Storytelling Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
success

The Three Laws for Entrepreneurial Success

After four decades in the business world, I have found that three laws truly summarize an entrepreneur’s recipe for success: Passion, People, & Process.

Passion: The 1st Law for Entrepreneurial Success

First, you must be passionate about what you deliver to your customers and clients. Nothing great in life has ever been accomplished without passion. This starts by making sure you and your team are working in your flame and not in your wax. When people are working in their flame, they are on fire. It shows in the way they act, and it shows in the way they speak about what they do. When people are working in their wax, it takes all their energy away. You can see it in the way they act and the way they speak.

Not long ago, I had someone say to me they were training people in their company on how to do something very important. After they did the training about 10 times, they were getting bored. That worried me at first because it sounded like “training” was this person’s wax. So I asked him some questions. He said he really enjoyed the training, but teaching the same material over and over caused his boredom. He didn’t know what to do about it. I told him two things:

  • Sell the Sizzle

The next time he does the training, recognize that this might be the 11th time he’s done the presentation, but it is the first time that particular audience has ever heard it. I asked him to think about how excited he was when he was the one learning this content for the first time. Embrace that feeling and make sure the team feels the excitement of learning this content for the first time as well.

  • Re-live the Story

Storytelling is an important part of teaching your team new ideas. Make sure to “re-live” the story – don’t just “re-tell” the story. Re-living the story gives you that same excitement as when you first experienced it or heard it. It is that kind of passion that you need to apply to your business.

I saw him about a year later. He had now done the training dozens and dozens of times. He told me that my advice completely changed his approach and the people in his company who went to his training came out supercharged about the organization. It gave him great joy to see the “lights turn on” when he trained employees. This is what happens when you are passionate about the service you have to offer.

People: The 2nd Law for Entrepreneurial Success

People are the next piece of the formula. They are the most valuable asset for virtually every company in the world. People drive the engine of a business. To me, this means at least two things:

  • Constantly pour into your team

Help them improve their performance by supporting them through training and mentoring. Entrepreneurs who make sure their people receive proper mentoring are going to be more successful. We all have people in our lives that are “in our story.” These are people who have given us little nuggets of help or major support in some way. These are people who helped us be a better version of ourselves. A great entrepreneur, however, recognizes that the true measure of mentorship is not who is in our story, but rather whose story are we in? Whose life have we changed in some way to help them be a better version of themselves?

  • Be a culture champion

An organization’s culture is the secret sauce to great companies. It is the DNA of an organization. Make sure that the core values of the business are infused into the hearts and minds of the people throughout your organization. If you have healthy organizational core values and you strive hard to share them and live them, you help to form a team of people who will be loyal to the organization’s values as well. When this happens, make sure to treat that loyalty like royalty in the organization.

Process: The 3rd Law for Entrepreneurial Success

Lastly, it is about the process. Having good systems in place allows people to engage in their passion to deliver quality performance. The process is important. Systems are important. Here are two thoughts about the process:

  • Collaboration

While process and systems are important, it is also important to understand that you must apply the processes more like Mandela than Attila. In other words, don’t be a tyrant in the application of your systems. When I was 13 years old, my mother gave me a paperweight which is still sitting on my desk to this day. It says, “Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” She told me this was about collaboration, not manipulation. It was about working with people to help achieve success for everyone.

  • Innovation

Check your processes regularly. Don’t be enslaved to old practices. Many times, I’ve seen companies create incredibly cumbersome processes that are demoralizing to people in the organization. Here, it is important that the entrepreneur listens to their team when they say that a process is complicated. Have mechanisms in place to ensure communication. I have found that having advisory bodies in place representing the people who perform the work, as well as those who receive the service, truly helps to deliver a better product. I also recommend that you go in and actually perform the process yourself to see what they see. That can truly be an enlightening experience.

If you create an organization that executes well in these three areas: passion, people, and process; you will be a force to reckon with. You will become a leader in your industry, and you will create an amazing enterprise.

