The cofounder and CEO of Sports 1 Marketing intends to improve the lives of a billion people, and he knows how he’ll do it.
The seeds for this journey were planted when Meltzer was only five years old, after his father left his family. “I grew up poor, one of six kids living in a two-bedroom apartment in Akron, Ohio,” he shares, “But it was one of the most valuable lessons of my life. Because the only time I wasn’t happy was when I’d catch my mom crying, worried to death about how she would afford food or clothes for us. I decided then that I would be rich so I could buy her a house and a car. Then I’d be happy all the time.”
Following their mother’s mantra of “doctor, lawyer, or failure,” every Meltzer child managed to secure an Ivy League education—other than David, who earned a football scholarship to Occidental College in the hope of playing professionally. However, he quickly realized his future wasn’t as an athlete or a doctor (“I actually thought I could be a sports doctor without having to be in a hospital, because I hate hospitals,” he deadpans), so he set his sights on becoming a lawyer.
Showing his early penchant for making money, Meltzer researched law schools based on which would lead to the highest-paying job, which was an oil-and-gas litigator, and promptly chose the top school for that area of law, Tulane University. Upon graduating, he says, he was immediately offered two jobs—and his surprising decision would take his career to places he never imagined. “One of the jobs was an oil-and-gas litigator, which paid deep six figures, the other was an offer on the internet to sell legal research online, a sales job with a $250,000 comp plan,” he says. “I took that job, despite my mom telling me that the internet was just a fad and would be a huge failure,” he says with a laugh.
However, he adds that the experience was another important business lesson for him: “I tell this to people all the time: just because somebody loves you doesn’t mean they’ll give you good advice. Instead, you should go find people in the situation you want to be in and ask those people for advice.”
Even though he was a millionaire nine months out of law school, he would heed those very words as he took his career to an even higher trajectory.
Seeking to push his potential further and knowing that raising capital was a vital skill for an entrepreneur, Meltzer would next head to the West Coast to conquer the Silicon Valley. He grinded and asked experts how to go about it. And he was a quick learner, to the tune of raising over $169 million.
After that, at age thirty-two, he became CEO of Samsung’s PC-EPhone CyberBank Division, where he experienced a life-changing career shift. He met and bonded with famous sports agent Leigh Steinburg (the inspiration for Jerry Maguire), who invited him to be the CEO of the Leigh Steinburg Sports and Entertainment agency. While in that role, he was introduced to Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, and the two soon realized they had a common desire to help others. In 2010, they founded Sports 1 Marketing, a then-boutique sports sponsorship company that’s now also involved in marketing and media. Its mantra mirrors Meltzer’s: “Make a lot of money, help a lot of people, and have a lot of fun doing it.”
Building a Brand to Better Other Lives
Meltzer had created the vehicle that gave him a greater purpose. But he knew he could do more. He wanted to reach more people, so he set out to build his own brand. To that end, he approached motivational speaker Gary Vaynerchuk as a mentor. “I asked Gary how I could be the most uncool popular middle-aged man on the internet,” Meltzer says, with a laugh. “I really took on his mentorship and advice, which is, again, a vital lesson I’ve learned throughout my career. I traded my help for Gary’s help when he and his brother were starting a sports agency, and I’m still receiving great advice from him, making it my own, and applying it every day.”
In doing this, he discovered his life’s mission. “Through my podcast, shows, books, and coaching engagements, I want to empower one thousand people to impact a thousand other people to impact a thousand other people to be happy,” he reveals. “That’s a billion people. I want to have an extreme impact on this earth by creating a collective consciousness of teaching people to be happy. I truly believe that when people are happy, they’re more productive, more accessible, and more gracious, and the whole world will change. It will be more abundant, and there will be more than enough of everything for everyone.”
More Than Enough
The way Meltzer sees it, there are three worlds in the spectrum of scarcity and abundance—both in business and everyday life. He calls the first the World of Not Enough, where he says “there’s never enough of anything for anyone. It’s ego-based: hyper-competitive, full of anxiety, fear, and the need to be right, where people feel offended, superior, angry, resentful, you name it.”
The second world is where Meltzer believes most people live, the World of Just Enough. It blends scarcity with abundance, where everything is traded, so something is expected back. Meltzer’s third world, however, is the target with his one-billion goal. “I’m trying to educate people about and encourage them to exist in the World of More Than Enough, where’s there’s abundance: more than enough of everything for everyone.
“I have five different rules for this world that apply to business as well. First, know your personal, experiential, giving, and receiving values, and evaluate them every day. Second, ask how you can provide value to every situation, person, and thing you encounter. Third, study with a lens of productivity, accessibility, and gratitude. Next, do things now, which saves exponential time and makes you more successful. Finally, and most importantly, practice ending fear. When you’re fearful, stop, drop, and roll. Pause, figure out why you feel that way, and eliminate it. When people learn to do all these things, they’ll be more successful and happier.”
The Modern Meltzer
Today, David Meltzer is still changing lives, whether it’s as a CEO, in the pages of his three best-selling books, as a speaker and a business coach, or through his podcast, The Playbook, and weekly webinar, Road to Revenue and Happiness. All are venues that point him toward his goal of making one billion people happy—and illustrate a major change in his mindset.
“Until age thirty-six, I believed that money buys happiness,” he admits. “I now realize that money is still the most important thing, but it doesn’t buy love or happiness. What it does do is allow you to buy the right things, which will make you abundantly happy, as it does for me. When I help build community centers in Africa, give to my community or my kids, I am so happy.”
And why wouldn’t he be? He has long been fueled by his never-ending gratitude for what he has, the people who have helped him on his journey, and the opportunity to help others. “I focus on what I can control, the most powerful thing being my mindset. I like to feel like I get to do everything, not have to, from taking out the trash to driving my daughter somewhere.” In short, he lives out the “More Than Enough” mindset he advocates for.
All of which takes him full circle, back to the person who inspired him in the first place. “I give time every day to my mom, and I always tell her four things: I’m happy, I’m healthy, I appreciate her, and I love her,” he concludes. “People don’t mind hardship, and my mom is a great example of that. What they don’t want is long hardship. That’s why consistency is so important to me, both in life and in business. I’m living proof that, when you’re consistent and persistent, you can reach your potential and go far beyond any limitations.”