From Bullied On The Playground To Top Corporate Trainer
…and lucky to be alive
I’m J.T. Taylor and I started Team Building USA in 1995. Nice to meet you.
Most “About” pages are a list of achievements, awards and accomplishments, and while that’s fine, (and I’ve got a ton of those), I want you to know who I really am beyond the accolades.
And not just the mountaintop moments, but the days of the dark clouds as well.
I believe the struggles we overcome defines who we truly are.
So, I invite you to read my story in the hopes that once you do, you’ll find a kindred spirit and a reason to connect.
Facing Fear Led to Breakthrough Achievements
I grew up running from bullies, sometimes I was fast enough, sometimes I wasn’t.
One day after school, my dad witnessed me frantically racing home terrorized by a pack of punk kids hot on my heels. As I breathlessly flew into our yard, he stepped between me and the bullies with a warning scowl on his face and stopped them dead in their tracks.
That’s the day my dad taught me to fight.
He was a golden gloves boxer in the Air Force and he taught me how to stand up to bullies and face my fears.
My life has always been a cycle of battles and breakthroughs. Chances are yours has too. Here are some of mine:
Fired from my first after school job (delivery driver for Wynn’s Drug Store) to being elected a student Senator representing California in the state capital
I was too poor to go to college, no one in my family had gone past High School, but I paid my way through, working every kind of odd job I could find; eventually earning a Master’s degree
My biggest dream was to build a church, which I did, nurturing a little, struggling congregation into a close-knit spiritual family – until my dream was crushed by denominational church politics
- Suffering black-out panic attacks as a full commission salesman, representing an unethical company, to starting my own company, built with integrity, which has been going strong for over 25 years
Team Building USA is the result of decades of trials and triumphs, thousands of hours of mentoring, in-depth learning, practical application and proven success.
I founded this company after being on staff with John Maxwell for 2 years and working as an Adjunct Trainer for The Center for Creative Leadership for 10 years. It’s been a blessing to train over 10,000 leaders and managers from over two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies.
But in the beginning…well, I was just a skinny white boy going to a racist school. Some people believe that if you’re white you can’t experience racism. Yeah, right. Tell that to younger me.
Walking the halls of my Junior High School was an obstacle course filled with vicious dangers:
“Who you looking at boy?” Yup, making eye contact with someone of a different race was somehow cause for offense. The kind that ended up with a fist hitting your mouth.
Walking on the same sidewalk was apparently a no-no. This almost always resulted in a shoulder bump knocking me off the sidewalk and then the laughter from the shoulder-bumper and his friends.
- Regular racial slurs (I discovered there are a lot of them for whites) being flung my way, usually accompanied with some graphic threat.
I was glad to get out of Junior High, leave that all behind and start High School. It took a while for me to work through the hurt from being bullied. But ultimately, I did.
Forgiveness was the key to overcoming the hurt and experiencing the breakthrough. I’ve learned since then, forgiveness is always the key.
How I Crammed 4 Years of College into 10 Years
I was never a straight A student. I got A’s in classes I liked and B’s or C’s in the rest. My sophomore year at San Diego State I began to wonder something about myself.
“Was I actually smart enough to pull all A’s or was my GPA the result of not being passionate about required classes?”
The question plagued me, and so the next semester I decided to fully apply myself to all my classes – and I did. The result? I pulled straight A’s and made the Dean’s List. Yay!
With that experiment finished, I went back to my old strategy of focusing on fun. One of the most awesome classes I took in college? Frisbee. Yup, I have college credits in Frisbee. Hey, don’t laugh, my wife has college credits in Surfing and Bowling!
I met my wife Karen when we were in college. We actually met at Church. This is when I interned with John Maxwell. If you don’t know who John C. Maxwell is, well then you gotta get familiar with his work. He is considered by many to be the best authority on leadership today. Let me tell you, I learned more in two years working on his team than I did from all my college classes, including my Master’s degree.
Karen and I started a family and I launched a business painting murals. I paid for college by painting nurseries for new parents, daycare centers and children’s hospitals. Once college was finished, I jumped into bringing a dream I’d had for several years to life – starting a church.
8 Years of Peculiar as a Pastor
Crazy things happened when I pastored that shocked me. I didn’t expect to slam up against the hairy tarantula type problems I did. What is a hairy tarantula problem? It’s the kind of problem that is poisonous, has endless tentacles and scares the crap out of you.
- I never expected to receive that phone call just before church on a Sunday morning. “JT? My son was molested by a man who goes to your church.” I was the youth pastor and a man had taken 3 boys from our church on a weekend trip. He molested all three of them. So, I was the one to let the other families know what happened and help lead them through the healing process. The man who molested them was arrested and locked away, but the boys were forever changed.
Lesson learned: The man had asked to volunteer in the youth group and I turned him down. My gut told me something was off about him. I learned to trust my intuition. He had to go around and outside the church to do what he did.
- I learned don’t always believe what a wife tells you about her husband (and vice-versa). In couples counseling I’d listen to the wife and she would tell me what a slob, unhelpful, selfish, lazy, S.O.B. her husband was. I’d feel sorry for her and think, “poor woman, married to a man like that.” Then I’d listen as the husband shared about what a witch woman he lived with. He’d describe his wife as an entitled, critical, flaw-finding nag. I’d think, “poor man, he has to put up with such constant badgering.”
