Greg Schaefer – Founder & President, SEI New York

Greg Schaefer, founder of SEI New York, has been licensed in the insurance field for over 15 years. He holds licenses in Property & Casualty, Life & Health and has obtained distinguished designations as a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and a Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA).

Greg founded SEI New York to help business owners save money on insurance without compromising coverage or customer service. His business model has always been successful because it is based on a deep understanding of the needs of customers, both personal and commercial. This is true from the initial inquiry to long-term relationships.

1. How do you define success?
I have a tremendous drive to achieve whatever I set my sights on. As a young person, I remember observing my dad and his reactions to people, as well as to situations around him. In doing so, I learned all I could about the world at large, including business etiquette, what it meant to be a man, a father, and a worker among workers. Success, for me, is about being content, having fun, following my dreams, being responsible, and not hurting others while making my place in the world.

2. What is the key to success?
To always keep moving forward and to learn from every setback. The greatest entrepreneurs did not become successful overnight. I like to dream big!

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
I always knew that I “wanted” to be successful, that I was willing to work at being successful and that when I want something, I am willing to stay the course, no matter how arduous the road toward attaining the desired objective becomes.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I love the “chase” and I also love strategizing about how to achieve my goals. For me, it is similar to solving a puzzle. As I build on each success, I can see the entire picture taking shape. At that point, I know what I must do to achieve the success I am longing to acquire.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
In 1998, my father gave me a secretarial job at our family’s insurance agency. He paid me a very nominal salary and encouraged me to learn the business from the ground up. Once I garnered an understanding of the value of our products, I started quietly selling policies on my own. When my father saw what I was doing, he became my greatest supporter. He promoted me to the role of producer and paid me a commission on all my sales. He encouraged me to open my own business. In 1999, on the premise that it would broaden our family’s sphere of influence in the insurance industry, I opened Schaefer Enterprises, Inc. Never once did my father worry that I might become his biggest competitor. To his credit, and my hard work, within five years my organization created a $5 million book of business, much of which I have managed to maintain despite the ever-changing and challenging insurance marketplace. We also have been recognized for the last two years (back to back) by Inc. Magazine, in 2014 and 2015, as one of the “Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.”

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spending time with my wife and family, watching my boys grow and develop, working out at the gym, socializing with my friends, bantering with my staff, laughing, and generally enjoying life!

7. What makes a great leader?
Someone who never asks anyone else to do what they, themselves, wouldn’t do. Someone who is loyal, has integrity, and recognizes these traits in others.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Take your time, do a lot of different things before you settle on your choice of a profession and make very sure that whatever you do, you love doing it!


This interview is an excerpt from Never Give Up by Jason Navallo.

Adnan Derrani – Founder & CEO, American Halal Co, Inc.

Adnan Derrani is the founder and CEO of American Halal Co, Inc., which markets the Saffron Road brand line of all-natural and antibiotic-free halal cuisines. Saffron Road is the first halal product to be sold nationally in the U.S.A. Whole Foods, the #7 ranked U.S. food retailer with over $14 billion in sales, has noted Saffron Road as one of the most successful brand launches, nationally, in their 30-year history. Saffron Road is now sold in over 12,000 retail food stores. According to A.C. Nielson/SPINS Scantrak, Saffron Road is the fastest-growing natural frozen entrée brand in the U.S.A. and nationally ranked #2.

In its Spring 2015 issue, Profile Magazine featured Adnan on its cover story regarding CEO leadership, and how he is delivering record growth in the, otherwise challenged, frozen foods category. In January 2015, The Specialty Food Association (the largest trade group globally of specialty and gourmet food brands, with over 50,000 attendees at its Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, California) awarded Adnan with its coveted “Business Leadership Award.” In April 2014, Social Venture Network awarded Adnan with a “Lifetime Service Award” for his 30 years of devotion to socially responsible business and giving back to the community. In December 2013, at the Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Al-Maktoum gave American Halal an award as the “Best Halal Company in the World.” And in 2012, at the World Halal Forum, His Excellency, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, gave Saffron Road the award as the “Best Halal Product in the World.” Adnan and Saffron Road have been the featured in numerous publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The New York Times, Fortune, and CNN.com.

