What Do You Believe?

Millions each year join the daily throngs of people who willingly unload their wallets so they and their children can enjoy a brief encounter with Mickey Mouse and the gang in the land of enchantment.  Visiting Disneyland or Disney World for the average American family has almost become a pilgrimage that must be completed at least once in a life time.  Amazingly, the allure that pulls people into these gates like a mosquito to a bug light can all be traced back to the VISION of one man—Mr. Walt Disney himself.

Sure there were many collaborators who made the project possible, but with out the dreamer—the “Visioneer” if you will, a collection of talent and resources never comes together to create the physical reality.  In Walt’s case, his vision for a Disneyland on the East Coast was all he provided because he passed away before the project was completed.  Mike Vance, the man in charge of the Development of Disney World, while giving a tour of the recently completed park overheard someone say, “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” To which Vance quickly replied: “He did see it—that’s why its here!”  (bringing out the best…p 166).  With out belief, or put another way a mental creation, the physical creation isn’t even possible. To lead or succeed then, one must create a dream that is so vivid, so real that when he or she opens their mouth that dreams spill out in such a fashion that it compels others to not only see it, but feel it.

Benjamin Franklin was one such visionary who developed the art of persuasion through dream sharing.  His belief or vision capacity coupled with leveraging the power of daily habits made him one of the most influential American Founders.  For example, many don’t know that nearly 30 years before the Revolutionary War Franklin helped organize a local militia group in Pennsylvania.  In 1747 Spain and France were hostile to England and sent privateer ships over to America where they sailed up the Delaware River near Philadelphia, Franklin’s home town.  The privateers successfully plundered two farms and made off with an American ship.

Franklin, while acting as clerk of the House of Representatives for the province of PA, had witnessed many failed attempts by the Governor of this province to obtain legislation to provide for a colonial militia and thus the colony was defenseless.  Franklin, however, was determined to see to it that his community was protected.  With the Quakers in the area preaching that war was unlawful and the legislator not willing to act, Franklin took matters into his own hands.  Everyone could see the need for protection, but Franklin could see a successful out come in his mind.  Where others excused themselves with words like, “if the Governor can’t do it how can I,” Franklin saw possibilities and his compelling vision drove him to take meaningful action and rally his community to do the same. Using his skill of communication he wrote a powerful pamphlet wherein he expressed his vision and promised action.  Soon he was casting his vision to a small group, then larger groups and his proposal was ultimately signed by thousands.  Eventually, his firm belief rallied some ten thousand men to volunteer.  They brought their own arms, formed into companies and regiments, chose their own officers and began meeting weekly to learn the art of military discipline and procedure.

Most would have called this a success, but Franklin had seen more in his vision and so he organized a fund raising initiative for the construction of a fort and the acquisition of cannon to be ordered from England.  With construction under way and funds procured Franklin still did not rest until he had traveled to NY to request that their governor loan Pennsylvania a number of cannons until their shipment arrived.  At first, the governor flatly refused, but after a persuasive conversation over a meal and plenty of Madeira wine, Franklin records that the governor agreed to loan 6 and then 10 and by the end of the evening Franklin had procured 18 cannons to fortify his fort.  (Real BF pgs 71-73)

Whether it’s Franklin’s vision that organized a community into a volunteer militia or Walt Disney’s vision that assembled his team of “Imagineers” to create an unparalleled family vacation destination, they both supplied a clear and compelling vision and continued to believe and inspire belief no matter the obstacles that loomed before them.  The fact that it hadn’t been done before was irrelevant because they could see it almost as if it already existed and their enthusiasm and conviction helped others buy in as well.  In the end, they moved people and people moved the vision into reality.

Free people see freedom clearly and project that vision around them just like Franklin did.  Unfortunately, too many today are fixated on all the problems that surround us.  From government, the economy to their personal problems they are continually casting a dark cloud of fear, failure, hopelessness, and subservience.  Before you spout the woes of your current frustrations, ask yourself if Franklin’s vision built a fort what does a negative vision build?  Too many today are overly focused on a loss of freedom or their financial frustrations, their struggling business or job and thus their freedoms decline.  So if you would truly live free ask yourself what are you continually visualizing or dreaming about?  Is it compelling you and others to positive action or fearful destruction?  Free people remain free and flourish because of belief in a bright new future.  What are you selling yourself and others?

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How Much is the Decision to Quit vs Commit Costing You?

Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.”  Lance Armstrong

 

Hell’s Kitchen, New York City – 1946: An infant, born in a charity ward entered the world screaming about more than the usual pain of the birth canal.  Complications arose during labor and a young inexperienced intern improperly used the metal forceps to extract the baby, thereby severing a facial nerve which gave Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone a saggy faced scowl he’d wear throughout life.  While this trademark look would later serve him well in tough guy roles in the movies, it first proved to be a stumbling block in his journey to fame and fortune.  You see no one is born a star, especially not a poor, droopy faced son of a stern authoritative Italian Immigrant.  And certainly not a boy whose mother left them when he was 11, or a kid who attended 13 schools in 12 years due to his academic track record of expulsion and non-conformity.

Discouragement pounded Stallone at every turn and opposition seemed to scream at him to “give up, stay down and settle.”  But there was another voice; the voice of possibility that quietly yet resolutely countered each blow with, “what if”.  Somehow this disadvantaged youth was able to lock into that voice and fight off critics, circumstances, setbacks and even massive financial frustration.  His dreams came alive while watching movies where he found escape, possibility, heroism, courage and ultimately inspiration.  After watching the 1958 movie Hercules as a boy, Stallone was inspired not just to begin working out to build his physical body, but also to focus on personal development to sharpen his mind.  He began dreaming of a time when his acting would encourage millions to overcome their challenges.  In order to achieve that dream, Stallone went to Switzerland in order to attend college.  There he did some acting before returning to the US without completing his degree.  For years he pursued an acting career, claiming to have been rejected by or thrown out of over 1,000 offices.  He was told, “that he would never act.”  They called him “dopey looking or stupid looking.”  In all, he stood down a verbal onslaught that would have convinced millions of others to give up on the dream, but for Stallone, this extra long plateau of rejection steeled his resolve to focus intently on the prize instead of the pain he was going through.  At one point he arrived at an agent’s office at 4 pm and was not admitted to see the man so he stayed all night waiting for his return in the morning.  The agent was moved by his persistence and found him a role as a thug, stating that “people would enjoy seeing someone like him beat up in a movie.” Small jobs and parts followed, but it was a far cry from success and it certainly wasn’t paying the bills.  He was literally a starving actor, a failure who he couldn’t pay the heat during a cold NY winter. His wife pleaded and nagged him, “please just get a job.”  But he refused, knowing that doing so would rob him of his hunger, lulling him down a path of complacency and stifled dreams.

On a frigid winter day, he left his cold apartment for the public library not to satisfy his hunger to learn, but simply to get warm.  While there he picked up a biography about Edgar Allen Poe and it stirred something inside of him.  He recalls that Poe’s struggle inspired him to look away from his own problems for a time and pour his energy into becoming a writer.  And so he wrote his first screen play which after some time he was able to sell for $ 100.  The money didn’t last long, but he kept his dream alive by selling his wife’s jewelry which drove a bigger wedge between them.  (In an interview he joked that it was not a good idea).  Finally, on the verge of ruin, he sold his best friend, a dog named Butkus, because he couldn’t even afford to feed him.  He recalls weeping that day with pain, self-doubt, and discouragement…perhaps this impossible dream was just too much.

Shortly after sinking so low, he recalls watching a Mohamed Ali vs Chuck Wepner Heavy Weight Boxing Match and he stood in awe of this outclassed, slow and lumbering man who took blow after vicious blow from the great Ali but refused to go down.  In fact, to everyone’s amazement, in the 9th round, Wepner landed a vicious body blow that knocked the champion to the ground.  An enraged Ali then pounded Wepner for 6 more rounds.  Wepner with dogged determination hung with the exhausted champ all the way into the 15th round.  That night Rocky Balboa was conceived in the mind of Stallone and his life’s ambitions and story were personified in the embodiment of a fighter.  He stayed up 20 hours straight and with in three days wrote the entire screen play for Rocky.  Exhilarated by his creation, he went to work to sell it, but again found nothing but rejection.  They called it “sappy and predictable,” words he later repeated at the Oscars when Rocky would eventually win Best Picture. But, the story doesn’t end there.

Perseverance paid off when he finally found a buyer who offered him $ 20,000 for rights to the screen play.  When he told the buyer that the purchase was conditional upon him acting the role of Rocky they refused to even consider it.  Still resolute he walked away, denying himself the short term financial relief he so desperately needed.  Soon he was back at the negotiating table and this time they offered him $ 80,000 if he would not act in it and still he refused.  When Robert Redford showed interest in the part they came back with an offer of first $ 200,000 then $ 300,000 and eventually $ 360,000.  Imagine it, your whole life you’ve been knocked around, told you couldn’t, you’re broke, discouraged and so desperate you sold your own dog… certainly, all of this would justify claiming a victory and using that $ 360,000 to eliminate the financial and emotional suffering you’ve endured.  Stallone knew this could set him up, but his dream to act and inspire burned brighter than a one time gain and so with conviction, he told them he would never sell it if he wasn’t cast in the role of Rocky.

