Scope - Design - Deliver

From Despair to Millionaire

Eric Chasen is a resiliency coach and a turnaround expert. Having suffered adversity, he has put those lessons to work in his new book, From Despair To Millionaire. In this episode you can learn from Eric about:

  • It’s not about life’s events, it’s how you react to them
  • Why mentoring in leadership is so valuable
  • How gratitude can unlock fulfilment in your life and work
  • Eric’s ABC of leadership

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Transcript: Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

Steve Rush: I am joined on, today show by Eric Chasen. He is a resiliency coach, a turnaround expert, and author of From Despair To Millionaire. Eric, welcome to the show, my friend.

Eric Chasen: Thank you very much, Steve. Really glad to be here.

Steve Rush: Delighted to have you on the show. We have been talking about this for months now, so I am excited to get into a little bit, about what you do in the backstory. So for folks that are listening today, just tell us a little bit about. What does a resiliency coach and turnaround expert actually do?

Eric Chasen: Sounds good, Steve. Yeah, so I have spent the last year or so working on my book that we are going to talk a little bit about. And at the same time, my book and my story are kind of interchangeable one on the same. I went from entry-level positions in just two careers, really that I have worked in. Two industries related ones, but two distinct ones to having a great opportunity to be part of one start up and then a subsequent start up, you know, both of them doing quite well, and so very, very fortunate for that. At the same time I experienced quite a bit of adversity in particular during the first start up in, you know, that was sort of the motivation and the thought behind creating the program and the book really to help people. So what I’m doing these days is I’m working with people and with teams helping them, you know. I like to say helping them bounce back, even bounce back higher. If they are going through a tough patch of adversity, if they’re needing some extra grit, some extra determination, some extra resilience, I particularly enjoy working with teams and also you know, individuals on their quest for bouncing back and bouncing back higher.

Steve Rush: That sounds awesome. Now, I guess there is a little clue in the title here, “From Despair To Millionaire”, that there’s been some adversity in that backstory of helping you get to where you get to now. Just give us a little sense of kind of what it was that gave you that focus. That drive that you have now.

Eric Chasen: Steve, back in 1999-2000. Previous to that, I had left, you know, one of two careers that I sort of work my way up in. I was a phone sales agent and at the time the director of sales and a couple of other partners started a company in the same industry and Invited me in with a small equity position to help build. Because I had experience, you know, working on the phones, and I had also had previous for about 10 years before that in a management position.

So I was invited in, I was the fourth person in the start-up. To build out their sales, training, hiring, in performance of the call centre. About two months into that new start up, I was engaged and we were planning our wedding. This was in April 99 and we planned our wedding for July of 99, and my fiancé very suddenly and unexpectedly died in automobile accident, April 25th of 1999. So obviously that was, you know, devastating and it was just two or three months into beginning this new company. So on one hand it was very, very difficult. On the other hand, it was a blessing that I had the distraction of a new start up and all the demands of that. Even with all the opportunity that the start-up provided, including a small equity position, you know, it was a start-up wage.

So I was struggling financially as well as struggling, emotionally with a loss. And about six months after that in and around the beginning of 2000, 99-2000. Struggling financially to get some relief, I actually filed personal bankruptcy, which was, you know, a bit of a everything that comes along with you know, financial failure in sort of hanging, giving that up. And shortly after that in early 2000, basically a year from when I lost my fiancé and my mom who I am very, very close with, in fact, I’ve dedicated. My second chapter of my book is to her and there is a saying there my mum was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and that was March or April of 2000. And she passed away in August of 2000, so within a year, you know, 99-2000 I suffered significant personal loss that I’ve never experienced before or since, as well as you know, the financial.

