A WorkHappy Talk: Connor James, Founder & CEO of MeaningFull Books

by Joe Szynkowski | Workhappy Blog

Connor James is on a mission to help you re-prioritize what is important in your life. Photo Credit: Alisha Sims

When Connor James isn’t coaching fitness clients, presenting leadership keynotes or delivering radio color commentary for Southern Illinois University football games, he is passionately serving others through his company, MeaningFull Books. Connor played linebacker at SIU (2007-2011) and graduated with a master’s degree in Sports Studies. Here are some of his Saluki achievements:

  • 2011 First-team Academic All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection.
  • Voted team captain in 2011 by SIU teammates.
  • Ended his Saluki career with 22 consecutive starts.
  • Earned the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award.
  • Earned the President’s Academic Award from the MVFC.

Photo Credit: Alisha Sims

Basically, Connor leads. His unshakable optimism and relentless work ethic have paved the way for his success.

But it hasn’t come easy. When Connor was 13 years old, his dad dropped him off at basketball practice. That would be the last time he would speak to his father, who died later that day of a heart attack.

“That traumatic event transformed my daily approach and really is the driving force behind who I am, the attitude I carry, and how I try to inspire others,” Connor said.

Connor recently took time out of his packed schedule to share his insights with The UpWrite Group. We enjoyed learning about his company and left inspired to write some personal messages to those closest to us (you’ll see why below).


Let’s chat about your role as Founder and CEO of MeaningFull Books. Where did the idea come from and what about working on this company makes you happy?

This business allows me to do what I love to do, and that’s turn my focus to others. I’m most proud of MeaningFull Books because it gives people the opportunity to create truly thoughtful gifts. We’ve got writing guides that prompt you with questions and help you fill a short journal with your written words. We feel that we are helping people create the most thoughtful gifts they will ever give.

We are also helping people understand how powerful and impactful their words can be when they focus on the important things in their lives – and those are the relationships around them. We want people to think differently about their impact and significance.

At the end of our lives, we all want those around us to feel loved, valued and cherished by us. But if I ask you to pull up your schedule, can you show how you are intentionally investing in this? MeaningFull Books help you re-prioritize what is important in your life.


Obviously, as a writer I appreciate anything hand-written. Why is this such a big part of your business plan?

After my dad passed away, I found some notes from him. There was something amazing and sensory about seeing his writing on paper. Today we’re so busy with emailing and texting. We rarely take the time to actually write things down. With MeaningFull Books, we’re helping create heirlooms for families.

Photo Credit: Alisha Sims


You mentioned focusing on others. Can you describe what goes into this and why it’s important?

Basically, what we focus on grows. If we put our energy into something, it will enhance and get better. When you invest in the relationships around you, you have no choice but to be fulfilled. It’s the act of reciprocity. I believe that anything you receive, you need to give back to others. This becomes a cycle and everyone benefits.


When you deliver leadership presentations, what is your message?

I usually break down a talk into three things: Perspective, intention and gratitude. On perspective, when we don’t orient ourselves to the things that are going on around us, we lose track of what we should appreciate. We need to be able to ask ourselves, ‘Do I have it better than others.’ And if you are earning more than $2 per day and have clean drinking water, then the answer is yes. So what do you do with what you have and what you’ve been given?

On intention, I also tie in personal investment. You’re never going to be in an optimal state unless you invest in others and yourself. Intention is great and all, but you have to combine action with intention. The reality is that only we can control that.

And on gratitude, we know we are supposed to be grateful for what we have, but how many of us are simply going through the motions? Personally, I know that if I don’t actively practice gratitude, then I’m off my game. I have made it a daily practice to write down three things from the previous day that were positive. That I smiled about. That made me grateful. We have to view gratitude as a practice.


What do you enjoy most about getting in front of a crowd and delivering a leadership presentation?

It’s the opportunity to move somebody’s needle just a millimeter. I believe that if you are passionate and authentic, you can truly transform somebody’s life. You never know what people are going through. Being able to deliver a positive message to someone who might really be needing it – that’s what I love about presenting.


Photo Credit: Alisha Sims

There are a lot of people in our audience who feel stuck at work. For whatever reason, they are unhappy and unsure of how to get out. What advice do you have for them?

My conviction is that no negative work situation is worth your happiness or stress. Getting out of these situations goes back to having a holistic approach and making positive strides one step at a time. You have to be motivated and stick to your plan to improve. There has to be a vision you don’t let go of. And you have to find a way to channel that vision into action.

You also have to understand that you matter. Your contributions matter. This is a truth. I ask people, “Is the world happening to you or are you happening to the world?” We all control our actions and our attitude. When we understand this power, we have the ability to change our mental and emotional state.

Thanks again to Connor for sharing his insights. An awesome guy with an amazing story. Check out MeaningFull Books today to support his mission of delivering amazing, handwritten gifts to your friends and loved ones – and to unleash the power and impact you have on the lives around you.    

Pin It on Pinterest