Finally, a frustrated group returned to their $ 20,000 offer and gave the rest in ownership shares of the venture so he would bear the risk of loss equally with them.  They weren’t about to let so much ride on a no name, funny looking guy from NY.  ‘Risk?” he mused.  He knew about the risk he had already taken!  This, this was an opportunity and he ran through that door boldly and fulfilled his dreams.  Now, in an interview he gave on “Inside the Actors Studio” he told an aspiring audience, “if you can at all live your dream, I would always challenge you to go into the unsafe zone so you can at least discover if your ability is at least as good as your ambition.”

For those of you who may not be Rocky fans, not only did that film go on to win an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for Best Picture, Stallone was nominated for an Oscar for Best Leading Actor as well.  To date, the Rocky Franchise has brought in well over 1 Billion dollars.  Rocky apparently hit a home run, but very few people ever take the time to consider the back story and grasp the reality of the success cycle; or imagine  if he would have sold out on his dream at any point by dropping down in the comfort zone instead of staying in “unsafe” zone as he put it.  I for one would have missed out on the feeling I get when one of those films pumps me up and makes me want to fight for my dreams and realize that with each setback this seemingly never ending plateau will eventually turn into the next big rapid burst of success on my way to bigger dreams!  And it will for you too!

By the way, the original Rocky film brought in over $ 220,000,000 and Stallone’s cut was let’s just say a little bit bigger than the $ 300,000 he was more than justified in taking.  However, I believe if he would have Rocky would have been a one hit movie starred by Burt Reynolds or Robert Redford…Knowing what we know today, that just would have been a disaster.  They certainly couldn’t have played the role of Rocky like Stallone…and of course not.  For it was his story he was passionately portraying, not theirs.  Now, the only question is will you stay in the game long enough to enjoy your big break or will you fall victim to the masses and slip into the comfort zone or just getting by.  Whether its financial victory or something else, your big turning point is just over the next horizon.  Hang in there!!

 

Increase Your Income by Improving Your Communication Capacity!

Podcast # 22 How to Increase Your Income by Improving Your Communication Capacity!

In my management and coaching career many people have asked me how they can increase their income.  They come with great ideas and talents, but lack the ability to make others see them.  This podcast offers a few tips and some powerful motivation from the words of the great Patrick Henry himself!  Find out how he compelled Thomas Jefferson and many others to battle not the British but the same enemy that keeps you from your greatest successes today.  

What Will Your Memorial Be?

–A Question Worth Asking the Day After Memorial Day

 

From tragedy and failure bloom life’s greatest breakthroughs.  It begins with that small resounding voice of courage that penetrates our core and releases our true potential or purpose.  It’s the spark that illuminates a leader’s vision and demands a call to action.  So it was for Jan C. Scruggs when left the theater after watching the 1979 Film, The Deer Hunter.  Painful emotions, he’d tried to forget from his days in the Vietnam War exploded inside, leaving him as disoriented as if he had just been hit by the concussion of an actual mortar shell.  He flashed back to his first harrowing nights in the muggy Vietnam jungle at age 18.  Heavy machine gun fire burst from the trees as N. Vietnamese troops had his squad pinned down.  They barely escaped because of the bravery of a comrade who purposefully drew fire in his direction.

Finally, his thoughts rested on that day on May 28th, 1969 when an explosion ripped through his patrol, killing or wounding over half of the men.  He recalled the screams, the blood the carnage and his own wounds.  After his tour ended he found himself back in his small town in Maryland.  Memories of the devastation of war haunted him at nights while bitter anti-war sentiment from politicians, protesters and public opinion plagued him by day.  People, who knew him growing up, booed him while wearing the uniform in his own town.  In the face of this loneliness and pain he had to choose his reaction. He eventually pulled himself together and courageously took steps towards a productive life, starting with community college, then on to American University in DC where he secured a master’s degree in psychology and counseling.  During this time he researched war-induced post-traumatic stress disorder and began formulating ideas on the importance of acknowledging veterans sacrifice and contribution as part of their healing.

With the film and these events still racing through his mind a decade after returning from the War, sleep evaded him as vivid war images flooded his mind.  He found that he wasn’t alone, the movie had opened wounds all across the country as evidenced by ex-soldiers lighting up suicide hotlines nationwide.  These events ignited the fuel building up in Scruggs and a powerful vision to build a memorial to the Vietnam War dead burst into view.  It was not to be a memorial to glorify the war or to make a political statement, it was to be a symbol of healing —a monument designed for remembrance.