So it was really a low point in my life. And, you know, having mentioned earlier that I was part of a start-up and there was lots of opportunity there to throw myself into my work you know, ask for help in you know, I certainly needed it, you know, professionally, colleague wise anybody family at the time. And that’s really where my story starts. The book starts really is around those, there is this 12 chapters in the book and really the first two chapters sort of talk about the loss and the despair around the loss. The subsequent 10 chapters are really what I feel are some of the tools and opportunities and blessings really that propelled me forward to six or seven years later, being able to literally become a millionaire. And part of the next start up was pivotal in that and then actually retire in my late forties,

Steve Rush: It is really fascinating story Eric, and one that, you know, we’ve spoken about before and every time I hear you tell that story, that despair is still really quite vivid for you. I can almost feel you emotionally going through that as you kind of describe that. What is it you think that creates that resiliency at that time? Because ultimately when you look back, you could probably connect the dots, but I think for many people, I suspect they go one of either way, right?

Eric Chasen: Yes. You know, I think it has around, you know, they say hindsight is 20/20, right? When you’re living through it, sometimes you just, you know, I can remember trying to read books on, you know, why, you know, why bad things happen to good people? And you know how to go on living when somebody you love dies? And I was joining grief support groups, even silly as it sounds and I talk about this in my book. I joined several months after I lost my fiancé. I joined at the time it was before online dating. It was much more awkward other than that back 20 years ago. I had such, you know, love and admiration for my fiancé. Feeling like it was the love of my life up to that point that I wanted to see if I could to fill that void.

And I was silly thinking, you know, just a few months after her loss that, so, you know, you do a lot of different things. And fortunately, I had a supportive at the time. My mom, she was alive for about a year after or so, and, you know, close with my brother and we became closer and in subsequent became business partners on the next endeavour. I had supportive colleagues at work and I had supportive of professionals, you know, psychologists, that type of thing as well as, you know family and some close friends. And that’s really, you know, that’s what gets you through the initial stage. And I think there’s no substitute for time though Steve. Time is an amazing, I got that from my mother when I said to my mom shortly after losing Jen, I said to my mother the oldest in my family at 13 years old, my oldest brother was killed riding his bicycle. And I said to my mother, you know, I’m a parent now of a 17 year old. I said to my mom back then 20 years ago, I said, mom, how do you go on? I mean, how do you get over rather losing somebody so close and so suddenly, and she said to me, Eric, you never get over it. You just learn to live with it. And that’s, you know, that really sums it up Steve. I have the resilience, the long answer to your very good question though.

Steve Rush: It is a really poignant answer, Eric too, because I think the whole philosophy of learning through time is part of that healing process. If that is what you call it or the realization that you still have jobs of work to do for your family and people around you. right?

Eric Chasen: Yeah, for sure. Yup, It’s a classic one day, one step at a time, one day at a time and time is an amazing, you can’t rush it but time really and it’s by no means overstated. Time is really an amazing healer.

Steve Rush: Sure and when did you notice the pivotal time then for you, Eric? When things were moving in the right direction, you were getting that momentum behind you and you’re on the upward trajectory.

Eric Chasen: It wasn’t a straight line, or you know or you’re continuing, it was more of a take a few steps forward, back, up, down. A little bit more like a crazy EKG than, an even blips. So after a few years with that initial start-up that I was with when I lost both my fiancé and my mom, and then had the personal bankruptcy. My brother had this idea after being in high tech, doing very, very well with a high tech company, he sort of wanted to leave the corporate grind and saw what I was doing. I was living in Maine at the time, originally from Massachusetts and he was still in mass, but commuting about an hour and a half each way, having done that for about 10 years had enough. He was going to start a similar type company that I was working for, which was a service based call centre, sales centre.

He looked at the technology, so to answer what was really pivotal. What was a pivotal move Steve was actually relocating back from the state of Maine to Massachusetts and, you know, becoming partners with my brother, you know. I left a perfectly good job, and that start-up was doing well in Maine and they went on to do very, very well. They did well in two and a half, three years that I was there, and they went on to do very well after I left. And we used to kid my brother and I, and a third partner. We all left perfectly good jobs to do the start up here in Massachusetts, that we, you know, we went through like you know not unusual to start-ups. We went through a few years of sort of hopping from Lily pad to Lily pad to stay afloat, and then subsequent to the three really challenging initial years, we had three very good years and made the decision to actually sell the company after three to four really good years.