Stories

We All Tell Stories

Today’s guest blog is an extract from “The Introvert’s Edge to Networking”, by Matthew Pollard about the transformative power of stories. Matthew is the founder and CEO of Rapid Growth, LLC. He is a good friend who has shared much of my content on his platform. I thought you might enjoy some of Matthew’s great material.

Bethany and Shan Jenkins were luxury custom home builders. They worked with people who wanted that “crown jewel,” the $3–$10 million home that blew you away. While networking, they’d meet people who wanted a home like this, but would say, “We’re looking for a designer now; we’ll reach out to you when we’re looking for a builder.” Or, “We have a builder we like already; we’re just looking for a designer to get it drafted.” When they’d try to network with realtors, the response was generally, “We already have a builder we recommend.”

But Jenkins Custom Homes isn’t just a builder—it’s a design-build firm. The distinction is important. When the design and build are done by separate firms, the two sides rarely communicate well with each other, leading to last-minute chaos. The stress can take its toll on a marriage, leave customers with a house they resent, and even turn a dream home into a nightmare. That’s why it’s so important to work with a design-build company who knows what the extras cost and how to design their client’s dream home within budget.

The Jenkins team had a problem communicating this. Bethany felt they came off sounding as though they were bad-mouthing the competition—or trying to scare prospects into giving Jenkins their business. I told Bethany we could create a system for her that leveraged her natural introverted strengths. She asked, “How do I not sound salesy when people say, ‘I’ve already got a relationship with a designer; I’m just looking for a builder’—or vice versa?” “Just tell them stories,” I said. “For example, have you ever had a prospect come to you with a designer’s plans, only to inform them that the design didn’t fit their budget?”

Stories Sell

Bethany told me about Megan, who came to their office, explained what she wanted, then handed over her designer’s plans. The discussion went well, so to conclude the meeting, Shan said, “Great, let us take a look over your plans in more detail and we’ll get back to you on a fixed price.”

Megan replied, quite anxiously, “Can you just give me a ballpark figure now?” Normally, it takes time to calculate all the costs correctly. But Megan was quite insistent. So, Shan gave her a rough guesstimate. Megan burst into tears. She told them that she had informed her designer what her budget was. But after getting the plans, she’d gone to four different builders whose prices were double what she’d budgeted. Megan had worked with her designer for two years to plan the home of her dreams . . . and now five builders had told her there was no way she could afford it. She was either going to have to cancel building her home or spend more money to design a lesser home, always knowing it wasn’t what she really wanted. “How could this happen?” she cried.

I said to Bethany, “As unfortunate as poor Megan’s situation is, it’s a perfect story for showing—not telling—people why working with a designer and builder separately is so risky.” Today, when networking, if someone says, “I’ve already got a relationship with a designer, I’m just looking for a builder,” Bethany simply responds, “Congratulations on starting the process toward your dream home. What a huge milestone. If you’ve already locked in with a designer you’re happy with, excellent. However, has anyone told you about going the designer-then-builder path versus the design-build path, and why it matters so much?”

Many look puzzled and say, “No, what’s that?” Bethany continues: “Well, the major difference is—actually, you know what? Let me give you an example. See, when Megan came to us . . .” Bethany then wraps it up with: “So, of course, I’m not saying if you design and build separately this will happen to you, and I really hope it doesn’t. However, regardless of whether you use us or another design-build option, I strongly suggest you explore the possibility.”

When they do, who do you think they’ll see as the only logical choice? Isn’t that so much easier than self-promotion or feeling like you’re coming across as instilling fear? A simple story neatly sidesteps all that. You’re not expressly telling them they’re doing it wrong, so it doesn’t come across as judgmental. You’re not lecturing. You’re not even saying they should hire you or that their way won’t work. Megan’s story served as a way to educate prospects on the risks while inspiring interest in a different solution. It showed that Bethany understood her listeners, their fears, and how to avoid them.

Megan’s story and two other stories catapulted Jenkins Custom Homes from an annual turnover of $6 million after almost twenty years of operation, to more than $18 million the following year. Moreover, it took an introvert from hating the idea of selling and networking to loving it and dominating her industry! That’s the transformative power of stories.

The Introvert’s Edge to Networking

Matthew Pollard’s new book, The Introvert’s Edge to Networking, is available now.

