Leadership Journey Speech

I was invited to the University of Florida to give a talk about what leadership means to me, how I  led my own life to manifest my dreams, and how I turned a plethora of adversities into a business today.

Here is a cut of the talk I gave minus the beginning part of me breaking down what leadership means to me. If you’re interested in that, read below!

Good evening, everyone. It’s great to be here at UF again and I want to thank Ben for inviting me back. 

My name is Josh Perry. I’m a former pro BMX athlete and today I am going to share my journey of how I led my own life to manifest my dreams and turn a plethora of adversities into a business.

I am also going to share a bit about what leadership means to me and ultimately what I have learned from the last 29 years of my life, actually going on 30 in exactly one week from today.

I want to give you guys some context of where I started and came from to open up the floor for some Q&A because I love Q&A and I want to bring you all as much value as I possibly can with the limited time we have.

I want to start off by saying thank you all for your valuable time. I never imagined I would be where I am today and it’s truly an honor and privilege to be here sharing my life with all of you. It’s my hope that my story and all I have to share with you will help bring you all value and clarity on how you are all leaders and that there’s no set path to becoming one.

When you look at me, you see a healthy human being, right? But what you don’t see is what’s on the inside and you’d probably never guess I have anything internally wrong.

What if I told you I live with 4 tumors in my skull today? Would you believe me? Well, I do and now find myself as a living example of the famous saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

I share that part of my story because I believe health is internal, not numbers on a scale or piece of paper, which I learned the hard way. It’s my mission to inspire that perspective in others to empower them to take accountability for their health and overall quality of life so that they can become the healthiest, happiest, & most successful versions of themselves without suffering or given a death sentence to make changes.

When you’re told a brain tumor is slowly killing you as it occupies half of your brain, AND, you WILL DIE, unless they cut open your skull to remove that tumor, your priorities and perspectives in life begin to shift really fast.

That’s exactly what happened to me as I was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor just after turning 21 and living out my dream. I’d been told that I was healthy all of my life up until that moment so that diagnosis left me feeling confused, angry, and thinking I must have been a bad person or done something to deserve this. It didn’t help that I was alone for that diagnosis or that the doctor told me I’d never ride my bike again.

My experiences of being diagnosed 3 separate times, totaling 5 different tumors, among other obstacles like blowing out my knee, living out of my car, overcoming depression, being abused most of my childhood by a drunken step-father, and flat lining on the bottom of a contest course all has led me down a deep path of self exploration and auditing who I am, the choices I’ve made in my life, and ultimately who I wanted to become.

I’d tell you were crazy had you told me what I would accomplish today, the parts of the world I’d see, and who I’d become when I was 17, just dropped out of high school, and left home in pursuit of a dream to become a professional BMX athlete. But, looking back on the last 12 years of my life makes sense as to why I was able to do so. It all stemmed from a vision I had created for my life and the tenacity to not give up.

I believe we all have the same choice in our lives and that’s our perspective, which no one can take from us. It’s a choice we are faced with on a daily basis. It’s not always easy but it’s worth putting the effort in to become aware of our thoughts and focus on improving them. I could have very easily chosen the perspective of a victim and had given up on more than a handful of occasions and no one would have ever batted an eye.

But, for what purpose? How would that help me? It wouldn’t and my vision wouldn’t allow that choice.

I love sharing these 2 quotes that go with this belief.

1) Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond


2) Life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us…

Both quotes come from different people but detail the same choice, a choice in perspective and how we see the world and the events that take place in our lives.

Simon Sinek says a great leader has a clear vision of the world that does not currently exist & an ability to communicate this vision. I also believe a leader is someone who wants others to succeed and has the following 3 traits….

  1. Authenticity– following your heart, being yourself, sharing what you believe, and walking your talk, even when no one is looking. 
  1. Trust– providing a sense of trust and loyalty to others and showing them you truly care so they feel safe.
  1. Serving– sharing and bringing others value and support so they can become as successful as possible.

Notice nowhere in there did I say in order to become a leader you must have a sense of power or “leverage”. What I have learned from my own experiences and from other leaders is that being a great leader is all about sharing our beliefs, bringing others value, and aligning all of our actions with our WHY, or our purpose.

“There are leaders and those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves.” Another great quote from Simon Sinek.

As Ben has shared with me, I know most, if not all of you, are familiar with Simon Sinek’s book “Start With WHY” and the examples of leaders he uses. So, I won’t say much else about what makes up a great leader. But, I will share a bit about my journey and how I ended up here today.


Josh P.