types, which I think helped inspire me for my future career. I come from a small, tight-knit family who stressed education. It was never, “Are you planning on going to college?” but “What college are you planning on attending?”. During elementary and middle school, I never really fit in- I didn’t play in a band, wasn’t a part of any sports teams, and got kicked out of a couple of schools too. This changed in high school, where I began to realize the importance of education and family.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

My mother was the one to inspire me to pursue my career. She always told me to follow my passion and stay true to who I am. Starting from a very early age, I saw how she maneuvered all of her responsibilities- from managing a business, taking care of her family, to being a member or board member of a variety of organizations. My mom proved to me that as long as you have passion and drive, you can do everything that you aspire to do professionally and still be an amazing parent. One of her favorite quotes is “Quitters never win, and winners never quit,” which I still live by to this day.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

While my mother did play a large role while growing up, many other mentors helped me get to where I am today. I like to call my closest friends my “Board of Directors,” and they make sure to both hold me accountable and celebrate my wins. I have been friends with some of these people for 15–20 years, so they know me well enough to always tell the truth, no matter how harsh it is. Whenever I felt like giving up or not applying for a job, my Board of Directors were always the first people to call me out and help me get where I needed to be.

In 2014, I was experiencing a rough work environment. I did not get along with my boss and I felt I didn’t fit in with the department I was working alongside. I came home defeated every day and questioned my self-worth and career path. My mentor at the time, Jonita, literally saved me. She would call me daily to check on my mental state, encourage me, send me positive quotes, scriptures, and book recommendations. I’m a firm believer no one can do it alone and that it truly takes a village to succeed.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

A few years ago, I was the event producer for a luncheon for 1000+ business leaders in Downtown Houston. This event took 6–9 months to prepare, but then was suddenly thrown into chaos after the Houston Astros won the World Series! After their win, there was a parade of 20,000 people three blocks away from the hotel where the luncheon was held, and many streets were shut down as well. We couldn’t cancel the event since all the tickets were sold, the keynote speakers had confirmed, and everything was ready to go.

So, when life throws you lemons, you squeeze them and make martinis! I pleaded with the mayor to push the parade back an hour to get the luncheon participants in and out, and during the luncheon was looking at my watch every 10 seconds, praying that everything would turn out okay. While I didn’t sleep for 3–4 nights, ultimately, we pulled everything off as a team! Being an event planner requires both excellent service and the ability to be quick on your feet, and I feel like this experience displayed both of these qualities to their fullest capacity. Although this event required a lot of endurance, it now makes a great story to tell, and I am proud of how it turned out!

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

I’d recommend a few things! First, don’t let anybody tell you who you are. It’s important to find this for yourself and then stick with those values throughout your career. What type of leader are you? What values are important to you? Don’t sacrifice these important qualities for a seat at the table- other great opportunities will come.

Next, surround yourself with people who hold you accountable, and who don’t simply agree with everything you say. As I mentioned in a previous question, my top five friends are what I call my “Board of Directors,” and they make sure to both hold me responsible for my actions and also celebrate my wins!

Finally, make sure that you read a lot of books on entrepreneurship and leadership, and find a mentor in your chosen field. Also, remember comfort and growth do not go together. When you feel uncomfortable, that’s you growing as a person.

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?

First, my uncle recommended that I read Makes Me Wanna Holler by Nathan McCall, and I loved it! It’s an autobiographical book that details how a young black man in America got caught in the wrong crowd, went to prison, and then turned his life around. I enjoyed this book because it involves a positive black role model and helped me learn a lot about myself and how to turn my life around.

Next, anything byBrené Brown is worth a read. My mentor gave me her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead six years ago. This book is all about vulnerability, and how it shows strength, not weakness. I felt like this book was especially effective because of the stereotypical expressions about how “black men don’t cry” or “black men don’t show emotions.” This book helped me realize that being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness- it’s actually showing strength. It also showed how that strength (wall) that people tend to put up to keep others from hurting them is in fact doing the same work to keep others from providing assistance and love.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Definitely! I always try to live by the phrase, “Know who you are as a person, and don’t do things to fit in.” Whether you’re in the music industry, politics, or the corporate world, these words are essential to live by. Many times, especially for people who are just starting with their first job, everyone around you will try to tell you who you are. While it may be difficult to live by these words at first, ultimately, doing things just to try to fit in does more harm than good.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m currently working on writing a book called “Everything I Needed to Know about Corporate America,” with its goal being to help recent college graduates and people in mid-management positions. I am particularly interested in writing this book for young black and brown people who are interested in getting a corporate job and are concerned about systemic racism in the corporate atmosphere.

After my experience working in a corporate job, I realized that there was so much I didn’t know beforehand. For individuals who don’t have the right mentors or parents who worked in a similar field, this transition is much harder. In the book, I discuss interview etiquette and the ins and outs of having a first job, stories about race relations within the corporate workplace, and how to establish your personal brand at work. I will be releasing the book in early 2021, and can’t wait for people to read it!

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

First, it’s important to have a work-life balance, especially during this time where most of us are working from home. Some ways to achieve this include working out outside or having lunch away from your desk and your work materials. I have also made a vow for myself and for my mental health to disconnect from work at the end of each workday.

Second, it’s important to have an accountability partner who will give you advice and follow up with you on any important tasks that you might be pushing aside. As I’ve mentioned, my accountability partners are my top closest friends, or my “Board of Directors.”