Adnan has been an entrepreneur and investment professional for almost 30 years and is president of Condor Ventures, Inc., a venture firm devoted to strategic investing in natural food companies. His entrepreneurial ventures have resulted in a successful track record of scaling and growing niche beverage and natural food product lines into mainstream-branded companies that also deliver disruptive social impact.

Adnan founded Vermont Pure in 1991. Today, Vermont Pure/Crystal Rock is the 2nd largest bottled water company in the northeast. Adnan was also a partner in Stonyfield Farms, Inc., which was sold to Groupe Danone in 2001. Stonyfield, today, generates almost $400 million in sales annually. He was also a principal of Delicious Brands, Inc., which he scaled, with the financial backing of Carl Icahn, to become the 5th largest cookie brand in the U.S.

Adnan has been recognized by BBMG and SVN as one of the entrepreneurs who engineered, “20 Ideas that Changed the Way the World Does Business.” The select list of inductees includes Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s), Gary Hirshberg (Stonyfield Farms), Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize, Grameen Bank), and Steve Case (AOL). He has also been hosted by the Vatican, Pope Benedict, and the White House, as one of only two American Muslims to be a speaker on “Interfaith in Business” in October 2010, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. Adnan is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where he is the chairman of the board of visitors and is also chairman of Columbia’s SEAS entrepreneurship advisory board. Adnan is also a trustee and on the board of directors of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California.

1. How do you define success?
I think startup entrepreneurs have to be very careful not to define success in the classic one-dimensional terms taught in business schools – solely by profits, sales, or scale. I define success as creating a viable, yet, disruptive enterprise that adheres to a triple bottom line philosophy – i.e. delivers on a mission of social responsibility, has a positive & measurable impact on meeting a critical need for humanity, a disenfranchised community, or the environment, as well as, meeting traditional Proforma sales or profits goals.

2. What is the key to success?
This is a very broad question and, unfortunately, there is no one answer. Over the decades, what I have personally observed is that the most successful entrepreneurs I know had grit (resilience, staying power) in the face of enormous obstacles, and against all odds, they never gave up. They are a breed of irrationally, passionate leaders who believed undeniably in their idea or enterprise. The biggest mistake young entrepreneurs make (indeed, I did in my first venture as well), is to not believe in themselves or waver in their conviction due to being young, inexperienced and told by alleged “experts” (e.g. investors, executives at large companies, competitors, or by business consultants) that their idea or venture was doomed to failure or impossible. Albert Einstein famously once said, “If any idea is not at first absurd, then it has no chance of success.” Also, it helps to really do your own research. Be skeptical of the status quo or conventional thinking out there, but back up your ideas with new, exceptional original sources and your own insightful marketing, demographic insights. Big companies, consultants, investors (Wall Street), and venture funds sometimes miss the boat by looking through the rearview mirror and using stale knowledge. Especially with the Internet and social media, today’s disruptive entrepreneurs have amazing opportunities to do astute original research like never before and click the refresh button. So the keys to success, to me, are having both “street smarts” and “book smarts,” and then having unwavering conviction to believe in yourself, regardless of the odds, to never give up.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
No, of course not. In fact, I have had many more failures along the way than successes. Indeed, I did always have an unhealthy dose of overconfidence. But what has changed over the decades, as I got more successful with each venture, is that my mindset was transformed from a fear of failure (most common among almost all entrepreneurs) to a methodical confidence about setting reasonable and achievable goals that lead to ultimate success.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Goes back to question #2.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
To believe in myself and the conviction of my ideas, in spite of negative voices all around me to the contrary, and to make sure I don’t follow conventional thinking, but rather stay true to my values. It’s also critical to surround yourself with good mentors that believe in you, from your board to your advisors (lawyers, consultants, investors, etc.), and to seek out business communities as support groups, where you can benefit from the best practices or learn from colleagues (CEOs or entrepreneurs) in a safe environment.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love to spend time with my family, golf, skiing, deep sea fishing (including freshwater fly fishing in Vermont), as well as connecting deeper with Muslims or other religious groups on community or faith-based initiatives. I also mentor a number of young, socially conscious entrepreneurs and am active with a number of nonprofits that share my values.