Steve ush: That is great news and it gives you the evidence, I guess, that perhaps what you didn’t realize at the time you were going through was building up those tactile foundations of resilience, right?

Eric Chasen: Yes, you know, and it is like I said, it is like most things. It is not a straight line. There is, you know, you got to be fortunate for the peaks that you have and you got to be not too disappointed in the valleys. Because that is really, what it is about, the peaks and the valleys and to the extent that you can stay. I have a chapter in my book called guts, grit, and resilience and that is really, what it takes. Sometimes it just takes hard work. I think entrepreneurial endeavours always take hard work and sometimes that is just enough, the hard work. And other times it really takes guts, grit and resilience, which is an extra commitment over and above hard work.

There is other factors too, which is surrounding yourself with good people that we were very, very fortunate to be able to do and acquire, which was besides the three of us co-founders of the company. We had some other partners that were very helpful. Some came, and went and certainly had some incredible people that came to work with us that were just superb.

Steve Rush: That is great to hear too. So in the book, From Despair To Millionaire. You talk a couple of things within that. I just wanted to just to pick apart, so I think it would be really helpful for our listeners to get your lens on those Eric. One of which is mentor and mentoring, and you mentioned you had some really good people around you. What role do you think mentors played in your journey to becoming a millionaire?

Eric Chasen: I one of the real joys of deciding to write my business memoir was chapter three of it, which is dedicated to the mentors. It is dedicated to mentorship in general, but in particular to a handful. Unfortunate, I wasn’t able to get all the mentors in their cause there’s more that I had along the way, but I was able to talk about four or five significant ones. And to me, that’s the difference of sitting here talking right now and having a story to write of, you know, a success story to write and not having one potentially. Two things, one is having people, my first mentor, which was before the business world was when I was interested in weightlifting and bodybuilding as a teenager. I talk about this David Berman in my book who has since passed but point is, that he taught me some attributes that were very, very helpful along the way, onward and upward in the business world.

To My first business mentor, Paul Leary, who I may talk about the most in there other than my brother. He was somebody that when I went to work for him at 21 years old as a college dropout, he was a guy that I looked at and said. I want to be like him. You know, he was a consummate entrepreneur, rags to riches story himself and a super successful guy that went on to build a number of companies from nothing. He wasn’t the easiest guy in the world to work for, again a consummate sort of hard driving entrepreneur, but just an incredible motivator, leader. I learned a lot from him in my early and mid-twenties. It is one of those things; I lost touch with him for 25 years, and after writing the book, I was such an honour and such a joy. I found his email address, sent them a note and we were able to reconnect through email after about 25 years.

He was very happy to hear from me and sort of obviously thrilled to be honoured, and it was meant a lot to me to be able to do that because, you know, if it wasn’t for him, my trajectory may have been different. And I talk about some other mentors along the way, right up into my, perhaps maybe the sort of my last mentor in business, which was my older brother, who’s 10 years older, and he was very pivotal in sort of the home stretch of my story, basically.

Steve Rush: So really a thoughtful reflection, because as you were talking about your brother being a mentor as well, I guess people often have that misconception that brothers and business partners can’t actually mentor each other, but actually you can, can’t you?

Eric Chasen: It is a great point, Steve, my brother and I early on. So again, I was always a little brother until, you know, you get to a certain age and then we had some similar interests. Then ultimately, he invited me into his company for a good ownership stake, and that was in 2001. And we went on to again, struggled together for a few years and then do very, very well for the next several. But the point is, is that early on, we said that we were never going to let anything come between our brotherhood and friendship and it never did. And we rarely, we rarely even had any arguments. You know, he was the CEO of the company and he had the experience. He was the Chief Operating Officer of a publicly held company that high tech company, I talked about a little bit earlier and he had the business acumen, you know, he was excellent at building culture and excellent problem solving skills.

