“Point your experiences towards your passion.” – Chris Brady
Life Leadership is gaining well-deserved publicity and attention around the globe. It’s hard to hide from the public eye when the company’s foundational purpose is to make a difference in people’s lives.
Recently, Life Leadership CEO, Chris Brady, was interviewed by Kettering University, one of the top engineering schools in Michigan, where he and Chairman of Life Leadership, Orrin Woodward, both graduated (class of 1990). The featured news story, written by Pardeep Toor – a Kettering University journalist – gives great insight not only into what Brady learned during his time at Kettering, but how those experiences inspired the Brady-Woodward endowment; a renewable scholarship program for high-achieving students who are outside of the financial aid award range.
Recently, Brady visited the campus and delivered a talk that was well received by the student body:
“The Kettering Campus Community was delighted to have Chris come and speak about ‘Success that Matters.’ Chris challenged all of us to consider what our own purposeful calling is and especially encouraged our students to ‘go wide’ in their preparatory experiences. I think it’s pretty safe to say that this was a different kind of lecture than what our student body is used to!” – Caroline Ethington (Director of Philanthropy – Individual Gifts at Kettering University)
Check out the full news story below published by Kettering University:
Chris Brady ‘90’s neighbor in Grand Blanc, Michigan, had a Chevy S10 pickup truck, a windsurfer and a girlfriend. The neighbor was a recent Kettering University graduate and possessed everything that a 17-year-old Brady wanted at the time.
“I knew that my neighbor was doing really well,” Brady said. “Without ever visiting Kettering, I applied and got accepted. The first time I saw campus was when I moved into Thompson Hall.”
In retrospect, Brady describes his logic as “young and dumb” but the lessons learned from his Kettering experiences led to success in the automobile industry and encouraged him to take risks that have since propelled him to unexpected heights.
But Brady’s journey at Kettering began with doubt. He was “scared to death,” felt “outclassed,” “intimidated” and “unprepared” in his first term. He was able to transform these negative emotions into an unwavering work ethic that benefits him to this day.
“The fit turned out to be good because I had to work really hard,” Brady said. “You don’t have to be the smartest guy if you’re willing to work hard. Kettering taught me that. I do not have an affinity for math and science but I finished well anyway. Overall, it was absolutely perfect. It was challenging. It was exactly what I needed.”
Brady graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. In the Fall of 1990, Brady, who completed his co-op at AC Spark Plug in Flint, became a General Motors Fellow and pursued his master’s in manufacturing engineering at Carnegie Mellon. Brady customized his graduate school experience by partnering with a sister school in Japan which expanded his studies to an international level. He returned to AC Spark Plug in Flint after completing his master’s degree.
“On my second day back to the United States my GM co-workers wanted to debrief about what I learned in Japan,” Brady said. “So I had this big meeting with 20-to-30 senior managers from Delphi. I felt really good about that meeting and what I was able to share. But then upon leaving the headquarters building, I walked straight into a big glass window adjacent to the front doors as I tried to make my exit. It was both hilarious and humiliating. So much for being a big shot international businessman.”
Despite the initial embarrassment, Brady enjoyed a successful career in final assembly product supervision, and both process and product engineering at GM in Flint. Despite the success, he was still searching for something more. So in 1997, Brady left GM to begin his own venture.
“There was all this excitement of my education and traveling the world and then all of a sudden my life was reduced to going in to a noisy dark factory for 10-to-12 hours per day. I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” Brady said. “My grandfather worked in that same factory for 33 years, so there’s nothing wrong with it, but it just began to feel like I was wearing someone else’s shoes. I wanted to try something else and either be successful or strike out on my own.”
A Kettering Collaboration
For his next endeavor, Brady partnered with fellow Kettering graduate Orrin Woodward ’90. Based on their experience in management roles in large corporations, they concluded that every organization’s challenges are similar. How to build a team. How to sell products. How to lead.
Based on these themes, Brady and Woodward wrote and self-published, “Launching a Leadership Revolution: Mastering the Five Levels of Influence,” in 2004. In 2005, Time Warner picked up the book and it became a New York Times Bestseller upon its re-release in 2007.
“That book accidentally sent us on a trajectory,” Brady said. “I could’ve never designed this path. It all goes back to my time at Kettering where I learned that if I tried hard enough, I could learn and do anything. I learned to just give my all and expect great things to happen.”
The book led to speaking engagements, corporate leadership opportunities and eventually the formation of Life Leadership, an organization specializing in financial, professional and personal development. Since 2004, Brady has written 14 books that have sold over 1.5 million copies in seven languages.
“Once you walk through a pane glass window at your world headquarters building, you don’t worry about failing anymore. With my unusual career moves, I was trying to swing for the bleachers,” Brady said. “All you can do is prepare and be ready when the opportunities come.”
Life Leadership’s world headquarters is located in Cary, North Carolina, where Brady lives with his wife and four kids. In contrast to the start of his professional career on the GM factory floor, Brady spends much of his time traveling for speaking engagements and corporate events around the world. He’s traveled to over 30 countries and is currently engaged with expanding Life Leadership to Central and South America.
“We can carve out a business anywhere where people want to work toward a better life,” Brady said.
Brady is also active in several charities, including what his company calls their Life on Life Initiative, which is dedicated to helping people who otherwise can’t cope in society achieve ‘functional freedom.’
“Illiteracy is one area we are really attacking,” Brady said. “If you look at the statistics, low literacy rates are tied directly to crime and court-involvement for the youth. I am really proud of what our company is doing in this area.”
Giving Back to Kettering
After graduating from Grand Blanc High School, Brady paid for his own college education without financial support from his parents. Each time he visited the Kettering Financial Aid office, he was provided with a binder full of scholarship opportunities but was only eligible for two of them worth $500 each.
“I was blessed enough to receive one of those two scholarships nearly every semester and it was a lifeblood for me,” Brady said.
Earlier this year, Brady and Woodward partnered again to create the Brady-Woodward Endowment. The endowment provides renewable scholarships for current Kettering students who have to largely pay their own way through school, but are outside of the financial aid award range – just like Brady and Woodward were. The scholarship is being awarded to students who are pursuing Engineering or Science degree programs and are maintaining at least a 3.6 grade-point-average.
“I used to think that someday I would love to pay that scholarship aid forward,” Brady said. “I wanted to give that back. I’ve always wanted to do it, and am thrilled to be able to begin that process now.”