Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Start Small, Finish Big.

James was always working for himself and saving for his future.  As a teen, he started an entrepreneurial lawn-care business cutting twenty-five lawns a week.  During summers, he tarred driveways.  And while he was at college, he delivered newspapers all four years to help cover his tuition.  Graduating with a bachelor's degree in government, James wanted to experience a bit more life before committing to a defined career path, so he embarked on an extended break. 

A friend and fellow mountain climber helped get James a job with Outward Bound, a program that builds confidence and improves the self-image of youth by teaching them outdoor survival skills.  James stayed for almost four years, learning the importance of leadership and challenging himself, as well as understanding how to assess risk.  He heavily relied on his experience with Outward Bound when he pursued his own adventure and climbed Alaska's Mount McKinley, where the wind chill can reach 100 degrees below zero.  Filled with a heightened sense of accomplishment, James returned to school.  At the age of twenty-nine, he graduated with an MBA from Harvard.

He joined the Boston Consulting Group, a prestigious firm where he was exposed to numerous ideas for moving businesses forward.  It was a good job where he made a lot of money, traveled the country, flew first class, and had a nice office.  But after five or six years, he started asking himself, “Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?  Is this going to be my last job?  Am I happy with that?”  He realized he was scared that the answers to these questions might be yes, which told him he needed to make a change.

James decided to tap into his roots.  His family possessed an original beer recipe developed in 1860 by his great-great-grandfather Louis, which had been brewed and sold under the family name until the early 1950s.  James believed that if he could give people a type of beer they'd never tried with a fresh, bold taste, a market would develop.  He wanted to change the way people thought about American beer, in the same way vintners in the Napa Valley, California had changed the world’s view of American wine.  

James’ father thought that brewing as a business was a terrible idea, because there was no way for his son to compete with the giant, corporate beer producers.  But James explained to his father that this wasn’t his goal.  The beer giants were the equivalent of McDonald’s, and James wanted to open the beer equivalent of a gourmet restaurant.  Yes, both serve food (or beer, in this case), but completely different types, meaning they wouldn’t really be competing.  Brewing in his kitchen, James tweaked the family recipe to develop a world-class beer with body and flavor, traits that had long been missing in American beers. 

Naming his beer after a colonial forefather who helped steer the country toward revolution and American independence, James envisioned his creation could free modern-day beer-drinkers from the weak, one-dimensional beers they were used to.  Renting a truck, he hit the streets of Boston, persuading bar owners to try the beer a case at a time.  His goal was to sell 5,000 barrels a year.  At that level, he’d have a solid business, earn a good living, and he’d be happy.

James “Jim” Koch never predicted that the little Boston brewery he started on a shoe-string budget would gain national acclaim.  Just six weeks after he started selling it, his Samuel Adams Boston Lager won the award for America’s best beer at the Great American Beer Festival.  Sales grew 30 to 60 percent per year, and today, Jim’s company is the largest American craft-brewer, selling more than 2.7 million barrels a year.

In a recent interview, Jim said, “When you start a small business, the chances that it’s going to make you wealthy are infinitesimal, and really should not be a factor in your decision.  The cool part about starting your own small business is that the chances for it to make you happy and satisfied are pretty good.”

So whether you have a job, are seeking a job, or are looking to create a job through your own business, remember the importance of beer.  Wait, that’s not it.  Remember the importance of putting your passion first, filling a need, and pouring your heart into everything you do.   

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thoughts Become Things

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Wayne was the youngest of three brothers.  His father was an abusive alcoholic who had spent time in prison and abandoned his family when Wayne was still a baby.  In fact, Wayne would never formally meet his father.

Wayne’s mother couldn’t support her sons, and was forced to enter them into foster care until she could get on her feet.  Working as a candy girl for $17 a week, it would be years before she would reunite her family.  Wayne was in and out of different orphanages and foster homes before his mother finally regained custody when he was ten years old.

As a child, Wayne was exposed to a lot of scarcity, poverty and hunger, but he never felt sorry for himself.  Many of his peers would wake up saying, ‘I’m an orphan, isn’t this terrible?’  But Wayne wasn’t a complainer.  Looking at the large houses in the neighborhoods nearby, he believed that if he really wanted those things, then he could eventually have them as well. 

Wayne began to learn that being of service seemed to attract positive things into his life.  When it snowed, he’d go out and shovel the walks along the street.  He didn’t ask for anything, but would just go back and tell people, “I shoveled your walk.” He’d go to the grocery store and help people carry their bags out.  They were always grateful, and often gave him money.  And when he found out that an empty soda bottle was worth a few cents when it was returned, he would follow people around and offer to take the bottles off their hands when they were finished.  In spirit and in wealth, Wayne was the richest kid in the orphanage.

