I believe that laughter or simple joy can be found in nearly any situation. This gift comes directly from my Dad, who could spark up a humorous conversation with practically anyone who crossed his path. I truly believe he would have loved the eulogy we gave him after he passed away in October 2018, during which I thanked him for this gift.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Gamlin.
As a speaker, author and coach, Steve Gamlin blends Positivity, Visualization & Humor, teaching his clients to SEE their desired outcomes, understand their WHY, then build ACTION PLANS to achieve them via his Vision Board Mastery program, plus Live and Virtual Motivational Firewood™ events. And it all began the day he spent an hour hitting golf balls in a thunderstorm.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My pleasure, thank you! At the age of 10, a TV show called ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ changed my life forever. It was the first time that I knew what I wanted to be: a radio DJ (inspired by the character of Dr. Johnny Fever). Within days, I was walking around the house with my Dad’s cassette recorder (yes, showing my age) hosting my own show. I also wished to be a comedian, write my own books, and become a teacher…but not in a traditional classroom setting. Other than that, I was an average kid. Had a great family, played Little League, did well in school and racked up numerous scars while attempting to jump over big things on my bike.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This quote actually comes from one of my books. Hold on, let me clarify. It is from a book that was written by a dog named Super Teddy, an 8-pound Yorkie-Pomeranian rescue adopted by my wife Tina and her Mom. He was the smart one…and I did all the work.
“Wake up every day and wag yourself happy!”
I firmly believe that the choices we make and actions we take (especially early in the day) can greatly impact our results. It is up to us to tap into the best energy possible, right out of the gate. It could be putting pen to paper and recording moments of gratitude, listening to a piece of music that fires you up, spending time communicating with your higher power, grounding yourself in meditation, erupting in laughter with a favorite funny video, etc.
That Super Teddy was one smart little guy. Yes he was.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Number-1 is my ability to find a lesson in many of life’s everyday situations. For better or for worse, I have experienced several lifetimes of ‘teachable’ moments in my 53 years. I do all my own stunts (ha ha) so I’ve got the scars to show for my efforts. They all have something to say, which can help others.
Second is the gift of humor, which has served me very well over the years. I believe that laughter or simple joy can be found in nearly any situation. This gift comes directly from my Dad, who could spark up a humorous conversation with practically anyone who crossed his path. I truly believe he would have loved the eulogy we gave him after he passed away in October 2018, during which I thanked him for this gift.
Third is a deeply-rooted desire to ‘give back’, sharing kindness with the world on a daily basis. When we were kids (my sister Christine and I), our Mom expressed a desire to someday purchase a building to house and help homeless veterans. While we have not yet reached that goal, we have launched our own 501c3 named BeachBum Philanthropy, with a schedule of consistent kindness in our community. One of the local non-profits we get to help often is one which fulfills that original goal: helping homeless and in-need veterans. Big ‘wins’ to be found in giving. Highly recommend.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
At the age of 24, having barely graduated college (my Dad’s favorite line from my stand-up comedy days was that his son graduated ‘summa cum this close’), I was broke and depressed, living on my grandfather’s couch. A great friend kept asking: “Why didn’t you follow your dream of being on the radio?” Out of excuses, I did.
What followed was a decade as a Copywriter, Morning Show Producer, Comedy Writer and many other tasks. Another development was the realization that radio does not pay well unless you get famous, so I began to DJ weddings on the weekend. Essentially, I worked about 15 years worth of hours in 10…and burned myself into the ground: physically, mentally and emotionally. Also over that decade, 2 of the radio stations had been sold, leading to my Morning Shows being fired both times. When I began to hear rumors that the owner of my 3rd radio station ‘might’ be selling them, I pulled the ripcord and jumped out of the industry.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
Shortly after leaving my radio career, my first marriage crumbled and I was deeply in debt. I was definitely in the ashes. Instead of rashly pursuing ‘the next big step’, I chose to engage in a personal development journey to work on creating the best version of myself, while continuing to ramp up my DJ business to cover the bills.
