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Define Success on Your Terms | Featuring Zach Ferres

I hope you enjoyed Season 1! I’d really appreciate it if you’d subscribe or follow Ignition Point wherever you get your Podcasts. Ignition Point is doubling down in Season 2, featuring 20 great Guest Appearances, and you won’t want to miss a single one! The Official Trailer for Season 2 will drop on Monday, October 14th followed by the release of Episode 1 on October 21st.

We often equate the journey to success with a climb up a mountain, where you’re pushed to your limits – and eventually, beyond them. Along the path you learn by failing, you grow by learning, and you build relationships by connecting, but how do you know you’ve made it to the top when there’s no universal measurement for success?

If you want to summit your own mountains, you need to be able to frame this idea of success the right way. With the help of our guest – Zach Ferres – we’re going to discuss how you can define success on your terms and keep success in perspective once you’ve made it to the top.

You may know Zach from his column in Entrepreneur Magazine or as the CEO of Coplex – the nationally-ranked Venture Builder. Under his leadership, Coplex has launched over 300 tech companies around the world by assembling world-class teams and partnering entrepreneurs with expert startup builders.

Outside of Coplex, Zach is an award-winning speaker, a past recipient of ASU’s Social Impact Award, and an Honoree of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.

This is a jam-packed season finale, with some incredible insights. With Zach’s help, we’re going to discover how you can set better success metrics, celebrate your wins, and encourage others to achieve their own success by paying forward the strategies discussed throughout this first season of Ignition Point. So, let’s get after it!

Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, so please share the show with someone you think it may help. We designed this weekly podcast for ambitious Young Professionals and aspiring Leaders who want to stay motivated and keep moving forward. Throughout Season 1, we will be connecting fresh perspectives with practical strategies to help listeners feel empowered all week long. You can help us improve by joining our LinkedIn and Twitter Community by using #IgnitionPoint, submitting a review on Apple Podcasts, or emailing feedback to


Welcome to Ignition Point – the show that’s here to help you take the leap, conquer your week, and achieve your goals. If you’re looking to amplify your mindset with a fresh perspective and spark your momentum – you’re in the right place.

Hey! What’s going on? I’m Steven Miller. Thanks for joining me for another Ignition Point – the show where we cover an influential speech or feature a Guest Keynote to get you fired up and ready to take on another winning week.

Bringing you this show has been something I’ve looked forward to every week, and looking back, I feel grateful to have been able to feature so many amazing guests and cover so many inspiring speeches. I hope you’ve enjoyed this season and have discovered what lights you up so you can inspire others to find their fire.

Throughout this first season, I’ve covered what I believe to be the building blocks for success, and we’ve talked up some of the strategies that can help you to win the week, each and every week.

That journey to the top is where all the fun is. Along the path we learn by failing, we grow by learning, and we build relationships by connecting. So, with this being the season finale – I think it’s only fitting that we use this opportunity to highlight what comes after you summit your mountain and achieve success. So, to close out Season 1, I’m joined by Zach Ferres.

Zach is no stranger to success. In the early 2000s, he was recognized as one of the top 33 student entrepreneurs in the world and went on to sell his first tech company in 2011.

You may know Zach from his column in Entrepreneur Magazine or as the CEO of Coplex – the nationally-ranked Venture Builder whose story has been featured by USA Today, The Washington Post, VentureBeat, Inc., Forbes, NPR and Entrepreneur. Under his leadership, Coplex has launched over 300 tech companies around the world by assembling world-class teams and partnering entrepreneurs with expert startup builders.

Outside of Coplex, Zach is an award-winning speaker, a past recipient of ASU’s Social Impact Award, and an Honoree of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.

I could go on and on hyping him up, but let’s get after it!

Here to share his perspective on setting success metrics, celebrating your wins, and encouraging your tribe, this is Zach Ferres.


Would your mom say that you’re successful? Would Jeff Bezos think you’re successful? And then finally, do you feel successful today?

The reason I ask these questions is they all lead to somewhat different answers, right? So sure, my mom thought I was incredibly successful when I was four and playing tee ball and I was able to smack the ball off the tee for the first time. But I would be willing to guess that if Jeff Bezos took a look at me in my career, he wouldn’t be all that astonished, but if you frame and position this idea of success the right way in your own mind, it can actually be a really powerful tool for achievement.

It’s defined and measured a little bit differently by everyone and there’s really no standard unit of measure. We measure distance in feet or in meters, but there’s no measure; there’s no absolute universal measurement for success. And it’s a bit of a moving target.