He began to understand how his thinking affected his life.  Early on, Wayne latched on to the idea that thoughts become things.  It felt like he’d been given the secret to the most powerful force in the universe, that his life could be whatever he wished if he learned to make his thoughts work for him.

After high school, Wayne enlisted in the U.S. Navy.  The experience convinced him that he wanted to have more control of his own life, so he enrolled in college.  At the age of 25, he started his professional career as a high school guidance counselor.  Six years later, after receiving his doctorate in education, he became a professor at St. John’s University in New York.  He was publishing articles in trade journals and building a solid counseling practice, and was well on his way to success in a traditional academic career.

Wayne was also giving lectures on positive thinking and self-improvement.  The talks were growing steadily in popularity, and caught the attention of a literary agent, who proposed that Wayne put his ideas in writing.  The result was a book that gave readers a step-by-step method for escaping the traps of negative thinking and taking control of their lives. 

Wayne’s book was published, but it was not an instant bestseller.  Disappointed with its initial sales, Wayne found himself at a crossroads.  He liked his job, but he believed deeply in the ideas in his book.  Wayne decided to leave the University and devote himself full-time to being an author. 

Wayne purchased 3,000 copies of his own book from the publisher and loaded them into his station wagon.  He embarked on a nationwide tour that lasted more than a year, calling and visiting newspapers, TV and radio stations in an effort to generate buzz.  He even called local bookstores in each city, putting on fake accents and pretending to be potential customers looking for the book.

By the time he reached the West Coast, all his time and effort had paid off:  his book had made it onto the New York Times bestseller list.  It remained there for 64 weeks, and resulted in an appearance on The Tonight Show.  That exposure, along with the appeal of his self-made success, propelled both the book and its author to superstar status, officially launching Dr. Wayne Dyer into the cultural consciousness.  To date, his first book, Erroneous Zones, has sold approximately 37 million copies in 47 languages, and has become one of the bestselling books of all time.

Here’s my favorite advice from Wayne:  With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift.  Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing.  Every day, you get to choose!”

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Star is Born

Charlie was raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and began taking ballet lessons at the age of six.  She loved it, and she was a natural. At the age of twelve, this passion led her to begin studying flamenco and contemporary dance at a school that specialized in the arts.

Unfortunately, things were bad at home.  Charlie’s father was an alcoholic, and he was becoming violent.  One weekend, he arrived home after a night of drinking and began shooting at the kitchen door.  Threatening to shoot his wife and daughter, he fired again into Charlie’s room.  Feeling she had no other option, Charlie’s mother shot back with her own handgun, killing her husband.  She was devastated, but intent not to let her actions destroy her daughter’s future.  Determined to face the consequences herself, she insisted that Charlie continue her life away from home.

Charlie’s mother never faced prosecution.  The incident was ruled self-defense, and Charlie moved forward as best as she could.  At sixteen, she entered a modeling contest and won a trip to represent South Africa at a competition in Italy.  She won again in Italy, and was soon securing modeling jobs all over Europe.  She liked the work, but didn’t find it artistically satisfying, mainly because she liked to say what was on her mind.  In that industry, no one was interested in her opinions or ideas, just that she stand, move, and smile on command.  After a year, she decided to return to ballet.

Moving to New York, Charlie began attending the Joffrey Ballet School, financing it with modeling work in her spare time.  However, her ballerina dreams were soon crushed when she blew out her knee in class.  Realizing she couldn’t dance anymore, Charlie fell into depression.  She needed a new plan.

At nineteen years old, Charlie arrived in Hollywood with one tattered suitcase, $400, and a dream of finding her way in the movie business.  Part of what she had loved about dancing was the feeling of being able to work hard at something and get results.  She reasoned that acting was similar to dancing, because in each, there was an opportunity to be creative, tell a story, and work hard to improve.

She didn't know a single person in Los Angeles, so she walked out of the airport and asked a cab driver to take her to the cheapest hotel in Hollywood.  It was a dive that rented by the hour, but she took a bottle of bleach and cleaned the place up.  Her attitude was simple:  if things didn't work out, at least she was seeing the world.  And from her window, she could see the Hollywood sign.

Charlie waited tables to pay the rent, and began taking acting classes.  Before long, though, she was nearly broke and living on leftover restaurant bread.  Finally, she went to the bank to cash her last modeling check.  But because it was an out-of-state check, the bank wouldn't accept it.  Trying to convince the bank teller to help her, Charlie went from pleading to begging to near-hysterics.  It was an act, in part, but it was also survival, because if she didn’t cash the check, she would have nowhere to sleep that night.

