Faith and education the “Keyes” to success

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

A sellout audience has attended the fourteenth Bishop’s Blend to hear from one of the world’s most successful Catholic business leaders on his experience running two US Fortune 500 multinationals.

James W Keyes, former CEO of 7-Eleven Inc and Blockbuster Video, visited Sydney for the launch of his new book Education is Freedom: The Future is in Your Hands.

Keyes joined Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Richard Umbers for the latest instalment of the long-running Bishop’s Blend series for young professionals, telling his audience how to remain committed to their Catholic faith in a contemporary, secular work culture.

Keyes led 7-Eleven from the brink of bankruptcy to one of the world’s most successful retail chains with more than 80,000 stores around the globe.

He attributed this feat to an authentic Catholic leadership style, which invited people to follow, and allowed him to lead without fear.

“It wasn’t necessary to impose my religious beliefs on others, but instead I could accomplish the same objectives through leading by example, letting my faith be the guide,” Keyes said.

Growing up in a lower socio-economic household in rural Massachusetts, without basics such as running water, Keyes inspired young people with his own journey of self-growth, self-reliance and his own journey to Christ.

“Growing up with a broken family and economic hardship gave me a sense of independence and I knew that no one would take care of me if I did not learn to take care of myself,” he said.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

In an extended Q&A section, Keyes spoke to university graduates and young professionals about the need to find time for faith in their lives, to balance their work and social pursuits, and that the most important aspects were to stay constant and overcome adversity.

Summarising this, Keyes explained that there are three principles of leadership: change, confidence and clarity.

“Crisis can be an opportunity to change. If we can overcome fear to look at opportunities for growth and change,” he said.

Keyes, who resides in the Diocese of Dallas, also explained that the best way to be confident in life is to invest the time required in preparation, then having the clarity to communicate ideas.

“We must have the confidence not to be overwhelmed by fear, and we must have the clarity to both listen, and speak the truth with love.”

The business leader also founded educational charity Education is Freedom, which aspires to assist all people to have access to an affordable tertiary education.

Education is Freedom has grown over the past two decades to support more than eight thousand students with over $335m in financial aid.

His book, Education is Freedom: The Future is in Your Hands is now available on Amazon.

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