The Power of Purpose: A Hero's Story

By: Ken Streater | Passion | Purpose | Personal Stories

“I will create a legacy that will last forever,” said entrepreneur, husband and father, Michael Pearson, about what motivates him on a daily basis. “I have always believed in my abilities to succeed and feel that my efforts should be for something far greater than me and my time here. Two fundamental beliefs I have are: there is no such thing as failure; there is only practice and in every situation there is good to make and good to be found. With these philosophical cornerstones I am absolutely confident I will be able to do something very meaningful for others while providing comfort and joy to my family.”

Michael, along with partner Andrew Marshall, created a masterpiece business, Solidyn Solutions, Inc. In spite of a downward spiraling international economy, Solidyn virtually doubled in size every one of its first four years. It now grows at a rate of 20% a year. Michael is a defense industry software engineer by trade, but credits his engineering of the Solidyn work place, with happy and positively acknowledged employees, as a primary driver of his business’ success. As part of his legacy intention, Michael has set a goal to reduce his involvement with his company and only to work as a member of his company’s Board of Directors, in order to have more time to grow his passive income to his target of $1,000,000 a year through real estate investments. With this cash flow and additional time, Michael believes he can fund numerous scholarships and provide donations to several organizations related to veterans who need help as they re-enter civilian life.

“I worked hard to get to where I am and went through a lot of ups and downs, but the keys for me are belief in myself and having a vision, a goal,” explained Michael. “I did well in the corporate world and in my first endeavors with smaller companies, successively rising to higher and higher levels.” Michael grew the software portion of a small company to approximately ten million dollars a year in sales, but he had an ongoing feeling that he would build something of his own. “I knew it was time to move on when this company went public and did not follow through with their compensation agreements.  Recognizing my frustration, their attorney then threatened to ruin me should I try to start my own company.  I waited two years to work through a non-competition clause with them but kept my vision of starting my own company in mind, without any spite. I did something towards this goal virtually every day during those two years.” Michael met with attorneys to ensure he was making all the right decisions with respect to the non-compete and started putting together the framework for his own business. “I also continued my own personal development through books and seminars to ensure that my vision remained focused.”

A couple of years into running Solidyn, Michael and Wendy, his wife at the time, separated. His kids--then seventeen-year old Brandon and fifteen-year old Ashley--moved in with him. After two years trying to work things out, Michael and Wendy divorced. “We tried to do the right things with the divorce, since it was amicable. We completed the paperwork together and followed what we believed was the correct process and paperwork. In hindsight, I should have done a few things differently, however, many things worked out great,” said Michael. “I got much closer to my kids when it was just the three of us under the same roof. Even when my now ex-wife came back over three and a half years after the divorce for more money--after learning of my successes--I knew things would work out well, because of the intentions I had to take great care of my kids and to build my businesses. Although what I call the ‘second round of divorce’ was financially costly, the most important things, my relationship with my kids and my new wife Kelly, remain intact.”

Michael’s perception that he would succeed on his own terms, and overcome challenges of a divorce and a rapidly growing business, were supported by personal development books read. “I long ago created and implanted a drive to succeed on my own terms. As I absorbed what experts in self-improvement said I developed specific personal tools to be able to see good in every situation and to give where I can.” With a rapidly growing and very profitable business, a crumbled marriage behind him, Brandon in the military, Ashley headed off to college, and a new love in his life, Michael was enjoying the good.

November 4, 2010, started like most days for Michael.  He spent the day at Solidyn. worked out at the Colorado hometown gym that he frequented, and headed home around 7:00pm. Minutes after getting home, came the knock on the door; two Marines, in full dress uniforms. Michael answered and to this day hears their words: “I regret to inform you that your son, Lance Corporal Brandon Pearson has been killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.” 

“There are no words to convey the loss that I felt and still feel today.  I had just spoken to Brandon just five days prior,” recalled Michael. “He had called me early in the morning Afghanistan time via satellite phone to tell me he wasn’t going to be able to communicate with me for a little while. I could tell he was tired and a little scared, but he was doing what he believed in. He was making a difference. I didn’t want the call to end. I wanted so badly to hug him and get him somewhere safe. I told him how incredibly proud of him I was.”  

The military flew Brandon from Afghanistan to Dover Air Force Base that weekend. “We flew out to be with him when he came off the plane,” said Michael. “The Marine Corps honor and respect that was shown was the only source of comfort that day.”  Brandon was flown home to Arvada, CO a few days later. “I wrote the eulogy and spoke about my boy in front of a huge gathering of family and friends. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. And my heart does not ache any less today than it did that day.”  Brandon, at 21, and his father were very close when he died. “He had turned into such a great man. He always had the back of his family and friends. The fact that over 800 people came to his service reflects what a treasured person he was in this community and what an impact he had on many lives.”

