Share Financial Success –People are designed to feel valued, to be incentivized, to feel a part of. My recommendation is to find a way to offer ALL employees/coworkers ownership in the business one way or another. Rising tides lift all ships.
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 Wes Hurt.
Wes Hurt is the Founder and CEO of CLEAN Cause. An entrepreneur, person in recovery, and man on a mission, Wes founded CLEAN Cause with the commitment of creating a sustainable source of funding to support recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Prior to CLEAN Cause, Wes founded the iconic Hey Cupcake!
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/where you are from?
I’m from Austin, Texas. I’m a father of two amazing boys (Jude and Otis), a serial entrepreneur and a person in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. I’ve been sober for coming up on 7 years, but spent the 20 years prior to recovery in active addiction. My rock bottom looked like getting kicked out of my house, being fired from the business I started (prior to CLEAN), loss of all of the relationships that mattered to me and vicious dependence upon roughly 35 Vicodin per day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Many years ago, I had reached out to a friend and investor in CLEAN with a product quality issue that resulted in us losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. I called him frantic and shared my fears and speculations. He simply replied, “Identify the root cause.” It felt too simple of a suggestion considering the seemingly catastrophic challenge I was facing. But those four words revolutionized my thinking from that day forward. Identifying the root cause of problems in business, relationships, society, etc., enables us to design and implement proper solutions. I think all too often, when faced with challenges, we (myself included) tend to get distracted by focusing on the leaves of a tree versus identifying what the makeup of the soil is and how the roots are being watered and fed.
You have been blessed with great 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.
- Persistence: We once had a product quality issue that resulted in a significant financial loss. But I genuinely never even entertained the idea of giving up — not for a second. In fact, our lead investor had asked me, “What will you do if it goes bad again?” I told him, “I’ll run it again.” And he asked again, “And if it happens again?”. I replied, “I probably won’t own any of the company at that point, but I’ll run it again.” He said, “Ok, I’ll fund you. I know you’ll never give up.”
- Resolve: Years ago, I had the potential opportunity to sell CLEAN for millions of dollars. The catch? I would have to decrease our giveback commitment from donating 50% of profits to 5% of profits. While I understood the thinking — they clearly didn’t understand that our mission and giveback were OUR REASONS FOR BEING. To create the greatest impact with our mission, it’s our position that we need to zig when society zags. In short, we believe it’s in giving that you receive.
- Passion: I think this would have to be my top quality. I was born overflowing with passion and an innate desire to understand the “whys” of the world. I must admit that I would have never guessed I would have to almost lose my life “in order to find it”. And now, my passion has purpose.
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?
Career experience is a very favorable way to explain my past. Here’s a little list of the ingredients in my life smoothie: 6 rehabs, 1 psych ward, 8 years to finish college, 5 states, arrests and legal problems, launched and grew a cupcake business called “Hey Cupcake!” prior to launching CLEAN Cause. It was pretty dang successful despite my slow downward spiral over the 7 years I owned it. In short, I’ve done a little bit of everything — from the lemonade stand to launching a can with a plan — CLEAN Cause.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
While I certainly play a role, I think that God or a higher power “reinvented me”. Why do I say that? Because I’m not sure how any luck or human could have enabled me to survive my tumultuous past and be where I am today. Can I get an Amen!? Oh, and that’s a non-specific-God Amen!
Can you tell us about the specific thing that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I was at the height of my drug use, homeless and sleeping on the floor of a warehouse. I had been on a drug and alcohol binder all day. I was laying on the floor and for the first time in my life I believed that I was going to die soon. Not necessarily that very day, but I had an awareness about the line I was walking like never before that was frightening. I called my ex and asked her if I could come back home. She said, “If you’re serious, and want to get sober, come right now.” While everything inside me screamed “Tomorrow. Not today.”, I was blessed with a moment of clarity. That day was the beginning of the road to recovery.
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?