Download the first chapter free here and check it out for yourself.

Purchase your copy of The Introvert’s Edge to Networking today.

When you purchase, Matthew will also give you free instant access to over $700 worth of bonuses, including The Official Introvert’s Edge Step-By-Step Implementation Training and a personal invitation to his private Facebook community of like-minded introverts.

To claim your bonuses, sign up here with your name, email and order confirmation number.

Robert

How to Get Attention, Build Trust and Generate Better Customers, Simplified by Robert Skrob

I’ve asked Robert Skrob to write another guest blog for my site. Today, he is sharing the topic of Jim Collins’ Good to Great. “Good is the enemy of great” rallied players of the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning toward this professional hockey franchise’s first Stanley Cup. They were repeating the mantra within the business book phenomenon of the last decade, Jim Collins’ Good to Great, published in 2001. Over 2 million copies of the book were sold, creating a huge consulting and publishing business.

 

But what made the book Good to Great so great? Jim Collins used engaging and memorable stories to illustrate his otherwise mundane points.

The actual lessons of the stories, “hire the right people,” “stick with what you are good at,” and “building momentum with a consistent effort toward one organizational goal” are well-known business concepts.  Yet, his book was propelled to the top (and his consulting firm with it) by the power of those stories he uses to illustrate those points.

 

Jim Collins’ international bestseller became famous because of its compelling stories rather than its revolutionary wisdom.

 

Learning Stories

Just like Collins’ “get the right people on the bus” and “fly wheel” stories, Learning Stories illustrate specific teaching lessons. Each story focuses on a problem and provides details on how the problem was solved with an explanation of why it worked. Your goal for Learning Stories is to get your audience to say, “Now I know how to avoid that mistake” and “That makes sense now that it has been explained to me.”

 

Within Learning Stories, it’s important to provide a detailed context. Your audience must be able to see themselves confronted with the problem of putting together the right team to understand that they must get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. That’s why in Collins’ book, the author spends a lot of time talking about the problem team members and the frustrations the business faced before coming to this realization.

 

Spur Action Stories

These stories get someone to take action. A common example is the NutriSystem commercials that feature Dan Marino saying “I lost 22 pounds, and you can, too. Lose the weight; get back in the game.” This is a simple example because the target audience for this ad readily recognizes Dan Marino’s name, but this story has all of the basic elements of a Spur Action story.

 

Spur Action stories describe a successful action that took place in the past, state, or implies the impact of inaction and allow the audience to see themselves in that position. Your goal with these stories is to get the audience to say, “What if that were me?” and “It’s only going to get worse unless I do something about it.”

 

Mission Stories

A lot of marketers teach you to give a “reason why.” For example, if you are having a sale, you can’t tell your prospects that you are having a sale to generate new customers to upsell them into other products. Instead, it has to be because you over-purchased, it’s St. Patrick’s Day or you have a tax bill to pay. But whatever the “reason why,” it’s more than “sales are low and you need to generate some interest with lower prices.”

 

When someone is considering working with you, they are asking themselves, “What’s in this for you?” If your stated motivation is nothing other than profit, you’ll be looked at with suspicion.

 

Walt Disney was a relentless promoter of his theme parks. However, his customers forgave him because of his stated mission, “To create a place for parents and children to spend pleasant times in one another’s company, a place for teachers and pupils to discover greater ways of understanding and education.” In Good to Great, Jim Collins includes a Mission Story about creating a more productive world with leaders that employ his philosophies.

 

Empathy Stories

When I first heard about story writing, I was totally intimidated. I told myself, “Oh great, now I have to learn something else. How in the world am I supposed to become a good storyteller?” While I always marveled at stories and enjoyed hearing them, I believed storytelling was out of reach for me. I’m an analytical person and just not creative enough to invent stories. When I forced myself to try to write stories, I figured out that it’s not about inventing stories. Creating stories is simply writing down what happened. And I realized I told stories all the time—to friends, to my wife, and to my kids. All I had to do was channel a skill I already had into stories with a purpose.

