You’ve likely heard the stereotypes about millennials: They’re a generation of entitled misfits. They lack a strong work ethic. They’re only interested in activities that offer immediate gratification.
You want the truth? This generation isn’t going to wreck the world. They’re going to save it.
If millennials feel entitled to anything, it’s the opportunity to be passionately engaged in a vision they can pour their entire heart and soul into. Show them what success looks like, then get out of the way and watch what awesome looks like.
I’d like to introduce you to Jon Block, one of nine millennials I interviewed who have faced and overcome significant obstacles that stood in the way of their goals and dreams. It’s a privilege to share their inspiring life stories with you here.
Click here to see all the Millennials Rising stories.
Jon Block, born in 1980, is the founder of Speaker Venture, a national training and networking organization for speakers designed to transform individuals and businesses. Their live events help entrepreneurs master public speaking, land more speaking gigs, and launch and spread their global movements.
When I was seven years old, I knew I was going to be a Hollywood screenwriter. Even then, it was clear to me that my life’s work would be driven by passion and purpose. It was also clear to me that most adults don’t live that way, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why.
Thanks to my parents’ emotional and financial support, I got into what is now called the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the best film school in the world. My favorite class came during my senior year. It was taught by a literary manager who had just landed a couple of deals in the seven-figure range for USC grads who were only a few years older than me. At the end of the semester he asked the fifty students in my class to submit their best screenplay; mine was the only one he accepted.
For four years, under the direction of my literary manager’s team, I worked on developing my script, “Popular Demand.” It was a teen comedy with a heart: essentially “Jerry Maguire” set in high school. I kept on rewriting and rewriting it until I felt like my head was going to explode.
I was immersed in the Hollywood scene but it didn’t take long to discover a couple of things. First, the notion of paying your dues and eventually breaking into the film business was not working for me. The fact that I had a calling to make movies and was not able to because of my no-name status was maddening. I grew incredibly impatient and resentful.
Second, I found that being in Hollywood brought out the worst in me. I remember being in a Borders bookstore working on my screenplay and noticing someone else who was working on their script. I visualized grabbing his laptop and breaking it over his head, because killing him would mean there would be one less screenwriter to compete with. I remember thinking, There’s something very off here. I saw the kind of person I was becoming and knew it would only get worse over time.
Finally, my literary manager decided my script was suitable to submit to producers. It was an exciting time. I had waited my whole life to be a working screenwriter and here I was on the verge of making that dream come true. I started taking meetings with well-known producers on big movie lots, but the same question kept coming up: “What else you got?” After about a dozen meetings, it dawned on me: people were viewing my script—my brilliant, sure-to-be-a-smash-hit screenplay that I poured four years of my life into—as nothing more than a writing sample. Sure enough, my management team confirmed that it was just a way to open doors so I could go back to the same producers with my next script. They thought I knew this. I was crushed. I felt like the ground had just shifted under my feet and there was nothing for me to hold on to.
A few weeks later, my dad and I went to China Max on Convoy Street in San Diego. My mother is Chinese so a good portion of my life was spent in Chinese restaurants. In the middle of our dinner conversation, he looked at me and said, “We’ve been supporting you for years because we love you. But screenwriting is just not working. You’re at a dead end. You need to make your own money now. What else are you going to do?” Hearing that from my dad was like getting a baseball bat to the face. It was definitely my low point because I hadn’t ever seriously considered doing anything else.
I was scared. My lifelong dream to be a professional screenwriter was over. I cried a lot, the way you would mourn the death of something. To make ends meet, I got a day job doing data entry for $12 an hour. I thought, “This is it. This is the moment when people sell out their dreams and give up, when they leave their passion behind and become a practical adult.” It was like when a pro football player blows his knee out and his career is over. It’s that feeling of, I’m done. The one thing I was put here to do I can’t do anymore.
A Landmark Decision
I was just going through the motions every day, trudging to this job I loathed and feeling miserable about everything. One of my friends grew tired of my complaints and recommended I watch a DVD called “The Secret” that explained how positive thinking can attract success and well-being into your life. I was mesmerized. I was up until four in the morning, watching it twice and making tons of notes. The biggest takeaway was that the voice I knew I was here to share with the world was not the voice I had been hearing in my heard these last few months. That voice was saying things like, I’m a loser. When am I going to get it together? No one wants what I have to offer.