Immediately his dream met fierce opposition after publicizing his intentions.  The critics, among them many veterans and even powerful members of Congress, venomously declared why the nation wouldn’t support any appropriations for such a project.  However, one veteran, a lawyer named Robert Doubek stepped forward and offered his assistance.  With his help and Scruggs own money, they founded a nonprofit organization.  On May 28th, 1979 Scruggs held a press conference and delivered an inspirational message that rippled across the country.  Letters of support rolled in from grieving parents, bitter and hopeful veterans alike as well as children who had lost parents in the war.  Total donations fell far short of the projected cost, but momentum was on their side as an army of volunteers rallied to the cause.  In 1980 Congress passed a bill setting aside land near the Lincoln memorial for the project, placing a 5 year deadline on raising the funds.  Scruggs didn’t wait 5 years, he set his own goal for Veterans day of 1982.

When invitations for architectural submission went out more than 1400 renderings and ideas were returned.  Jan had inspired a nation and one 21 year old college student won the design. The parameters had called for the monument to “be reflective and contemplative in nature… harmonize with its natural surroundings… contain the names of all who died or remain missing… and make no political statements about the war.”  Maya Lin, the designer, wanted the wall to reflect the visitors standing in front in order to allow a view of themselves in the monument. An article on-line describes the monument as follows:

The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial has become the most visited war memorial in our nation’s capital. It embodies grief, loss, and closure for the tragic deaths that were a result of the Vietnam War. It’s a symbol of our nation’s resilience and unity.  [It]  has become known as “The Wall That Heals,” “A Shrine of Reconciliation,” “The Healing Stone,” or simply “The Wall.”

Jan Scruggs had a dream, a courageous breakthrough that he turned into action, an action which drew severe criticism, but also healing for himself and millions of grieving individuals.  I’ve been to that Memorial and met personally with many Vietnam Veterans as a part of the legislative research work I performed for a decade.  I was deeply moved by both experiences.

Legendary basketball coach Pat Riley, wrote about overcoming difficult circumstances like our Veterans or Wars experience:

All of us have at least one great voice deep inside.  People are products of their environments. A lucky few are born into situations in which positive messages abound. Others grow up hearing too many messages of fear and failure, which they must block out, so the positive can be heard. But the positive and courageous voice will always emerge, somewhere, sometime, for all of us. Listen for it and your breakthroughs will come.”

Jan Scruggs had a breakthrough and you’ve had them too.  Perhaps, you’ve experienced the devastation of war up close and personal, perhaps your battlefield was growing up in an abusive and divisive home.  For some there were foster homes, abandonment, loss, heartache, tragedy, complacency, ease and fear.  While most may not experience something as dramatic as war the way we respond to adversity defines us for good or ill.  The fact is you’ve heard the voices speak to you.  One voice thunders, “you’re a loser, no one understands you, you’re not worthy, give up, quit etc.”  The other voice, almost imperceptibly at first says, “Stand up, take heart, you have work to do, change the story, reach out and lift someone else, BUILD A MONUMENT!”  Your monument may not be a polished stone wall, but your life can be a witness of the power of change, a symbol of hope that others will follow.

Jan saw his vision come to fruition and enjoyed healing in the process.   You and I have the same opportunity to choose if our memorial will be one of vision & healing or criticism and reeling.  It all depends on what voice we listen to.

References:

  1. http://www.usdreams.com/Scruggs8081.html
  2. The Winner Within, Pat Riley (Chapter 6)

Businessman or Change Agent?

When I first heard this quote from Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight’s Memoir, Shoe Dog, I was moved.  Today Nike employs over 60, 000 workers directly and more indirectly.  In spite of Nike’s meteoric success they certainly have their challenges and complaints, but I want to focus on the courage it takes to create, to win, to capture the imagination, to inspire and even to provide jobs like they have.  I believe Knight masterfully sums up the thrill of being in the hunt of excellence and pursuing a goal to drive change all around him in a way only a person who truly knows can.  If this doesn’t resonate or better yet if it does but it seems foreign, I invite you to take a chance on doing something bigger in your life than just, “surviving:”

“It seems wrong to call it ‘business’. It seems wrong to throw all those hectic days and sleepless nights, all those magnificent triumphs and desperate struggles, under that bland, generic banner: business. What we were doing felt like so much more. Each new day brought fifty new problems, fifty tough decisions that needed to be made, right now, and we were always acutely aware that one rash move, one wrong decision could be the end. The margin for error was forever getting narrower, while the stakes were forever creeping higher – and none of us wavered in the belief that ‘stakes’ didn’t mean ‘money’. For some, I realize, business is the all-out-pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood. Yes, the human body needs blood. It needs to manufacture red and white cells and platelets and redistribute them evenly, smoothly, to all the right places, on time, or else. But that day-to-day business of the human body isn’t our mission as human beings. It’s a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic processes of living – and at some point in the late 1970’s, I did, too. I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted, as all great businesses do, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is – you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman.”

