How Nathan Sexton left the rat race, found his passion, and inspired the world by completing the 2017 Boston Marathon.
Are you like me? Have you have seen the thousands of LinkedIn users gaming social media by writing grandiose, single graph rundowns of minor adversity.
Nathan Sexton wasn’t one of them. He was too busy sneaking out of the 2017 Boston Marathon hospice tent to finish the race — despite being forbidden to return after having a 5th seizure, mid-race.
The cause of those seizures? Stage 4 Brain Cancer.
If Vanity Fair can cover Mark Zuckerberg running a half-marathon, then someone out there should be covering Nathan’s story. It’s the most incredible feat of human resilience you’ll hear all year.
The Heroic Journey of Nathan Sexton
“I want to make patience, empathy, gratitude, and enduring struggle cool in 2018.” — Gary Vaynerchuk.
In April 2014, Nathan Sexton became the very first hire at Bellhops.
Founded in 2012 by a trio of college friends, the Chattanooga-based startup had just sourced angel investment funding from a local venture capital firm, Lamp Post Group. The goal of the company was to launch ‘Uber for Moving’. With an added twist — the movers were full-time college students.
From April 2014 to June 2015, Nathan Sexton — a startup first-timer operating out of Chattanooga, Tennessee who had spent the first 5 years of his career as a Financial Advisor — helped Bellhops do the unthinkable:
- 5x annual revenue growth
- Raise $6 million in Series A venture capital funding
- TechCrunch Nomination for ‘Best New Startup’
- Entrepreneur Best Company Culture List
There’s no smoke and mirrors to this story. I watched the whole thing from the Ambition office — 30 feet down the hall from the original Bellhops Headquarters here in Chattanooga.
The Tech Industry Unicorn
Nathan and I had been close friends for a decade. We met during our first week of college at the University of Tennessee. I knew he was smart. But I had no idea how he scaling Bellhops so rapidly.
Nathan had zero prior startup leadership. Zero prior experience operating in a leadership role in business. No MBA.
“Stanford or bust.” They said.
He working for first-time founders in a city many investors wrote off.
“No direct flights.” They said.
Nathan had zero connections to Silicon Valley. Had no moving industry experience. 27 years-old with a wife, newborn baby, and great social skills.
“Startups need 22 year-old visionary.” They said. “Like Lucas Duplan.”
Nathan propelled Bellhops to achievements every startup aspires to — but maybe 0.0001% ever reach. In a city where it had never happened before.
How Nathan Scaled Bellhops in 15 Months
Using his internal drive plus emotional intelligence (the number one quality Gary Vaynerchuk looks for by the way), Nathan built a team and culture around him that hardwired into Bellhops’s DNA.
Hardwire Balance and Perspective
Nathan’s biggest regret from his time with Bellhops? The missed opportunities to spend more time with his wife and young son.
Importantly, Nathan still made conscientious efforts to balance the demands of his job and the need to spend time with his family. One example — he would wait until Elizabeth and Jack went to bed around 10 PM then spend 3 to 4 hours teaching himself how to code before calling it a night and starting all over again the next morning.
Teamwork and Togetherness
The grueling hours, daunting success rates, and ever-evolving list of challenges will take their toll on you.
Stay hungry, humble, and mission-focused. Those who have worked alongside you, who recall the moments you were there for them, and witnessed firsthand the benevolent spirit behind your actions will come to your aid in your time of need and sometimes in the most unique ways possible.
Emotional Intelligence and Shared Beliefs
Expertise and experience are great. But you can’t fake the raw hunger to build.
Nathan spent 5 years in the safe confines of corporate America. The superhuman pace at which he operated upon getting his shot with Bellhops was borne out of a deep, burning passion for his opportunity with the company — and shared beliefs as to company mission.
The Startup VP Began His Greatest Battle
It was the first day at Bellhops’s beautiful, rustic, and spacious new office.
The fast-scaling startup was buzzing with excitement. The call center Nathan managed was humming in the heart of moving season.
Around noon, Nathan stood up and prepared to take his team out to lunch. That was when the first seizure hit him. The next two followed in quick succession.
Then the test results.
The scans revealed a softball-sized tumor in Nathan’s brain.
A successful surgery removed 95% of the tumor shortly thereafter. But doctors were troubled by the potential that the tumor’s growth was cancerous, in nature.
Elizabeth, Nathan’s wife, worried anxiously about one particular diagnosis: Stage 4 Glioblastoma — which had taken her grandfather years earlier.
Nathan’s test results were delivered over-the-phone. Stage 4 Glioblastoma. Life expectancy: 2 years.
Keep Sprinting the Marathon: Watch Nathan’s Story
This April, Nathan fought thru 5 seizures to finish the 2017 Boston Marathon.
In October, a packed house of friends, family, and colleagues watched the big screen premiere of Keep Fighting: The Journey of Nathan Sexton -a 50 minute documentary by Chattanooga filmmaker, Greg Corradino.
Support Nathan and Elizabeth this Holiday Season
Recall why you followed your passion.
Maybe you saw an opportunity to use your greatest skills or see through the tangible impacts of your efforts.
Perhaps it was to be part of a close-knit, scrappy, unified team. Maybe you saw the opportunity to have the greatest possible impact on the world around you.
That’s what Nathan saw when he joined Bellhops. And this documentary is a testament to virtue and courage prevailing above all else.
Shiny accolades are great — but they can never match the lasting impacts borne out of selfless love and labor for your family, friends, and peers.
Watch the documentary here. Help Nathan and Elizabeth keep fighting in 2018 by donating to their YouCaring Page.