Goals change, the desired outcomes of the goals change, and the measurements change. And I think as an aspiring leader, as a young professional, as a high achiever, I think it’s really important to be able to think about success the right way and use it for you rather than against you.

So, I’ve had a pretty interesting upbringing and I’m going to share with you a couple stories along the way as it relates to success to sort of paint some context for the conversation today. I grew up in north central Ohio in a farm town with about 7,000 people. Just when I thought I’d never be in a smaller town in my life, I ended up going to college in a town called Ada, Ohio. It’s actually where they make Wilson Footballs.

That’s about all that happens in Ada, Ohio.

So, when I was growing up, as I said earlier, my mom thought I was successful pretty much the day I was born – as I would assume your mother does as well. I never recall a moment in my life where I felt personally successful until high school. There’s a particular point in time that I remember, and I was always pretty good at things, but never excellent or world class.

So, I was on the wrestling team and I was absolutely terrible, but I realized that in wrestling in seventh, eighth and ninth grade, that the one thing that I was better at than everybody else was, I’d always have way more endurance than everyone else running around the hallway. So, that led me to hang up the wrestling dreams and hopes and decide to run cross country. And we were able to take our team of mediocre runners and we made it to the state cross country meet as a team.

You could Google it and find out how slow I was, but my PR – my personal record – in the 5K in cross country was 17:50. So, I decided to go do some number crunching – here, I feel like I’m on top of the world – and here’s some quick facts for you:

So, the fastest high school cross country time, 14 minutes and 21 seconds. The fastest athlete in the world, 12 minutes, 37 seconds. And shit, I even found a 10-year-old ran a 17:24.

Okay. So that 17:50 for me was a personal record and in the state of Ohio in division three cross country, it was good enough to get into state or be a part of the team that got into state, but I think the perspective here is really interesting and if I would’ve known at the time that the fastest high school runner was a 14:21 and the fastest 10 year old was running 17:24, I probably wouldn’t have felt as successful, but I think it was nice to take a step back and go and celebrate that moment.

An instant of what I thought was success in my career was as it relates to my work life, not my running life. And I started a business when I was 15 and got selected by the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards as being one of the top undergraduate student entrepreneurs in the world. There were 33 finalists in the competition from all over the world. There were like four from the U.S. and somehow, I made it.

So, here I am making it to this event, and I actually did end up selling my company as well in 2011 for a couple hundred thousand dollars.

So again, the perspective, I felt like I was on top of the world when I made the competition. I felt like I was on top of the world when I sold my company, and I remembered the gal that won the event, she ran a company called And I looked back – we pitched in 2010 – she was acquired by Quepasa for $100 million in 2011.

So, a couple points that I want to make on success, and to start things out – measurement. So, when you kind of peel back the layers of the onion on success, really what it starts with is a goal. You don’t let other people define your goals, so therefore you shouldn’t let other people’s measurement of success translate to you. So, the definition that you have, or these goals that you have, turn into some targets and then if you achieve those targets, you would consider that success.

And I think it’s really important not to let someone else define what those goals should be, and you shouldn’t have someone else define what the outcomes or the success metric looks like for you. So, I think it all starts with defining the right goals and then translating that to the right things to measure so that you can do this yourself.

I think a lot of times you’ll end up in a situation where someone else is kind of passing judgment on you as to whether or not you’re successful in what you do. And you cannot let that impact you. Oftentimes they don’t understand how you’re measuring it. They don’t know what your personal record was before, right? So, I think it’s really important that we own the definition and the measurement of success.

I’m a big fan of something called stoicism. Tim Ferriss talks about it all the time, and there’s a quote from Marcus Aurelius and he says, “it never ceases to amaze me, we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own,” and I think that’s something to keep in mind as it relates to this journey of success.

Point number two is making sure to celebrate your wins. I think this is really, really important. So, the analogy to use here is, if you’re climbing a mountain, every time you reach a summit, you look up and that you’re really at a base camp and there’s another summit up ahead. So, it’s this interesting journey and every time you feel like you win, there’s just another higher mountain to climb – and oh, by the way, the weather’s worse and you’re at a higher altitude, so it becomes more and more difficult as you climb and climb and climb, and there’s really no end. Every time you reach a new summit, you realize you’re at a new base camp.

High achievers fall into this hamster wheel trap. I think it pulls away our ability to be really grateful along the way. Along the way, we need to really stop and reflect and grow and we need to continue to find ways to work smarter and not harder. You can’t get there with just 100% sheer hard work. I think by simply working hard, that can get you probably 70% to 80% up the mountain.