Lesson learned: I’ve developed the ability to be neutral when I listen. I can confidently say, I’m able to fully listen to someone’s personal struggles and not “hop on the bandwagon” and take on their offense. I’m just not a judgy person.
- The most difficult lesson I learned was that church leadership (read denominational muckity-mucks) were the biggest enemy of the church I led. It was hard for me to believe, but politics, lies and greed were what drove me out of being a Pastor. The church building our church met in was across from a High School in San Diego. The church is no longer there – it’s now apartment buildings. It was taken and sold by the denomination for the money. I still serve happily in the church, but not as a Pastor, and not as part of the denomination I was once part of.
Lesson learned: Watch a leader’s actions and see if they align with their words. If not, pay attention to those red flags. Be on your guard and don’t allow lies to stand.
Solving People Problems in a Business Setting
I admit, my dream of pastoring and impacting lives in a positive way was crushed. Or so I thought. I wandered with a heavy heart flailing about trying to rediscover purpose. This was a dark season and finding motivation was like lifting boulders.
I took a cold-call sales job for a business turn-around company. I’d walk into a small business, try and catch the owner and give him or her a three-minute sales schpeel for a business analysis. If they bought, I got paid. If not? Then on to the next one.
While this was a tough job, it taught me a lot about myself. I was good with people and it was easy for me to see patterns, problems and solutions in business. The time spent here helped me figure out what I was really good at – solving people’s problems in a business setting.
However, it was my 10 years working as an adjunct trainer at The Center For Creative Leadership which cultivated my corporate training skills, making them razor sharp. CCL is consistently ranked as a top 10 leadership training company. I delivered experiential-based training for their flagship course – the Leadership Development Program. This 5-day, intense training, for mid to senior-level managers is world-class and is the longest running program of its kind.
1995 – Team Building USA is Born
The first team building training I delivered on my own was for Western Digital in 1995. Two of the participants in the Leadership Development Program had resonated with my training style and asked me for a proposal. CCL wasn’t interested in short one day events and gave me the green light. I was so nervous as I met with them and handed the proposal over. I was shocked when they skipped everything in the proposal and flipped to the back page to see the price. Smiles lit their faces when they knew it would fit their budget. The training was a huge success!
American Express was my second client. I delivered a combination of Myers-Briggs personality training and team building. They loved it and I settled into my life’s work – I had rediscovered my purpose on how to impact people in a positive way.
I’ve gone on to train, coach and lead over 10,000 managers from every type of business, dealing with every kind of people problem.
Hearing “You’ve Got Between 3 to 9 Months to Live” Rocked My World
I thought I was simply getting older, but walking up-stairs had me struggling to breathe. I was fatigued after a long day’s work. But, isn’t that normal?
My chiropractor didn’t think so. She suggested I get an EKG and so I did. One test led to another and before I knew it, I was being rolled into a giant white donut looking machine for a nuclear stress test.
As I was coming out of the machine the doctor was in the next room looking at pictures of my heart with a worried look on his face. He waved me over and showed me how the main artery, which fed the top of my heart, was 90% blocked. The next words took my breath away.
“You’ve probably got 3 to 9 months before you have a fatal heart attack. It would be a widow-maker type where you just drop dead.”
I wasn’t ready to die.
They tried to put a stent in, but it didn’t work. So, open heart surgery was ordered. If you’ve ever had major surgery, you know how daunting it is.
My family and friends rallied around and prayed for me. My faith in God grew even stronger and I was thankful to come through the surgery with success.
I was determined to get home quickly and 24 hours after surgery I was off all pain meds, except for Tylenol, and walking around the ICU talking to other patients, praying for them and cheering them up. I was discharged in a few short days and the gift of life was renewed.
The Question: What’s Really Most Important?
Going through a life-threatening event brought me face-to-face with the question, “Why Do I Exist?” and it’s sister question, “What’s Really Most Important?”
These are big questions, with equally big answers. I feel confident in my answer. God saved my life for a reason. I’ve still got work to do and I’m hungry to fulfill my purpose and leave a legacy.
My purpose in life is to be a force of blessing to everyone I meet.
That’s what drives me. I want to help. It’s deeply fulfilling to be invited into someone’s world and help them overcome.
I’m especially qualified, and good at, helping solve people problems in a business setting, especially when that solution involves training.
So, that’s who I am; my story, and why it might matter to you.
Thank you for getting to know me. I appreciate your time. Now I’d like to get to know you and learn about you and explore how I might help you and your team work together better.
I’m inviting you to connect with me. Drop me an email and let me know about you, or if you’ve got a situation at work you’d like to discuss, pick up the phone (866) 824-4950. I look forward to meeting you.
To Your Success!
P.S. If you, or someone you know, needs help with hiring the right people, building strong, productive teams or training managers to lead with excellence, let’s talk.
I’ll listen carefully and put my 25 years of experience and expertise behind you to help you find the right solution.
Call me right now. I’m cool with that.