Finally, a man in line came over to help.  Through his intervention, Charlie was able to open an account and cash her check.  What she didn’t know was that she’d been unwittingly auditioning for him.  Outside the bank, he gave her his card.  He was a Hollywood talent manager with a number of high-profile clients, and said, “If you’re interested, I’ll represent you.”  She agreed, and within a few months, Charlie made her film acting debut.

Ten years after arriving in Hollywood, Charlie, better known as Charlize Theron, accepted the Academy Award for Best Actress in the movie Monster.  She had gained thirty pounds and had her legendary beauty completely obscured to play the award-winning role. In interviews, Charlize talks about luck playing a role in her success, but was it luck that pushed her to work hard, take chances, and refuse a career path that didn’t allow her to be her authentic self?

There’s an old saying: “Fake it till you make it.”  In other words, act like you’re successful even before you actually become successful.  Just remember that you can’t fake authenticity.  Once you discover who you’re truly meant to be… act the part!  That’s how stars are born, and there’s no one out there who can play the role better than you.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Smoke Signals

I recently reached one million miles flown on Delta Airlines.  That’s a lot of air travel, and it led me to reflect on some of my favorite trips.  There was the 16-hour flight to South Africa with my family last summer, my recent trip to London to expand the 7 Mindsets in the UK, my Hawaiian getaway with my wife before we had children, and the 7 trips in two years I’ve taken to Fargo, North Dakota to help create the world’s first 7 Mindsets Community.  But my most memorable flight was this one…

“Smoke! The plane is filling with smoke!”

People were yelling frantically.  I was sitting in the tenth row, and hearing the commotion, I turned to look.  It was true.  A cloud of white smoke was billowing from the back of the plane and slowly filling the cabin. 

I tried to make sure I wasn’t asleep.  No such luck.  Then the captain came over the intercom and said, “We have a situation and need to make an emergency landing.  Please remain calm.”  Reasonable instructions, I thought, but people were panicking nonetheless.  What to do?  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and tried to relax. Focus, I thought.  Focus on what I want and not on what I don’t want.

The night before, I had received an exciting phone call that Jane Fonda (film legend, activist, and philanthropist) was willing to meet with me.  Preventing unwanted teen pregnancies was important to Jane, and my team’s research had revealed a new approach to help address this societal problem.  I had been trying to get a meeting with her for six months, and now it was going to happen.  That is, if I could be at her office in Atlanta by 11 o’clock the next morning.  Ordinarily this would be a breeze, but I was in New York City, which often makes things trickier.

I booked a 6:30am flight to Atlanta and got to LaGuardia airport on time.  The plane was half empty when I boarded, and we even left a few minutes early.  Everything was going perfectly… until the screaming began.

Within minutes, the captain announced that we were turning around and landing at JFK, New York’s other major airport.  The airports are only twelve miles apart, but this was an emergency.  I remember thinking that no passenger has ever been on a jumbo jet for only twelve miles before.  With my eyes closed, I focused my thoughts on the outcome I desired.  “We are going to land safely,” I thought to myself.  “They’ll let us off the plane, and I will get to Atlanta on time.  Jane will love me!”  Inhale.  Exhale.

Minutes later, we landed, and shortly thereafter, the door opened.  Inside the terminal, thirty previously frantic travelers formed a long line at the customer service counter in front of me.

I had no time to wait.  I exited the airport and jumped in a taxi.  Before I could shut the door, a man ran up and asked if he could share my cab.  I told him I was going to LaGaurdia, and he said he was, too.  It turned out that he was the captain of the plane I’d just been on.  He told me there had been an electrical fire, and we were lucky that it happened during takeoff.  Thirty minutes later, he used his credentials to get us both on the 8:30am flight to Atlanta, where we both ended up in first class.  I made my 11am meeting with a few minutes to spare.  What a morning!

The meeting went well, and Jane even talked about my ideas that night on National Public Radio.  One highlight of the meeting was when she asked if I was married. When I told her yes, she said, “That’s too bad.  My niece Bridget just broke up with her boyfriend, and she would really like you.”  And with that, Jane exited the room, leaving me thinking, “Bridget Fonda is single?”

That flight was many years ago, but the experience and lessons remain with me to this day.  Even when you have a clear vision of what you want and a burning desire to achieve it, you may still encounter obstacles along the way.  To truly be successful, you must remain calm in the eye of the storm.  Continue to expect success and adjust your course as often as needed.  Sometimes smoke is just a reminder of the passionate fire inside you!

Until next week…

Live Your Dreams