Eric Newman, Founder of Roc Solid Foundation, helps kids with cancer by making it easier to play. His company builds playsets for children with cancer. Eric shares his incredible journey to creating and maintaining this fantastic foundation. From being a child diagnosed with cancer to beating to cancer to losing his business to finding his true purpose. Best of all, he shares some excellent advice for anyone who owns or is starting their own business. It is a very inspirational story you do not want to miss!
Ari: Welcome to Whispers and Bricks. My name is Ari Schonbrun. I’m your host. I have a very interesting guest today, Eric Newman. He’s the founder and chief play Officer of rock solid foundation, who also sits on the board of directors. With his mind on on the mission, he manages the staff and oversees all key initiatives, including rock solid Strategic Growth Plan, and major corporate partner relationships. As a pediatric cancer survivor, Eric is all too familiar with the Battle of family faces when their child is diagnosed. And that’s what drives him daily toward the vision of one day, Building Hope for every child fighting cancer. He’s an avid reader and a dedicated leader who speaks to large groups regularly sharing his personal story where they think big act small approach, Eric puts the highest value on relationships and those who have supported the organization as it’s grown. Please help me welcome Eric Newman. Thanks for having me. Hey, Eric, how you doing? How you been? Then good man. Busy, but not as busy as you have. It sounds like so I imagine you’ve been pretty busy recently. Yeah, I’ve been busy with the whole 911 thing. interviews and the like, but today is not about me, my friend today’s about you. All right, let’s go. I’m ready. So here we go. Now, as you know, the name of the podcast is whispers of bricks, the whispers of those voices telling you what is the right thing to do, and represents the good in life. The bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life and let’s be real. Everybody has some bricks in their lives. Nobody’s got the perfect life. So everybody, everybody goes through something. Now after reading your bio, and speaking with you beforehand, I know that you’ve been hit with some really tough bricks. I’d like you to take us back to your childhood and tell us what was going on.
Eric: So back in my childhood, I was a normal three year old. Just going about I think I was getting a doctor’s appointment checkup to get ready to go into pre kindergarten. And when I went in for three years old, I was diagnosed at the doctor’s office with a very rare form of pediatric cancer hepatoblastoma, which is a liver cancer. And from that underwent, they ended up taking close to three quarters of my liver out and then gave my parents a slim, slim chance for me to survive. And so underwent about two years of chemotherapy and ended up beating it 32 years cancer free now. So with me having pediatric cancer that would really make me want to give back to that community. But I was second child three years old when I was diagnosed. Then my dad’s sister, her second child, three years old, was diagnosed with leukemia. And Shannon fought it till the age of five, just like me, and then my dad’s brothers, second child, three years old, got diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, we ended up losing Nicole at the age of five. So fast forward a little bit more. Shannon, which was the second cousin, she fell out of remission at the age of 16. And before her 17th birthday are right around the cancer end up taking her out. So there were three of us, there was two of us. And now there was just one of us. And I really felt like God made a mistake by choosing me. Shannon was so much of a better person than I was so
that we had three then it was just me and I honestly thought that the cancer was going to come back and get me so I worked hard party hard and played hard that I think I was probably the best at playing hard. Started, started a couple companies started a lawn care company started a construction company and in 2008 ended up with residential real estate crisis I got caught up in that ended up losing everything so I did what any responsible businessman would do. I packed my bags, drain my bank account and went to Costa Rica. I would love to surf.
Ari: Any any responsible businessman would do that.
Eric: Yeah, absolutely.
See that? Yeah, it made sense at that time. So I went
I went there. I called I called my attorneys and called the accountants said hey, listen, don’t indict me. Don’t I’m coming back. I just had to clear my head. So ended up in Costa Rica took a journal with me for the first time never really written in a journal. That’s something that my sister did. She called it a diary. But I took a journal and write when I left and while I was in Costa Rica, probably the lowest point of
My life up to this point, I was in a third world country didn’t know anybody the people that I was traveling with had left. And I was in a mosquito net, in a hammock in the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. And I had never felt more alone. And I grabbed the journal, and I kind of screamed out, I don’t know who I was screaming to. But I screamed out. And in that moment, I wrote down a word hope on a piece of paper. And that’s all that I had. Already, I’d love to tell you that I had this huge Transfiguration, right, but I ran out of money, my mommy and daddy had to get me home.