“The Secret” awakened me to the power of my own thoughts. I started watching my negative thoughts and practiced immediately replacing them with positive, empowering beliefs. Around that time I started attending music and arts events in an area of San Diego called North Park. After spending four years in relatively solitary confinement working on my writing, I was craving the company of others. I was envious of people my age who were going out and partying and dating girls, things I largely had not been doing. I loved the conversations I had at these events, and there were always plenty of attractive women there.
Through people I met in North Park, I started organizing outdoor music festivals and other large-scale events. For the first time in my adult life, I experienced a deep richness of community. I felt like I had come alive again. The only problem was, events promoters don’t make much money; it’s really about the perks: the free alcohol and big-man status. I was thinking, How can I make this work and make more money?, which led me to scrape together the money to take the Landmark Forum weekend seminar the week after my thirtieth birthday.
To say that seminar was life-changing is an understatement. I went into it as Jon and came out as Jon 2.0. Not only did I meet the woman who would become my wife, I got cracked open to, What I’m doing now is not my calling. Questions that were asked of me that weekend, like, What is your contribution to humanity?, activated something in me that was always there but had laid dormant for far too long. It was such a powerful experience, to actually be in a room for three days working on myself. That’s when I knew what I was called to do, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
A False Start
A few months after Landmark Forum, I quit promoting music and arts events, and started Here & Now. I envisioned organizing transformational seminars, which would offer a deep sense of community as well as life-changing personal growth opportunities. Even though I had found my calling, I still hadn’t figured out exactly what that looked like. It was a real rocky road at first.
That said, at least the name was right from the start. I called it Here & Now to emphasize that all the mistakes we’ve made, all the false beliefs we’ve had about who we are, are all past-based realities. The truth of who we are can only be found in the here and now, because we can create ourselves any way we want to in the present moment. In that sense, Here & Now is both a mission statement and a call to action. On a personal level, the name is a constant reminder to embody the here and now in my own life. I needed to continually affirm that because I had always been so judgmental toward myself.
Given that my background was in doing large-scale events, my first foray under the Here & Now umbrella was putting on a one-day ultimate personal growth convention in San Diego. I booked a hotel with four different ballrooms and lined up forty different speakers to come and present. In my mind, it was going to grow into the annual “Comic-Con of personal growth” and attract the biggest names in the personal growth industry. I was completely lit up about it.
After six months of full-time planning, the big day arrived. The reaction from the audience was incredible; people spoke to me in a way I’ve never been spoken to before. Hearing about the sense of community they experienced and their very real personal breakthroughs—all because of something I had put together—was extremely fulfilling.
The downside came when I was doing the accounting a day or two later. I had expected to make around $30,000, which would enable me to support myself so I could work on the next event. As it turned out, I cleared just $1,300. I remember sitting on the couch by myself, looking at my finances and thinking, Well, I’m just screwed.
Coming to a Crossroads
Realizing I had made so little money was just one more reminder from the universe that I screw up everything that I do. This time was especially painful because I really thought I had found my purpose in life. I took a hard look at myself and figured that if I screw up all of my attempts at anything that has to do with passion or purpose, then maybe I should get a job where I don’t have to factor in passion and purpose.
I was disconsolate. I seriously considered going to wait tables at a nearby Applebees where I had worked when I was twenty-three. I remember thinking what a relief it would be that my biggest responsibility would be asking someone, “Would you like ranch with that?” At that point, it was easy to glamorize the certainty and consistency of taking home $100 or more every single night.
I probably would have applied to Applebees if I hadn’t heard about a free seminar that, unlike Landmark, was focused entirely on how to make money as a coach. I considered myself as an event promoter, not a coach; but when I attended that seminar, I saw that my calling of helping people live authentically and joyfully could be better realized if I took on the title of coach, mentor, or expert.
As an event promoter, I had always hid behind my speakers, believing, Who am I to be up there?, Who am I to be one of the experts? So initially it was difficult to imagine myself speaking to audiences, consulting one on one, writing books, delivering TED talks, and being interviewed on TV talk shows. I believed I wasn’t good looking enough, wasn’t likable enough, and just wasn’t knowledgeable enough to assume that persona. At the same time, I knew that if I didn’t start serving people as an expert, I’d be serving them at Applebee’s.
Going All In
The seminar was free, but the cost of the follow-up group business coaching program offered was almost $4,400. The prospect of going further into credit card debt was daunting, but I was already teetering on the brink of financial ruin; I swallowed hard and agreed to make eleven monthly payments. It was by far the scariest investment I ever made. I had taken ten programs at Landmark over two years but the total cost of all that was only around $2,000.
