Time for a reality check: You might be making a fundamental mindset error that's standing in the way of your success.

That's according to Michael Rubin, founder and CEO of e-commerce empire Kynetic and founder of the Reform Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at criminal justice reform. "People tend to approach problems outside of business without a business mentality," Rubin said at the 2019 Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City on Wednesday. "That's how you don't get business results."

When Rubin created Reform Alliance, he tried to apply lessons he learned from his business career, starting with the very specific scope of the organization's mission. "Probation and parole is the single biggest problem in the American criminal justice system," he said. "Let's focus 100 percent of our energy on that."

Rubin started the nonprofit group earlier this year after seeing his close friend Robert Williams--also known as rapper Meek Mill--receive a two to four year prison sentence for violating the terms of his probation. Initially convicted on a gun charge in 2008, Williams, who joined Rubin onstage at the event, had spent his entire adult life on probation. The action that landed him in jail? Popping a wheelie on his dirt bike.

The incident opened Rubin's eyes to a systemic issue with which Williams was already all too familiar. "It surprised me how surprised he was," Williams said.

Williams served about six months in jail. Upon his release, he and Rubin assembled a team including Kraft Group CEO Robert Kraft, rapper and business mogul Jay-Z, and CNN personality Van Jones to form Reform Alliance. The group's mission is to change state policies and laws in order to release at least a million people wrongly stuck in America's criminal justice system within the next five years.

Williams recommended one smart business practice that has served him well both personally and professionally. "I always ask questions," he said. "I take my resources and use them to the fullest." He also cited an important business principle he learned from Rubin that he now applies to issues he faces in his life: the importance of persistence. "He showed me to never stop, to never give up," Williams said.

Rubin echoed the sentiment. "I never take no for an answer," he said. "No is just the precursor to yes."

Published on: Nov 7, 2019