The conversation that changed my business: Chris Wilcox

Motivation often comes from unexpected places. For former Celtics player, Chris Wilcox, it took the form of a discussion with his financial advisor, following life-saving heart surgery that almost ended his career in 2012. While it wasn’t exactly the uplifting, ‘follow your dreams’ conversation many might expect, her doubt about his new path was the fuel he needed to found HEDY (short for Helping EveryDay Youth), which now actively enhances the lives of Apache families in White Mountain, Arizona.

Since founding HEDY and developing programmes to enable children to overcome obstacles – through coaching, mentoring, and a focus on STEM subjects as a way of building social emotional skills – Wilcox has seen a reduction in school dropout rates, an increase in graduation rates and improvement in family wellbeing. It’s something he’s proud to be a part of, and he can’t wait to see it grow.

“One characteristic that has been most helpful in my success both on and off the court is drive – I always want more,” he says. “When you see what people think of you, you can either let it bring you down or you can choose to let it motivate you.

“My financial advisor felt I was only good at being a basketball player. It’s a conversation I’ll never forget as it took place in my home during a pivotal time in my life. However, I learned a lesson that day, and that was to use the limiting way my financial advisor thought of me as motivation.”

This ‘haters gon’ hate’ attitude is something Wilcox developed as a child. Growing up without a lot of money in Whiteville, North Carolina, he says the only thing he had was drive, which he used to push him forward.

He now describes his goal in life as: “to see how many lives I can change while I’m here on Earth”. So, when he learned the shocking statistics around education, alcoholism and poverty among Native American populations, he knew he had to use his skills and experience to help others find their path.

But while drive and resilience have helped HEDY grow, Wilcox says making connections has also been vital. That comes from interaction in all its different forms; as Wilcox says, “the power of conversation always plays a role.

“I have had some of my best conversations on a plane or at the bar,” he explains. “I’ve sat on a plane and brainstormed with a guy who eventually helped me add another division to my company. With conversation you get the chance to hear different perspectives and ideas, which in turn can help your thought process, creativity and network.”

Wilcox’s final thoughts on that business-changing discussion? “You never know where your blessings are going to come from, or who shares your interests unless you have the conversation.”