Brandon enjoyed life as a teenager growing up in a small Colorado town. His initial plan after high school was to go to college, but he ultimately decided to go into the military to “do something meaningful,” said Michael. “I remember touring a college with him before he enlisted, when he turned to me and said, ‘Dad, I am just going to waste your money partying my ass off here, so this really isn’t for me.  I really think the Military is where I belong.’ He joined the Marines because he felt, of all the branches of the military it was the one that made the most difference.”

The pain from Brandon’s death was unbearable, but a vision for a legacy was born, hard as it is to see through tears. Michael is determined to honor Brandon’s resolve through his own anguish. “He and I spent a lot of time doing things together: playing soccer, camping, hiking, hunting, motorcycle riding, and just hanging out. Every time we travel now or get the family together, we always do a Jameson whiskey toast in his honor. I still cry at times when I think of him. I have such a conflicting bundle of emotions, including extreme pride in him and extreme anguish over his loss.  I have vivid memories of his memorial where I was reminded of the impact that Brandon had on others. He had many friends and he touched many lives.”  Brandon’s death and funeral were Arvada’s biggest news story of 2010, according to the Arvada Sentinel 2010 year-end edition. “I don’t know how many times I have been told by other parents that Brandon’s death will forever change how they are with their kids and other family members,” shared Michael. “Whenever things get hectic and frustrating in their day-to-day lives, they remember back to the service for Brandon, and it puts things back in perspective. That is part of the good that I see in all of this.”

Michael, his daughter Ashley, and his wife Kelly wanted to create something that would carry on the names and the memories of Brandon and the other fallen heroes. Toward this end, they created Brandon’s Angel Investments, LLC and Darkhorse Angels, LLC.  The first name is self-explanatory. The second name was chosen in honor of the battalion Brandon was a part of.  The Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment is a unit of approximately three hundred Marines, and goes by the moniker, “Darkhorse”. During the battalion’s deployment in Afghanistan, between September, 2010, and April, 2011, twenty-five Darkhorse Marines were killed. Michael, Ashley, and Kelly want to honor all of the heroes who put their lives on the line every day for our freedom, some making the ultimate sacrifice.

Brandon’s Angel Investments, Darkhorse Angels, and other real estate investment and holding companies started and run by the Pearsons now have over 50 single family homes and over 500 apartment units. A portion of that income is donated to worthy veteran causes. Although not in place yet Michael’s vision is to create a foundation that will sponsor a number of scholarships each year in honor of Brandon and the other fallen. Michael, Kelly, and Ashley spend a great deal of time attending conferences and other training to learn more about effective single and multi-family investing and ownership in order to generate the greatest proceeds possible.  “We want to have a positive impact on those who put it all on the line to defend our freedom,” said Michael. Together they have built a portfolio that will leave a legacy of aid for returning soldiers and will be funded long after Michael is gone. Michael explains how it works: “We are currently donating to programs like the Wounded Warrior Project.  We would also like to provide scholarships for the kids of those killed in action, and help support additional work training and reintegration services. As I always do, I try to find the good in everything.  This is goodness that will outlast my time here. It all started with a vision to do something right, to leave something good.”

Solidyn and his investment companies have a similar culture. “We purposefully operate in an environment that allows for personal growth. For example, Solidyn’s structure helps build success for everyone who is willing to work hard and to stay focused on meaningful intentions,” explained Michael. “We created this culture by first visualizing it, and then determining the path necessary to achieve it. Intention reveals a path. The overarching intention may not have a timeline at first. But as we travel down the path, we put timelines on specific elements that have sprung from the original large idea. Then we make sure to take steps on a regular basis to realize those more time sensitive goals.”

Dreams, chief aims, keystone goals, and tasks: these are the foundation for creating a life of meaning and success. They coexist in a simple matrix that propels each of them individually and collectively forward and, by extension, one’s life strongly ahead. Intentions created from a pure vision, refined in love, and acted upon with passion—such as a software business built on a platform of support and acknowledgment of employees, or an investment company that honors others—are bound to be realized in one form or another.

“It is huge to have vision, and to visualize and feel your future state. It is important to start with the end in mind and to work backwards from there in order to plan. And, while it is critical to focus on where you want to be, remember the big picture,” described Michael. “It would be counter-productive, and in fact destructive, if I was so focused on building the businesses for tomorrow that I neglected my family today. Your goals and actions should support all areas of your life. That is what gets you through the lows and keeps you pressing forward as you take small steps that measure progress. Through this process, your goals can get tweaked and tuned. Over time they may change or they may manifest themselves differently than you originally envisioned. Or, you can change how you want them to come out. Things change, life changes. I know this as well as anyone, but I always act on my beliefs, work on a plan, and focus on the good.”