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The Power of Self Awareness, with David Meltzer

The Power of Self Awareness, with David Meltzer

We sit down with David Meltzer to discuss self awareness, finding happiness and gratitude, and investing in women and people of color.


Maricella Herrera: Where leaders go learning follows. Harvard Business School Executive Education offers more than 60 in-person and virtual programs. Learn more and apply at That's


Megan Oliver: Welcome to The Ellevate Podcast, Conversations with Women: Changing the Face of Business. And now your hosts, Maricella Herrera and Megan Oliver.


MO: Hi everybody. Welcome back to The Ellevate Podcast. It's Megan, as you're listening to this now, Maricella is back from Cancún, as long as it hasn't swept her away in all of its beauty, which is an entirely a possibility. But right now, as of we're taping, she is still in Cancún. So it's just me introducing this podcast again today, but I promise she will be back next week. So you can look forward to that. So let's go over what's happening at Ellevate this week. Our Ellevate Roundtable, we're gonna be talking about burn your burnout once and for all on Thursday. I have talked to so many people recently in the Ellevate community who are experiencing burnout. So I know this is gonna be a huge one. Definitely be sure to come by. And then next Tuesday, our executive round table is gonna be talking about, are you an imperfect leader?

MO: We don't have any community circles coming up in the next week or so, but always check the site. An amazing place where you can get a sense of community and a sense of support from people who have been through what you've been through. We do have some in-person events. Our Fairfield Westchester Chapter is gonna be having a morning coffee at Caffè Nero in Darien this Wednesday, which is today. So be sure to join that today, this morning. Our Atlanta Chapter is gonna be having a Spring Clean Your Finances Lunch also today, very important. If I was in Atlanta, I would definitely be there because I know that's a topic I need. Our DFW Chapter, which I know I've talked recently, I'm gonna be living right by our DFW Chapter soon. So you might wanna come by to our DFW's Chapters future events and maybe you'll see me.

MO: They're gonna be having their monthly happy hour meetup. I'm still in New York at as of this recording, but I'm gonna be in DFW pretty soon. Our Houston Chapter is gonna be having an Ayurvedic tea blending experience on Thursday. Our Twin Cities Chapter is gonna be having a coffee and connections chat this Friday. So all of those places, if you are in or near any of them, be sure to come on by. And let's get to our history makers for this week. Karol G became the first female artist to have an all Spanish language album top the Billboard 200 albums chart. Yvonne McGill became the first woman's CFO of Dell Technologies. Mandy Walker became the first woman to win the American Society of Cinematographers Award. Allison Jaslow became the first woman to lead the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

MO: Dawn Judkins became the first woman fire chief at Mountain View Fire and Rescue in Auburn, Washington. And Dr. Sonya Christian will become the first woman chancellor of California Community College. Congratulations to all of those amazing history makers and let's keep making history, and let's keep making history to the point that we don't have to have a segment like this celebrating all the amazing women who've made history.

MO: So now, without further ado, let's cut into Maricella's conversation with David Meltzer. David is a legendary sports executive, entrepreneur, and investor. He co-founded Sports 1 Marketing and formerly served as CEO of the renowned Leigh Steinberg Sports & Entertainment agency, which was the inspiration for the movie Jerry Maguire. David has been recognized by Variety Magazine as their sports humanitarian of the year and awarded with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. So let's cut to Maricella's conversation with him now. I know you're really gonna enjoy it.


MH: Hi everyone. I'm here with David Meltzer. David, how are you?

David Meltzer: Amazing. Thank you so much for having me.

MH: Thank you for joining me today. This podcast, we like to have different voices come in and share about their career journey and their lessons learned. And I was very excited when I saw I was talking to you because you've had quite the career. So would you mind just sharing with our listeners kind of your journey?

DM: Sure. I know one thing about my journey is if I knew where my journey was gonna take me, I'm not sure I would've went on it, seeing how hard it was going to be. But I like to define my journey into three different worlds. And the first world, was the world of not enough. And I was born into the world of not enough. My dad left when I was 5-years-old, and I had this tremendous single mom who taught me by allowing me to watch her, watch her character and learn the lessons and the work ethic and the gratitude and the accountability and the forgiveness and the inspiration, that led me and my five siblings to great fulfillment, passion, purpose, and profitability in our lives. And just blessed to honor my mom by living the life that I live now, because it's a testament to watching her in the world of not enough, not enough of anything, food, cars, school, money, whatever it may be.

