Originally published on Entrepreneur Magazine on June 20, 2016.

Let me be completely honest with you about something. I was not 100 perfect sure about my recent interview with Caleb Maddix, author of Keys 4 Success for Kids. I wasn’t sure mainly because he is 14 years old. Yes, you read that right.

He’s 14 and speaking across the country with big names like Gary Vaynerchuk and Darren Hardy. Upon some research, I realized Caleb’s dad is a speaker too. Even knowing all of this, I was still hesitant about his ability to add value to the conversation of entrepreneurship.

I was wondering what kind of real value this kid could share with me and my podcast, Leaders in the Trenches, whose audience is experienced business owners and leaders who demand insights — not rehashed information. What did this kid know about business and leadership?

I watched his videos to see why so many people were sharing them. Caleb is getting millions of views on his videos about business. I was looking for the magic. He had some interesting views on business, so I kept digging.

I’ll admit it. I was skeptical. I wondered if this was just a smoke and mirrors thing. I was curious if he was just repeating what he has heard before from his dad or some other video from an influencer. You can tell when someone is trying to intimidate someone else. You can hear it in their word choice and in the tone in which they talk.

I was wrong. I was dead wrong. 

Caleb blew me away in our chat about his view of life and business. His view of the world was drastically different than what I expected. He is not just a motivational speaker. Caleb knows business.

Let me be clear about this — Caleb is motivational and inspiring, but there is more depth than just speaking to the way he thinks.

Caleb is not about the newest fad or buzz word in business. From my perspective, Caleb was focused on the fundamentals. What I mean by fundamentals is that he knows the basics of hard work and the value of results. The fundamentals are the things that you hear from time to time, but rarely do we see them in action. In fact, most business owners take the fundamentals for granted and just assume they have them covered.

Here are two specific areas that I noticed in my interview with Caleb.

1. Confidence

Caleb has a level of confidence about himself that most people lack. Don’t get me wrong, lots of people are confident to a point. But Caleb exudes confidence in the way he talks and the way he operates day in and day out.

He is not afraid to put himself out there. He doesn’t take the first “no” as a rejection. Nor does he take the second, third or fourth either. Caleb knows his value and is willing to stand in that with confidence. I watched this in a video he posted about booking a speaking engagement.

I bring this up to ask you — what level of confidence are you willing to bring into your everyday? Are you willing to stand confidently in the face of setbacks?

2. Impact

When talking with Caleb, he knows the importance of delivering value to his clients. Real success is serving, and real success is giving. “Your impact is more important than your income,” Caleb says.

Caleb shared how he is speaking to many groups across the world — yes, he is international. He’s focused on the impact of his speeches, but he’s focuses even more on helping the audience. We talked about the difference in the two questions — How can I help the audience? How can I impress the audience?

This is real maturity that many adult speakers do not completely understand. It is not about being liked. Caleb’s big mission is to truly change the lives of 1,000 people. He has thousands of followers which is great, but Caleb focuses on creating deep impact with just 1,000.

I can’t wait to see him continue his growth. At the age of 14, I was running a small lawn business. But that it wasn’t really a business, it was a side hustle. I’m in awe of Caleb as he has hustled and navigated the business world to get to huge opportunities.

Caleb is doing something really inspiring for other kids that see the world the way he does. He created a training program for teenagers to prepare for the world of business.

Caleb is a force to be reckoned with. He is getting so much experience early in his life. I know he is learning from a completely different playbook in life and business through these experiences. I can’t wait to see where Caleb takes his career.

Be THE choice, not just a choice.

Gene Signature
Gene Hammett


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