Rocket scientist, internet entrepreneur, and popular speaker Mary Spio presents practical advice for beating the odds, breaking the mold, and charting your own path to achieve true success
Mary Spio went from being a barefoot girl in Ghana to a rocket scientist with major patents with Boeing. Mary is also an internet entrepreneur who speaks throughout the world about how anyone with a dream and some tools can harness the digital world for success and prosperity. In IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, she presents advice and empowering stories that will inspire readers to move beyond their comfort zones into mastery and empowerment.
IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE reveals the habits and traits of people who defy convention, overcome limited thinking, and crush the odds to achieve breakthrough success—and shows readers how to strike their own uncommon path. It shares the secrets to cultivating curiosity, creativity, compassion, audacity, passion, obsessive focus and tenacity to attain their dreams and change the world.
It's not Rocket Science is an inspiring and entertaining read for anyone who desires to be empowered with the mindset needed to propel their life to new heights.
· Learn how some of the world’s most successful people shatter boundaries.
· Discover how your difference creates your relevance and your significance.
· Uncover your inner spark and learn how to fuel your own flame.
· Understand why a Defy-ing Moment is a defining moment.
· Find your path to success –however you define it.
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Mary Spio is a lifelong game changer. Born in Syracuse, New York, to Ghanaian parents, she had humble beginnings growing up Ghana, West Africa; Mary didn’t see her first computer until she was seventeen. Yet she became a deep space engineer, designing and launching communication satellites. At Boeing, she helped pioneer digital technology that redefined how major motion pictures are distributed to movie theaters throughout the world. From there, she focused on her passion for matchmaking and founded One2One.com, a specialty media company dedicated to resources for singles. Mary also founded Gen2Media (now Vidaroo) an emerging leader in the digital media industry. Leveraging the power of online video, search and social media, Mary’s companies provide engaging user experiences for consumers and delivers quantifiable results for some of the most iconic brands, high profile entertainers and events in the world, including Microsoft Xbox, WalMart, Toyota, Coca Cola, Justin Timberlake, Will Smith, Britney Spears and The Billboard Awards Show. She is currently CEO of Next Galaxy Media.
From the Hardcover edition.
There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
- NELSON MANDELA -
We are in a time in history like no other—an extraordinary moment when technology has given us amazing opportunities. What used to be the domain of only the privileged and connected is now accessible to all of us. Regardless of race, gender, education, age or circumstance, we all have access to the tools and resources needed to create the lifestyle that we desire. We live in a time when you can embrace your difference, do what you love and follow your passion. My own life is a testament to these times and just one example of the possibilities that abound for anyone with a dream and the willingness to work hard to achieve it.
By way of introduction, I am Mary A. Spio—deep space engineer, Internet entrepreneur, Game Changer. I will be your guide on this incredible journey beyond your wildest dreams. Imagine a life with no limits. That is our destination. Through examples, observations and hard-won insights, I will help you to crystallize your path, to pursue your dreams until they become reality, encouraging you to reach your full potential. How can I be so confident? I have traveled this path a few times with remarkable success.
Once a shoeless African child, I have had the opportunity to sell technology to companies such as Boeing, to sit at the table with leaders of some of the world’s biggest companies and even to change the movie industry. Who does that? Game Changers do that! Game Changers are the ones who are bold enough and brash enough to believe we can achieve our dreams and change the world in the process.
As a U.S. speaker and unofficial ambassador of innovation, I connect with thousands of people and see firsthand the pain and frustration they are experiencing in a rapidly and ever-changing world. I see it everywhere I go—from Job Corps seminars to the most prestigious university symposiums and business conferences. It is perhaps an underestimate that 50 percent of college graduates will not find jobs, and the majority of people are doing jobs they don’t enjoy. These figures reflect not just an American phenomenon, but a global one. People see the world changing around them. They are experiencing a sense of lack in a time of plenty and are desperate to learn how to create the future they desire.
This book is a manifesto for reversing this situation, empowering readers to find their true passion and purpose—and challenging each one to make a big difference by changing something for the better. In the past, you were told to get a good job and work toward retirement. The new dream is achieving happiness in your own way—creating a lifestyle of freedom by defining success your way and doing meaningful, satisfying work. It’s about purpose, not position. It’s about creating your own game rather than simply accepting what someone else believes is possible for you.
This book is my offering to the Game Changer “tribe”—all of us who not only dream of a better tomorrow, but who are committed to doing what it takes to create it. I wrote this book to be a catalyst for change. I hope to be that catalyst for you to pursue your dreams, to move to the next level and to find the best possible use for your talents and skills. I believe that when each of us pursues the highest and best use of our unique gifts, we can change our lives, change our communities and even change the world. My motto is: “When you share your light, you live in a brighter world.” Through this book, I hope to help you find and light your spark so that you can make our world even brighter.