I read numerous books, listened to motivational recordings and spent many hours reflecting on where I’d been, how I’d thrown my life off a cliff, and how I wanted to rise from those ashes to create a life and career that I could enjoy.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
On a hot and humid Friday afternoon in August 2003, I traded the last 3.00 dollars in my pocket for a bucket of golf balls, intending to exorcise my frustrations over what I’d done to my life. As I am a dangerous spray-hitting golfer, I opted for the farthest tee box at the driving range, situated directly beneath some overhanging power-lines with giant steel towers.
As happens in New England, a powerful thunderstorm came ripping through, and everyone (except me) ran for their cars. I kept swinging, getting out my frustrations. For an hour, barefoot in the wet grass, in that thunderstorm, I not only hit my own bucket, but those of two gentlemen who had run from the storm. At one point, marinating in my desperation, I pointed the club skyward saying: “Go ahead, I dare you.”
When I returned to the parking lot, opening the door of my car to leave…it stopped raining and the sun came out. I smiled, winked up at God and said: “Well-played.” That ‘moment’ sparked something.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Within days of that afternoon at the driving range, my then brand-new Life Coach asked: “So, how was your week?”
My response: “Put down your pen and listen to this!”
I then re-hashed my version of that afternoon, ramping up the humor and ridiculousness of it all. Although I was paying him to be supportive and concerned, he was laughing hysterically over the phone before responding: “I have 2 questions for you. First, are you this open and honest about your life with everyone, even strangers?”
My reply: “Yes.”
Him: “Have you ever thought of being a stand-up comedian or a motivational speaker?”
Me: “Yes to both…but I have no idea how to pursue either one.”
On his desk was a brochure from a local Community College, advertising an ‘Intro to Stand-Up Comedy’ class which began 2 weeks later. I signed up.
He also mentioned Toastmasters as an opportunity to build my confidence and craft my stories. Several weeks later, I attended my first meeting.
Within several months, I had received my very first (tiny) paychecks from both of these endeavors.
I enjoyed 7 years of stand-up comedy performances, and have been speaking for more than 17 years at the time of this interview.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
I am loving this journey, truly. This is the happiest, most confident version of me there has ever been. I believe the secret to it has been my willingness embrace the many experiences and lessons that life throws in my path. And nearly everything can become a stage-story!
One of my favorite interactions happened in June 2011. My then-Marketing Director called me in a panic, saying: “I sponsored one of the holes at a fundraising golf tournament tomorrow. I need someone to measure how far people can hit a marshmallow with a golf club…and I thought of you!”
Early the next morning there I was, sitting in a golf cart with a gym bag in my lap…overflowing with packages of marshmallows. A woman hopped into the cart next to me and asked: “What are you doing with all those marshmallows?”
I answered, explaining my mission for the day as humorously as I could, to which she replied:
“What do you do for a living, because I can’t imagine this is it?”
After responding that I am a Humorous/Positivity speaker who was ‘measuring marshmallow drives’ to help out a friend’, she asked for my business card.
Fifteen months later, she called me. It turned out that I’d been riding in the golf cart with the CEO/Team Leader of one of the most successful real estate offices in southern New Hampshire…and she wanted to hire me to deliver four paid presentations to her team.
Welcome to my life, where some of the most random conversations continue to transform into business opportunities.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Back in the uninspired days of my early twenties, that friend whom I mentioned earlier (who encouraged me to pursue my dream of being on the radio) was named Danny. So happy I listened to his advice. While I was attending broadcast school near Boston (I lived in New Hampshire) I did not see him all that Summer. After graduating in August, I earned an internship at a radio station we’d grown up listening to, and drove to his house to share the great news. He was so happy, and so proud. Sadly, he passed away 3 weeks later. The cancer he’d beaten twice came back quickly and he was gone.
It took me years to get the lesson behind that, which I now describe as: “When someone believes in you before you believe in yourself, listen to them. They see something amazing in you that you don’t recognize yet.”
This has carried forward as the WHY behind my speaking and coaching career. My goal is to be that person for my audience members, clients and even those with whom I engage in simple conversations, wherever I may be.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
When asked what I do as a speaker, coach and Vision Board learning program creator, I explain it this way: “I help people, entrepreneurs and business teams to SEE what their goals LOOK like, understand WHY they desire them and then build an ACTION PLAN to achieve them.”