 

Empathy stories relate to what your readers are thinking or feeling about a situation, empathize with their belief, and then show why that belief is false. The quick story above addresses a concern you may have had learning to write stories yourself. In it, I reveal that I had misgivings about what I’m now teaching, acknowledge the reasons for my belief, and then show why that belief was false.

 

Origin Stories

Good to Great includes a detailed description of the research methodology used to determine what great companies do that others do not. Collins gives descriptions of several great companies as well as a set of other companies he uses as comparisons.

 

Origin Stories are the most important stories for you to use regularly. When your customers look at you today, they see a successful person, someone with a lot of knowledge and money. They perceive you are different from them.

 

Writing Your Own Stories

The great communicators all use stories to help their audiences understand their messages. As you watch television and listen to radio commentators, keep an ear out for the stories. While reading books, pay attention to the stories and start a little catalog of stories organized by the five types outlined here. Soon, crafting stories and communicating in stories will become as easy as getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus.

 

Roof Technique

The Cat’s on the Roof Technique

I was talking to someone recently that had to announce something new to his team that he felt would be “perceived” as bad.  However, he also felt confident that it would lead to some great things afterward.  He was concerned about the initial perception and anticipated pushback.  He believed that this would keep the team from moving forward to implement the changes.  I listened to his ideas and I agreed. There would be pushback AND it was the smart move.  So, I told him to use the Cat’s on the Roof technique.  He asked me what that was, so I shared this story with him:

The Cat’s on the Roof Technique

There were two brothers and one was going to take a vacation.  So, the brother says to the other brother “can you look after my cat while I’m on vacation?” And the other brother says, “sure no problem.” A week later the brother comes back from vacation and says “how’s the cat?” And the other brother says “oh, sorry man, the cat’s dead.” The brother says “what?!” The other brother says, “yeah sorry, the cat died.”  Then the brother says, “are you kidding me, man, you don’t just spring that on somebody!” The other brother says “how should I have done it?”  The brother said, “I don’t know, prepare me a little, tell me ‘the cat was on the roof, and you walked out and saw it, it started sliding, you ran over to get it but you didn’t make it in time.  You then took the cat to the vet to try to save it and then after that – you can say “I’m really sorry but your cat passed away.  That’s the way you prepare somebody.” The other brother says, “got it, I understand now.”

Then the first brother changes the subject and asks, “How’s mom?” The other brother says “well, mom was on the roof.”

Change for innovation

People hate surprises they perceive to be negative.  Change has elements of surprise to it.  Even when people say they want to change they often don’t react well.  When the change happens, they will often say something like, “yea I wanted to change but I didn’t think it would look like that!”   Change scares people, even when it’s change that can lead to something better.

I have found the “Cat’s on the Roof Technique” is an excellent method you can use to transition people over time to something new.  Don’t just spring change on people if you can avoid it.  Do it with a lot of communication, gradually, over time.

 

Brigadier General

What a Brigadier General Taught Me About Business

When I was a young man just starting my doctoral degree at USC, I had the opportunity to study under a retired Brigadier General from the army. In retrospect, he was one of the best professors that I had during my tenure. In that course, he told me a story that has stayed with me for many decades.

The General told me this story in the early 1980’s. He said that when he was a young first lieutenant (which was decades before that) he was stationed in Britain. As a lieutenent, he was tasked to do a “time and motion study” of a British artillery division. My professor went to the unit and carefully watched as the men prepared to fire the guns. He said he watched as they prepared the weapons to fire. When they were ready, one man marched confidently to the left and stood at attention with his hands behind his back and nodded to the artillery men. They then, proceeded to fire the guns.

The general (then a lieutenant), asked the man why he marched to the left and stood at attention before they fired the weapons? The soldier told him that was the way he was trained to do the procedure. The lieutenant asked the soldier who trained him. The soldier replied that the sergeant trained him. Consequently, the lieutenant went to the sergeant and asked him why he trained the men to march to the left and hold their hands behind their back before they motioned for the weapons to be fired? The sergeant replied that the master sergeant had trained him to do it that way. So, the lieutenant went to the master sergeant and asked him why he trained the sergeants to train the men to fire the weapons that way. The master sergeant said “that’s the way we’ve always done it in this man’s army sir.” He had no further insight as to why it was done that way.