I attended the first weekend of the coaching program and ended up making $12,500 over the next three weeks by hosting a Here & Now speaking event and inviting all the business owners I knew to attend. I spoke about how to get more customers by prioritizing the relationship and genuinely striving to be of service to people. I was really sloppy with it and disorganized, but I think people could tell I was authentic and came from a place of wanting to help. I invited participants to have a free one-on-one session with me afterwards to discuss customizing the workshop content for their business. In that session I offered ten sessions of ongoing support for an investment of $1,250. I sold ten of those packages.
Seeing how successful this strategy was and knowing I could repeat the format again and again was tremendously exciting and empowering. It was such a huge breakthrough. You have to understand that the most money I had ever made was waiting tables at Applebees. I had believed I was money repellant and that I wasn’t someone who was meant to be successful in life. I think it takes someone who has affluent parents to understand the enormous pressure to be successful that comes with that. In some ways it can be easier when you come from nothing because the bar is simply lower.
I eventually honed this speaking-and-consulting formula and grew more confident and skilled as I went. I’ve since evolved Here & Now into Speaker Venture, a training and networking organization for speakers. Several times per year I lead powerful multi-day events. I have guest speakers come in who talk about things like growing your business through public speaking. I invite the participants to keep coming back to Speaker Venture for two years to experience that community support, get weekly group coaching calls with me, and learn how to become a powerful transformational leader and a world-class human being. It’s life-changing stuff, and it’s so rewarding knowing I’m doing the work I was put on this earth to do.
I’m also very happily married to my wife, Roni. We had dated for six months after meeting at Landmark but then she broke up with me, which I assume was because I needed to grow up more. Two years later, she reached out to me out of the blue. By that time, I had become the man I needed to be and we’ve been together ever since.
That key shift I made was learning that my life wasn’t all about me. A few mentors had tried to wake me up to that truth, but it was a tough lesson for me to get. It’s analogous to the breakthrough I had in being effective with sales. I used to think sales was all about being really slick and knowing how to convince people to buy something they might not even need. Then one day the light bulb came on and I finally understood that if I genuinely care about my customers and put my heart into serving them with the intention of improving their lives, the result is often a sale.
That same dynamic is at work in my marriage to Roni. My biggest commitment to her is that I’ll do everything I can to help her thrive and have a great life. I hold that as priority one. I can only accomplish that by striving to become the greatest version of myself, and that generates positive ripples throughout every aspect of my life. It’s reflected in my financial results, in my overall well-being, and in the quality of my relationships with friends, family, and clients. Making that promise to Roni has made every part of my life better.
Looking back, all the struggles I went through were unquestionably a gift. Without those failures and heartbreaks, I wouldn’t be able to relate to and help people who have given everything they’ve got to their dream but ended up broke and in despair. I’ve been there, and I see now that having to abandon my screenwriting career was a blessing because it enabled me to discover my true calling. Nothing gives me more joy and satisfaction than helping people who are lost and hurting navigate through the darkness and step back into the light.
ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
If you feel more stressed than blessed . . . if you have more confusion than clarity about how to live your beliefs . . . if you long to live a richer, happier, more meaningful life . . . you will find a wealth of insight and guidance in Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World.
Through God’s Eyes is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the only book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.
Readers everywhere are discovering that when you challenge yourself to look through God’s eyes, the world around you changes, and so do you.
Who will benefit from reading Through God’s Eyes?
Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to be.
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to.
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier.
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SEE EVERY MOMENT AS A GIFT
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Here is a two-minute video introduction to Through God’s Eyes.
• an overview of the book
• the complete table of contents
• the Foreword by Caroline Myss
• my Introduction
• chapter excerpts
• a sample end-of-chapter story
• endorsements from authors and thought leaders
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THROUGH GOD’S EYES PDF SAMPLER
Schedule a Mastery Mentoring phone session with Phil to learn how to apply principles of spiritual living more effortlessly and effectively. Priced affordably! Click here to e-mail Phil for details.
Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.
Order it at GodIsLogical.com.
In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
• What is the secret to liberating yourself from other people’s judgments and expectations?
• How do you reconcile the “free will vs. Divine Will” conundrum?
• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?
Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.
Phil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.
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Here is a three-minute video introduction to Sixty Seconds.