As is the norm with 40 Leaders Under Forty, the class of 2018 is comprised of overachievers both personally and professionally. Some of them, however, had some surprising revelations—from unusual hobbies and things they wish they would’ve done differently, to coping with loss and working through stressful situations. Read below for their insights.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Marine biologist. —John Kaiser
I wanted to be a lawyer, because I was a very argumentative child! My mother can confirm this. —Kristal Roop
A football player and an R&B singer. Unfortunately, my voice changed in the fifth grade and I stopped growing in height around my freshman year. Obviously, I had to look into other alternatives. —Xavier Nicholes Horton
What are some of your hobbies?
I love to geocache! This quirky activity takes me places I never would have stumbled upon, even in Peoria. I’ve found myself doing ridiculous things, including climbing into underground storm drains, up steep cliffs, hiking through the dense brush on secluded islands, deciphering codes and puzzles (never mind the bugs and poison ivy) all to reach the “treasure” and add my name to the list inside. —Kelli Drake
I love to cook and challenge myself to be creative in preparing multi-course meals. A few friends and I started a cooking club several years ago and it has been a great way to learn! I also love sports and play as much basketball and golf as time allows, but the past few years I’ve had to sacrifice my own hobbies more and more to help coach or participate in my kids’ activities. The struggle is real! —Ryan Hite
What is something no one in your office/organization knows about you?
I used to race junior dragsters. Mopar was my sponsor. —Jessica Ford
I competitively figure skated for 10 years. —Heather Russo
My dream job would be a stand-up comic. —Priscilla Slaughter
I want to adopt a child and develop a scholarship for Crittenton Centers. My dad was adopted and the best way to show how thankful I am for him and my mom is to pass it on to the very adoption agency that gifted him to our family. —Benjamin Brewer
What is the number-one item on your bucket list?
To be able to pass out diabetes medical supplies in Africa. —Corey Campbell
To complete a triathlon or run a marathon. —Kyle Tompkins
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Get a mentor! Get connected with someone who can provide professional guidance, advice on navigating difficult situations, and encouragement. I have mentors now, but could have benefited from them earlier in my career. —Alyssa Herman
God laughs when you make plans. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have some fun along the way. Don’t waste time on people who lack integrity and faith. —Dr. Steven Stergios Tsoraides
Stay patient and humble, young wolf. Your time is coming. Continue to work hard and put God first. —Andre Allen
To dream bigger and have confidence in myself. It wasn’t until a major, life-threatening illness opened my mind up to a bigger future with endless options that allowed me to believe I could be and do so much more. —Kelli Drake
Keep being open to meeting new people and having new experiences. It will amaze you how much you will learn and how much fun you will have along the way. —Jodi Faye Lindsay
Quit wasting time playing video games… —Eric Martin
Don’t sweat the small stuff—worry won’t add a single day to your life. —Olga K. Rowan
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
You are responsible for your own career. Don’t wait for others to pick your path for you. You are the pilot; chart your own course. —Xavier Nicholes Horton
Always keep your local community as a focus. —Adam Lofgren
I have two. 1) Pay attention to details (ATD); they matter. 2) When dealing with a setback… “In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal.” —My father. —Eric Martin
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. —Kyle Tompkins
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
Adjusting to and accepting the realities of being a mother of young children while maintaining a demanding career in an “industry” that is largely inflexible and unsympathetic to my experience. However, my commitment to persevering and helping to change this current culture by my own example has become a cornerstone of my personal development. —Tiffany White
Few people from my home city ever leave—coming to the U.S. to study/work always felt like a dream. Having the drive, enthusiasm and finding an opportunity to cross the ocean and become a graduate student, all by myself, and start a new phase in my life. —Olga K. Rowan
My own ambition. —Dr. Steven Stergios Tsoraides
In August 2016, my son Bowden lost his six-month fight with Acute Myloid Leukemia (AML) and HLH. He was diagnosed about three months after birth and left this world just over nine months old. The days, weeks and months that followed were very challenging, both personally and professionally. The grief over losing Bowden was debilitating, and simple tasks or activities I previously put little thought into became overwhelming. Work, which had always come easy to me, became a significant challenge. I gave myself many pep talks to get through the next few hours of work, a meeting or even a specific task, and embraced the “fake it until you make it” approach. I did my best to stay positive, focus on the task at hand, and try as hard as possible not to let my newfound depression and anxiety over work impact my performance or others. I wasn’t always successful, but eventually I made it to the other side and learned two critical items that anyone can apply: 1.) No matter how hard or tough times are, there is a path through and things will always (eventually) get better; 2.) Keep an open mind and don’t allow the way you see the world (your paradigm) to make quick decisions or judgments about others. —Adam Simmons