And this idea of the high-performance person closing that big sales deal, not taking a minute to reflect, be grateful and just jumping straight into the next mountain to go climb; it’s a little bit counter intuitive. It feels like you’re moving faster and you’re getting up the mountain quicker, but if you continue to do that, you’re going to find yourself 70% up the next mountain and then all those people that helped you the first time aren’t there to help you a second time and you realize that some of the things that you learned from the first run you forgot about because you didn’t take a second to stop and kind of ingrain those things in your brain.

Sometimes we get addicted to success as high achievers and we want to just immediately go run to the next hill and start climbing. So, I would encourage you not to do that. You’ll actually be able to escalate to a higher level of performance by stopping, pausing, thanking the people that help you get there, sharing some love with yourself and then taking a minute to reflect on what you learned that you can take with you on the next climb.

Point number three, encouraging others. We’re all pretty hard on ourselves when it comes to this whole idea of success and others are too. I think this is sort of a good leadership lesson as well, but take some time to understand the goals of people that are closest to you. Your family, your close friends, your colleagues at work, the people on your project teams, the people on your cross-country team. Take the time to get to know them and to really understand their goals and give them a little bit of encouragement along the way. And don’t let them give a shit about what other people think about them and their achievement of goals and success.

Much like you track your own gratitude list as you’re going and hiking your mountain and keeping tabs on who’s helping you, try to keep tabs on when they hit their summit so you can go and celebrate with them when they make it to the top.

It’s your job as a leader to pull people up to the top with you. You’re never going to be able to get to this elite performance level if you don’t learn how to do that. So, you can’t do it on your own – that doesn’t make anybody excited – you have to do it as a team.

Like the person that ran the 14:27 at the state cross country meet; if their team all ran 19:00 flats, then they didn’t win. They didn’t even place in the race, right? He may have won the whole race, but yet they, they lost as a team. And guess what’s actually celebrated at the end, and the stuff that you hear about: It’s the teams that won the event. Not celebrating necessarily, the individual.

So, if it really truly is lonely at the top, it’s your own fault. So, you need to look down and extend your arm and pull up the people that helped you get to this summit and then also have a mentor that’s summited the mountains higher than you.

At the end of the day, the high achievers in this world and elite performers, they do what they do because of the people around them and people that help them get there. When you look up these mountains, you’ll look at them from the ground and say, “there’s no way I can get there,” and I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can.
Breaking through this idea that you can’t run a 15-minute 5K or go break the world record 14:20; it might not be easy, but you can do this stuff.

The excitement in this journey for success isn’t peaking the mountain. It’s the journey of getting to the peak. That’s the stuff that we remember. Those are the stories we share out with our friends – with our family.

It’s about the obstacles that you had to overcome along the way. It’s about the people and the friends that you made along the way. That’s the stuff that we’re going to remember, and that’s the stuff that I think we need to take a real minute to be grateful for.


To say that the journey to achievement is a winding uphill climb, might be the understatement of the season. On these climbs, you’ll be pushed to your limits, and eventually, beyond them.

It’s in these moments where we discover who we are and what we’re made of, and as much as you may want to throw in the towel sometimes, there’s nothing in life you can’t do.

I walked away from my recording time with Zach lit up about something he mentioned. And I think it’s a really powerful thought that puts a bow on this first season.

The journey we take and the people we take the journey with are what matters.

That’s why we do anything we do. We do it for the journey and we do it for our tribe. Those two factors become your motivation. Your motivation lights your fire, and positive habits fuel that fire to keep burning. So focus, and make the best of every minute along your journeys.

Another thing that’s huge here, is understanding that a successful journey takes a growth mindset. That means believing you’ve got unlimited potential which is only capped by how much effort you put in. When you’ve got this mindset, you’re willing to put yourself out there despite the possibility of failure. Think about it.

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it.

If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

If you don’t step up, you’re always on the same level.

Someone once said, “you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

That kind of gives a new layer of meaning to why this podcast is called Ignition Point, right?

Of course, wins and losses both matter along the journey, but they only make a difference if you apply your experiences to the journey forward.

In fact, you’ve already got what it takes to reinforce this type of thinking. If you’ve been tuning in to the podcast, we’ve been talking about these skills all season long. To refresh your memory, let me roll this back top ten style:

Number 1. Build Self-Awareness and Exude Authenticity.

