Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Failing Forward

Failure is a loaded word.  When most people think of failure, they think of loss, things not accomplished, unfulfilled potential, or not achieving a goal.  That outlook may be getting in the way of people realizing their dreams. Failing forward is a concept that encourages everyone to seek success in the face of adversity, to look for the upside when we fall down, and to turn failure into positive feedback. Here are a few examples to illustrate the point

At age 22, a young reporter was fired from her job co-anchoring the 6pm Baltimore nightly news after her program received low ratings.  Told that she was "unfit for TV," she was demoted, and she later called the experience "the first and worst failure of her TV career.”  That reporter was future talk show and lifestyle mogul Oprah Winfrey.

Timothy Ferris was an unknown author working in the nutritional supplement world, and received 25 rejections while trying to find a publisher for his first book.  When the 26th publisher finally took a chance on it, his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, reached #1 on both the New York Times bestseller list and the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. 

When singer Stefani Germanotta signed a record deal with the Def Jam label to release her debut album, she thought she’d made it as a musician.  But the label dropped her just three months later, before the album was even released, leaving her devastated.  Nevertheless, within a few short years, Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga, was a household name, being selected as one of the world's most influential people by Time Magazine.

Here’s a less famous example:  My brother founded and operated a record label right after he finished college.  During that time, he also started a band, serving as the lead singer.  He loved both his job and singing in his band, and was certain he was doing what he was meant to be doing with his life.  He had no other plans for his future, because he was sure that his life and career would have something to do with music.  One way or the other, he was confident that either his record label or his band would be his future.

Well, after ten years, he still enjoyed his work, but the changing industry and declining album sales persuaded him to sell the company.  And his band, as many bands do, eventually broke up due to the different ideas and personalities of its members.  Abruptly, my brother’s certainty about his future was shattered.  He was no longer in the music business.

My brother turns 40 on Friday, and if you ask if he considers running his label or singing in his band to have been failures, he’ll answer with an emphatic “No!”  He spent ten years putting out records from some of his favorite artists and getting them heard around the world.  He performed onstage for thousands of people in cities throughout Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Belgium, and the U.K., opening for one of his all-time favorite groups.  He learned what it takes to launch and run a business, and got the chance to make music that he still takes a huge amount of pride in.  The only failure would be if he wasn’t grateful for those experiences, or if he’d learned nothing from them that he could put to use in his life. 

For many people, failure is a sign that they shouldn’t have tried, and so they don’t want to try again.  But just because so many people are sidelined by failure doesn’t mean it has to be that way for you. 

Failure is your chance to learn and grow, to understand what works and what doesn’t, all so you can integrate it into your strategy for whatever you attempt next.  As long as you see failure as a roadblock to success, it’s almost certain to be one.  But the happiest, most successful people in the world think of their crushing moments of failure as the times when they figured out exactly what they needed to do in order to reach their goals. 

Michael Jordan once said, “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I've failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.

It’s up to you to decide: are you getting enough out of your failures?  Are you failing forward?  Happy Birthday to my brother Jadd!  Hope this weekly story is a gift that everyone can find value in.

Until next week…

Live Your Dreams,

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I’ll be honest:  I’ve never really had a taste for beer.  Occasionally I enjoy a few small sips, but the rest often goes to waste.  I’m in London this week teaching the 7 Mindsets, and came across an interesting beer that may begin changing my tastes, as well as inspiring this week’s story…

James was a bit of a rebel in school.  He didn’t simply accept the way things had always been done just because no one had thought to change them. He was also quite bright, and decided to study law and economics at Edinburgh University in Scotland. 

While at school, James shared an apartment with his childhood friend Martin, who was learning the art of beer brewing at another nearby college.  Both young men were bored with the flavorless, industrially-brewed lagers and ales that seemed to dominate the market. Martin graduated with honors, and went to work for a small independent brewery.  It was a perfect way to experiment and improve, since he was able to do so with someone else’s money.

When James graduated, he got a job doing entry-level legal work … and he hated it.  It felt so wrong that he left after just two weeks.  In need of income, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a professional fisherman. 

Obsessed with the lack of any beers being produced in the UK that they wanted to drink, James and Martin would order their favorite inventive craft beers from the USA, and then spend weekends trying to copy the beers themselves at home.  As time passed and they got better, the young men began to think about setting up a brewing business.  They asked a notable beer critic what he thought of their product, and with his encouragement, they decided to take the plunge. 

