Jerry Nelson’s life changed on a dime when he met a “rich man” while he was still only in his early 20s himself. The rich man that Jerry met, who changed his life, was none other than Edwin Wendell Pauley. Mr. Pauley was a partner of Howard Hughes, founder of Pauley Petroleum, and eventually the namesake of UCLA’s basketball arena, the Pauley Pavilion.
As an undergraduate and President of his Fraternity at UCLA, Jerry was invited to Mr. Pauley’s home in Beverly Hills. Jerry, who grew up poor, took a seat next to Mr. Pauley at his bar and had his first drink of whiskey. Mr. Pauley asked Jerry, innocently enough, what he wanted to do with his life. What came forth was a torrent of excuses from Jerry on why he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be able to do much with his life. Mr. Pauley told Jerry that he thought like a loser and that’s exactly how Jerry felt leaving their interaction! But two weeks later Jerry revisited Mr. Pauley and took him up on his challenge to “make a difference with his life.”
Jerry has earned a living by starting over 40 companies, Ticketmaster amongst them. But as he’s fond of saying, he’s made a life not by what he made but rather, what he’s given. For the last 20 years, Jerry has been been giving back to undergraduates through his not-for-profit, the American Leadership Academy (ALA) www.americanla.org. What Mr. Pauley was to Jerry, Jerry tries to be to upwards of 500 young and inspiring men every year.
I’ve been speaking here since 2004, and every time I come to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on the tip of the Baja peninsula, I leave better off than when I came. I’ve only missed one year in 2008 when the economic downturn hit my business, Aquascape, hard. Afterwards, Jerry sent me an email wishing me a speedy business recovery. But, he also concluded by reminding me “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.” I’ve never missed a year since!
Everyone should be as fortunate to have an ALA type of experience to give back too. The greatest satisfaction in life comes from helping someone else reach their fullest potential. Mr Pauley did it for Jerry and in turn Jerry is doing it for countless others. Isn’t that just how it should be? Here’s to you finding your own way to give back. What you might just find out is how much you will get back when you do!