Learning to listen and not try to act like the “smartest guy in the room” are some “skillsets” that I’ve never excelled at until the last couple of years. How have I improved? An old friend once asked me, “Would you rather be happy, or right?” While I did not fully understand or embrace the implied notion, it’s an upgrade I’ve added to my life compass. As a result, I’ve found peace in not having to be right all of the time. Is it a challenge? Heck yeah, but the peace I experience by doing the next right thing more often than not is amazing — genuine serenity. One final thought — my pops always told me, “You’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
How are things going with CLEAN Cause? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Despite the pandemic and other challenges, our team has risen to each occasion to keep pushing the CLEAN dream towards reality. I believe our ability to grow, regardless of environmental conditions speaks to the power of the Cause. That paired with a team of folks who are driven by purpose, hustle and heart — the sky is the limit.
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?
A man named Nav. He’s a humble, kind and brilliant tech entrepreneur who was one of CLEAN’s first significant investors. Beyond the investments, I’m most grateful for all of the sound principles he’s taught me about life and business.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
A year or so ago I was at a Lowe’s grabbing some supplies for my house. I was checking out when the woman behind the register asked me if I wanted a receipt. I never get receipts but for some reason on that day I said yes. She went on to ask how I’d like it, printed or emailed. I said email and she referenced the one on file. She then stopped for a moment and looked up at me. “Are you Wes with CLEAN Cause?” I said yes and she told me how she was homeless and how CLEAN Cause had provided her a sober living scholarship. She was now gainfully employed at Lowe’s and checking me out! Why was it so special? I was able to hear our aspirational goal become a reality — the virtuous cycle was completed. It was an amazing gift.
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?
From a young age I knew I had been blessed with a great gift — seeing and thinking about the world different than most. It was as though I had a song I wanted to belt out to the world, yet I was paralyzed with fear and had no voice. Looking back at my past and digging deep into some of the traumatic events of my childhood I discovered several beliefs I had that simply weren’t true. These events set the stage for a future were feeling safe was fleeting and the world was one whereby no one could be trusted. In short, I had no self-esteem and was driven by fear. The good news? I’ve done a lot of work and have found that my peace and self-esteem must come from within.
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 don’t recommend embarking on a new venture the way I did. Being in recovery and understanding how long sustainable change takes to really take root, I recommend getting your house in order before going out to build new ones. Why did I move so quickly on CLEAN (beyond being impulsive)? I think that I was so grateful to be “feeling again” and when the inspiration came for CLEAN — I grabbed on to that flicker of inspiration and purpose and slammed the pedal to the metal. In retrospect, I think that I got addicted to CLEAN. If I could give one piece of advice for other folks like me eager “to move” fast — slow down for a second. It sounds so counter-intuitive but slowing down and readying the launching pad enables you to move more quickly — to launch rockets to the stars.
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?
For me, addiction led me to isolate to the extremes. I would plan life around trying to keep from having to attend family and/or other social events. I had no self-esteem and was constantly anxious about what others thought of me or if they liked me. Breaking the cycle of isolating required me to start “showing up” in life. That meant group gatherings of all sizes. The good news? You can ease into these and always have a plan to address anxious feelings should they arise during the occasion. One suggestion is to give a friend a heads up that you might call them for support if you need a rip-chord.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why?
- Root Cause — Teach your culture to focus on the ‘why’ versus the results. Better understanding the root causes/variables enables one to optimize the results.
- Hire the Best — A people hire A people. B people hire C people. The point? Hire the best because at the end of the day 99.9% of business success is due to the team you’ve built.
- Share Financial Success –People are designed to feel valued, to be incentivized, to feel a part of. My recommendation is to find a way to offer ALL employees/coworkers ownership in the business one way or another. Rising tides lift all ships.
- No whiners — The only certainty in business and life is that there is uncertainty. Life will always have its challenges; the question is how we will respond. Whining serves no productive purpose but bringing solutions to the conversation does.
- Resolve — Identify your values use them to “filter” any and all decisions. If you compromise one of your values in the process — either remove it from your claimed values or course correct moving forward. In short, find resolve in principles and use them as your unwavering North Star.
We are grateful 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. 🙂
I’d like to visit with Elon Musk. Because he’s Elon Musk and we have something in common. We both sell CLEAN energy. 😉
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit us at CleanCause.com and sign up for our newsletter, grab some of our amazing sparkling beverages on Amazon and join our social media channels!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!