Several years, while delivering a Vision Board training for one of my most loyal clients, I struck up a conversation with one of their team members. One of her goals was to go on safari in Africa. Intrigued, I offered to coach her. We brainstormed tactics, created a hashtag (#Giraffrica) for her mission, a tracking system (consisting of a giraffe picture from a childrens’ coloring book, with 500 dollars spots) and a series of live broadcasts she would deliver weekly to share her progress.
Her entire company, and her client base, cheered her on consistently over the 2 years we’d planned for its achievement. In the process, she became a consistent fixture in the Top-5 monthly sales, and even DOUBLED her revenue in 2020 (a pandemic year, working in an industry which makes its money from in-home parties and live events) by continung to build the ‘virtual’ skills we’d worked on together.
She is the person who inspired me to launch the coaching program which is now a big part of my business, by successfully showing me the power of possibility in the way that I coach. I crawl right down into the mud with my clients, do the work alongside them, cheer them on loudly and proudly, and celebrate like crazy when they win.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
You’ve just described the mindset from the first few decades of my life, including most of my radio career. I was actually an off-air Morning Show Producer for 8 of those 10 years, not liking the sound of my own voice or feeling confident enough to be a DJ. I did enjoy much success as a producer and writer, including a First-Place international award for a comedy bit I’d written…but still lacked the confidence to be on-air.
Near the end of my career, a situation arose where our Morning Show DJ left and the owner wanted us to put us back on satellite. Desperate to keep the station alive, I raised my hand. What followed was a less-than-stellar week-long audition. That Friday morning, assuming my weak attempts had indicated failure, I turned on the microphone and casually said: “Hey, good morning everybody, Steve here on BIG 101.5, New Hampshire’s Classic Rock. (deep breath) You know, I may stink as a DJ, but if you tolerate me reading the weather for the next 42 seconds, I’ll play you a really great rock song.”
After turning off the microphone, there was a knock at the door. It was the Station manager ‘Evil’ Jack (who was really a teddy bear of a guy). His words: “Why..the heck…can’t you just sound like that every time? That was the funniest thing you said all week. Just be yourself, brother!”
Even now, 20 years later, those words resonate for me whether I’m on a coaching call with a Vision Board client or on-stage in front of hundreds of people. Just be yourself. Nobody else can, right?
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I wish I’d known of your ‘support system’ process before making my shift, ha ha. I actually blew my life into a million pieces, without a plan. I am very blessed to have had, and still have, a loving and supportive network of family and friends. They were there to catch me after the fall, giving me the room to figure out those next steps. I do believe they made all the difference, at the time. I realize that I am more fortunate than many people out there.
In my case, the timing was perfect. Shortly after moving to his home, my Dad’s health began to slowly erode. Being there put me in the perfect place to help take care of his home and yard, allowed him to live in that home the rest of his life (one of his goals).
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
During the early years of my speaking career, I’d finally embraced being on-stage in front of audiences (albeit small ones at first) but the thought of being on-camera stopped me dead in my tracks. And that dogged me for years. I just could not get comfortable seeing and hearing myself in a video.
In 2011, a dear friend and mentor invited me to be part of a 30-Day Video Challenge. Each day he’d give us a question or topic, and we had to shoot a quick video in response and post in on-line. After about 24 takes (all terrible and deleted) on Day 1, he sent me a message: “Hey Brother, day’s almost over. Where’s your video?”
I did one more take, probably said a few bad words…and uploaded it.
Several days later I received a message from someone who’d seen it, asking: “How did you know I needed this message today? Thank you very much. It helped me.”
This still stands as one of the moments when I realized ‘just being myself’ was a really good choice.
I estimate that I’ve made more than 1000 videos since then. And I truly enjoy making them.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t quit your job to pursue your passion. You’ve still got to pay the bills.
Oh yes, learned this one the hard way. Most people do not survive it like I did. I was fortunate that I was able to hang on long enough to make it work, in those early years. The ironic twist, in my case: that decision led to so many foundational stage-stories (of my comeback) which I now get paid to share.