7. What makes a great leader?
Being able to set discipline among the company’s team and employees, being accountable to all employees and all stakeholders, as well as being able to recognize your own weaknesses and readily admit when mistakes are made (learning to live in the solution, not just harboring on the problems). And hiring stellar managers, team members, and collaboratively delegating authority and key decision powers to them. Vision and strategy are also critical, and it is up to the leader to always keep these in focus. Of course, the key to leadership is also recognizing what motivates your employees or partners and inspiring them to excel to new levels of achievement in pushing those interests that are also passionately aligned with the company’s interests.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
There is a huge movement among college students today to jump ship and not complete their degrees, or even if they are graduates, to just leap cold into being an entrepreneur. This has now become very trendy in today’s era, and I want to caution this millennial generation to not follow the herd here. Stay in college, finish your degrees, and then seek full-time employment opportunities. Only after you have had meaningful employment for a couple of years, either at a large corporation, venture capital or finance firm, consulting company, or in a business that has a skillset you want to master, then if you still want to pursue being an entrepreneur, make the leap, assuming you have done all your original research for your idea and that you have gained some work experience in the field you want to delve in.


This interview is an excerpt from Never Give Up by Jason Navallo.

Cindi Brown – President & COO, INNOVIM

As president and chief operating officer, Cindi has overall strategic and operational responsibility for INNOVIM, a leading innovator in the fields of science, engineering and data management. She provides experienced leadership, management and vision necessary to ensure INNOVIM has the effective operational controls and personnel in place to bring about new growth and ensure financial strength and operational efficiency.

Prior to joining INNOVIM, Cindi worked at Integral Systems, enabling civil and military satellite mission planning and operations and providing program management over large U.S. Air Force programs. She also managed the Landsat 7 Mission Operations Center as program manager for Computer Sciences Corporation. Cindi has 30+ years of experience in software development, satellite operations ground system support, proposal and program management.

Cindi holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Statistics from George Washington University. She is also a member of the National Association of Professional Women.

1. How do you define success?
Success is defined as reaching your goals, whatever they may be.

2. What is the key to success?
The key to success is hard work, self-confidence, willingness to change, ability to communicate, and more hard work.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
Yes, but not necessarily in a business sense. I have always had the ability to listen to what people are saying, and help them through their concerns or problems by just talking it through. My children refer to me as their “voice of reason.” In fact, I started my college education with the intention of majoring in psychology, but I changed to computer science once I realized how much I enjoyed solving problems via computer programs. So, I learned how to combine my ability to relate to people with my problem solving abilities, and the synergy of the two has definitely helped me become successful.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
What pushes me forward is knowing that many successful people had to overcome significant adversities before they succeeded. People such as Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Beethoven, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Benjamin Franklin all learned from their adversities and then used their life-learning lessons to become successful contributors to society.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
To really enjoy something, you first have to experience how it feels to not have what you are enjoying. For instance, the only way you can really enjoy winning a sporting event is if you have already experienced the pain of losing that sporting event. Or to really enjoy a beautiful day of weather, you first have to experience a really bad day of weather.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love spending time with my family and friends, and I love taking pictures of our get-togethers. I refer to it as “capturing memories,” and plan on someday writing a book about the importance of capturing memories with pictures and stories. I want my children and grandchildren to be able to experience my experiences, not just see pictures of them.

7. What makes a great leader?
A great leader must be a good communicator, a good decision maker, and be able to make the difficult decisions while keeping perspective on what is really important.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Don’t be afraid to show initiative and express your ideas in a respectful, but convincing way.

But most important, remember that your way of providing a solution should not be presented as the only way to solve the problem, but rather presented as a way to solve the problem.


This interview is an excerpt from Never Give Up by Jason Navallo.

David Moritz – Founder & CEO, Viceroy Creative

Entrepreneur David Moritz is the founder and CEO of three successful businesses: Society Awards, Viceroy Creative, and Ambition Beverages. Equipped with a Bachelor’s degree from NYU and a J.D. from Cardozo School of Law, Moritz turned his passion for luxury and design into a thriving businesses empire. His first company, Society Awards, was founded in 2007 and grows by over 50% every year. Under his leadership, the company was included on Inc. Magazine’s prestigious 500/5000 list of the “Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.” A testament to his business savvy, David identified a need within the custom award market and, in just a few short years, has made Society Awards the premiere company for high-end award design and creation.