Being an entrepreneur is a pure exercise in self-mastery. It has tested and validated things I can now say I know to be true. This book is a collection of the discoveries, persuasions and resources that guided me in my journey. It is my playbook for a purposeful life. This is not a book about obtaining material wealth or about fearlessness and mindless rebellion. It is neither trendy nor sexy, just my truth and the guiding principles that have helped me find solace and more joy than I often feel deserving of.
The currency for change is not money, youth or education. The currency for great change is applied knowledge. Knowledge is not genetically encoded. Anyone and everyone can acquire the knowledge necessary to change their lives. Becoming a Game Changer and achieving uncommon success isn’t rocket science. My aim is to share with you the knowledge and practical insights I’ve gained, as well as firsthand wisdom, guidance and experience from people who are living their life’s passion while contributing in meaningful ways to their families, communities and the world at large.
To be a real Game Changer, you need both cheerleaders and coaches. No team ever won on cheers alone. This book attempts to be coach as well as cheerleader. It aims to tell you the things you may not want to hear and to be that voice telling you to “suck it up” and “give me ten more” when things get tough. It’s also a playbook by a coach who is also an athlete—someone who has been in the game for a long time (and has the scars to prove it) and continues to be in the game on a daily basis.
This book is your starting point. So get ready to journey to the unknown, take risks, break boundaries, speak out, set new standards and achieve the meaningful success you’ve dreamed of. Get ready to change the game.
The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.
- APPLE INC. -
I come from very humble beginnings. As a child, I ran around barefoot, looking like a poster child for Feed the Children, playing with my only toy—a stick. I didn’t see my first computer until I was seventeen. Yet within a decade, I was working on a NASA Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project and, shortly after, designing and launching satellites into space as a deep space scientist. By age twenty-nine, I was head of a satellite communications team that pioneered digital cinema technology that changed the motion picture industry. Since then, I’ve launched an award-winning magazine, despite the fact that I don’t have a degree in journalism or any publishing industry experience. I’ve also founded two multimillion-dollar companies and worked with clients such as Microsoft Xbox and the Coca-Cola Company.
When people hear what I’ve been able to do, they assume I have some kind of special skills, maybe an extra twist on my DNA, massive frontal lobes in my brain or perhaps influential friends who pulled a few strings. That couldn’t be further from the truth. What I have achieved is a testament to the opportunities and possibilities that abound for those who have a dream, are willing to work tirelessly and are crazy enough to believe they can change their corner of the world. So just how did I go from being a hungry child growing up in Ghana, West Africa, to deep space engineer, entrepreneur and Game Changer?
THE GAME CHANGER TRIBE
I’ve never had any true mentors, so I’ve had to rely on myself and learn from afar by watching others. When I came to the United States at age sixteen, I was completely on my own in a foreign country. In search of success, I started looking for successful people to model. I began by studying the actions of innovating pioneers like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, George Lucas and many other dreamers who possessed the heroic courage to do what their heart desired. Before long, a pattern emerged—their successes were traceable to distinct actions and attributes. These became the ethos, the blueprint from which I would model my life. I followed this blueprint and everything changed. I too began to have success. Through my journey, I also noticed that while many people achieve success at some level, a few break through to achieve truly uncommon success. These are the people who are able to change our world in some way. They change the game, so to speak, by altering the way we think, the way we work or the way we live.
These Game Changers dare to paint outside the lines and have the courage to start new trends. They challenge old precepts and raise the standards. They choose to live life by their own rules rather than fit into a mold they are pushed into. They defy convention, disregard limits and ignore the odds to go beyond what most people perceive is possible. By allowing us to see our world in an entirely new light, they create greater value, understanding, joy and hope.
Some of the greatest figures throughout history were Game Changers. Nicolaus Copernicus was the first person to theorize that the sun, rather than the earth, is at the center of our universe. Four hundred years later, Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity once again changed how humans understood our world. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin led to the development of antibiotics and saved millions of lives. Gandhi secured India’s independence from Great Britain through mass, nonviolent civil disobedience and inspired other leaders around the world, including Martin Luther King Jr. I could go on. Lewis and Clark, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford—the list of Game Changers is long. These people have become household names not simply because they achieved great personal success, but because they changed the game and moved the human race forward.