And he was just a real outstanding person to be the CEO of the company. I don’t know if you have a love the job because of all the other added stuff that came along, he was the best sales person in terms of acquiring new business that we ever had. So he was excellent, very, very passionate about our business and our ability to deliver for our clients. And I was fortunate enough, Steve. He actually, I asked him and he wrote. Some of this is summarized in the foreword From Despair To Millionaire. My brother wrote the forward, Steve Jason, again, a real, I am grateful that we have the kind of relationship that he was able and willing to write that.

Steve Rush: That is great, and gratitude also plays a key part of your book and you call it the key to fulfilment. Tell us a little bit. About why that is so important to you?

Eric Chasen: I think it is critical that we recognize it is all about the old saying there of treating the person that serves you coffee, the same as CEO or, you know, that treating everybody basically the same. My default mode really is treating everybody with kindness and respect that. That is my default mode. Whether, again, whether I am getting my coffee or talking to the CEO of a company that is interested in training or coaching, what have you. And again, the gratitude really comes from recognizing that, you know, we’re not able to do it alone. You know, mentorship comes in to play there as well. So I think gratitude really is just in humility, really go hand in hand, you know, being humble enough, being humble enough to be grateful and realizing that, you know, you can’t do it alone. And there’s a lot to be said for expressing gratitude, whether it’s somebody that helped you go up the ladder to success, or somebody that cares enough to make your coffee well enough each day and delivers that kind of service. It is the old saying of the attitude of gratitude. I try to express that throughout my life. I think it comes back to me in the form of fulfilment. You know what I mean? Form of people tend to act in kind in return.

Steve Rush: I love the attitude of gratitude. I love the notion of attitude is gratitude because it just makes you realize that it’s a choice that we make and people are putting themselves out there to do jobs that can sometimes be less than thankful, but the smallest bit of gratitude and recognition can go a long way, can’t it?

Eric Chasen: It’s paid me dividends throughout my life because you know, a lot of times, Steve, I didn’t have a lot of things. Along list of things to bring to the party. You know, I dropped out of college. I started entry level in one industry and worked my way up into supervisory and management probably before I should have. Again, that mentor that I mentioned earlier was very, very pivotal and helpful there. And then after about 10 years in that industry, Again I started entry level in the subsequent industry that I went on to be in management and in equity and ownership and ultimately early retirement and then onto coaching, mentoring, and offering. But the point is, is that, you know, there’s a lot of people that helped along the way, and there’s a lot of people that I couldn’t have done it without them. And I think it’s having that attitude of gratitude in treating others well. I was not always the easiest leader, a manager to work for because of course, you know, results are important. However, I thought being fair was critical and treating others well and which includes treating others fairly and treating others well is really the best investment you can make in yourself, treating others well.

Steve Rush: And you call it an investment, and I think it is a right word too Eric because many people don’t see that gratitude as an investment. Being fair, being appreciative of people can actually, directly transfer to bottom line results in revenue, as much as just making people feel good, right? Yeah.

Eric Chasen: And don’t wait for the other person, you know, a lot of times people they’re waiting for the other party or the other person or the other employee or the other colleague or the other neighbour to treat them kindly and treat them well. I find that it works really well, if you make the first move, you know, 9 out of 10 times, like I said, people respond in kind and they can’t do enough for you because they, you know, that’s the way kind of like the way of the world, right? You get what you want in life by helping others get what they need.

Steve Rush: Yeah, the gift of reciprocity. Give to receive, isn’t it?

Eric Chasen: Yeah, that is reciprocity. Respect and reciprocation are some of my core values, actually, Steve, I am glad you mentioned that word reciprocity. I believe in that reciprocation sort of very important for me to return, and that comes back to your original question of gratitude Steve. Reciprocity is a demonstration of gratitude.