Using their own savings and a bit of money borrowed from family, James and Martin purchased some second-hand brewing equipment.  However, they couldn’t afford to pay professionals to assemble their brewing system, so they did all the wiring and welding themselves, falling off ladders and weathering electric shocks along the way. 

For the first six months, the pair worked twenty hours a day, making and bottling their beer by hand and trying to sell it around the region.  On an average day, they’d sell four or five cases. 

Growth was slow, and nearly everyone was telling them to make their beer cheaper and milder in order to better compete with the market giants.  But they were committed to the idea of making and selling only beers that they themselves enjoyed.  And they were determined that, if they were going to fail, it would be on their own terms, making the beers they wanted to make.

James sent some samples to a beer competition being held by a national grocery chain.  Amazingly, they finished first, second, third and fourth in the contest, and the chain wanted to put their beers into 600 stores nationwide. James did his best not to let on that the company was just he and his friend filling bottles by hand.  They had four months to figure out how to fill the order. 

Going to the bank, James and Martin explained the huge contract and their need for $150,000 to set up a bottling line.  They had only been in business for six months, though, and the bank representative essentially laughed in their faces.  The answer was no. 

Undeterred, Martin and James walked out and went into a rival bank next door.  With straight faces, they said that their current bank had just offered them an amazing finance deal based on their new grocery contract, but they were willing to switch if this bank could offer better terms.  Amazingly, the new bank liked the idea of getting involved with a young, up and coming company, and agreed to make the loan.  The bottling line was completed two weeks before the grocery order was due, and the first beer was finished just in time to ship.  And with that, their business really took off!

Founded by Martin Dickie and James Watt in 2007 when they were both just 24 years old, BrewDog is Scotland's largest independently-owned brewery, and one of the fastest growing companies in the United Kingdom.  They now export worldwide, and star in their own show about brewing on American TV.  Their mission has always been to make other people as passionate about great beer as they are, and they remain dedicated to doing things their way, no matter what tradition and the rules say.  Now I’ll drink to that!

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bringing Scotty Back

This week, I am in Fargo, North Dakota, training over 100 teachers to teach the 7 Mindsets to thousands of students at half a dozen schools.  This is my 10th trip to Fargo in just a few years as part of the continued effort to help Fargo become the first 7 Mindsets community in the world.  I’ve invited my wife to join me on many occasions, and when she recently did, that trip inspired this week’s story…

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock and roll, JR was dancing along to the radio when he was just a toddler.  Before he was 3 years old, he was already trying to sing in harmony with his favorite songs.  He started taking voice lessons very early, but it would be a few years before he had the notion to do anything serious with his talent.

When JR was 11, he competed in a big talent competition.  He gave it his best effort, but it wasn’t quite enough to win.  At his age, dealing with the loss was hard, and he considered quitting.  However, upon returning home, he learned of an open tryout for a popular after-school kids’ show.  Mustering his confidence despite the recent defeat, JR tried out… and made the cut.  But the show only lasted for two more seasons before it was cancelled and JR was once again wondering if he should keep trying.

Following the show’s cancellation, JR returned to regular life.  At 14, he was still young, but he hadn’t expected things to end so quickly.  When he received a call from another young musician who invited him to an audition for a group he was starting, JR wasn’t sure if he could take the rejection if it didn’t work out. JR realized that even though the other experiences didn’t end well, he still was having fun pursuing his passions…and maybe that was just as important.  He decided to go to the audition, and found there was genuine musical chemistry with the other guys.  The world would soon agree.

JR, whose full name is Justin Randall Timberlake, seemed to become famous overnight as the youngest member of the boy band ‘N Sync.  The truth, though, is that the young men rehearsed constantly, sweating through hours of practices to hone their dancing and singing to a level that would get labels interested.  It took more than three years for them to get an album released in the USA.  However, their hard work paid off.  Both their first and second albums eventually sold more than 10,000,000 copies, while their second and third albums are ranked as the two fastest-selling albums ever during the weeks of their release.

Today, Justin Timberlake is one of the most famous entertainers on the planet.  Besides his highly successful solo music career, he has ventured into acting, fashion, and even restaurant ownership.  But when looking at all he has attained, it’s incredibly important to remember that, like all of us, he has faced failure and disappointment, and has taken risks in leaving what’s familiar in order to try new things.  In fact, one interviewer even pointed out how easy everything seems when Justin does it, to which he answered, “Making it look easy is literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  All that time practicing in front of the mirror, holding an instrument with my fingers bleeding, rehearsing with legs and feet cramping… it’s the idea that if something is worth having, it has to be worth putting all of yourself into it.”

