What happens when someone trained and passionate about designing buildings, trades in their pencil for a microphone, and vows to inspire a million people? What does that journey look like? Had you asked Gerry Visca that nearly 24 years ago, he would have said, “I have absolutely no idea.” But now, after ten years of education and work in the field of architecture, over a decade of intentional personal growth, and several life-changing moments, his answer has become crystal clear and his mission laser focused. This is Gerry’s story, and this is what he taught me.
Words of Wisdom:
“Once you realize you have a dream, you are the only one that will make it come alive, fuel it and realize it. The minute you realize you don’t need validation from everyone else around you, the inside voice is more compelling than the outside voices, you have mastered your life.”
“When you start to see everything as a teacher, you start to be able to create with more clarity, because you start to attract people and situations that move you forward, and you don’t get stuck in the past.”
Definition of Success:
“If I’m not changing someone else’s life every day, I’m wasting my time. That’s what I live for. Being a part of the creative journey that transforms someone, and seeing that person go on to impact thousands of people, that is success.”
You don’t have to spend much time with Gerry Visca to learn he is a man on a mission. A man so passionate about why he exists and what legacy he wants to leave in this world, it radiates from his very being. There is an admirable calm, peaceful strength that predominates his aura, even as his excitement and engagement in a discussion rise. From the casual way he can recline in a chair, legs crossed, smile stretching from ear to ear, hands poised in front of him, and still express such an intensity of excitement, and you know he’s found his version of a fabulous life. Perhaps that’s what fascinates me most about Gerry. That unmistakable, self-assurance that comes with being completely clear with your life’s purpose. Gerry calls it his W.H.Y. (World Helped by You). Given my current efforts toward finding my fabulous life, and in essence my W.H.Y., I’m curious to know how he came to know himself and his mission so clearly. What’s his secret?
As Gerry starts to tell me his story, describing the passion and interest he had for his education and training in architecture in his early days, I start to wonder what ever made him leave. As he continues to explain what it was that fascinated him about the art form in the first place, I start to see the breadcrumbs that would eventually lead to his future. “I always had a passion for architecture and its impact on cities, organic growth and the WHY behind the essence of the built form.” he explains. “It was more about its’ sociological aspect and its impact on shaping humanity. I was always about inspiring the people that were filling the buildings, and uncovering the deeper meaning and essence of the projects. I always enjoyed creating and extracting with people.”
Searching for his own inspiration, Gerry decided to become that which he sought. And so, after ten years, and without becoming fully licensed as an architect, he made the decision to leave his firm and start his own company. That business, Redchair Branding, was a multi-faceted creative agency that specialized in creative strategies and branding. When I’m interested to know how he transcended from the field of architecture into a branding expert, he freely admits, “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.” Answering my next question, almost intuitively before I ask, Gerry continues to explain how knowing exactly what he wanted was more important than knowing how to do it. “I knew I wanted to create – the ‘Worlds’ Creative Think Tank’ that inspired strategies, creative thinking and passion for clients,” he says. That natural desire to inject creativity and a different way of thinking into presentations, that highlight competitive differences, helped earn him a reputation in the industry. Leveraging his contacts and relationships to win large-scale construction clients, Gerry was known for being a catalyst in helping to win multi-million dollar projects in ultra-competitive bidding wars.
Those successes lead Gerry to publish his first book, “What Have You Got To Win?®” As an almost natural evolution, his second book, “Get Creative”, took similar concepts but applied them more to individuals, in helping them uncover their unique abilities, their passion and purpose. In his words, “it was all about understanding what makes you, you.” He credits his second book “Get Creative” as really launching his inspirational work, as organizations and individuals all over the world started requesting him to inspire and coach their teams to think different about their brand promise to the world.
As Gerry stepped more and more into the inspirational speaking and book writing world, he was getting further and further away from the marketing aspect that had been the basis of his branding company. At one point, he declared to his team, “I just want to inspire the world now.” Since his company had grown to a staff of nearly fifteen by this time, it was a transformational decision that affected more than Gerry himself. When I ask him about the support he received, he is quick to reply, “Discomfort is growth.” His staff was less than thrilled about his revelation and saw it as a form of abandonment. Nonetheless, Gerry was becoming clearer with his life’s purpose and knew what he had to do. He goes on to explain, “When you focus on your purpose, and start to align your actions, things are going to change. You have to start changing your habits and the choices you make, which means your whole world is going to change.”
He knew that he wanted to inspire others to action, and that would involve speaking, coaching and writing. Beyond that he says, “I didn’t know what that would look like, but I always knew what it would feel like.” Fascinated by this concept of taking action in the face of not having all the answers, I start to see a pattern. It has become somewhat of a mantra for Gerry. Before I can ask, he offers this perspective, “The why is more important. The how is all about stepping in, never knowing what I was doing.” That ‘stepping in’ paid off when his speaking career took off with the launch of his Branding Boot Camp® tour across Canada. He started collaborating and attracting some of the most internationally renowned speakers like Jack Canfield, John Assaraf and Mike Lipkin. Around this time, the idea for the ‘Defyeneurs’ movement was born. Creating a word to represent entrepreneurs defying gravity, he was making a statement on his mission to work with individuals that were making a real impact on the world. As his new word became a movement, he launched a magazine, a book series and inspirational, think-tank-type events known as The TANK® all across Canada.
Despite the outward success of his movement, he shares more details about the challenges he faced, and how it sometimes felt like one step forward and three steps backward. But I’m more interested in how he views the entire experience, and what he has learned in the process. I’m rewarded with some insight when he says, “Any successful entrepreneur has to love what they do, because in the really dark moments, (and there will be some), loving what you do is the only thing that pushes you through.” As a nice complement to the lessons Gerry has already taught me, he shares his belief that everyone and everything is a teacher. “When you start to see everything as a teacher, you start to be able to create with more clarity. You start attracting people and situations that move you forward and you don’t get stuck in the past.”
Looking forward, Gerry’s face lights up, and he gets that twinkle in his eyes as he says, “I imagine a world inspired.” He has become really comfortable in his role and knows he exists to help ordinary people become extraordinary. I start to ask him how he will know if he has been successful, and his answer reminds me of the transformation he has gone through. “It isn’t about a dollar amount any more. It used to be about ‘keeping up with the Jones’. Now, if I’m not changing someone else’s life every day, I’m wasting my time. That’s what I live for.” he declares. Considering the 11 published books (with more on the way), the thousands of Defyeneurs he has inspired, and the 33,000 youth his ‘Big Think Youth‘ tour will reach, I’d say he’s not wasting much time these days.
As our time together comes to a close, I can’t help noticing the parallels between Gerry’s movement of inspiring people to find their W.H.Y., and my goal of finding fabulous. I’ve heard Gerry comment before that “we are all human beings, not human doings”. So it seems we both agree that finding your fabulous life is more about how you are being, versus what you are doing. Once you are clear enough on whom you want to be, what you will do for a living kind of works itself out. Summing up the interview for me nicely, Gerry says, “I’ve gone from building buildings, to building up people. I learned how to architect things well. But I decided to take that knowledge, that training and that passion and apply it to people. I’m still using all my education and my training, but now it’s combined with a lot more wisdom on how to be it and how to do it.”