It’s all got to start here. Operating without self-awareness is like navigating without a compass. Self-awareness keeps you attuned to your environment, while authenticity will help you attract a genuine support system.

Number 2. Find Your Fire, Identify Your Ambitions and Show Some All-Out Hustle.

You’ve got to set powerful goals, write down your big ambitions, and work your tail off to summit your mountain. Get rid of limiting beliefs and pursue a path you can be fired up about. Even if you think you lack expertise, there’s no reason to do shit you hate. Show that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to live your dream and build your expertise in the background.

Number 3. Ask Questions and Listen Actively.

Be willing to ask the questions that can change the way you look at your journey. If you listen closely, maybe someone else’s point of view is all you need to improve your efficiency.

After all, if you take the same steps you see others taking, you’ll only achieve their results.

Number 4. Be Approachable and Elevate Your Attitude.

The journey up your mountain isn’t meant to be a solo adventure and being approachable is the first step to building support from others you meet on the path. Your attitude is then the central component to keeping them around while you keep yourself trending in the right direction.

Number 5. Create Next Level Relationships.

Remember those people you just brought into the fold? You’ve got to figure out what motivates them, serve those needs, and make consistent deposits that keep them engaged in the relationship. Connection is the name of the game here!

Number 6. Build Your Tribe on Loyalty and Integrity.

The people you connect with become a part of your tribe or your inner circle, but you want to make sure that your tribe is built on a foundation of shared core values. The ones that I always look for are Integrity and Loyalty. If you can be good to your word and treat people with respect, they’ll have your back all the way up to the top of your mountain.

Number 7. Take Risks to Make Waves.

Not sure who said it first, but I think at some point or another, Colonel Sanders once said, “you’ve gotta risk it to get the biscuit.” You need to be willing to differentiate, improvise and stir the pot if you want to make waves of change.

Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen?

Oh ya!

Number 8. Don’t Fear Failure, Conquer Rejection, and Bend Without Breaking.

The worst thing that can happen is you will fail. And spoiler alert. You will fail.

The more comfortable you are with that, the better you will get at learning from failure and falling forward. Even if you feel worn down by those failures – or by the intensity of the journey – avoid the burnout by taking a step back to rest, recover and regroup.

Number 9. Be Ready to Adapt, but Know Your Dealbreakers.

When shit goes off the rails, you’ve got to know how to correct your course or pivot from the path you’re on. In the context of your journey up the mountain, you may have to take a step off the trail and blaze your own.

Then again, you also need to know where to draw your line in the sand. In life, it’s often that moral or ethical barrier that you’re not willing to cross. If you encounter a dealbreaker, get the hell out of Dodge.

Number 10. Know How to Measure Success, Celebrate the Wins, and Encourage Others.

Zach gave you the final tool today. It’s how you can learn to recognize the summit once you’ve arrived. It’s how you can celebrate the people who helped you rise to the occasion before you move on to the next hill to climb. But most importantly, it’s how you can pay it forward by encouraging others on their journeys.

So, this week, set some initial success metrics, celebrate the little victories in your life, and give some thought to how you can encourage your tribe to achieve their big ambitions.

Successful people don’t live by maximums. They push higher and higher because eventually, they stop seeing a ceiling. That’s what makes them high achievers.

All you’ve got to do to be like them, is stay motivated and keep moving forward.

I’d like to give a big thank you to Zach Ferres for contributing to this week’s show.

Please take a second to go follow Zach wherever you get your Social Media fix and check out his website, He’s always sharing great content, whether it’s something from his peer network or something he wrote himself. On all channels, you can find him using his handle @zcferres.

For the easiest way to connect with Zach, go check out this episode’s Show Notes at There you’ll find links to his social accounts, his contact info and more bonus content.

Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, and your feedback helps Ignition Point to keep moving forward. So, send me an email to or write a review for the show on Apple Podcasts to let me know what you think of the show.

New episodes of Ignition Point are released every Monday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and anywhere else you get your Podcasts.

If you were a fan of Season 1, I’d really appreciate it if you’d subscribe and share the show with someone you think it would help.

The show will be taking a 2-week hiatus, but I’ll be back on October 14th to drop the Official Trailer for Season 2 and then again on October 21st with Episode 1.

Season 2 will be doubling down with 20 Great Guest Appearances, so you won’t want to miss it!

This life is your responsibility. If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it.

So, stay motivated and keep moving forward.

If you put in the hard work right now – one day – you could be the one motivating the world with your story.

I’ll look forward to speaking with you next time on another Ignition Point.

Now get on out there and win the week!