The leaky bucket…

So, my professor (then a lieutenant), went off to produce his report regarding the process. One evening he decided to take a break and went to a local pub frequented by many military personnel. While there, he found himself sitting next to a very elderly retired sergeant major from the army.

Now you have to understand that I met the retired general in the early 1980’s and he spoke to this sergeant major when he was a very young first lieutenant. He said this retired soldier was involved in the military back in the old “cavalry” days.

My professor told the retired soldier that he was very perplexed by this artillery process and he asked him if he had any idea why the men would march to the left and hold their hands behind their back. When my professor asked his question, the old sergeant major said, “why lad… they’re holding the horses of course.”

The general, now my professor, said that it had been decades since the military had to hold the horses before the men fired the guns. Yet, there were still men holding these non-existent horses! He also had another great story about communication.

wheels

Dude, Where are My Wheels

I recently visited Los Angeles and drove through an area that I grew up around. I was regaling my wife with a personal story about a job I had in a pretty tough neighborhood when I was in college. It was about how having a strong network can always help you in difficult situations. At the end of the story, she said, “You have to write about this “Wheels” experience!” So, here it is.

Dude, Where are My Wheels

I grew up in a very working-class environment early in my life. It was roughly 1975, working on my bachelor’s degree while I was employed at a hardware store in South El Monte, California. Now, you have to understand that South El Monte was a pretty tough neighborhood. We had a fair number of gangs active in the area.

We closed the store one evening around 7:00 p.m. It took about 30 minutes to close all the registers and leave the store. In that 30-minute period, a lot could happen in that particular neighborhood. Around 7:30 p.m., we walked out of the store and found one of the employee’s cars sitting in the parking lot. It was literally propped up on blocks. Someone had stolen all four of my co-worker’s “awesome” wheels and left the car on four concrete blocks where it sat, waiting for him when he got off work. Clearly, he was apoplectic when we walked out. He went absolutely crazy!

What’s amazing to me was that one of the employees who lived locally said to the other employee, “Calm down, relax and give me a while. I’ll make a call and see what I can do. Go back into the store and wait. I’ll let you know when to come back out.”

Within an hour, he came in and said it was OK to come back out. We went back into the parking lot, and lo and behold, there was his car with the wheels. They were re-installed, bright shiny rims and all — good as new!

It turns out that the local employee had friends in the gang that was known for heisting awesome wheels off cars. He simply made a call to one of the members he knew well (to clarify, he wasn’t in the gang, but he “knew people” in the gang). All it took to have the wheels returned was one phone call to that one gang member he knew well. I was about 18 years old, and I think this was one of the first really powerful lessons I experienced about the value of  an important tenet in networking.

Knowing the right people

This unfortunate story in my youth taught me the importance of knowing the right people. It helped me to learn that it’s not what you know — or who you know, it’s how well you know each other that counts.

Andy Lopata

The A-Z of Networking: S is for… (by Andy Lopata) [PART 2]

This month, Andy Lopata shares more of his networking tips which begin with the letter “S”

  • Sales
  • Self Belief
  • Sharing
  • Silent
  • Simplicity
  • Slow Down
  • Smile
  • Specific
  • Speaking Up
  • Stories
  • Strategic

and more about Networking “S” previously in PART 1: click here

Click here to watch this video

Please click below to see Andy’s playlist of his networking tips from A to Z.

https://ivanmisner.com/category/a-to-zs-of-networking/

By knowing why you are networking and what you want to achieve, it is possible to plan accordingly and get great, measurable results. If you have any comments about Andy’s “S” list or any additional “S” words about networking you will want to add to the list. please leave me a comment below.

