Viewing life through an ’80s movie lens helped inspire new career for Chris Clews ’92

After a major career shift, Chris Clews '92 has found his calling as an author and keynote speaker.

Life has not always been like the movies from the 1980s that Chris Clews ’92 loves. But those films provided him the inspiration to leverage what he learned at Elon to strike out a bold new career journey.

Chris Clews ’92 giving a keynote speech

After college, Clews worked in marketing for over 20 years. His last few years on that path were spent knowing there was something else out there but not knowing exactly what it was.

“I was having a self-pity party of one over my job situation and watching the movie ‘The Breakfast Club’ when the character John Bender said, ‘Screws fall out all of the time. The world’s an imperfect place,’” Clews says. “I sat up and said to myself, ‘My screws have fallen out. I’m in an imperfect place. What am I going to do to put them back in?’”

He continued flipping through channels, stumbling upon another 80s classic: “The Outsiders.” As a child of the 80s, Clews knew it was time for a change when he heard the movie character Johnny Cade say, “You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want.”.

“I spent the next 18 months burning the proverbial candle at both ends working 60-hour weeks at a head of marketing position while writing my first book, building out a website, working on my speaker content and searching for keynote speaking opportunities,” he says. “It was exciting and terrifying all rolled into one.”

It was during his time at Elon that Clews gained the confidence to make life changes like this. At Elon, he majored in broadcast communications, was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and participated in intramural sports.

“Elon gave me the opportunity to really find my voice and express it,” he says. “Elon provided an environment where we really did grow up right in front of each other in just a few short years. I gained a lot of knowledge for my career but most importantly I learned who I was as human being.”

Now Clews has three books in a series under his belt — “The Ultimate Series on Essential Life & Work Lessons from ‘80s Pop Culture” — and is a full-time keynote speaker. He has spoken to organizations like Penn Medicine, VISA, the American Marketing Association and more. Like his books, Clews’s keynote has a 1980s theme, with the title “Everything I Need to Know (For Life and Work), I Learned from ‘80s Pop Culture.”

“It’s a fun, interactive, unique and relatable look at all things workplace culture, leadership, teamwork, communications and life through the lens of ‘80s pop culture, specifically the movies and music,” he says. “I am as happy as I’ve ever been and feel so fortunate to do what I love each and every day.”

Clews with his rescue dog, Bodhi

Getting to this point in his career has taken discipline and commitment. “The process of writing a book is exhilarating but it is also a very lonely and isolating process especially for an extrovert like me,” he says. “Make sure and schedule 30 minutes a day for writing. It just requires the discipline to schedule that time and stick to it.”

Living life on his own terms makes all of this worth it for Clews. “This new career journey has also given me the flexibility in my schedule to volunteer with animal rescues by using my vehicle to transport vulnerable dogs,” he says.

He always donates a portion of his proceeds to WonderPaws Rescue, which connected him with his dog, Bodhi. “I want my legacy to be in what I did to give back, participate in and advocate for animal rescue with a specific emphasis on the pit bull-type dogs that have absolutely captured 100% of my heart and soul,” he says.

Clews advises current Elon students to be similarly dedicated to their beliefs. “Do everything your heart tells you to do,” he says. He also advises that students take the time to stop and look around.

“Regardless of my life and career plan and how they shape out, I am always going to attack it with the fervor of Dr. Egon Spengler in ‘Ghostbusters’ when he said, ‘I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! Let’s do it!,’” he adds. “I hope all of you do the same.”