Although I invited my wife to join me in Fargo time and time again, she always thanked me and declined.  At the beginning of this year, though, she said she wanted to accompany me to Fargo in February.  I told her the temperature would be below zero and the streets would be covered with snow, but she said she didn’t mind.  I was a bit suspicious of her change of heart, and with good reason, it turned out.  Justin Timberlake was playing at the Fargo Dome that week, and she had already bought the tickets.

As you pursue your own dreams, keep in mind that the hardest part of facing an ending is beginning again.  I’m writing about JT because he found the courage to keep singing in the face of one defeat after another.  Find your song in life, and don’t give up too soon!  After years and years of hard work, thousands of hours of passionate dedication, and many failures, you too may become an overnight success.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Knocking for Opportunity

John was born to immigrant parents and grew up in Los Angeles. His parents divorced when he was two years old, and his mom struggled to make sure John and his brother never felt that they had less than anyone else.  Once, when the boys were young, she gave them a dime to put into a donation bucket.  They thought it was a lot of money to give away, but she said, “That’s to help people who really need it badly.  No matter what you have or don't have in your life, there's always somebody in more need than you are.”  The lesson made a lasting impression on John.

At 9 years old, his first job was selling Christmas cards door-to-door.  At 10, he had a paper route.  Each day, he got up at 4:00 AM to roll newspapers and deliver them before school started.  Unfortunately, when John’s mother became unable to support her sons, they were placed in a foster home.  John was angry and joined a street gang to gain a sense of belonging.  However, after one of his teachers told him that he would never succeed at anything, John decided to change his life and prove the teacher wrong. 

John spent two years in the Navy, then worked a variety of jobs ranging from janitor to insurance salesman.  At one point, he found himself homeless with a young son to care for.  He did everything he could to make ends meet, even collecting Coke bottles to turn in for a few cents each.  His most influential experience, though, was selling encyclopedias door-to-door.  Every day, dozens of people would close the door in his face as he tried to start his pitch.  But it made him a pro at pushing through difficulty.  On average, people stick with encyclopedia sales for just 3 days, but John stayed for 3 years.

One day, John was invited to have his long hair cut at a professional salon so the stylist could practice.  John accepted, and enjoyed the atmosphere so much that he decided to pursue a career in the world of hair care so he could spend more time in upscale salons.

He got a job working for a national hair care company, and quickly became one of their top sales people. After several years, he moved to a large shampoo manufacturer, and once again rose rapidly to the top of their sales and marketing team, but was fired when he ended up making more money than the company’s president.

At the age of 37, John decided to begin working for himself.  He and a new friend he’d made at a beauty convention developed an idea for a high quality shampoo that would save hair stylists lots of time.  The two formed a business partnership, and John found an investor willing to put in $500,000.  John thought he had everything ready to go, but on the day the money was supposed to come in, it never arrived.

Rather than giving up, John and his partner scrambled.  They pooled every dollar they could to get things off the ground – which, after a loan from John’s mother, totaled $700.  On top of this, John and his wife split up that week.  With no money left and nowhere to live, John found himself sleeping in his car as he and his partner launched their business.

John convinced a manufacturer to make a small batch of their shampoo and bill them two weeks after completion.  The $700 paid for the artwork, simple black print on white bottles because they couldn’t afford a color logo.  When the product was ready, John did what he did best:  he went door to door, selling the new shampoo to hair salons in person.

It took two years of financial struggle to get their business off the ground, but it certainly paid off.  Today, John Paul Mitchell Systems has over $900 million a year in sales and is sold to more than 150,000 hair salons in 87 countries.  That’s a lot of door knocking! John himself is worth more than $4 billion personally, after having the vision to also start the world’s first ultra-premium tequila brand, PatrĂ³n.  

It’s important to recognize that John Paul DeJoria found his success in the face of continuous adversity, rejection, and disappointment.  Far too often, people give up too soon.  When 10 doors get slammed in your face, remember that opportunity may be just one more knock away. When others are giving up, you need to get fired up.  Real failure only occurs when you stop trying.

Until next week…

Live Your Dreams!