Dr. Sean Stephenson (1979-2019) was predicted not to survive at birth because of a rare bone disorder that stunted his growth and caused his bones to be extremely fragile (fracturing over 200 times by the age of 18). Despite his challenges, he took a stand for a quality of life that has inspired millions of people around the world.
Since 1994, his powerful message has been heard at live events in nearly all 50 states and in 16 countries. Sean has presented at hospitals, universities, prisons, and companies such as Nike, Whole Foods, Zappos, Walmart, and Sharp Healthcare. He’s shared the stage with U.S. Presidents, billionaire business moguls, celebrities, and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Sean has appeared on everything from The Oprah Show to Jimmy Kimmel, in addition to online videos with tens of millions of views. The Biography Channel produced an hour-long feature on his life called Three Foot Giant. He is author of the book Get Off Your ‘But.’
Originally from Chicago, Sean lived in Scottsdale with his wife and business partner, Mindie Kniss, until his death in 2019.
A Note from Mindie:
It’s bittersweet to listen to these conversations.
I can’t listen to the last minute of this episode without 😭, but that’s ok.
Once again, I’m glad it was recorded. ❤️
Mindie: Today, my guest on the program is Sean Stephenson. Sean, welcome to the program.
Sean: Oh, Mindie, I can’t believe you had me on the show.
Mindie: [Laughing] I know… It’s about time. Sean, as you know, we generally start asking our guests about their wealth evolution and I know our listeners will be very intrigued to hear about yours. So if you could give us the broad strokes of your experience in wealth throughout your life.
Sean: Well, Mindie, what I would say is I have always been in hot pursuit of money and I’ve made no apologies for it. When I was a kid, I knew at a very young age I wanted to be rich and famous and I didn’t know how I was going to get there. I just knew that’s where I wanted to be. So when I was younger, I remember I liked going out with my friends and we would… They would be on their bike and I had this thing called a six-wheeler, a four by four. And I would drive through the wealthier neighborhoods and we would look at all the houses and be like, Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if we lived in that house and this house? Wouldn’t it be great if we had that car and this car? And then I remember I got myself in trouble because…
Mindie: Well, that’s surprising.
Sean: Yes. So I went over to a friend’s house and he had a very small home and he had the smallest home on the black. And I said to the parents, cause I was really young. I said, you know, are you guys okay? And they’re like, what do you mean, Sean? And I was like, well, you guys are poor, right? I mean you have the smallest house here. They’re like, we are not poor. And I was like, Oh, Oh well the house doesn’t show it. And I was such a little punk about it. And then later I had a conversation, because they talked to my parents…
Mindie: And your parents probably made you go apologize.
Sean: Right. So I’ve learned over the years to have more class of course and understand that material wealth is not all that it’s cracked up to be, that there’s more to wealth than just having stuff. But like I said, I started off very young wanting to create wealth. My first job… the first time I ever made money, I wouldn’t say it was a job. First time I ever made money, I was reading kids’ books on tape for local kids. I would sell the audio cassette tapes to the parents in the neighborhood. And I would read the books that the parents were tired of reading to the kids. So I would read books on tape.
Mindie: Are you serious?
Sean: I’m serious.
Mindie: How old were you?
Sean: I was probably 10.
Mindie: [Laughing] That’s great.
Sean: Maybe 13 at the most. But, so that was the first time I…
Mindie: How much did you sell them for?
Sean: Like 20 bucks.
Mindie: For a cassette tape?
Sean: Well, it was like, I would read a whole bunch of stories. So it would be like hours of reading.
Mindie: Wow. 20 bucks back then. That’s pretty hot.
Sean: Yeah, it was a big deal. And I also had this game where I can remember making a lot of money at a wedding where everybody was drunk. And I said Johnny’s mother has three children. And I would say I need a quarter, a penny and a nickel. And then I would lay them on the table and I would say one child was named Penny, and they’re like, okay. And I put the penny down. One child was named Nicole and I put the nickel down. I said, what was their third child’s name? And put the quarter down that they’d given me. I said if you don’t know this, I get to keep the money and they would all be like Kortina quartet. I’m like, Nope. It was Johnny and I took the money and ran.
Mindie: Johnny’s mother.
Sean: Johnny’s mother had three kids. And so I literally did that probably 25 times, 30 times. And that started to add up, you know? A lot of quarters make a dollar. So I was rolling, keeping it in my sock. It was hilarious. So I always had a fascination with creating wealth.
Mindie: [Laughing] Keeping it in your sock? For those of you listening, we have an inside joke at our house that Sean has what’s called a “socket” instead of a pocket because he keeps a lot of things in his sock.
