Meeting Jeff Wachman for the first time, you’ll notice his energy, positive attitude, and directness. He has no problem saying what’s on his mind, making eye contact, and being fully present for what you are about to say. A thriving entrepreneur for over a decade, it’s hard to imagine his actual beginnings were as difficult as they were. Before becoming successful, he was a drug dealer facing ten years in prison. How could he refocus his life on positive goals and change his destiny? The answer lies in a mindset change.
He was raised in poverty and shared a 1 ½ bedroom apartment with his parents and siblings. To make ends meet and to help take care of his family, Jeff became a drug dealer at 13 years old. He had run-ins with law enforcement, and each time he faced jail time or prison, he had a fixed mindset: ‘I’m stuck with this situation; I just need to survive, and what I do best is sell drugs.’ Jeff continued dealing drugs until he was 27 years old. Then something happened that changed his life forever.
Jeff was facing ten years in prison, and during his time there, his mother grew ill and passed away. Throughout his life, he remained close to her. She always hoped he’d turn his life around, never stopped believing in him, and accordingly, he never wanted to let her down despite all his trouble with the law. Jeff was traumatized that he was not there for her when she died. He describes this event as something that “broke him” completely. It was time for a “reset” and him to make up his mind about his future.
Setbacks as Catalysts for Transformation
Sometimes, events in our life can transform how we see the world, help us clarify our goals, and change our minds. Jeff’s life-changing loss served as a huge wake-up call. He changed his mindset from “I can’t change” to “I can’t let my mother down; she believed in me” and “I need to believe in myself.” He vowed never to break the law again and pursue a legitimate line of work for the rest of his life.
Jeff needed a new start with limited opportunities after leaving prison, a criminal record, and no college degree. His brother owned an Electrolux vacuum dealer and had an open sales position. Jeff took the job, reapplied his natural sales abilities, and worked viciously hard. Within 90 days, he was the number one regional salesperson.
We reposition ourselves to succeed when we commit to a positive transformation, change to a growth mindset, and perhaps use something negative as a launchpad for progress. People with a growth mindset believe that even if they don’t have certain skills, they can acquire them through effort and focus. They think the skill sets they have and use in practice can always be improved. Self-motivation combined will lead to action and results. Identifying goals worth pursuing, focusing on them with the right attitude, and using your skills to achieve them will get you to those goals. You will improve at what you practice and do, and the right objectives warrant the effort.
Position Yourself for New Opportunities
The movie character James Bond once said, “…you make your own luck”. One can interpret that statement as “strive to be your best at all, then good things will happen.” We elevate our possibilities for success when doing our best at all times, even when a new opportunity isn’t our primary focus. Transitioning to bartending in NYC, Jeff became the manager of his venue over a very short time, then became the venue’s senior manager. While in this role, he met two successful entrepreneurs, husband, and wife, who owned a multi-million dollar entertainment business. They noticed his transparency and work ethic and decided he was worth getting to know better. Eventually, they offered him a job, which led to his role in growing their business and becoming a partner.
Want to get noticed for a new opportunity? Be self-motivated, hard-working, and exemplify an “anything-is-possible” attitude. It is important to stay positive in your current role, be grateful for it, and take it seriously. Successful people, potential clients, employers, and others will often see potential in you and give you a shot at something new. It is possible to be both grateful and content and unsatisfied with plateauing and improving yourself constantly at the same time. Starting your day with gratitude and focusing on your goals as part of your daily routine will lead to success over time.
Try, Try Again
With his growth mindset, optimistic outlook, and desire to earn trust with results, Jeff’s new role in helping grow an entertainment business was his launchpad to success. Within 12 years, the size of the business increased six-fold. Jeff is no stranger to failure, however. He admits that during this growth period, many mistakes happened and had to be resolved.
With a positive mindset, we see setbacks as a natural part of learning and growth and use our failures to recognize inefficiencies, change our actions, and perhaps do better. When we are action-oriented, we use mistakes or setbacks to determine how we alter specific actions, methods, or approaches to achieving desired outcomes. So-called failures become reasons to try something new, get help from others, get educated on a new topic, or apply more effort and focus. Over time, experience tells us which action-oriented approaches to dealing with challenges will work best.
Jeff would say he never let his past or interim failures stop him or cause him to give up; he stayed driven, persistent, and positive and worked incredibly hard. With a growth mindset, a focus on reidentifying better goals and applying ourselves to them, our past mistakes and setbacks can be used as jet fuel to create the life of our dreams.
For more information and inspiration, follow Jeff on Instagram @jeffreywachman .