The Reason to Start Asking What
Instead of Why with Stephen Nalley
By Samantha Skelton
As someone heavily influenced by the book The Art of War, and a man who found himself serving in the U.S. Military, the last thing Stephen Nalley would've expected to tell his high school self is that he would go on to operate sixty-six companies and write a novel called Relentless Pursuit.
I talked with Stephen about his new book, his driving force behind everything he does, and how he stays motivated.
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I was born and raised in a small rural town in North Florida. Population of about seven thousand. I was a below average student in high school for various reasons. After high school I went into the U.S. Army where I excelled and I spent eight years there.
My transition period from the Army, where I was part of a team and knew my routine, to the civilian world, where I had to be my own leader, my own general, and had to figure out what I wanted to do, was rough.
I received a B.A. in Healthcare Administration and got a Master's and Doctorate in business. I started off as a Junior Administrator of a hospital for several years and it felt mundane to me, so that's when I started thinking about how I wanted something more challenging and wanted to take fate into my own hands.
Later, in my Regional Sales Manager job, I was able to sell myself in the interview process, even though I wasn't qualified, I got the job.
What did being in the U.S. Army teach you about business? And how did it inform your career path?
Anyone that's ever served in the U.S. Military, whether or not they're able to apply it to their life later on or not...you learn so much.
You learn so much about structure and discipline (doing what you don't want to do when you don't want to do it most). I pushed through so much every day in the military. You become accustom to doing things you don't want to do. All these things I was able to translate into the business world.
The very first book I ever read was The Art of War which was impactful to me because I discovered this author had originally written this book on bamboo. It was fascinating that this man summed up an entire conflict on one piece of paper. That book stayed with me as I went into the military.
Everything is about systems in the military. You learn systems and processes. You adapt to challenges and created a system or method to solve it.
Tell me about your book Relentless Pursuit?
It's a system. The system wasn't created when I wrote the book, but in the space when I came back after the military and had enrolled in college and had to get a job, I needed to put a new system in place. I was overwhelmed with this transition.
It started with the very basic foundations and principles, a checklist if you will. Originally it began with a checklist of ten things.
For example, I would write down: here are the ten things I need to do to graduate from college.
Over the years, I kept adding to it. By the time I was in my mid-thirties I had a lot of my friends asking how I get so much done. At one point, I owned and operated sixty-six companies in the same industry (real estate enterprises).
Here's a snapshot of a few things I talked about in the book: I talk about financial management and communication, how to receive and provide information, and I also talk about the basic concept of law and what your basic rights are.
What's your drive to keep learning?
I had to change my mindset to be an academic. I just got my law degree in 2019, so I'm continually learning. These foundations and principles that are in my book, it's a manifesto. I live by them and do not stray from then. The process is unbreakable in my mind.
I asked myself, what is it that I want and what am I passionate about? For me, my compelling reason is anyone who had ever told me that I would never make it. You have to be willing to sacrifice what you want now for what you want later.
Altering your mindset is very powerful. Start asking What instead of Why. It's not "why does my neighbor not like me?" it's, "What can I do to improve my relationship with my neighbor?" or it's also about eliminating words like "can't" or "just do your best."
Your objective should be: failure is not an option.
For more information on Stephen, you can visit StephenNalley.com and you can find Relentless Pursuit on Amazon.
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