DM: And so when I was young, I decided that the solution to the world of not enough was to make a lot of money to buy my mom a house and a car. And so I grew up in a trajectory of creating wealth, to buy my mom a house and a car no matter what, knowing that money, at that time would buy me the happiness and love that was missing from not having a dad or money or enough. And I was blessed when I graduated law school to be an oil and gas litigator. I was offered a job for $150,000 in 1992 plus bonuses, but I also always kept my options open to make more money. And I was offered a sales job in the internet, in 1992 that had a $250,000 comp plan. And so, despite my mom telling me the internet was a fad and I was making a huge mistake. [chuckle] Be careful, you know? Just 'cause someone loves you doesn't mean they give you good advice.

DM: But my mom was wrong. I took the job in the internet in nine months out of law school in 1993, I was a millionaire. Two years later, we exited, sold to Thomson Reuter for $3.4 billion. And I rebranded myself into a technology leader, not just a lawyer. And I went to the Silicon Valley and learned how to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in the middleware space, transcoding XML onto WAP phones, the internet onto flip phones so you could trade with e-trade or book an Alaska Airlines flight. And through that experience, I ended up being CEO of Samsung's first phone division in 1999, where I now was a multimillionaire, married to my dream girl, living in San Diego with many homes and became an angel investor.

DM: And eventually as Samsung became the second largest manufacturers of phone, I had outkicked my coverage, not only with my marriage, but also with my job. And I rendered myself exposed. And I ended up leaving Samsung or being forced out because of how big we were. And I was just merely a great salesperson, not a great, CEO yet. And so I became a big investor. I met a man named Leigh Steinberg. He is most well known, for the movie Jerry Maguire. They had made the movie Jerry Maguire based off of Leigh and his firm. And Leigh decided to make me the head of his sports agency, the most notable sports agency in the world, where not only I was a multimillionaire in what I call now the world of just enough, just enough for me. So I was an excellent negotiator, trader, understanding the world of just enough. I, like many who had built a success, who had not only taken for granted what other people were wishing for, but had reached the level where I was able to take for granted what I was wishing for.

DM: I would buy things I didn't need to impress people I didn't even like. But I had access beyond the millions to what even billionaires couldn't afford all the biggest events in the world; Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, Masters, Kentucky Derby, Breeders' Cup, ESPY, Emmys, Oscars, and Grammys. And a lesson needed to be learned, and, thank goodness that I was married to this extraordinary woman who pointed out one night when I came home at 5:30 in the morning after lying to her, that she was leaving me because she thought I would end up dead. And told me to take stock in who I was and what I wanted to become. And that, she was extremely sad and worried for me. And almost, but for a realization that I didn't hate all the people that were telling me the truth. My dad, my mom, my best friend, and now my wife, what I realized is I hated myself. And as much as I thought everybody was lying and cheating and manipulating, stealing from me, I was the liar, manipulator and cheater.

DM: And, I realized I hated myself. And from that day on, which was 17 years ago, I've taken stock in who I was and what I wanted to become. Two years into that journey, the journey of abundance, the journey of more than enough, of more than enough of everything for everything, I actually lost everything, I lost over a $100 million, went bankrupt. I went from having 33 homes to a rented house with rented furniture and one car. And that radical humility has set me on a journey, a mission to empower over a billion people to be happy, to teach the dummy tax that I've learned and paid to teach people how to create abundance in their life, how to help people and have fun. And whether it's TV shows, movies, coaching, I've written eight books. My podcast, whatever it is I do, I've been doing free Friday trainings for 23 years. Whatever it is, it's all to empower others to empower others to be happy.

MH: Thank you for sharing that. Your journey, it is, it's interesting when you said at the beginning, "If I knew this was my journey, I don't know if I would've taken it." But I see how you are very self-aware and very understanding of how the different people in your life have impacted you, how the different moments that you've gone through have impacted you. I noted you said I was a great salesperson, not a great CEO yet when you were at Samsung. And I wanted to ask you, 'cause I do think a lot about self-awareness, how do you get to that? How do you get to understand and really embrace what you're good at, what you're not good at, and where you have to learn?

