Undercover Billionaire Glenn Stearns on His New Memoir, Integrity: 'I lead with my flaws'
The Kind Lending founder and CEO releases his memoir INTEGRITY: My Slow and Painful Journey to Success on May 23, published by Simon & Schuster
Glenn Stearns is motivating the masses to level up to their highest selves, financially and emotionally.
The unfiltered Kind Lending founder and CEO spoke exclusively with PEOPLE ahead of his May 23 book release for INTEGRITY: My Slow and Painful Journey to Success. With his story, Stearns proves that nearly anyone can achieve success no matter what hand they've been dealt.
"When I was young, you know, there were so many people that I looked at and said, 'there's no way in the world I could do this.' Because they're perfect," the Baltimore native, 59, tells PEOPLE of his self-doubt from his earlier years, adding that he even failed the fourth grade.
"I mean, they've grown up rich, they're organized and they went to the right school and everything about them makes them winners," the Undercover Billionaire star recalled of his then-mantra, which was bound for self-sabotage.
Allowing himself to accept and move on from past struggles and alcoholism in his family, he now takes a different approach. "And when I've gotten older, I realize nobody's perfect," Stearn says. "Everybody has their flaws and everyone has their gifts. And so it's like, what is your gift? What do you focus on? And then become really good at that and gain your confidence and grow."
As for his gift, the entrepreneur and philanthropist makes a point to say he "leads with his flaws."
"Meaning, so people may go, 'wow, this guy, he's done really well financially, he must be perfect,'" of which Stearns proudly shows he's not. The father of six — and grandpa to two granddaughters — had his first child at age 14.
With his "life happens" mentality, Stearns wants to air it all out to help others stop hiding behind their shame.
"I like it because I think then people can connect and then they can go, 'man, maybe I can do more than I'm putting out there.' That makes me happy. If that makes sense."
He urges people to ditch the "I'm a victim" storyline because everyone has their obvious or not-so-obvious dysfunction. The two-time cancer survivor says surrounding oneself with uplifting people tends to help as well.
"They're balcony people. Right? The people that lift you up — and they share your success. They're happy for you," Stern says, though he jokes that there's "nothing wrong with hanging with the basement every now and then."
The bottom line is Stearns doesn't discriminate, will hang out with all walks of life, and every now and again "tear it up" on a Blackjack table in Las Vegas, where he first met his sharp, fun-loving wife Mindy Stearns, 55, a former Entertainment Tonight correspondent who is the perfect complement to the self-help activist.
Together the pair co-host a podcast called Grit Happens to further get their message out. The partners-in-crime currently reside in Southern California and have been married for two decades.
Another woman who helps Stearns shine is his writing partner, bestselling author Laura Morton, who helped pen his story.
"I took her around the world with me to many different places. We had a boat that was pretty fun to be on and we had a helicopter on it. And we went all over," the former restaurant server says with zero showiness, still coming off as humble and relatable. "And then we would just sit and tell stories, you know, and she'd just record them for hours. Hours."
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Now an established mortgage and financial services industry titan, Stearns says he is most proud of his Kind Lending company, currently the fastest-growing mortgage company in the U.S., which stands behind its "People Before Profits" tagline. Stearns aims to put some heart into the daunting road to home ownership with a fresh take on leadership.
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Ultimately, Stearn says the key to tackling debt and moving ahead in the financial world is honesty, and when combatting "fight or flight" after some earth-shattering news, "stand tall."
"We run and hide or we stand tall and it is really difficult to communicate when we're embarrassed or we're overwhelmed or, you know, we don't have a way around it," he says.
Overall, Stearns promises that communication will always make things better.
The day his show Undercover Billionaire was announced on the Discovery Channel in 2019, his company Stearns Holdings filed for bankruptcy. Rather than crumble, he regrouped and came up with a plan on how to handle the financial crisis.
A little over a decade prior, Starns took another hit during another time of financial crisis.
"And I'll tell you in the middle of 2007 and 2008, when my world was upside down and it's all relative, right? I mean, I had a hundred million in bad loans. I had class action lawsuits. I lost 85% of my business. But the point is that it is as relative as somebody that, you know, owes $80,000 in credit card debt or whatever. You know what I mean?"
He went down the list he wrote on his clipboard and tackled one major feat at a time. "I went to the class action people. I said, 'Hey, I have no money, no lawyer. I'm on my own here and I just wanna know how bad are you gonna stick it to me?'" he says, luckily now able to laugh off the dire circumstance.
Stearns dug himself out of some very deep holes by connecting with people and evoking a little humanity. "And if you can show them, 'I'm doing everything I can.' I think you have people that are much more willing to work with you," he says.
Another big takeaway from Stearns' "rags-to-riches" story is he'll never forget the rags.
"You know, people who have done very well, they love to lead with their toys, right? 'Look at these great things that have.' I hate that," he concludes to PEOPLE, "It's like nails on a chalkboard for me."
INTEGRITY: My Slow and Painful Journey to Success, published by Simon & Schuster, is available on May 23
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