David followed up this successful business by launching a sister company, Viceroy Creative. Viceroy is a full-service design firm specializing in brand strategy, brand innovation, and package design. The concept was derived from the obscure and sometimes overlooked field of package design, which is a vital component of many businesses, but is not always done correctly. With David at the helm, Viceroy has transformed the standard for design studios, securing high profile clients including Pepsi, Lipton, Playboy, Marc Jacobs, Patrón, Skyy, and Colgate, amongst others.

Never one to miss a business opportunity, David quickly realized the profitable marriage between his two companies and set out to create his own luxury products which include a vodka, sparkling wine and champagne. A nightlife aficionado who enjoys parties all over the world, David always wanted to create his own high-quality spirits that would surpass the brands already on the market. He opened Ambition Beverages and launched the American-made Vision Vodka, which quickly became the darling of NYC nightlife. He then released Gabrielle Wine, a sparkler made in New York State at the oldest winery in America. David completed his trifecta with Noblesse Champagne, a luxury French champagne that is 100% cuvee and 100% estate, and one of the finest champagnes on the market today. All three products are award-winning and sold at upscale restaurants, nightclubs and bars in New York City.

1. How do you define success?
My idiosyncratic definition of success, as I apply to it myself and others, is a mixture of professional and personal development and attainment that evolves over time. At its most basic, the common meaning applies: achieving an intended outcome with satisfactory results. To do that, I require some notion of what I want in life and business, and I need to accomplish that in a given period of time. What success is, at one stage of my life, is certainly not the same thing it would be at a later stage. At this point in my life, my goal is to try to figure out what I do want out of life, under what optimized circumstances I would be happy and content, what I want to achieve, and then to set myself up in the greatest position to achieve those things for the most part. If I could identify what I really want and get it, that would have to be a success.

I have to keep redefining success, to make sure that I can’t tell myself I’ve attained it and stop striving to be better and do more. But at some point, I certainly would love to find that place where I feel that I’ve done enough and can rest.

2. What is the key to success?
Above all else, steady, productive, unrelenting perseverance. Just be “The Terminator” – never stop, never give up, never relent. You might get lucky, and why not leverage that good fortune into something even bigger through the application of productive hard work? Some degree of wheel spinning for some length of time at the outset in all new ventures or new projects should be acceptable. However, pretty soon the initial approach needs to be tinkered so that the effort is yielding improving results over time, no matter if slowly. If you keep at it and keep trying to improve the system, you will get traction eventually, and you can then leverage that traction again to a better method and better results. If you combine this with everything else – natural talent, timing, resources, everything else at your disposal – then you will at least know that you did everything possible regardless of the outcome, but practically speaking, you cannot fail if you never give up. Most people can acquire an expert level at most things with enough practice. I’m talking about the kind of practice and dedication that comes with years of effort. You should be thinking about personal and professional development on year-long timescales. If you’ve only got the stamina to keep trying for a shorter period of time, then you don’t have the right motivation in place to start. I’ve found that if you are prepared for the long haul and you cover every possible base, you will not really need the long haul to see results. Whatever your strategy is, its chances of success can be improved by looking at this way.

Along these lines, if you find that your path to success relies heavily on the attainment of a very specific singular goal, which itself is depending upon the success of a single strategy, do everything you can to diversify that approach. Find other pathways to the goal, or find other goals that would suit the purpose, and find additional strategies to accomplish all of them so that you are never just “letting it ride” on one effort, no matter how carefully planned that single effort to a single goal is. There are many caveats, such as not spreading yourself too thin or getting distracted, but the point is that if you want a “key” that will yield “success,” minimally have identified the possibilities to diversify your efforts, to give “success” more room to emerge eventually. This kind of planning generally ensures that things go more or less the way you want them to in the first place, and with backups already mapped out, the progression to “success” becomes more fluid.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
Using a more broadly applicable definition of “success” such as professional esteem, financial independence, and familial contentment – yes. Different potential career choices necessarily have to yield different definitions of success, and I believe, as a society, we should learn to celebrate all the small steps that are generated by the private sector. For example, if you’re going to be a scientist, a career path that we need to further encourage and celebrate, then you may spend your entire career in a lab attempting to marginally improve a small link in a greater chain, and a lifetime spent in that pursuit must be considered a form of success because advancing scientific knowledge is never fruitless. There is no “failure” in carefully conducted science, as every path is explored, and the general knowledge is increased. Your work could lead to other people making a breakthrough that improves the world in ways that no one could have imagined at the time.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
When I read this question, it seems to me that the answer is stated in the question. I could reformulate it as a statement: Adversity pushes you to keep moving forward. I imagine the question along these lines, “When faced with a charging lion, what pushes you to keep trying to attain safety?” For me, adversity itself is the motivation. It’s what perks me up and gets me fired to reach my real potential. I’ve always said that I’m, at my best, in a crisis. However, you cannot successfully plan for the long-term future in crisis mode, and it certainly is not a healthy way to live. So regardless of your adroitness when faced with adversity, I believe the goal is to anticipate potential pitfalls and be prepared for them. Nevertheless, you simply cannot plan for or imagine everything.