Andy Lopata

As a business networking strategist, Andy Lopata works with companies on how to use networking tools to develop their businesses. Networking is not just about sales. Whether for lead generation, breaking down silos internally, recruitment and retention of top staff or developing future leaders, networks and collaboration have a key role to play. Andy works with clients to help recognize that role and put the strategy and skills in place to leverage it.

greatest asset

How talking too much in class turned into my greatest asset

Those tendencies standing “in your way” can be “the way”‘ to success and can become your greatest asset. When I was in elementary school, I generally received good reports from my teachers. However, one thing that came up time and time again was a comment by almost all of my teachers: “Ivan talks too much in class.”

My mother had numerous conversations with me about this but to no avail. I figure that she thought my grades were pretty good and she generally liked to pick and choose her battles on issues. Consequently, she didn’t really push the matter, and so… I talked and talked and talked in class. It showed up on many of my report cards. My teachers felt that it was a problem for me in school. On the other hand, my mother didn’t give me much grief on the subject.

My Greatest Asset

My talking too much in class was thought of as a roadblock by my teachers. Candidly, at one point, they almost had me convinced that it was a problem. My mother — not so much. She didn’t see my talking as such a big issue and that gave me the freedom to be myself. True, I had to tone it down a bit — but it wasn’t drummed out of me. I am grateful for that because, despite the fact that some people thought that talking was blocking my way, the truth is — it would eventually become “the way” for my life.

While the teachers definitely felt that it was a roadblock to my learning, I think they may have been wrong on that. What my teachers saw as a problem ended up becoming an incredible asset. I talk a lot. I talk to individuals, small groups, middle size groups, large groups, and massive groups. Any way you cut it — I’m a talker. It is my greatest asset. My job today is to talk to people. In fact, I get paid to talk. I get paid a crazy number to talk to companies, associations, and organizations. I love to share ideas with people, I love to coach people, and most of all I love to inspire people. And to do that — I talk.

Over the years, I’ve learned that oftentimes, What is in the way, becomes the way”.  

I believe the secret is to take the thing that is “in the way” and channel your efforts in a manner that makes that problem part of the solution. I have noticed that my wife, Elisabeth, has been able to channel what was in the way for her as a child and how powerfully that has served her. She was constantly being told that she was “too rebellious.” She had a very hard time doing things she was told she had to do just because an authority figure in life told her she must do them. Now when she was faced with a medical diagnosis and told by her medical doctor that there was only one path, her strong “rebellious” nature found another, more effective and gentle healing path. What was in her way has become her way!

Some of us do this unconsciously. However, imagine how impactful this paradigm could be if we were more conscious of it at work in our lives. I would encourage you to think about something you were told was “in the way” as part of your life? Has it “become the way” for you and your greatest asset? If so, how? For me — of the first things in my life that were in the way was that I talked too much in class. Looking back, I’d have to say it worked out pretty well. 

storytellers

Storytellers are Important in Networking

Before television there was radio. Before radio there were books. And before books there were storytellers. The power of a well-told tale, passed down from generation to generation and recited from memory over a campfire, is the power that brought people together and formed the beginnings of cultures that have lasted even to the present day. No matter what the medium – stone tablets, movies, grocery store tabloid, the Internet – the story is central.
 
A good story stays with people and compels them to share it with others. It’s as true today as it was two thousand years ago – and it’s especially true of success stories. Everyone likes to hear them; everyone likes to have one. And doesn’t this align nicely with word-of-mouth marketing, where referrals are based on thousands of individual success stories? Every time one networker passes a referral to another, she is telling a story about a need fulfilled successfully or a problem solved effectively.
 “A number of years ago, I met Robert Dickman, author of The Elements of Persuasion, and he taught me the formula for a good story:
 
A story is a fact
Wrapped in emotion
That compels us to take action
That transforms us in some way
firehose

Are you drinking from a firehose?

When talking about their business with their potential referral sources, I see many entrepreneurs try to get in everything they do in about 30 seconds. It goes by so fast, that they miss most of it; frankly, they tune out after the first few items on the list. They are trying to get others to drink from a firehose,

I encourage you to focus on one thing at a time of your areas of expertise…keep in mind that you are not marketing to your referral sources! You are, in effect, training a sales force. Your networking team is there to keep an eye out for your potential clients. If you “target talk”, that is, hone in on exactly what type of client you are looking for, better, more qualified referrals will result.

