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People First, Success will Follow (Rusty Keeley ep. 296)

John O’Leary welcomes mentor and friend Rusty Keeleey on the Live Inspired Podcast that will inspire you to choose significance over success.

In my late twenties, I did not believe in myself.

Before I realized I had a story worth sharing – or in the truth that we all have a story worth sharing – my longtime friend, Rusty Keeley, believed enough to invest in having me speak to his company. He was my first client.

That inflection point launched my speaking career. He then directly and indirectly introduced me to more than 100 speaking clients. He wanted nothing out of these introductions other than to see a life-giving story spread into a marketplace.

Subsequently, he’s challenged me as a friend and board member to dramatically grow as a speaker and business owner, not for my own self interest, but to better the lives of others.

It’s no surprise, then, that Rusty, CEO of Keeley Companies which does $500 million in revenue, describes his job as: “I get to make sure there is food on the table for the families of 1,800 Keeley’ns. I take that very seriously.”

It’s his people-first mentality that has both grown his company’s bottom line 100x during his tenure + that has built the unmatchable culture that keep “Keeley’ns” thriving. It’s also why we chose to partner with Keeley Co. as our first ever sponsor of the Live Inspired Podcast.

Today, I’m grateful to share with you Rusty’s generous heart, caring spirit + business intel that will inspire you to choose significance over success.

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  • What’s a Keeley’n? Keeley Companies are dedicated to the safety, well-being, and career growth of every employee, called Keeley’n, and continuing to strengthen the culture his father Larry Keeley instilled when starting the construction arm of the business in 1976.
  • At 27 years old, Rusty joined the Keeley team and today is blessed to work with both his father + father-in-law.
  • Julie Keeley, Rusty’s wife of 25 years, continually inspires him to pivot success into significance including their work with World Pediatric Project, an organization that heals critically ill children around the world.
  • Heal a child, change the world. Through WPP, the Keeley family welcome a young Jamaican boy named Ryan into their family and provided him with life-saving medical treatment, love + education.
  • Find the opportunity: During difficult times, Rusty seeks opportunities to make an impact including partnering with the Urban League to provide tens of thousands of St. Louis families with food throughout the summer.
  • KeeleyCares, the philanthropic arm of the business, focuses on children, health, community and education while creating a close-knit culture within the organizations.
  • Learn more about Keeley Companies.


About our sponsor: Keeley Companies wholeheartedly believes that if you get the people right -the results will follow. They set themselves apart with a forward-thinking culture that empowers their people and fosters loyal partnerships. Keeley Companies are a proud sponsor, partner, and super fan of the Live Inspired Podcast. Learn more about Keeley Companies.


My new book IN AWE is now available… and became an instant bestseller! Learn how to rediscover your childlike sense of wonder to unleash inspiration, meaning and joy. Visit ReadInAwe.com today! 


  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Fearlessness.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. My backpack and my watches.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. My wife Julie, my mom Jacqueline and Jan Torrisi-Mokwa.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. "Fail often, fail fast, fail forward," or "It's hard to beat someone that never gives up" by Babe Ruth.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. Don't take yourself too seriously, enjoy the moments and lighten up.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. Leave the world a better place. Make a difference in someone's life.