Steve Rush: It is, and I hold those values true myself too. We will give the folks at the end of the show, an opportunity to find out where they can get a copy of From Despair To Millionaire, but before we do that, we’re going to turn the leadership lens on you. And this is part of the show where we hack into your leadership mind, so as a resiliency coach and turnaround expert now. You have also been a leader of large-scale businesses as well, so we want to hack into some of those leadership experiences. So from your perspective, Eric, in leading others, what would be your top three leadership hacks?

Eric Chasen: Great, great question, Steve. And, you know, since I only have three I like to keep things really, really simple. You know, I learned in simple terms, I try to teach in simple terms and I find that is very duplicable and replicable. I like to think of things like in threes in this case ABC. So, you know, A being attitude as a leader and as a leadership hack here that we’re talking about. Lead with the right attitude, attitude is one of those intangible qualities. We can’t measure it, but we certainly know when it’s there and we can tell for sure when it’s not there. So if you want a team of people operating with a can do attitude and then lead with that attitude as well. Not too much different than being a parent, actually, you know, if you want your child or family to have a good attitude, if you want your team or employees to have a good attitude, it all starts with you as a leader, having the right attitude, so that’s one.

Also belief. Believe in your team. Believe in your colleagues. You know, believe. Belief is in faith. If you hired the right people, you know, believe in them. My brother used to say, you know, I like people that I can give them a rope and they bring you back a horse. I don’t have to tell them, you know, how to do that.

Steve Rush: I like that.

Eric Chasen: Belief that is my next hack, so hire the right people, you know, work along the right colleagues, if you can, and hire the right people and have faith and have belief in them. That is the second one, and the third one really is communication. You know keep it simple, ABC, communication is paramount. It all starts with listening. Listen first, listen often and that’s a oftentimes missing part of communication, but communicate expectations, listen for feedback, listen to some more and do the best you can to communicate in the way that you and I are Steve, which is, you know, talking or nowadays, you know, I always love face to face communication. That is not always so realistic. You know, you are over in England; I am in the East coast of Massachusetts, and so we were not going to necessarily be face to face, and on top of that, nowadays is not so much face to face with a COVID in that. So, but that does not change the fact that communication is really, really critical, starting with being a very active and attentive

The listener.

Steve Rush: I love the simplicity of your ABC Eric and easy to remember, but bang on and relevant too

Eric Chasen: Thank you.

Steve Rush: The next bit of the show, we are going to turn to is what we affectionately call Hack to Attack, so this is where something in your work life has perhaps not worked out as well. And it’s fair to say, you’ve shared with us a number of stories already that could align to this as an approach, but we’ve taken that situation that hasn’t worked out well or hasn’t been good, but we now use that as a key foundation in our work as a force of good. What would be your Hack to Attack?

Eric Chasen: Steve I think it is around responsiveness actually and that is such a long list treating others well, reciprocation, respect, which are all sort of are interchanged in connected. Responsiveness is an amazing differentiator. Responsiveness is if somebody sends you an email and it languishes for a while, you know, that sends a message. If somebody sends you a voicemail or any kind of communication, and it doesn’t get a quick response, conversely, if you are responsive, mean even if you don’t have the answer yet, but you say. Hey, Steve I got your email and I am working on it, and then you follow up with the answer or an update. That builds value, so in other words, what you are doing is, it is really making sort of deposits in the bank. You can struggle with performance. You can struggle with results, although those are ultimately, what we get measured by, which is, you know, performance. Results, delivery of things but you can earn a lot of deposits in the bank of trust, so to speak by being ultra-responsive. And you can also set yourself apart from the competition whether it be a, you know, you work in a niche market or a highly competitive market or industry serving coffee, as an example, you can really set yourself apart by being ultra-responsive. And that can be the difference between a competitive advantage, in times that we were not necessarily performing great, but we were very, very responsive, communicative to our clients that would go a long way in building, maintaining trust and building up, I call it the sort of the deposit of trust. That can be drawn upon at times of maybe not peak performance.