If you break your business down into its focused keywords and feature just one keyword each week, you will find that you become much more effective in training your sales force. They will learn more about each thing you do and be able to recognize when they are in front of someone who really does need your product.

This skill set is especially productive when you are meeting weekly with a strong contact network. The difference between trying to say it all each week and focusing on one aspect of your business each week is huge! The impact that this will have on your referral sources is also huge. As you discuss each keyword, share an example with a client story, things you can show and tell that will cement this aspect of your business in your referral sources’ minds.

Facts tell, but stories sell

not come matters

It’s Not Where You Come From That Matters Most

My mother passed away about six years ago and my father passed away two years ago.  My family was of modest means, but my parents were always loving and supportive. It never felt like we were poor. It’s not where you come from that matters most.

Last week I was going through some of my father’s estate documents to wrap up things. I came across something that I’d be looking for, over many years.

Although I grew up in Southern California, I was born in Pittsburgh.  We moved to the L.A. area when I was only six years old.  My Dad didn’t really know Los Angeles very well. He rented an apartment for us until they could find a home in the suburbs.  I remembered that the apartment was near South Central L.A. but I couldn’t remember exactly where.  I asked him about it a couple times and he couldn’t remember the address but he confirmed that it was near that area.  I have some vivid memories of how troubled the neighborhood was in the early sixties. My Mom would walk me the couple blocks to school every day but I clearly remember walking home alone a few times through the really distressed area.  I also remember some very disturbing things that took place on the block.  Luckily, I managed to stay under the radar from what happened around me.

As I went through my parent’s paperwork, I noticed the purchase agreement for the house that I grew up in after we moved from downtown.  It hit me that buried in those documents, might be the old address.   I went through all the papers and voilà!  There it was on West. 11th Street, south of Macarthur Park in Los Angeles.  I looked it up on Google Earth and found the photo attached to this article (we lived in the top right apartment).  My parents moved from this apartment to a home in Azusa later that year.  It was a better neighborhood but still a very modest working-class community.

I did fairly well in high school and was offered a 50% scholarship to attend Occidental College.  It was a great offer but, I couldn’t afford the other half.  So, I went to Citrus Community College and Cal Poly University, Pomona (both great schools) because that’s what I could afford.  It wasn’t until graduate school that I could combine some scholarships and take out student loans to get my masters and doctorate at USC.  All of the above leads me to this:

Where you come from does not determine where you go in life.  It’s what you do with where you come from, that determines where you go in life.

Today, I’m the founder of a global company and a bestselling author.  While looking at photos of where I came from, I remember that young man who was so hungry to accomplish “something” of value in life.  I didn’t know exactly what that would be and I certainly had a few bumps and some big turns along the way – but I was like a dog with a bone, continually moving in a direction that would add value and meaning to my life as well as to others.

I learned many things along the way.  I learned that successful people form the habits of doing things that unsuccessful people just won’t do.  I learned that life-long learning is the great equalizer in the world – education levels the playing field for someone who is highly motivated.  And, I learned that the secret to success without hard work is still a secret.

I tell you this story to ask you to do something simple but important; share this message with young people you know who have had struggles or may come from modest means like I did.  You see, I believe it’s important for them to know that it’s not where they come from, it’s what they do with where they come from, that leads to success.

Seuss

Dr. Seuss’ Birthday – NEA Read Across America Day

Today, March 2nd is the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

Today the BNI Foundation is supporting the National Education Association’s “Read Across America Day”. Therefore, go find a classroom and volunteer to read a Dr. Seuss story to the students. For example, in this video, I share a story about reading to my kids when they were younger, the Dr. Seuss classic, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street“.

Dr. Seuss’s very first book for children! 

Originally published: December 21, 1937

From a mere horse and wagon, young Marco concocts a colorful cast of characters, making Mulberry Street the most interesting location in town. Most noteworthy, Dr. Seuss’s signature rhythmic text, combined with his unmistakable illustrations, will appeal to fans of all ages. Finally, who will cheer when our hero proves that a little imagination can go a very long way. Now over eighty years old, this story is as timeless as ever.

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