Sean: Yep. So at a very early age, I was drawn to creating wealth and I never felt bad about it. Like I’ve not gone through that phase, and I don’t know if it’s a phase, but I haven’t ever had that fear that if I had money I was going to be evil and bad. Or that people with money are bad. I’ve always had the mentality that money just kinda, it reveals you. So started off, selling books on tape, doing the little money scam at the wedding. And then finally, my real first job was, and I’ve talked about this a lot before, but I got asked to speak at another high school about what it’s like to have a disability and they were willing to pay me $75 for one hour of my time. I thought I was the richest man alive. And that was my real first job. And it’s been my job ever since being a professional speaker all these years later. That was in 1994.
Mindie: You’re making a little more than $75.
Sean: Yeah, now it’s more like 40 grand for a talk and so it’s been a fun journey and learning from all those steps, making money is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to create value so that everybody in the experience feels great. The person giving it to you, the person receiving it. Everybody on both sides of the fence feels like they won.
Mindie: Talking about wealth, how would you define wealth?
Sean: I think wealth is creation of a mixture of things. I think it’s a creation of service, like creating something for others. I think wealth is about having an abundance so that you can take care of yourself, take care of those that you love and give back. And I also feel like wealth is about expression and being able to have the life that you want to have. Like when you are wealthy, you have the freedom and expression to travel. You have the freedom and expression to get your message. You know, whatever that is, whether it’s through art or music or poetry, even if you don’t do those as professions, by having wealth, you’re able to spend time expressing yourself. So I feel like wealth is a mixture of all those things.
Mindie: So, as you know, one of the things we talk a lot about on this show is that touchpoint or that intersection of wealth and happiness. And for you specifically, I know a lot of times after somebody has seen you speak, they’ll ask you, well, how are you so happy? Or are you always this happy? Speak to the listener a little bit about happiness from your perspective.
Sean: I never have a bad day, Mindie.
Mindie: That is a complete and utter lie.
Sean: [Laughing] Yes it is. But you know, it’s a joke if you tell somebody within 12 seconds. So here’s the thing. For me, happiness is a choice. And on days that I don’t feel happy, I’m not choosing happy and that’s okay. I don’t think you should be happy every day. I think then at times you could get taken advantage of, at times you could be pie in the sky. I think it’s important to be happy far more than you’re not happy, but sometimes it’s okay to discover more of those darker notes on the piano. You know, feeling out what’s underneath your anger and sadness.
Mindie: Well, how does happy feel to you?
Sean: Happy feels to me like everything’s the way it should be. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. That feeling that… Like we have on the wall that “the cards I was dealt were the cards that I wanted.” And when I am in that place, I’m happy. Whenever I feel like something shouldn’t be this way… I shouldn’t have to feel this way. I shouldn’t have to deal with that person. I shouldn’t have to… When I’m in the “shouldn’ts” I’m as far away from happy as I can get.
Mindie: So your favorite acronym, HERB. What are your habits that have contributed to who you are and how you are today?
Sean: So, I have gone back and forth on this. Sometimes I’m extremely neurotic and OCD about this and sometimes a little bit more maybe lax on this. But at the end of the day, I have something called a When Life Works List and a When Business Works List and they’re a list of rituals or habits that, when I stick to them, my life works. There are things like, today I did one of them that I’m proud of, I had three canteens of water. I know I’m better off because of it. I’m going to sleep better at night, I can digest my food better and my skin is going to feel better tomorrow. So hydration is a definite habit of mine, a habit is reading. I have a 52 book challenge this year, reading a book a week.
Mindie: I was so excited that you did that.
Sean: Yep. And I’m loving it. I’m on track and enjoying my process. I have the habit of reaching out to people in my inner circle, my dearest “friendtors,” people that have mentored me and become my friends and just sending love out to them, checking in with them. I have a habit of pulling out my phone every morning and just scrolling through my text threads and seeing who can I send some love to, or who can I ask, how’s this going? And just checking in with them. And in my business, I would say I have the habit of meeting people and then right away seeing how we can play together, seeing how we can do business or do fun, recreational things together to just get to know each other and develop friendship. Because I feel like the greatest habit of all that I’ve mastered is befriending people who have amazing lives and creating so much value that they want to include me in that amazing life. So that’s just a few of the many habits that I have.
Mindie: So how about environment? What do you allow in or not allow into your environment? And for you, I would talk specifically, not just your home and office space, but your car, because I know you feel strongly about that environment as well.
Sean: Yeah. So I like things to be clean. I like things to be organized, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be the one that does that. But I appreciate that.
Mindie: Maybe that’s the problem. [Laughing]
Sean: Yeah. I partnered up wrong on that one.
Mindie: You definitely did.
Sean: I definitely did. But I feel like all is right in the world when my car is clean, full detail inside and out. I really like in my environment not having any single negative person. I don’t mean like they can’t ever say that they’re down. I mean, people that are toxic, they do not have access to Sean Stephenson. It doesn’t matter if they’re family or longtime friends, employees, customers. If toxicity shows up, they have a very short time span with me where I let them know clearly that is not allowed in my reality.
