CRLC Recap: Lessons from Kyle Willkom

Willa Countryman, Minnesota DECA Vice President of Special Projects

At the start of December, Minnesota DECA had the pleasure of hosting the 2019 Central Region Leadership Conference, where one dynamic speaker woke up all 1,700 of us on a Saturday morning.

Kyle Willkom has an impressive resume. He was a walk-on player on the Division I Marquette University Men’s Basketball Team, has written two books entitled Wake Up Call and The Thinking Dilemma, was the first employee of a million-dollar company, started his own leadership development company – Action-Packed Leadership and has run six marathons.

Perhaps just slightly differently than most keynote speeches begin, Mr. Willkom started us off by playing the ukulele and singing us one of the comedic rap songs he had written in college. He told us how he earned a spot on the Marquette Men’s Basketball Team – running up and down a basketball court once a minute for two hours. Both of these things – starting a rap group in college & making the men’s basketball team – were things he’d said he wanted to do, even though people laughed when he told them so. But he started the group (and got a quarter of a million views on YouTube) and made the team. Setting a goal and saying you’re going to achieve it, he told us, is a crucial first step.

The rest of Mr. Willkom’s speech focused on how our small actions, done every day, make a huge impact over time. He gave us the advice a professor gave him that changed his life;

“The most important thing that you can ever do in this world is see written on the forehead of every person you meet, ‘Make me feel important.’

He showed us a wristband that he wears every day; one side is white, the other has a strip of color on it. He tries to do something to make someone feel important every day, and once he has done so, he switches the bracelet from the white side to the side with color. These acts of kindness not only make him feel good, but they make the world around him a better place, even if it’s only one small action at a time.

Mr. Willkom explained how he overcame obstacles in his own life, such as being fired from a company that he had planned his life around, and how to get back up when we face a disappointment. He told us how he chose to see this setback as an opportunity to do something new with his life, that he wouldn’t have had the chance to do otherwise. It was only after a failure that he discovered his true passion for leadership and entrepreneurship.

Finally, he told us how he got to where he is now, and how grateful he is for every step along the way. Good or bad, everything that happens in our lives can change them if we choose to see them that way. And if these little things in our lives can have such a big impact, then we should impact the lives of others as much as we can. Treating someone with kindness can turn their whole day around, and one day can turn their whole life around.

Mr. Willkom encouraged us to be bold, to set lofty goals, to push ourselves, and to be the best that we can be. But most importantly, he emphasized that doing all of this meant next to nothing if we are not kind to the people around us. If we don’t take the time for even that one act of kindness per day, if we don’t see written on the foreheads of everyone we meet to make them feel important, then we may be great competitors, but we won’t be great leaders.

Thanks for being part of #DECACRLC 2019!

See the #DECACRLC 2019 recap video.

Categories: Conference Highlights, Home Page Conference News, Reviews