And someone found out that I was a cancer survivor, and asked me to do a fundraiser for our local children’s hospital. So I ended up doing it during the Czech presentation, I sat down and I hadn’t talked about cancer since Shannon had passed away. And that was about 10 years, I threw it away. Because I was scared it was coming back. And fear has fear has the ability to do that for you. Right push stuff down,
ended up doing that got ready for my check presentation, Mama Bear, which is a mom with a child fighting cancer asked me what I was doing. And I told her for the first time, my story that what I just told you a lot more detail. And she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said that you give me and my husband hope that my son will be sitting in your seat one day, and I hadn’t heard that word hope since I’d been back from the states in that context. And in that moment, I knew I was supposed to combine my cancer knowledge and my construction knowledge to love and serve the pediatric cancer community. And what that was, that was a whole nother journey. But really what got me here is just the devastation to tragedies in my life. Losing cousins from cancer, me having cancer, and losing everything that the world said that I should have. But when I lost everything the world said I should have the world was nowhere to be found.
Ari: Wow, wow.
Eric: That’s that’s just, it’s just my blood. Now, how old? Were you at that, at that point in time? I was 2625 26 error, right in that where I thought I had everything figured out when I say I lost everything like sounds like a horrible country song. I feel like if I would have had a guitar, I would have made millions. But like, I lost my I lost my girlfriend, which was my fiancee or my fiancee at the time. I lost my trucks. I lost my dog. Like I mean, I lost everything.
And I didn’t know what to do. Because see, the crazy part was I put my identity in my construction company. And when the construction company was gone, I had an identity crisis. I didn’t really know who I was as a person, as a leader as an individual. What was my what was what was I going to contribute to society? Right. Wow. You know, I think I think oftentimes, people in general, come come up with that same question, regardless of what they’re doing is like, what am I contributing to society? You know, and, and it’s amazing. Look, I spent 30 some odd years on Wall Street. And when it was all over, I looked back and I said, so what have I contributed to society? You know, what they do on Wall Street? They move a piece of paper from here to there. And they make money. Right? And that’s all they do. You know, and it just, it just boggles my mind. But so you obviously, are a caring individual. I mean, that that comes out front and center. I like to think so. No, 100% I mean, just listening to your story. And I’m just curious, in your, in your humble opinion. Okay. What do you think life would have been like, had you not had cancer? Do you think? Do you think you would have gotten down? Do you think you would go down a path of helping people anyway? Because that’s what I’m doing. You’re right, I’d like to think so. Um, so my parents are absolutely amazing, right? So I mean, I haven’t had to struggle too terribly much. I mean, I didn’t realize we were poor until I went to school, right. So I didn’t have everything given to us or given to me. I’d like to think that I would contribute to society to a certain extent, but at the end of the day, like even thinking back in 2008, and 2009, is I was consumed with Eric Newman. Like I had staff, I had people that worked for me, I but all I cared about was just the money. And what I realized at the end of the day, and like, I don’t know if I would have been able to realize that, because my goals in life, were like, I wanted to surf all over the world. And I wanted to have lots of money and a huge house and boats and yachts, which there’s nothing wrong with that, right? I’m not a poverty. I’m not a poverty gospel guy. Like I like to have nice things.
But I was so focused on me that I didn’t look at the week, right. So it’s like I was so inward focused.
I didn’t look outward. And that’s even with the upbringing that I had. But if it hadn’t been for cancer, and I said that earlier, I felt like God made a mistake keeping me I was a knucklehead, right.
I was in Shannon, but Shannon cared about people I cared about myself. And there was a huge flip to now for me, it’s all about the people. Because if you focus on the people, the money will come. Not the opposite way around. Right. Right. That’s amazing. You know, as I’m listening to you and your story, all right. I’m thinking about me and my story. Because I’ve I’ve basically gone through the same thing. It wasn’t cancer, thank God, but it was,
you know, that? What am I doing? You know, where am I? What have I done? What you know, I?
Just what, it’s just so familiar, just wow. Well, I think I think from an early age, like we’re ingrained for, like success, right? Like, that’s just kind of what and me even now with the position that I hold with rock solid, is that I think that people are very good at working for success. But where I believe that we can truly flip the script is when we can live for significance and success at the same time. And that’s really what I truly feel like I’m called to be doing in this next stage, right, still loving and serving kids fighting cancer. But I think that there’s a world out there that people want to live for significance and success at the same time. They just don’t know how to do it. And maybe that’s maybe that’s what we’re doing right having these conversations.
