Michael Trezza is the Founder and CEO of Giant Leaps Learning, an online after-school enrichment program that helps kids master the 21st-century skills they’ll need to thrive.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up straddling two worlds in central New Jersey. During the week I lived in the beautiful green suburbs just 20 minutes from Manhattan and on weekends I lived in urban Jersey City. The two couldn’t have been more different. That experience gave me some amazing superpowers that most kids don’t often get. I learned very quickly how to read the room, and how to communicate with people in any walk of life or situation. The older I get the more I realize that relationships are key to success.

This set of skills has served me well in building rapport and creating real relationships with diverse groups of people.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

The power of compounding interest. If the story is true, Albert Einstein described compound interest as the “eighth wonder of the world,” saying, “he who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays for it.” If I had, I would have started investing in my teens, which I think every kid should do.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

A bad recommendation is a tough one but as an entrepreneur and business owner for 20+ years I can talk about something I often see overlooked; standardized systems and processes. If you want a company with a great customer experience, one that’s scalable, one that’s sellable at some point… you should have battle-tested systems for everything. The way things get done in the company should be efficient, effective, and repeatable. In the last 20 years of developing technology solutions for companies, big and small, it always amazed me how few really had systems in place and I saw firsthand how hard that made growth and how badly it impacted customer experience.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

Going back to the quote I mentioned above, “Fall Down 7 Stand Up 8”… every failure, every dark time I’ve experienced, I’ve come back stronger from. Most recently in 2020, Covid really pulled the rug out from under me and devastated my software development company. It forced me into a place to make a decision about what to do next and really look at what I was doing, what I liked and disliked, and what I wasn’t satisfied with. That’s when I decided to finally stop putting it off and put everything into building a new company, one that was rooted in my personal mission. Giant Leaps Learning wasn’t conceived in the pandemic but it was born from it and I learned that it’s far too easy to stay comfortable and that’s exactly where the danger lies.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Self-directed learning and what sometimes feels like boundless curiosity! I can’t tell you the last time I felt bored. There is so much to be interested in, so much that I want to learn that I could use up a thousand lifetimes. It’s as much a detriment as it is the reason for any success I’ve had. From guitar playing to complex business systems, I’m curious about how everything works and have an internal drive to learn everything I can to figure things out.

What is your morning routine?

I have a 5-year-old at home, and things look a lot different now than they did before but my mornings are pretty straightforward:

6:30 AM – Wake up, gratitude practice, visualization, review the calendar for a mental picture of the day
7:00 – 8:00 – Coffee, make breakfast for my wife and daughter listen to music or Masterclasses
8:00 – 8:15 – Shower & dress (if not a workout day)
8:15 – 9:00 – Either drive my daughter to school or outline the top priorities for the day into a plan and clean up email
9:00 – 9:20 – Meditate
9:30 – 10:00 – Email
10:00 – 11:00 – Workout

I do a lot of thinking in the early part of the day, take care of my body and mind, and then be able to focus and grind for the rest of the day. Riveting stuff I know but it’s effective for me!

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Most improved my life… reading. I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a young kid and of the habits, I try to improve it’s probably made the biggest positive impact. There probably isn’t a single habit that I pursue, from exercise to meditation, that I haven’t read at least one book on and improved as a result.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Relentless prioritization. During busy times I tend to collect tasks and ideas all over the place. From my inbox to my journal to various task management systems and post-its. After a while it becomes unworkable. What I’m really great at is unplugging and going through all these tools to organize everything in one place, usually a yellow legal pad, so I can get a top-down view of it all. Then I can start to organize things into buckets like Family Tasks, Marketing Tasks, Operations, etc. Once I have things organized I review the list for top priorities and put a star next to the urgent/important things. That frees up mental space to just get back to executing and checking off tasks.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

As I look at my walls of books… not an easy question to answer! If I had to pick a few that have had the most influence I’d say Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and The One Thing by Gary Keller. The combination of these books in my life has been profound. Think and Grow Rich helped me develop a growth mindset and taught me to take full responsibility for my outcomes. The Power of Now taught me to live in the present, not the past or the future, and to tame the ego that comes with a drive towards achievement. The One Thing helped me learn to be laser-focused, which for me turns into achieving goals. There are so many more but those were all turning points for me.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“Fall Down 7 Stand Up 8”. I believe this is an old Japanese proverb “Nana korobi, ya oki”. To me, it means that you only fail if you stay down. It’s about resilience. It reminds me every day of the many failures that come before success. In the moment of working hard and the inevitable setbacks that come with it, it’s often easy to feel beaten down. When I hear this I’m reminded to just stand back up, that the game’s not over.