2. Know your style and stay in your lane.
It can be so easy, especially when you’re getting started, to say that you can do something…when you can’t (or shouldn’t). Early in my speaking career after being hired for an event, I received a call from the head of another department within the same organization, saying: “Hey, while you’re here, can you speak to my people too?” This particular group of people, I later discovered) were hardcore engineers, not my audience at all. As I now refer to it: “I resembled a World War 2-era plane being shot, dripping oil, catching on fire and descending with a smoke-trail until it hit the ground and exploded. I got shot 5 minutes into a 90-minute presentation and trailed smoke the rest of the way.”
3. Be the first ‘you’ and not the next ‘anybody else’.
I won’t say that I tried to be Tony Robbins when I began (there’s only one), but I was definitely guilty of uttering a few ‘fluffy guru phrases’ back in the day, from my stage stories to the quotes and memes I was creating. It’s funny now, when Facebook Memories pop up and I roll my eyes thinking: “What kind of guru riding a unicorn through glittery rainbows stuff is this?” Very happy I made the decision to ‘just be myself’ and share stories, thoughts and original messages in my own style. No more glitter.
4. It’s okay to admit when you need help.
I’ve benefitted from working with numerous coaches and mentors over the past decade. Why is that? Because during the decade before that, I felt admitting I couldn’t do something was a weakness. The problem with that thinking is that you become like a Roomba vacuum. You keep bouncing off things and heading into another direction. Sure, you may eventually cover all the ground you need to, but you can do it more quickly and efficiently without all the stopping, turning around and re-calculating if you work with someone who can help you design a plan for the whole journey.
5. Don’t perform for applause. Perform for impact.
This is one of the best lessons I learned over the years. I once heard another speaker proudly proclaim in his marketing materials: “I’ve received more than 500 standing ovations!” As Shania Twain once sang: “That don’t impress me much.” Honestly, I don’t care about standing ovations. I’ve gotten a couple.
What’s more important to me is hearing how something I’ve shared inspired an audience member to take action and achieve something in their lives. My favorite example of this: About 6 years ago, I was in a grocery store making my way down the Captain Crunch aisle. A gentleman walked past, then exclaimed: “Hey, you’re that speaker, right?” Over the next 3 minutes he not only recalled a story I’d told when he heard me speak, but also the picture that had been on the screen, the lesson behind it…and how he used it a week later to boost his confidence in a job interview. He then revealed that this had all happened 3 years prior.
Impact means way more to me than standing ovations.
Here is the link to my ‘5 Things’ video: https://youtu.be/wQNxq7lpDxM
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?
It would be to follow the lessons I learned while observing my grandfather. He lived a very simple life, loved his family and exemplified what ‘being a good neighbor’ was all about. From him I learned the value of leaving as many situations per day better than I find them.
Even in the simplest ways, my grandfather was a steward of kindness. If he drove past your house and noticed there was a broken picket on your fence: he would drive home, grab his tape measure and stubby little pencil, go back to your house and measure, return to his workshop to build a replacement, then go back and repair your fence. And if you were not home, you’d probably never realize that Al Dionne had been there. He was a humble, generous, quiet man. If more people operated with this mindset, I believe the world would spin more effortlessly, with fewer bumps.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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 if we tag them. 🙂
Although I did have the opportunity to meet and enjoy a brief chat with him several years ago, I would truly love to sit down and extend my conversation with Jack Canfield. The day we met was also the launch-date of my Vision Board Mastery learning program. I had a vendor table at a Womens’ Conference and he was the featured speaker. When the host said: “Before we begin, I’d like you all to please stand up and go introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met”, the person seated next to me tapped my shoulder and said: “Hey, there’s Jack Canfield!”
Approaching him with my hand outstretched, I thanked him for the inspiration he’d provided as I grew my speaking and coaching career. I also mentioned that I’d created a Vision Board Program which, I believed, dug more deeply than any other. Not only did he ask for a copy of it, but he also promoted it from the stage during his presentation.
I would enjoy the opportunity to thank him for the support, confidence and credibility he gave me that day.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My story, as well as my materials and programs can be found at https://www.MotivationalFirewood.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you very much. I am humbled and honored to have been invited to share!