Whatever else it may be, life is a great teacher. It teaches us who we are and how best we can serve others. It teaches us what’s important. And if we don’t learn its lessons, like any great teacher, life makes us repeat them. Success and wisdom come from learning life’s most important lessons.
Nick Nanton sits in the front row in the classroom of life. He’s the student with his hand up sitting on the edge of his seat. “I’m super intrigued by how people manage and react to their life experiences,” he says. “The more I interview people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, the more I realize that they’re offering a 40 to 50-year shortcut to what’s important. Those who have accomplished great things have also experienced great lows and we can learn from the way they’ve handled setbacks.” We’ll get to the lessons he’s learned but first, who is Nick Nanton?
Nick Nanton is the voice of a new generation.LARRY KING, Television and Radio Host
Nanton is 42 years old and to some extent, who he is depends upon the day or the project. Every day he’s a family man and a man of faith with a servant’s heart. On any given day he might be a musician and songwriter, an attorney, podcaster, best-selling author, speaker, coach, or an entrepreneur. Perhaps more than anything else, he’s a storyteller and a documentary filmmaker whose own story is a case study in the pursuit of personal passion, professional success, and social impact.
Nick is the best in the world at what he does. He’s one of the highest integrity guys I’ve ever worked with and one of the most remarkable personalities in America.BRIAN TRACY, Best-Selling Author
Nanton is an immigrant. He was born in Barbados and moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was ten months old. His parents owned a furniture store and taught him the value of hard work and the importance of integrity.
After earning a law degree from the University of Florida, he co-founded a branding agency in which he’s helped more than 3000 clients in 60 countries clarify their message, define their mission, and gain the respect and credibility they sought.
In 2010, in what can only be described as a very Growing Bolder move, Nanton challenged himself to chase his dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker. It was an ambitious goal but Nanton, if nothing else, is a man who knows how to take what is and create what might be. His first documentary short, Jacob’s Turn, about a 4-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, earned him a regional Emmy Award as director and a new career was born.
I’ve told my closest friends, if they could ever trust anybody with their story, they should trust Nick.PETER DIAMANDIS, Founder and Executive Chairman, XPRIZE Foundation
Nanton’s first feature-length biographical documentary, Visioneer, shares the story of Peter Diamandis, the founder of the X-Prize who helped usher in the era of private spaceflight. The film earned Nanton two more Emmys, the trust of Diamandis, and more dots to connect in his quest for more stories to tell. “Fascinating people know other fascinating people,” Nanton says. “When you’re telling someone’s story and need access to others who know them, they don’t usually say, ‘Hey, go talk to these really cool five guys in jail.’ It’s more like, ‘Why don’t I introduce you to my friend, Richard Branson or Mark Cuban or Dean Kamen.’ When you serve others well, it opens up many doors.”
Serving others well might be the most important lesson that life has taught Nanton. “If you want to be successful, there’s three main things you need to do,” he says. “You need to show up on time, do what you say you’re going to do, and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ And if you do those things, it’s amazing the doors that will open. I always lead with, ‘Let me serve first.’ The stated goals of my team are to be the easiest people anyone’s ever worked with and to share a story that inspires hope. When that’s not just a mission statement but how you operate, it’s pretty easy to get people to say yes.”
Of the many skills he possesses, getting people to say yes is Nanton’s superpower. “I’m really bad at most things in life but I’m pretty good at this one thing,” he says. “What I do all day is have meaningful conversations that lead to desired outcomes.”
Nick Nanton is the real deal. Even after working with Hollywood film crews on one of the most successful movies of all time, Nick and his crew are every bit as good.DANIEL “RUDY” RUETTIGER, Motivational Speaker & Author
Nanton’s work with Diamandis led to an opportunity to direct a film on Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the subject of the award-winning film, Rudy. After directing the Rudy documentary, Nanton had the bold and risky idea of turning it into a one-man Broadway show. His willingness to occasionally walk a professional highwire is a by-product of his family life. “I have a great relationship with my wife and kids so I can jump as high as I want and not be afraid of falling. No matter what happens, when I walk through the door, life is the same. I’m still loved.” Dream Big: Rudy Ruettiger Live on Broadway played to a sold-out audience and added another layer to Nanton’s growing reputation as a producer and director who delivers.