Steve Rush: Yeah, that is great and the other kicker of course, to that is. That if you are responsible, you will also be on their mind and therefore that recency of your deposits of trust, if you like will be in the front of their mind, when they are thinking of who do I need to engage to do this next bit of work.

Eric Chasen: You are excellent Steve and I find that even in this day and age of ultra-high tech and Zoom calls, and I still find that a huge competitive advantage and a major differentiator is responsiveness.

Steve Rush: Yeah, me too. Love it, sounds great, Eric. So the last thing we want to do with you is to invite you to do a bit of time travel. You get a chance now to go back to meet with Eric when you were 21 and you get a chance to give them some advice, what would it be?

Eric Chasen: Yeah and I knew this coming in and I still struggle a little bit with it Steve, but I would have, it is kind of sounds silly being an entrepreneur, right? That I would have done anything differently in somebody that was blessed and fortunate enough to, you know, I don’t say retired anymore. I say took a few years off, which was like six or seven years. It started to be a year off and it turned into six or seven. But the point is, is that when I go back to 21, you know what I would’ve done, I would’ve gotten a trade. I really respect people and I work with people in the trades too, that are looking to sort of advance themselves professionally. I would have acquired a trade, where I could fall back on, you know, after being retired for five, six, seven years. Would have been wonderful to have a trade, whether it’s, you know, electrician or a plumber or, you know, something to that effect. And that’s maybe something I would have done differently in my early twenties.

Steve Rush: And I wonder how you would have done that though? Would you have unlocked that entrepreneurial spirit?

Eric Chasen: Well, you know what; there is plenty of super entrepreneurial and successful trade’s people too. And I know some of them and work with others that have the trade, but maybe they’re looking to build on perhaps some of the you know, soft skills and executive type skills, you know, to further their entrepreneurial career. A lot of those people that are ultimately very, very successful. That is one of those things that is transferable, and you can do a lot of these trades are recession proof as well, especially things like electrician and plumber and things like.

Steve Rush: Certainly, entrepreneurial spirit isn’t devoid, is it of what you do? If it is in you, it is in you.

Eric Chasen: Very well said.

Steve Rush: And therefore, whether you are a plumber, whether you are an IT Geek or whatever the case may, be in terms of what you have as a job or what you do with your work, it is the spirit, the driver tenacity, the guts scripts, and resiliency. You call it in your book that will get you there, right?

Eric Chasen: You bet, Steve. I said earlier, I had oftentimes a short list of things to bring to the party. Communication skills, attitude, belief in myself, belief in others. You know, although they are soft skills are intangibles that are not measurable. They are oftentimes high on the short list of things that I could bring before I had money to bring or certainly any skills, any formal training rather.

Steve Rush: Got it, ao as folks have been listening to this, I am pretty certain they’re going to be thinking, how do I get myself a copy From Despair To Millionaire? How do I find out more about Eric work? How can I connect with him? If we are to direct our listeners to you, Eric, where’s the best and how’s the best place to do that?

Eric Chasen: Thank you very much for mentioning that Steve. It is very simple. You could go to my website, which is my name,, E-R-I-C or the actual landing page for the book is but it is available right now through either of those two sites I just mentioned or directly with Amazon. Thank you for asking about that.

Steve Rush: You have also got growing following on LinkedIn as well and I know that we collaborate on various different bits of activity within LinkedIn as well, so I’d encourage anybody who wants to see a bit more broader work that you do, and some of your insights Eric to also follow you on LinkedIn.


Eric Chasen: Thank you very much for that Steve.

Steve Rush: I just wanted to top off the show by saying, Eric, thank you ever so much for coming to share your story and share your lessons from leadership with our listeners. It has been a real pleasure in having you join The Leadership Podcast. Eric Chasen, thanks for being on the show,

Eric Chasen: Steve thank you very much.





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