DM: Well, I've developed daily practices. I believe all energy aggregates, accelerates, and compounds on itself. And the two energies, especially in my life that plays significant role, is the energy of money. Money doesn't buy love or happiness, but it allows you to shop. And if you shop for the right things for the right reasons, you can be very happy. The other energy which is most misunderstood because human nature and human capabilities is incapable of identifying it in its behavior. And so I've created daily practices that allow me to know what I want each day in a trajectory of what I think I want in the future, but also checking in on what the meaning of the inflection points, defining moments, traumas relative historical moments of my past. So many people limit themselves by giving meaning to their past of victimization instead of promotion and protection.

DM: And so I created these five daily practices that allow me to know what I want personally, experientially giving and receiving, who I can help and who can help me. And then through lenses of productivity, accessibility and gratitude, to effectuate how best can I utilize today with the man-made construct limitation of time, 24 hours. How can I utilize the activities of today, the ones that I planned, the ones I don't have planned? Am I sleep activity, I get paid for, activity I don't get paid for in a trajectory of what I want, giving the right meaning to the past to help facilitate the acceleration in that trajectory. And if I know what I want, who I can help and who can help me, and how best to be productive, accessible, and gracious, I now can prioritize my now, and 100% of the things I do now get done.

DM: But I also can prioritize my next, even if there's an unplanned circumstance, which I always say, if you come up with a well-developed plan, expect God to laugh at you. So that plenty of unexpected plans, but most importantly, prioritization ends up to be the antidote to feeling overwhelmed, the antidote to procrastination. And if I know my what, my who, my how and my now, instead of searching for this why, that so many people are searching for, more happiness, more health, more wealth, and more worthiness, I shifted the entire paradigm, with I am. I am that I am, I am happy, I am healthy, I am wealthy, I am worthy. What am I doing to interfere with it? And that practice requires me to practice identifying the fear in my life, the separation in my life, the inferiority, the superiority, that need to be right, offended, separate, inferior, superior, anxious, frustrated, guilty, resentful, whatever it may be, I identify what interferes with my abundance.

DM: I identify what interferes with that which is bigger than me, that loves me more than my mom. An omniscient, all powerful, all knowing source that loves me and protects me and promotes me at all times, even though it looks like pain, setbacks, failures, and mistakes, these are simply promotions and protections. They're things that I identify and instead of resisting it, going over it, under it, through it, around it, I simply stop and remind, remember, and recollect what I want, who I can help, who can help me, how best to get it done and prioritize accordingly to continue to apply my why. And that has worked as a system and a practice for me and thousands of other people in the world enabling me, not only to make a lot of money still, but to help so many people and enjoy myself have so much fun.

MH: It's incredible. As you're talking about this, I'm thinking, it dawns on me like, oh, he's right. [laughter] We tend to think of, "I want to be happy and therefore I have to do X, Y, and Z," and we're always planning on this, but what if it is, like you're saying, I am happy, but I'm getting in the way of that through, who knows? And figuring out what those are. In your daily practices, I know I heard you talk a little bit about gratitude and I know that that's part of a lot of what you are sharing with people. So can you talk about what role that has within this?

DM: Yeah. It's the cornerstone, right? So gratitude gives us perspective. It allows us to find the light, the love and the lessons and everything. And gratitude's so simple. It's so easy. It takes 0.1 seconds to say thank you, it's free. And although it takes 0.1 seconds and it free, and although that everything I've studied from quantum physics to metaphysics to physics, to every world thought leader, entertainer, athlete, all agree, no one's ever disagreed with me that gratitude's the most powerful, impactful thing we can have in our lives. And it's free and it takes 0.1 seconds. And despite that, when I tell people, that the best and easiest fastest way to facilitate change or impact in your life is to simply to say thank you. Say thank you before you go to bed, say thank you when you get up. And in fact, I tried to practice this myself for 30 straight days, and it took me nine months until I could do it every single day.

DM: Despite all the evidence, despite how easy it is, despite how inexpensive it is, it took me nine months in order to effectuate remembering to do it for 30 straight days, which as I mentioned before, behavior is an energy. All energy aggregates, accelerates and compounds on itself. Money does, so does behavior. Good behavior progresses in a good direction, bad behavior progresses in a bad direction. We're incapable of identifying the progress, but it's happening. It's the only instant result that we get. And that result is indicative of the trajectory in which we're behaving. So by saying thank you, we can guarantee a positive progress in our life. Here's the funniest thing is that by tomorrow, most of us won't say thank you. Within a couple days, almost all of us won't say thank you, even though it's free takes 0.1 seconds, and it has such a great impact and all evidence is leaning towards, if not proving that it's true. And the reason is this, and this was the most positive enlightening epiphany that I've had about behaviors, is that behaviors that are easy to do are unfortunately easy not to do.