Finally, It’s essential to get an adequate amount of sleep every night and eat a proper diet. Getting enough sleep like charging your phone at night- if you don’t do it, you’re going to regret it in the morning. While some say they don’t need a full eight hours of sleep, this doesn’t work for most people. I try to get 8–10 hours of sleep each night, and it has helped me be so much more productive the next day.

Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

To start, it’s important to take deep breaths. Some may prefer mediation and others might choose prayer, but any technique you have that involves breathing deeply is particularly effective before high-stress situations. Next, don’t be quick to react to situations- sometimes, the best response is no response. Pause, reflect on what’s happening and then decide on how to proceed. Finally, give your best for that day! Some days are just bad, and that’s okay! What’s important is you gave it your all and truly did your best for that moment.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.

It may be helpful to envision the best place on Earth according to you. For some people, it may be in their wife’s arms, holding their baby, etc. For me, I either think about being on the beach or since I love traveling, being in front of the Eiffel Tower. Just think, “What is your happy place?” and go there for 10 seconds. This visualization technique both gives me a feeling of happiness and encourages me to keep moving forward.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

There are two special techniques I try to do daily. First, I keep a gratitude journal that I write in almost every night about 5–10 things I am grateful for that day. This helps put things in perspective and keeps me grounded. Secondly, my therapist recommended I create an “Affirmation Jar.” The jar contains words to describe me or skills that I possess. Each morning I pull out an affirmation from the jar to start my day. I also look in the mirror before leaving home, smile, and say the words, “I love you and you got this” or “You are worthy.” A small task, yet so powerful and impactful. If you don’t have self-love or worthiness when you walk out the door every day, you are setting yourself up for all kinds of scrutiny and uncertainty that will be thrown your way.

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Some of my most important habits include: working out daily, having some sort of daily breathing exercises, finding and checking in with my mentor and accountability partners, and getting a balanced meal and adequate sleep. Another great habit that I have been doing around Christmas each year is creating a vision board for the upcoming year. Some aspects that I include in my vision board include my career and personal goals for the new year. Feel free to edit your vision board throughout the year- it does not have to be the standard collage of magazine cutouts! I save and print out favorite quotes I’ve seen on social media or in a book, photos from my travels, and logos of television news programs or magazines I’d like to one day be featured on.

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

It’s extremely difficult to start or stop habits on your own. As such, it’s helpful to have an accountability partner who will make sure that you follow through with what you set out to do. Having that one extra person to remind me of things I need to do has been invaluable, and I am fortunate to have such amazing friends by my side. Also, writing down your goals in a journal or on a piece of paper posted somewhere is a great way to start a habit! That way, you’ll always be reminded of your task.

Finally, remember to give yourself some leeway when attempting to start or stop a new habit! You can’t start or stop something overnight, and remembering where you started and how much you’ve progressed since then is a great way to keep on course. You won’t be able to achieve everything overnight, and so it’s important to celebrate small wins!

As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

For me, I get into a state of Flow with public speaking. Whenever I have a speaking opportunity, I always try to give it my all, because I remember what it was like to be in the audience. Each audience is different, and so I try to make each talk as personable as possible. In my experience, it’s always important to do what makes you happy, and remember how doing what you enjoy makes you feel. Surrounding yourself with people who support your progress and who bring out the best in you is also essential for getting to this mental state.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

In each of my books, I discuss topics that are not typically discussed in schools, but that are expected for people to know how to navigate by the time they are adults.

My first book, Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned from an Event Planner, was about being a good host and how to have good party etiquette. Many party hosts try to dictate the energy or flow of the evening to make the event “perfect.” My goal for this book was to show how hosts can have a good time while performing these duties to reduce this common burden.

In my second book, Everything I Need to Know About Money, I wanted to discuss the importance of passing down generational wealth and how saving money can help both yourself and future generations. Financial literacy isn’t taught enough in school, and this book is a great way to teach the younger generation what they need to know.

Finally, my third book, Everything I Needed to Know About Corporate America, will be about how people can thrive as they enter the workforce. Some of these topics include obtaining a work-life balance, requesting a raise, dealing with a bad boss, and collaborating on projects. I also wanted to give a voice to the BIPOC individuals in the workforce who may feel like they don’t belong. My main goal for this book is to show the importance of giving your all to your work without sacrificing who you are. Your job doesn’t define you, but while you’re there, it is essential to define who you are.

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

There are three people that I would like to have a private meal with- one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. For breakfast, I would love to meet with Stevie Wonder to go into the mind of a genius, discuss his creative process of writing songs, and his overall experience being born without a sense of sight, but being gifted in so many other areas. For lunch, I would love to have a professional discussion with Oprah Winfrey, and her experience growing up poor and turning her brand into what it is today. I am so inspired by how she refused being placed in a box as just a “talk show host” and built a media empire. I’ve always wondered how she handled discrimination in the workplace and how/if this experience changed as she became more of a celebrity. Finally, I would love to have dinner with Janet Jackson. I’ve been following her career since I was 9-years-old, and am so inspired by how she grew up in her brother’s shadow, but still accomplished so much and broke so many barriers.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can check out my website at williamsmatthews.com, and feel free to check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/William-S.-Matthews/e/B00K7I258K?

Instagram: @williamsmatthews

Twitter: @mrwsmatthews

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyGmAnxn0uISfV5_8txNBgQ

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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