Ari: Absolutely. Let me ask you this. What was some of the struggles that you had in like building rock solid? Oh, man, well, some of the struggles was at the very beginning.
Eric: That everything I Googled, how to start a nonprofit, I couldn’t stand or search, search engine, anything that I search engine, and this is not a bash against Google.
But it was and then at the very early stages,
a lot people would tell me only millionaire start nonprofits. And then I would go to accountants and attorneys and ask them to help me I didn’t even know what a 501 C three was, I had to google it. I call it like a five oh, 60 is what I call.
And the only fundraising experience that I had was selling Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for my T ball uniform, right? So I had no fundraising experience. And I got turned down by about seven or eight attorneys and lawyers saying it’s the worst economy since the Great Depression. Only millionaires start nonprofits, you just failed miserably in your construction career. How the heck do you think you’re gonna make it to give things away? And so I think some one of the biggest struggles was that self doubt
that people sometimes even the ones closest to me, like even my parents, like, they’re like, can’t you just get a normal job? Can’t you just go work for someone or do something like that? So I think the self doubt, but then not having a roadmap on how to start a nonprofit. And I think that, for me, it was a humbling experience. But I do I think that pizza, beer and T shirts can change the world. And that that was my philosophy, because I had no other philosophy to do a 501 C three, but I ended up i on Facebook, I saw one of my buddies had just graduated from law school. So I was like, alright, and I reached out to him, he actually responded back to me. And I took him to an Italian restaurant had a couple beers, right? And but I didn’t I didn’t tell him about the 501 C three that I needed help with. So I had about four beers in them, because I wanted to loosen them up. Yeah. And lo and behold, he ended up saying yes, and he was one of the founding members of my board. And that was 12 years ago. So I think, for me, the self doubt is extremely big, because I just gone through all that pain, and I had to wrestle through my pain to get to my purpose. And I think a lot of people stop in that wrestling phase. And I know that I want it to quite a few times, so just don’t quit. Yeah, that’s actually that’s what I was going to ask you about, you know, you know, it’s you ever get to a point so low that you said, You know what, I can’t do this anymore. You know, I’m quitting. But obviously, even if you had obviously you didn’t quit. So what, what, what helped you turn that around? You know, when you reach that point, from a very young age, like and I even do with my kids. Now I have two beautiful kids, but from a very young age, see my smiles. I have a daughter who’s seven camera, Michelle Newman. And then I have a son, Brett Braxton gray and he’s five. So two amazing kids.
And so that’s the part from a very early age even with them like my dad and my parents. See my parents do away cancer because there is something called survivor guilt. We don’t we still don’t talk about cancer at family dinners because my mom and dad hadn’t
But my aunt’s and my uncles don’t have their kids, right. So we actually throw that away. But in the very early stages of growing up,
my parents were like, remember, you’re a Newman, you’re strong, you’re courageous, you’re one of a kind, you’re uniquely made. And so we would say that all the time, but my dad would lean over in my ear and say, Hey, you’re a Newman, you’re strong, you’re courageous, you’re one of a kind you uniquely made, and he would lean over my ear and say, if you can beat cancer, there’s nothing in this world that you can’t do. Nothing is hard in comparison to cancer. And so that in the lowest of points, when man, I remember where I went to a hardware store, and we needed a couple drills, I didn’t have any money, like I knew that there was a check in the mail, write the checks in the mail.
But I’m standing at this counter and one of my buddies, like, just buy two drills, just buy two drills, and we didn’t have any money to our name. And I put the debit card in, and lo and behold, it worked. I didn’t steal anything, right? It wasn’t, but I’m sweating, right? My buddy convinced me my buddy was like, Just do it. And then as soon as I get to the counter, they bring it up, my buddy runs out, but
I’m alright. I’m like sweating, and I am freaking out. And I hand this lady the card, the check card goes through, I leave there I go to a build site. And meaning a build site for us is where we’ve sold these playset projects as team building exercises. But in the early stages, we would just get groups of people to help us. Well, I went about $500 in the hole that day. But after that project, after using those two drills, someone handed me a check for $700. And I was $200. Up. And I haven’t looked back since. So it’s like taking that taking that risk and equal to the reward and just not quitting. But some of those moments. For me, one of the hardest things that I had to learn to deal with is getting close to a child and experiencing them when they pass away. So you can read textbooks about how to run a business, how to be an entrepreneur, but that hits you like a ton of bricks, and I was not prepared for it.
