Searching for Success Formulas has not been easy. I continue to look for individuals that can teach me lessons on how to start, grow, and sustain things that are important to me.
Joshua Mercer (Josh). Founder and CEO of Swish Dreams, one of Chicago’s fastest growing non-profit organizations for youth, provided clarity on something I have thought about for months now. He confirmed that in order to live up to your ideas of success, you must surround yourself with like-minded supporters.
During our April phone interview, Josh and I discussed a variety of experiences that contributed to him establishing Swish Dreams and other opportunities including “The Conversation”, a dynamic event be held on May 11th.
Josh began Swish Dreams by simply opening the gym on weekends for children at the school in which he worked. Noticing that some children were struggling academically, Josh and his friends assigned the children math as well as reading and research projects on athletes before allowing them to join the sports activities. Today, Swish Dreams operates an annual summer camp with over 15 sites while producing proven academic improvements for program participants.
I was most impressed when Josh talked with me about his recent Kwanzaa celebration. After inviting a group of friends over for the holidays, he intentionally explored the principles of Kwanzaa with them, making it clear that for him to reach the level of achievement he envisions for his brand, each guest or friend must embrace the Kwanzaa principles as well.
It is not enough for your friends and followers (yes including those on Facebook and twitter) to know your intentions, but those that you interact with most, must demonstrate actions that align with your core beliefs.
Josh does something people usually fail to do in relationships- articulate and hold others accountable to clear expectations. What I appreciated most when I asked Josh, “How do you overcome procrastination?” was his response, “put myself in the position to be held accountable”. He not only demands accountability, he lives it.
Josh went on to say that, “Procrastination is not an option because I have other people who will look bad if I fail to do my part.” The co-dependents Josh is referring to include his board members, program funders and partners, friends and family, individuals in other professional and social networks, and the children and families that have chosen Swish Dreams over other out-of-school time options.
I was surprised to find that Josh did not have a cohesive life plan, but instead aligns his three year goals with the strategic initiatives for Swish Dreams. He eats, sleeps, and breathes the plan, consistently working to make each event and program larger than the one before. He is determined to create an organization that can be passed down to his children, and ultimately lead to his families financial freedom. Josh is conscious that all of his actions and affiliations influence Swish Dreams and this motivates him to remain involved on sports teams and with a variety of networking organizations. Although he does not have a formalized Life Plan, he is certain that he wants to live his life as a good Christian.
Josh’s mother now owns one of the top insurance agency’s in the nation, but that was not always the case. Joshua Mercer has replicated his mothers work ethic built on the notion, “If you don’t go after what you want, what you don’t want will take over your life.” Throughout our interview, I continued to discover nuggets of wisdom that I am sure will lead to the continued success and growth of Joshua Mercer. He regularly asks himself, “if I died right now, what would I do differently or regret?”
I must admit that Josh’s dedication to Swish Dreams sustainability is rare. Josh views the decrease in funding dollars for non-profit orgs as an opportunity to be more creative and hands on in the operations of Swish Dreams. His tactics to raise funds during this time include bartering with up and coming individuals, including Percy Ollie Jr., a local photographer.
Joshua Mercer whole heartedly believes in the benefits of networking and supporting growing adults that work to support themselves.
Joshua Mercer’s Success Formula= Accountability + Work Ethic + Vision + Networking
More on Joshua Mercer
What is your idea of community development?
Providing opportunities for people to succeed, adding resources, being progressive…allowing the community to remain competitive with the rest of the world.
How do you see yourself as an agent or participant of community development?
I see myself as a person with the ability to connect with the person that is trying to get on with the person that is on. I am respected among people with less experience and resources as well as those that have the same or more experiences and resources as I do. I have always been a ‘share the wealth person’. But you have to bring something to the table. Anybody willing to put the work in is who I need choose to be surrounded by.
The Swish Awards- honoring the top 50 educators and 50 students in the Chicago-land area at House of Hope in June 2012 with an audience of 10,000.
My will and determination