And if you’re not able to clean that up, then either you need to leave or I need to leave. I’m probably one of the strongest people, outside of maybe you, that really keeps a solid boundary around myself that says, look, toxicity and disrespect is not allowed into my circle. That’s a big part of my environment. And then lastly, I would say I invite in consciously people that write to have fun and like to laugh, like to be inappropriate. If you think about every single friend that I have, they all have huge hearts and sick minds.
Mindie: Yes, it is so unfortunately true. So let’s talk resources. I feel like you have so many resources that you love. What are some of the top few that you might recommend?
Sean: Yeah, so when it comes to training, I would say studying hypnosis, NLP, Byron Katie‘s work, studying and going through Landmark education, Tony Robbins. Going through all Wayne Dyer’s material has been super helpful to me. When it comes to books, I would say The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz.
Sean: The Mastery of Love by don Miguel Ruiz. I’m a big fan of resources like anything that’s talking about live, healthy, organic food. I love resources around health and wellness and nutrition. I love any conversation that has to do with psychology and understanding the unconscious mind. I have probably put more time and study into the unconscious mind than most people on this planet and I feel like I barely know anything about it. That’s how much I know. It’s like the more I know about it, the less I realize I know and so that’s just a huge cornucopia of resources.
Mindie: And from resources to beliefs. What are some of the core beliefs that you hold strong in your life?
Sean: So I have many of them tattooed to my body so that I have to see them every day.
Mindie: Be reminded of them.
Sean: Yeah. One is that, something I share with you, we have matching tattoos. We have infinity signs on our wrist and that is a reminder that I am infinite, that I am not my money. I am not my marriage. I am not my body. I am not Sean, the identity my family gave me, I am infinite. I am all those things and so much more. And that infinite belief system that I’m connected to all things and that if there’s something in my reality that I hate, it’s a reflection of something that I haven’t made peace with in myself. I hold the belief that I am at cause for my reality and that:
“My mentality creates my reality.”
If there’s something in my reality that I don’t like, I need to clean up my mentality. So that kind of goes along with what I’ve learned about “as above, so below.” That when you see a tree with its massive branches, that’s a tree that has massive root system.
Sean: I hold the belief, like I mentioned earlier, that the cards that I was dealt, were the cards that I wanted. So kind of the opposite of the victim mentality. That if it’s in my reality, I called it in and if there’s something that I don’t appreciate or enjoy, I am responsible for doing something about it. And the last belief I would say is I do believe that everyone is just a reflection of me. And I learn so much from people that piss me off because it’s not them. It’s things that are still unresolved in me.
Mindie: Awesome. So I know you love this question and it is if you would take just a moment and close your eyes and think about the person who is listening to this interview right now and the feelings and possibly frustrations or challenges, struggles that they may be going through, what would you say to that person?
Sean: I’m totally here for you and I may not even get to know you in person, but through the programs that I bring with Mindie into this reality are for you. Spend time studying from people like myself and Mindie and many of the other masters that I have referenced in this interview. Surround yourself with people who have what you want and who have a personality that you admire, have a lifestyle that you admire. Surround yourself with those people, even if it’s just through books. Get yourself into an environment where you feel lifted up, you feel empowered, you feel strong, you feel loved. Create that environment. If you have to put up pictures from magazines around of people smiling and loving you and that’s all you have, that’s okay. That’s a good start. And then go out and meet real-life people who will empower you and set that standard of love that you deserve to have.
And then lastly, just be gentle with yourself. I am somebody that teaches about insecurity and it’s a lifelong discovery for me because I’m still dealing with mine. So whatever pain or struggle you’re feeling in your life, know that I felt some variation of it too. And there’s a little phrase that I use that I recommend you use as well. And that is GBU. You just gotta Get Back Up. You know, life is going to knock you down way more times than you can ever imagine. But if you just have that mentality of, you know what, I’m good at one amazing talent and that is getting back up. I may not be the smartest, I might not be the fastest or the strongest or the prettiest. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to get back up. And that’s why I love the sun because the sun gets back up every day and goes to work shining down on this earth.
And you know, when I’m having a bad day and the sun goes down, I just say, all right, tonight we’re gonna go to sleep and I’m going to look forward to that sun coming back out. I’m gonna reset the clock and see what we can do tomorrow and I recommend you to do that as well.
Mindie: Awesome. So if our listener would like to connect with you online, where would you recommend that they do that?
Sean: I would tell them to go to TheUnstoppableFormula.com. It is a three-part formula that I’ve spent decades reverse engineering that really helps a human being be completely and totally unstoppable. That’s where I would go first.
Mindie: Awesome. So TheUnstoppableFormula.com. Sean Stephenson, thank you so much for joining me on The Lucrative Society today.
Sean: Mindie Kniss, all jokes aside here. I would just say it’s a pleasure creating The Lucrative Society with you and everything else that we are part of because it’s fun to have an equal in this world to share and create value with. So thank you.
Mindie: Absolutely. Thank you, baby. To those of you at home, take good care. We’ll talk to you next time.