There’s something in adversity that makes us strain every muscle and use every part of our brain – stress, unhelpful emotional responses, limited options and unclear thinking, due to time constraints that come with crises – to work to counteract these benefits. What if we could take the positive attributes, induced by “adversity,” and apply that state of being to a “normal” situation in business, devoid of stress, counterproductive emotional responses, and with the panoply of options that exists in the absence of strictly imposed time constraints? Certainly, people cannot live like this all the time. However, if you can periodically strive in this way, in the absence of adversity in order to hit the nitro boost from time to time, I believe you will learn to react optimally in the presence of adversity.

As to what I personally use as motivating factors to “push” myself forward (beyond the motivation that a lion provides)? All of the usual human motivations, from competition to reputation, family to obligations.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
A gem that I return to is the notion that “You cannot change others; you can only change yourself.” This applies across the board, but in order to effectuate a change in another, if that is the goal, don’t directly try to change them because that’s clearly impossible. However, you do have complete control over yourself, and you can try changing how you interact with others. On one end of the spectrum, a change in your behavior could lead to a change in their behavior. On the other end, there may be nothing you do which can change someone’s behavior but at least you can change how you yourself react to it or allow it to affect you. Moving away from trying to change others, the basic premise holds true: You can change yourself. Whatever you want to be, however you want to be, you can become. Even personalities are not immutable. The brain is an adaptable organ and you can be, at least, a strongly similar version of the person you wish yourself to be. I don’t mean portraying; I mean changing and adapting. If you believe that you can learn a new skill, then why can’t you also learn to be more thoughtful, more polite, more debonair or outgoing, if that’s what you want? Maybe you want to be more/less trusting, or maybe both in different areas. You can be nearly your fantasy version of yourself.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Principally, at this point in my life, I enjoy reading. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but when you go out less, you can read more. Imagine that. A nice decade of international parties and popping bottles has transitioned to heating up bottles for my baby girl. Actually, my wife does that, but I supervise. At home, “Princess 1” (my wife) and “Princess 2” (my daughter) help provide me with new definitions of success. I still like to travel, and I’ve taken up a diet-fitness lifestyle that I’m very content with, currently. I collect whiskeys and unique spirits, and I’m very into fashion and, of course, design. I have a very close group of friends, like an extended family, and I cherish the times that we can all get together.

7. What makes a great leader?
Being a leader isn’t the same as being in charge. To be a leader, you have to have people who follow you. The greatness of your leadership has to be reflected by the efficacy with which you get people to follow you. It’s certainly conceivable that you could have a great number of people following you extremely effectively without being in charge of any of them. What makes a leader great is not about the orders he/she can give, it’s about the inspiration he/she can generate. The desire that he/she can create in others to want to follow his/her vision and to be excited and motivated to see where it will take everyone. To have a feeling that we’re on a journey together and the leader is bringing us somewhere great, where greatness is to be attained both along the way and in the outcome. To make people feel that the effort itself is worthwhile, and to motivate people to do their utmost of their own accord. That’s what makes a leader great.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Understand how our government’s monetary policy directly impacts your life and future. The current expansion of credit and printing of dollars serves as a direct tax most harshly on savings and salaries, and the current environment encourages acquisition of debt that can be repaid in cheaper future dollars. Do not fall into the trap of spending with abandon. Instead, seek to find inflation-resistant assets that you can secure with fixed, low-interest rate debt. Starting to do that now can put you in an amazing position later when interest rates rise. Keep in mind that you will not be protected by a steady income, unless there are huge changes in monetary policy. In order to prosper, you will need to be able to greatly advance your income. Buck this “casual” everywhere trend. It’s sloppy, juvenile and shows a lack of self-respect. You don’t have to wear a suit everywhere you go but pay attention to the way you present yourself, regardless of whatever everyone else does or doesn’t do. Do not wear a sock cap unless it’s snowing, or you are skiing, and you are outdoors.

