David Meltzer is the co-founder of Sports 1 Marketing and the former CEO of the Leigh Steinberg Sports & Entertainment agency, which served as the inspiration for the movie “Jerry Maguire.” His life’s mission is to empower over one billion people to be happy, a simple-yet-powerful mission that has led him on an incredible journey to provide one thing:
David grew up in Akron, Ohio, with five siblings and a single mother who had to work two jobs to support them all. Despite that, he had a happy childhood—except for when he’d see his mom break down under the financial stress. He’d tell himself, “If only I could buy her a house and a car, I’d be happy my whole life.”
His family was full of academic kids—several of his siblings went to Harvard and Columbia—so he focused his attention on sports to differentiate himself. His would dream of getting rich and playing football, and he was driven to over-achieve from a young age.
When it became apparent that David was not going to make it into the NFL, he decided to go to law school. Much of what he did in life was to please other people, and he knew that becoming a lawyer would please his mother. He was also still driven by the thought that money would buy him love and happiness, and he saw that as a path to getting there. He looked for the job that would get him the most amount of money out of law school and he got a job offer to sell legal research online in 1992. The internet was so young that everyone in his family thought it was a fad, but he made his first million dollars nine months later.
There are two paths that David took to become successful: He worked hard to create what he wanted in his life, while also mitigating his risk enough to protect or assure the people he loved. He mitigated risk by taking the bar even though he never practiced law. He didn’t take shortcuts. He also had to shift his perspective to believe that the more he can receive, the more he will be able to give—instead of thinking that giving will lead to receiving—because he was notoriously bad at receiving in his life.
After the sale of the legal research company, David went into Silicon Valley and began raising money for startups. By 30, he had it all—but that wouldn’t last. He grew up in a life of not enough. He began buying things to impress people he didn’t like. His dad, who left when he was 5, sent him a beautiful sports coat… but had ripped out all the lining. He said he did it to show him that money doesn’t buy love. David rejected this message at the time, but it started to play itself out in his life. When his wife said she was going to leave him, he woke up, looked over at that jacket hanging in the closet, and realized that he was everything he hated about his dad. He knew he had to change.
After processing all of this and downsizing his life drastically, he got his first paycheck from a new job and asked his wife if he could give a portion of it to a scholarship fund. She started crying with happiness. He knew that with what he was receiving, he could give back in a way that would truly impact the world.
Now, with a mission to empower a billion people to be happy, David realizes that he can empower others who will then empower others—and that can create a collective consciousness of abundance that will change the world.
What Brett asks:
- [01:37] Can you tell us about what jumps out from your childhood?
- [09:32] How did your relationship with your environment, your mother, and your siblings affect your life?
- [12:40] What was the impetus to start going to law school?
- [16:53] What gave you the courage and clarity to take a different path from the obvious one?
- [21:33] Are there some drawbacks from being risk-averse or should you be mitigating risk?
- [25:59] Can you talk to me about the stage in your life where you get involved with sports and internet marketing?
- [46:37] What is it like returning to success and how are you fulfilling your mission to empower a billion people happy?
Lessons for intentional living:
- If you want more in your life, get better at what you do today and more options will be available to you in the future. Not only does this mitigate risk, but it allows you to leverage your strengths while also doing things you love.
- Don’t discount the power of compounding to change the world. Reaching a billion people might seem impossible. But if you can teach 1000 people something life-changing, and those 1000 people each teach 1000 more, that’s one million. If each of them teaches 1000 people, that’s a billion. And that’s entirely possible.