There are plenty of modern-day Game Changers as well: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Ted Turner (CNN), Oprah Winfrey (media), Sara Blakely (Spanx) and Michael DeBakey (heart surgeon pioneer), to name just a few. Game Changers come in all races, creeds, ages, genders and socioeconomic levels. You can find them in all walks of life, from the cerebral to the physical, from medicine to junk hauling. From the doctor who started a Facebook page that grew into the largest church on the planet (twenty-five million people and counting), to the Pakistani teenage girl who stood up to speak out against the Taliban’s rules preventing girls from getting an education. From the sixty-four-year-old woman who became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, to the executive who went to work one day, got a pink slip, decided to start his own company and changed his life in the process. All of these people changed their respective “games” forever.
Of course, it’s easy to identify Game Changers in hindsight. In retrospect, their achievements are obvious. But at the time, they often aren’t recognized for their brilliance. They often must endure significant challenges, overcome obstacles and pass through the valley of the shadow of doubt again and again to reach the apex of unprecedented success.
CHANGING MY GAME
I was born in Syracuse, New York, to Ghanaian parents. A few years later, my parents returned to Ghana, West Africa. In 1981, the country was overtaken by military rogues and a new government came to power by coup d’état. Soldiers roamed the streets with guns, and there was a national curfew of 6:00 p.m. I knew children whose parents were taken away and put to death by firing squad. We endured days without food, and I can remember many nights crying myself to sleep from hunger.
There was one saving grace in the midst of the chaos and tragedy. We had a little black-and-white television set with one lone channel that came on at 6:00 p.m. and went off at midnight. There was no American Idol, Dancing with the Stars or Food Network. (It’s still amazing to me that people watch other people cook, and that there are entire channels dedicated to fishing and golf.) Yet that little box was magic. It was our happy place, where we could escape reality and be entertained, informed and provoked into dialogue.
It feels like yesterday that I sat at my mother’s feet watching a TV show about space exploration. I remembering feeling the vibration of pure joy activated within me when I caught glimpses of vast unknown worlds. It started the fires of hope burning inside of me. My dreams were calling, and I developed a sense of urgency to find out more about the life I had seen inside of the little box.
As a teenager, I begged my parents to let me go back to America. They sold everything they could so that I could make this journey and find a better life. At age sixteen, I traveled alone from Ghana to America. Leaving my family and childhood behind was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.
I arrived at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport on September 29, 1989, at 9:39 p.m. I remember that day vividly. I felt like I had landed on the moon—this vast, unexplored place filled with lights, cars, skyscrapers. I knew exactly what the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, meant when he uttered the words, “I see Earth. It’s so beautiful!”
I lived with a host family in South Carolina while I completed high school. After graduation, my host family asked me to return to Ghana. But there was no way I was going back. I had other plans. While in Ghana, I had seen the movie Coming to America with Eddie Murphy, where young Prince Akeem goes to Queens, New York, in search of his bride. So the day after graduation, in the middle of the night, while everyone slept, I left for New York City in search of my own dreams and perhaps to bump into Prince Akeem. A bus and train ride later, I arrived at Grand Central Station. I played “eeny, meeny, miney, moe” and landed on the number three train—last stop New Lots, Brooklyn.
New Lots became my home, where I joyfully lived in the heart of the ghetto surrounded by gang members, pimps and preachers. With that audacious move, I instantly became the ultimate latchkey kid—living on my own in New York while my parents were thousands of miles away. You realize what it means to be on your own the first time you have to use your own money to buy trivial things like toothpaste and toilet paper. I was 100 percent responsible for my well-being. Survival sparked my inner flame to succeed, and the engines began to rev.
Not knowing where to start, I got a job at McDonald’s to pay the rent. I knew I could flip burgers and mop floors. I endured the harsh prejudices that some people can pile upon those whose true selves are yet to be unmasked. Each day, I yearned for respect and dignity, not only for myself, but also for those who thought like me, looked like me and lived like me. The steel was being forged. My emotional hunger fed by the cold reality of my painful existence tossed and turned the dreamer inside of me. I knew then that the sleeper must awaken.
Late one night while watching TV, I saw a commercial about doing more by 5:00 a.m. than most people do in a day. I thought, “Whatever it is, sign me up!” The next day, I went down to join the army. But fate intervened. In the hallway, I saw a mountain of a man with a big smile and even bigger biceps—the air force recruiter. With visions of me marching amid thousands of airmen just like him flooding my mind, he easily convinced me to join the air force. (At that age, your reasons for making life-changing decisions are not always rational. “Why did you join the air force?” “The recruiter was cute, duh!” I was a seventeen-year-old girl after all.)<...
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