After reading that, are you passionately pursuing something for the sake of the process and not just the profit.  The most successful people I know receive significant profit but its the byproduct of the attitude you just read about.

I’m loving the path and the hunt I am on.  I hope you are too!

Presidential Elections, Leadership and Richard the Lionhearted

Trump vs. Hillary has got so many people riled up right now and for good reason.  How did we get here?  Maybe its because of our preoccupations.  Listen in to hear the powerful tale of the inspiring leadership of Richard the Lionhearted and how it relates to solutions for our era.  It’s time to dream about finding real heroes in our day and I am challenging you to make the dream a reality.   Go to my podcast page or CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to this inspiring message on true leadership.

Five Steps to Stop Emotional Instability and Win Big with Your Money! 

Financial well being is emotional not logical!  I know, I know the savvy investor has logarithms, newsletters and spreadsheets to logically pour over data to snag the best stock pick of the day.  BUT, one emotional slip up busts a budget and robs one of any capital with which to invest.  The bottom line is small holes sink great ships as do small leaks in financial plans.  So while logically spending less than you make is the key to financial progress, emotional outbursts (or passive aggressive ones) riddle our financial plans with holes.

Personality, upbringing, mood and marketing contribute to our spending habits.  Everywhere you turn messages suggest that happiness, fulfillment, prestige and even elegance can all be purchased.  Logically we may not buy this, but our subconscious mind (the storage center that houses all images, commercials, scripting, family modeling, etc.) IS the driving force behind our ultimate actions.  My point in this short article is not to establish the science behind this, but to provoke you to act differently.  For example, simply stating that I am going to spend less than I make this month is like trying to turn a cruise ship (the subconscious mind) with a row boat (your worthy intention or conscious mind).  That of course would be an exercise in futility and so is the goal of spending less than you make if the record reveals regularly falling short of that goal.

 

Here are five tips on getting things lined up for financial victory:  

 

  1. Invest in your thinking.  Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”  Warren Buffet declared that knowledge compounds like interest. He therefore has a habit of reading not just financial but personal development material for hours every day. A habit of reprogramming just a few minutes a day is the foundation to securing your budget.  Read everything from classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People to The Richest Man in Babylon as well as studying programs like Financial Fitness.  Add positive affirmations daily (i.e. I am master of my finances and accumulate wealth for security, enjoyment and making a difference) and you are now intentionally programming your “subconscious” mind for success.
  2. Track everything you spend in a written notebook (it can be digital) for 30 days.  If you buy a gumball from a machine write it down.  This is important.
  3. Interrupt your daily patterns.  Bring a sack lunch instead of eating out.  Listen to a personal development audio or podcast instead of talk radio, music or sports.  Avoid commercials for awhile.  Unplug from the daily programming that bombards us.  I am not talking about becoming a monk; I am emphasizing the importance of taking control of the inputs so the outputs are intentionally what you really want.
  4. Pay yourself first.  When you treat investing in you and your savings account like you treat paying your mortgage, the “needle” will move.
  5. Utilize tools to help manage your money.  The internet has allowed disruptive innovators to create apps, business tools and personal resources in abundance.  Barriers to entry into business, investing and financial planning are lower than ever.  From free apps like Good Budget, which my wife and I have personally used, to tools like FeeX that will analyze your investments for ways to save on fees, it’s never been easier to become smart about your own money.  In fact, I recently read an article on CNN Money that highlighted 10 top apps to help the everyday investor become efficient in their quest for financial success.  If you are ready to move beyond financial fitness, check out this article and discover some amazing resources available to you.  Before you do though, I recommend you spend at least 30 days with the first three suggestions in this article.  Get the foundation right or you could very well end up compounding your financial woes.

 

Now go forward, fix the subconscious, fill it with information that will send you on a path to financial well being.  With this new way of being you are empowered to truly pay yourself first.  As you do so and see your accounts grow rather than shrink you’ll be thrilled you intentionally chose financial fitness.  In fact you might just celebrate on the beaches of the world.