DM: And that's why so many things that we do are not in a positive trajectory towards what we think we want, because we expect an instant result from the positive activities. And we don't expect a result from a negative activity. I mean, how many people do we know that tell us, "Oh, I've been doing this for 18 years, and then in year 19, cancer." Right? You think that just happened overnight? No. It is aggregated, compounded and accelerated on bad behavior, that has created dis-ease. And the dis-ease has accumulated to finally a point where our human capabilities can be aware of it. And so I'm very focused in intent with my intention. What I do say, think, believe, and feel in a trajectory of good behavior and the best behavior that we could have is very easy, and it's very impactful, it's very inexpensive, it's called gratitude.

MH: That's fascinating. You're saying it took you nine months to say that, thank you, when you go to bed, when you wake up. And it made me think of my attempts, several attempts at keeping gratitude journals throughout time. And I always fail. I always forget. And it's true. It's so easy. And just saying thank you can mean so much, 'cause it is energy. I believe in energy just as much. And as you're saying, bad behaviors, it's also the lack of good behaviors, right? It's the lack too of, there is nothing... I guess there's nothing necessarily wrong without say that you don't say thank you, but at the same time you're not adding that benefit that you could by doing it.

DM: Correct. And that's incremental progress at its best. That most people are not aware of the incremental, positive or negative progress by the behaviors that they practice every day.

MH: I'm gonna have to try this. I'm gonna have to really remind myself, I'll put something around my... In my bedroom that just says, say thank you or something.

DM: Terrific.

MH: So I wanna talk a little bit about energy of money, 'cause you mentioned that a couple of times and as you were talking about your journey, a lot of it is about your relationship with wealth and your relationship with money. And I think, and a lot of our listeners are women, professional women, and I think that women have a much harder relationship with money, because it has been socialized that way. And I wonder if you have any thoughts on how we should think or embrace more of this attitude of abundance and wealth or just the energy of money?

DM: Yeah, I think it goes beyond even the energy of a currency, right? Putting an energy into the flow. It's about receiving. And let me explain the typical mother, for example, and the irony of it is that in my journey, one of the key priorities of my life is to make sure that we have available capital to competent women and people of color. Why is that? Well, we have the data today to prove that it's a better investment, that women entrepreneurs are far more successful than men and people of color are far more successful than the average white middle-aged men as well. And the reason that I do this is that, today under 3% of the people that are financed or receive capital for their business ventures are women and people of color, even though over 73% are women and people of color. And it's a better bet.

DM: But what the successful entrepreneurial women and people of color have done is they've learned to receive, and let me explain the three step process. And most socioeconomic cultures have forgotten the third step in this abundance. And the number one step of abundance is to appreciate what you have. So I'm gonna use my mom as an example. A single mom who raised six kids herself, worked two jobs, packed my dinner in paper bag just so we could eat, sent all of us to the best colleges and graduate schools in the country, including my five siblings who all went to the Ivy Leagues and graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Penn in Columbia. And she did that being a second grade teacher and filling up turnstiles with greeting cards at convenience stores. But my mom appreciated everything. My mom added value to everything.

DM: And so she had this extraordinary ability of appreciation. The second thing that she did, which was acceptable in our culture over all these years, even though one of the saddest things my mom told me is that she went to Ohio State, and, all the women that she went to school with, almost all of them were forced to be nurses and teachers just from culture. And meanwhile, all the boys that are doctors and Wall Street people and lawyers were cheating off of her in college and then ended up multi-millionaires while she was a teacher, because that was socially acceptable at the time. But my mom had the second piece, which so many women, and people of color do, which is called acknowledgement. Acknowledgement is the ability to acquire knowledge. And the only way that we can acquire knowledge is to not have what we appreciate anymore. That's the true knowledge or acquiring knowledge that occurs.

DM: So in the context of our culture, especially with women, is that a lot of women appreciate everything that they have and they give it away. They give away everything.

MH: Yes.

