What is your life’s ROI? Where are you investing your time, energy and resources? Will your investments become assets or liabilities? Do they create value for others and lead to higher returns?
Life is a flowchart – each decision we make leads us in a different direction, and inevitably, some lead to success, others to failure. The setbacks are hard to endure, but they are also noble teachers, pushing us to change. Yet it is in this post-failure uncertainty that some of the best ideas conceptualize.
As a young man Alexander was shy, and like many youth, unsure of his plans for the future. He didn’t really know what he wanted to do, but he knew that he wanted to be Great. And indeed he became so. Today Alexander Michael Gittens is an inspirational speaker, an author, a strategist, an artist and a student of life. When speaking of his future, Alexander smiles and asserts that he no longer carries any doubts. He attributes this to his personal philosophy, his principle for Greatness.
“My job is to use my talents, and my passions, and my values, and my journey, to add the most value possible,” he states. In Alexander’s formula for personal and professional success, actions propelled by the right intentions will produce a great ROI. His creed entails an optimistic view of human nature and potential. He believes we can achieve our personal greatness through aligning every action with our core values. When we follow our moral compass and make decisions based on our values, they will guide us on the path to excellence, in all aspects of our lives. His philosophy doesn’t equate greatness with professional achievements or financial rewards only. Alexander believes we can be great in the tiniest moments, simply by being present and creating value. In every situation, we have the power to bring about the best possible outcome for our family, friends, clients and consumers, without expecting anything in return. We can choose to make a difference and leave small legacies behind, everywhere we go. Through giving time, knowledge, kindness, experience and service to others, we create value for them, and we also receive abundant opportunities for us to achieve our own definition of greatness.
“…but the beauty of the way that I’ve found to live, is that it works sort of proactively as a magnet and a filter.”
At first Alexander had no intention of sharing these ideas with crowds; “It was never my goal to be a writer or a speaker, …I wanted to figure it out for me. I never thought that it would have any relevance to anyone else, or I’d ever share it with anyone else,” he explains. Just over a decade ago, Alexander lived through a series of business and financial failures and legal troubles. He was faced with copyright infringement charges and owed a lot of money. After crashing and burning, he walked through the rubble, pondering what to do next. An avid reader, he turned to books for guidance. One book that was particularly influential in his journey is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, in which Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Alexander recognized that he needed to rebuild his foundation. He wanted to discover a way of living that made sense to him and would bring about excellence in all areas of his life.
“[Viktor Frankl] said in his book, that everything can be taken from a person, except their freedom to decide how they’re going to react in any situation. Now I never had it as bad as Viktor Frankl,” he says, “but when you realize that even when things go wrong, the freedom to make my next choice is up to me, there’s confidence in that, there’s control in that, so reading that book was brilliant.” Like the sun ascending over the horizon, a new perspective rose out of defeat. Alexander dusted off the debris and emerged from failure a better man. He connected to his values, changed the lens on his decision-making process, and adopted a giving mindset. He promised himself that he would create value with every decision he made. “The turning point I guess was having learned this way forward…and just having the courage to actually apply it to everything I do. …Once I was able to…with my clients, with my family, in relationships, with my friends, …use the creed that I developed – once I used that in everything, then things really started to change for me,” he explains. With a clear mind and an open heart, Alexander found success in big feats and small moments. One change in outlook paid multiple dividends.
“When I write, when I speak, I think: Is this relevant 50 years from now? Would it have been relevant 50 years ago?”
His philosophy perpetuates positive change and repels negativity. “I’m so lucky, first of all that I live in a great neighbourhood, and [I’m] typically surrounded by ambitious people,” he continues, “but the beauty of the way that I’ve found to live, is that it works sort of proactively as a magnet and a filter. So I’m drawn in to the right sorts of individual and they’re drawn to me, and people who are inherently negative or inherently…have bad intentions, they get naturally filtered out by my approach to my incremental decisions in life. And then, even when things do go wrong, …I recognize that it’s not someone else’s job to treat me right, or treat me badly, they’ve got their own life, they’ve got their own journey. It’s up to me to decide how I’m gonna react to that, and to do that in alignment with my values.” When faced with negativity we have the choice to walk in another direction. Greatness is a continual journey, one that we actively choose to stay on.
Video by Kristoffer St. Clair
Alexander finds his inspiration in the journey of learning. He appreciates the time spent crafting his work, when scattered thoughts meet and turn into meaningful paragraphs. “For me it’s the patience of greatness, it’s the patience and the time honoured…process of becoming your best, and the fact that it doesn’t happen overnight. …There’s beauty in that process, and if you’re looking for the outcome all the time then you’re gonna miss that beautiful process of uncovering ideas and having them reveal themselves naturally, and through rigour, and through hard work.”
Alexander doesn’t worry about where his journey will take him because he knows his creed is leading him to Greatness. He speaks of the future with conviction: “I asked myself a question the other day…I asked myself, ‘Okay Alexander you’re gonna work for 50 years on your ideas, and then you’re gonna publish books, and articles, and you’re gonna speak on stages, and you’re gonna be in obscurity – no one’s gonna know your name, no one’s gonna know what you did, until the day after you die. Then the day after you die, it catches fire and it’s everywhere. So basically, you didn’t get to enjoy any of the spoils of your hard work. Am I okay with that?’ ” he asks. “Absolutely I am. …My ideas are not for me [alone]. When I write, when I speak, I think: Is this relevant 50 years from now? Would it have been relevant 50 years ago? …Maybe I’m before my time, maybe I’m behind my time, but…I know that if I use my talent, and my time, and my passion to create the most value in every situation, I’m okay with whatever overcome.”
Video by Kristoffer St. Clair
Despite these modest words, Alexander Michael Gittens is already making an impact on those around him. He advises top-level clients, shares his philosophy with the world, gives his presence to nieces and nephews, and supports student initiatives. Alexander is the author of several articles and has given motivational speeches at over twenty conferences in six countries. He has been the recipient of diverse awards. Adding to this already impressive list, he recently started a media and publishing company and is working on a forthcoming book. He looks to the future with certainty, ready for whatever comes his way.
Sometimes our values can get lost or forgotten amidst the superficial, tangling our minds, derailing us off our paths. Alexander’s philosophy is a reminder for us to stay on course, think of others and enjoy our journey. In a world of instant gratification, it’s absolutely on time.