So let me ask you this, and I think I know the answer. But I’m gonna ask it anyway. Like, who’s the one person you can point to? That you would say had like the most influence in your life.
Eric: And my dad, my dad hands down. My dad gave me an example of what a true man should look like. Right? So it’s like my father. I’ll never forget, like he was like, hey, and he would just say these little nuggets. But my dad wasn’t that every baseball game right? My dad worked extremely hard. But he was at what he can make it. And I’ll never forget my dad, when I started my lawn care business. A couple of my buddies were doing something similar, and their parents were very well off. And my dad said, Hey, listen, I can’t buy you all the weed eaters. I can’t buy you all these lawn mowers. But what I can give you is the blood, sweat and tears from me. And he said, and I’m your I’m your biggest fan all the way. And my dad has just always always like taking that deep breath of like, okay, let’s go. He’s never given up on me neither as my mom. But my dad had a way to just really when I was I was flunking out of school man, I was a horrible student. And my dad would just sit down, he’s like, come on, Eric, you’re better than this. Never yell. But he would just say you’re better. So hands down my dad and my faith too. I’m drawn and driven by my faith as well.
Ari: Wow, that and that is so important.
Eric: You know, you talked about the self doubt, I want you to know something. You’re not alone in that. Okay. I’ve spoken to many entrepreneurs, who have given up, you know, a great job, whatever, to go start their own business and, and to a man, you know, you talk to them and you say, you know, you know, you ever reach a point that you was so low, and sometimes they’ll say every day, every day, I reached that point, you know, and then and then I say to myself, you know, what, why don’t why did I do this? You know, why didn’t even you know what? Alright, and they all have that self doubt we all do. Okay, but at the end of the day, you know, we get up, we get back up, and we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. When you say no, I’m not giving in. I’m not giving up. All right. I I’m doing this because it’s important. I’m doing this because I need to do this. I’m doing this, whatever the reason is, there’s always a reason. And that’s why you keep doing what you’re doing. Now. I personally think what you’re doing is absolutely incredible. I mean, it’s just it’s just absolutely amazing. And you’re young, you know, compared to compared to me here compared to me, I’m just not old man. Oh, man, you still you still got a lot you got a lot of energy, man. A whole lot of energy. Yeah. That I do that I do.
Ari: Anyway, so let me ask you, you know, before we close, is there any you have any words of wisdom for my audience, anything you’d like to share with them before we go? Yeah, I would. I would say this
Eric: When you start depending on what phase that you’re in, if you’re a business owner, or just starting out as an entrepreneur, or you’re thinking about starting something, or if you’re thinking about turning your pain into your purpose, wherever of the gamut that you fit, focus on getting better, like 1% a week, right? So the biggest thing when you start something, and I didn’t come up with that, but that was some of the best wisdom that I had been given focus on 1%, then at the end of the year, you’re 52%, better, where for me, I’m like, I want to get 100% better every single week. Test hard and pivot often, test hard and pivot often and just don’t quit, I think is the biggest thing for me is because it does get lonely, you just mentioned it, like I call it sitting on the side of the curb with your hands in your head, like don’t know what to do. But you know how to stand up and you hope you know how not to quit. And I would just encourage you not to quit whatever part of the game at the trend. Oh, such great, great words of advice. And I know exactly where you’re coming from. And it’s, you know, it is it is now if people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do that if they want to hire you to speak or if they just want to get involved with rock solid? Let’s what’s the best way for them to do that? The best way is I do have a book coming out September 21, which I’m super excited about. You can find that on Amazon. It’s titled What hope looks like use your pain to fuel your purpose. So that is coming out on the 21st you can also go to rock solid foundations website at Rock Orosi solid foundation.org. And remember, the K fell off of rock so there’s no k. So it’s our rock solid foundation. RSC rock solid foundation.org.
Ari: Wow. Okay, Eric, thanks so much for sharing your story with my audience. I know that I’m inspired by your story. So I’m sure my audience is inspired as well. Good luck going forward. You’re listening to whispers in bricks and I’m your host Ari Schonbrun until the next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.