Nanton’s success has not come quickly or easily. Diamandis and others told him, “No” multiple times. Every subject needs convincing at some level. “‘No’ today doesn’t mean ‘no’ tomorrow,” he says. “Rudy’s life motto is, pester life until it gives in.” Nanton doesn’t believe in pestering, but he leads the league in the art of subtle persuasion. “When I see an opportunity that I think would be mutually beneficial, I try to make it known,” he says. “I make it hard to say ‘no’ once they’re ready to say, ‘yes.’”
Nick keeps his promises and over delivers every single time on every single project. He is a humble visionary strategist.RICHARD TYLER, CEO Richard Tyler International
Nanton’s success with the Diamandis project led him to Ruettiger which, in turn, led him to Dick Vitale, the Hall of Fame basketball coach and sportscaster. Aside from having an incredibly interesting and challenging life, Vitale has helped raise over $50 million for the V Foundation to support pediatric cancer research. Nanton was drawn to that fact as much as any other and production was begun on Dickie V.
Vitale was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of filming. “We just happened to be covering his diagnosis and treatment in real- time,” Nanton says. “When word got out about the project, ESPN called and asked if I could have the film finished in time for the ESPYS. It hadn’t been announced yet that Dick would be honored with the big Jimmy V award, but our timing was perfect. We cut a deal with ESPN and delivered the final cut a week before the ESPYS.”
Raising awareness and funds for causes he believes in is another thread that runs through the Nanton filmography. To date, he’s produced and directed over 60 films, winning 22 Emmys and countless other awards. “I’m always looking for stories with heart that offer hope,” he says. “I’m not interested in doing exposes. I’m interested in entrepreneurial souls who are ‘Let’s get it done’ kind of people.”
Every time I see the movie Nick made about my life, I am blown away, deeply moved, and profoundly thankful that I know and get to work with him.JACK CANFIELD, Best-Selling Author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series
Nanton’s body of work also reflects his humanitarian interests. He’s produced many films for non-profit organizations (many of which have been funded by him and his clients at no cost to the organization) including five documentaries on human trafficking, and films for Operation Underground Railroad, Folds of Honor, K9s for Warriors, and many others. He’s building a worldwide audience but the viewers he cares most about live under his own roof. “I try to make films that my kids can watch and learn from,” he says. “I want to create a library for my kids first, and then anyone else who wants to watch. I’m interested in passing down wisdom and hope.”
That desire drew him to the late Larry King. Getting to King wasn’t easy but finding a creative way in is what Nanton does best. “I supported a charity by buying a breakfast with Larry. I flew to LA, and we met at an old Jewish deli in Beverly Hills. He said, ‘You spent a lot of money to meet with me. How can I help you?’ I said, ‘There’s three things, Larry. Number one — I’d love to hear some good stories. Two- I do a lot of interviews and I know I could learn a few things from you. And we don’t need to talk about number three today, but I’d like to send you copies of my work and you can decide if there’s any way that we can do some work together.’ We had an hour-long breakfast, and it was awesome. I sent him some work samples and “In Case You Didn’t Know with Nick Nanton” was born. Before he passed we produced six episodes of the show that ended up on Amazon Prime and won an Emmy together.”
Film and program production is not inexpensive but getting others to support his many efforts has never been a major challenge for Nanton. “Through my branding agency, I’ve helped a lot of great people. So, I can go to them and say, ‘Here’s what I’m trying to do, and here’s the value I’ll bring to you if you do it with me.’ I never ask for anything without giving something potentially more valuable in return. I have a network of people who have stayed with me for 10 years because I tell them the truth and I deliver what I promise.”
Working with Nick Nanton has been a life-changing experience. His honesty, integrity, and heart earn the trust of anyone he works with.ARI BERNSTEIN, MD, Dickie V Executive Producer
So, what has Nanton learned from the successful elders he’s had the privilege to meet and interview? “The one topic that comes up every time is curiosity. They all say, ‘I’m relentlessly curious.’ The people who have achieved the most in life, no matter what age they are, are still learning. They all believe that tomorrow can be better than today, and they’re driven by the knowledge that there’s more they could be doing and sharing.”
The blessing of age is the opportunity to continue evolving, learning, and growing. To shed that which matters least and embrace that which matters most. Life is a journey of discovery, and few are making it with more impact than Nick Nanton.
This article is featured in the September 2022 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.