No one is going to give anything to you, and you are not entitled to anything, except the opportunity to work hard. First you work hard, and then you are rewarded. It’s never the other way around. If you want to advance, make yourself indispensable. Never be afraid to ask questions – lots of questions. Don’t assume anything, always double check professionally, or keep your supervisors informed of your thinking and what you’re doing. Actually learn things, don’t just assume that you know things that you never actually learned. Learning never ends, and it has little to do with school. You will learn until you die. Take diligent notes all the time, as the best memories are unreliable.

Interviewing is a skill, like any other. If you are getting interviews but not landing jobs, find friends who do land jobs in their interviews and go into detail with them about how they answer questions, the responses they give, and their demeanor.


This interview is an excerpt from Never Give Up by Jason Navallo.

Seth Streeter – Co-Founder & CEO, Mission Wealth

Seth Streeter is co-founder and chief executive officer of Mission Wealth, a leading wealth management company that specializes in comprehensive financial planning and investment advisory services for high net worth clients across the country. Seth has over 23 years of experience in the financial services industry.

He obtained an M.S. in Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning, as well as his Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), Certified Estate Advisor (CEA®), and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA™) designations. Seth graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a B.A. in Communication and Sociology.

Seth has contributed to many national industry and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC.com, Financial Planning, Money, Investment News, Montecito Journal, and Ventura Star. He co-authored two weekly columns for The Daily Sound and The Montecito Messenger. He has been frequently featured as a financial resource on news programs for KEYT, an ABC affiliate. Seth was also ranked as one of the nation’s top wealth managers by Worth in 2008, and has been recognized in Pacific Coast Business Times “Who’s Who in Banking & Finance” special edition in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Seth is the thought-leader behind the Inspired Wealth Management movement, helping people to reframe their perspective of wealth beyond just the financial to lead more balanced, impactful, and fulfilling lives. He was recognized by Real Leaders magazine, in 2015, as one of the “Top 100 Visionary Leaders Who Strive to Create a Better World.”

Seth served was the 2014-2015 Global Chair of the Young Presidents’ Organization’s (YPO) Financial Services Network with over 2,000 members. He is an active member of Social Venture Partners (SVP) and was the leader in bringing Fast Pitch SB to Santa Barbara, California. He is on the advisory council for the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and is an advisory member of the Music Academy of the West. In addition, Seth is the founder of the Inspire Santa Barbara community group.

1. How do you define success?
Inner contentment: realizing that my joy is not dependent upon external circumstances. Awareness and full utilization of my unique gifts, even when I’m going “against the herd.” Helping others and doing what I can to make a difference in the world.

2. What is the key to success?
Knowing that vulnerability is a strength. Optimism. Surrounding myself with people who “think big,” yet are humble and who support my growth, and who are open to me supporting their growth.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
No. When I was young, I worked hard to fit in. And then in my teens, I accepted my differences and embraced them, and soon found the world was mine to go for.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I trust that things will work out as they are supposed to. I know I can always keep going, even if just for 5 more minutes or for 50 more yards, and then I tell myself that again and again, and keep going.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
That there is no external circumstance or achievement required for me to be happy. My peace and contentment are, quite simply, an inside game.

As a very goal-oriented person and high achiever, this completely changed the game for me. I could let go of pressure I put on myself, have more fun, and actually accomplish more.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Taking beach walks with inspiring people. Playing with my kids. Watching a TED talk. Napping with my cat. Physical activity such as swimming, running or yoga. Traveling. Meditation. Falling in love.

7. What makes a great leader?
Someone who cares about people and naturally curious about their passions and interests.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Life is too short to follow any path but your own. Set all parental or societal pressures aside and reflect on what lights you up. What do you love to do that comes easily to you? What would you do if you had all the money and time in the world? And then go do that thing!


This interview is an excerpt from Never Give Up by Jason Navallo.