Everyone has a superpower, and Erik Qualman's is helping people find new meaning in their own lives by unleashing their inner gift and making the world a better place to live.
"In my mind, everyone is a superhero. Some have learned to unlock that power, and some haven't. My goal is to unleash it," said the motivational speaker and best-selling author. "Once you entertain that, then your mind is open for education. Once that comes in, you realize what your superpower is, and you can use that to make the world a better place."
Dubbed the "digital Dale Carnegie" and the "Tony Robbins of tech," Qualman has spoken in more than 40 countries for organizations such as Coach, Chase, Facebook, PlayStation, Google, NASA and others. He's also the best-selling author of "Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business," and other books on the digital marketplace, such as "Digital Leader" and "What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube." His work has been featured on 60 Minutes, The Wall Street Journal and many other platforms. He also is a former sitting professor at Harvard and MIT's edX lab.
Often wearing green-framed glasses and his green "Equalman" shirt on stage as his superhero outfit, Qualman is a native of the Rochester area who graduated from Rochester High School in 1990. It was perhaps while playing basketball for Michigan State University that he learned the importance of perseverance.
"I played at Rochester, but was cut as a junior. I didn't make varsity as a junior. At Michigan State, I basically became the water boy," he said. "I did that for three years, and eventually I walked on and got a scholarship to play at Michigan State. One reason I made the team was that when someone was hurt, I would get in there and play against the team. I got hit in the mouth and lost some teeth. I just put the teeth on the side of the court and kept playing – Izzo loves that stuff."
After earning business degrees from Michigan State and the University of Texas, Qualman worked a series of marketing manager jobs and lost his life savings in a real estate scam.
"The main lesson I learned then was to go with your gut. If it's too good to be true, it probably is," he said. "I lost all this savings I had, and I realized, 'if you're going to lose it all, make sure you're doing what you love.' Then I decided to start my own company."
In 2007, Qualman founded Socialnomics, starting a business built on the same premise and name as his best-selling book. In addition to speaking and writing, Qualman operates Equalman Studios, producing art and video stories. That name, of course, is a play on Qualman's first initial and last name.
"You need to invest in yourself," he said. "Why not invest in your own company. Why are you investing over here, why not just bet on yourself," Qualman said about the decision to start his own business after losing his savings. "I didn't get too upset about it. Money is not the end-all thing. That's how we gauge success, which is a misnomer. It's really about how you feel. If you're fulfilled."