DM: And, by the way, acknowledgement is not just giving away. They lose it. They have it manipulated, cheated, and stolen from them as well, which is also acknowledgement. It doesn't matter if it's lost, stole and cheated or manipulated from you or you give it away, you acquire the knowledge of what you had by not having it anymore. Now, where we need to work on, especially with women and people of color, is the third piece of abundance. See, what happens is if all you do is appreciate what you have and acknowledge it, you end up dissipating, dissolving, and disappearing your vessel so that as you get older and older, instead of fulfilling your mission of empowering others and helping others and supporting others, you now need help and support yourself because you've given everything away.

DM: And instead, if we can teach the third component, which is asking for more. So after you appreciate what you have, acknowledge what you have, you now have a bigger vessel. Right? When we appreciate it, it adds value, it expands. When we acknowledge it, it empties the expansive vessel that we just created. If you don't ask for more, if you don't believe that we don't live in a Zero-Sum Game, we don't have to trade and negotiate everything. I live in a value add game where I add value by, not only appreciation and acknowledgement, but by asking for more, by asking and making people feel great about investing in me. Make people feel great about helping me because I know how great I feel when I help other people and how valuable I am when I'm of service and value to others. But we deny the flow. We denied abundance in its core because most people don't feel good or humble in asking for more.

DM: So I'm on a mission of teaching, especially women and people of color, not only to appreciate in this gracious way, not only to acknowledge and learn the lessons and find the light in all of our experiences, but when you don't have it anymore, ask for more from someone who sits in a situation that you want to be in. And I promise you, if I can teach people appreciation, acknowledgement, and asking for more, they will expand and grow in a universe that it is expanding and growing. We do not live in a just enough world. We live in a more than enough universe of more than enough for everything, for everyone. We just have to ask for it, wish for it, hope for it, and be able to not only, do, say, think, believe, but feel inspired to be abundant and part of abundance is asking for more.

MH: Thank you for that. And I love the way that you've thought of this, and it's true. We don't ask, we don't ask enough.

DM: Absolutely.

MH: Well, David, thank you so much. I mean, I could talk to you for another hour, happily.


DM: Thank you.

MH: So thank you for being here. We're gonna go into our little lightning round. So this is just some fun questions we always like to ask. So, if you could time travel, where is the first place you would go?

DM: I would go to the... Jesus being crucified. Yep.

MH: Yeah. You go back?

DM: I go back.

MH: See. I always like... To me it's always interesting to see who goes back and who goes forward.

DM: Yeah. I think I could reduce a lot of interference by being there that day and being able to know the truth.

MH: Yeah, that's actually quite good. A good thought. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

DM: Kindness.

MH: Ooh. That is a great superpower. What is a skill you wish you had?

DM: Patience.

MH: Patience. Most used app on your phone?


MH: I threw a random one over there.


DM: No, I just... It's so funny. I'm looking at my apps going what... It has to be Instagram.

MH: Yeah. I relate to that. Although for me it's always WhatsApp just 'cause my family is not here. Favorite recent read?

DM: Bhagavad Gita.

MH: Ooh. That's a great book.

DM: Yeah.

MH: Very, very, very spiritual. And finally, what is one thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

DM: I think indicative of what we talked about, ask for help. Best advice I'd give my 15, 25, 35, 45 and 55-year-old self, ask for help.

MH: Thank you. That is a great way to end this. Thank you so much.

DM: Thank you so much. I do want to let your audience and community know that if anybody wants one of my books, I will sign it, send it to them, pay for the book and shipping. So just email me for anyone in this community, I'd be happy to send that out for you.

MH: Thank you so much. We'll make sure to put a note on that and I'm sure our listeners will take you off on that offer because all the stuff you're saying will resonate. I know this community very well after 10 years of being here and I'm sure this is gonna resonate quite a bit with them.

DM: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to share and I look forward to doing more with you. And thank you for empowering so many yourself to empower others simply to be happy. I look forward to our next time.

MH: Join an exceptional peer group to sharpen your leadership skills and advance your career. Harvard Business School Executive Education now offers in-person and virtual programs. Learn more at That's

MO: Thanks so much for listening to the Ellevate Podcast. If you like what you hear, you can subscribe, give us five stars and share your review. You can learn all about Ellevate membership and all of the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer Katharine Heller. She rocks. Thanks so much and join us next week.