I’ve always been fascinated by success and as an entrepreneur I bet you are as well. No matter our position or our accomplishments we are captivated by the feats of great people and know that we can learn from their experience and by imitating their habits and behavior.
I started my own quasi-research project on success in earnest when I was nineteen. On my sales calls I would inevitably run into successful people and I began to ask them about their journey. From person to person, despite wildly different circumstances, their answers were very similar. The inspiration for my research was rooted in my own quest to succeed. Today, my post started with a video from Richard St. John, who identified 8 traits of successful people, built from both his own experience with success and his research of some of the most successful people alive today. Not surprisingly they sound a lot like those business people that I spoke with years ago.
I was working my first ‘big job’ as an outside sales rep for GTE Yellow Pages in San Jose California. To my knowledge, I was the youngest outside sales rep at that time working in GTE’s nationwide sales force. People were jealous, and while I didn’t fully understand that, I did feel that I had arrived. Ego. It was 1988, I had a company car with a mobile phone and a salary that had just tripled from my previous job. I received my job offer a mere three days after arriving in San Jose with all my worldly possessions (er, CD’s) in the 1985 Saab that I had driven across the country. I had dreams of continuing my technology journey in Silicon Valley that I had started in New Hampshire working at a Tech startup which had grown from around six people when I joined them to over 150 when I left. It turned out that it would be a long time before I got to use my skills with computers and technology as I’d intended before getting sidetracked in the advertising world.
The next two years at GTE really kicked my ass, culminating in GTE firing me at 21 with my wife of the time about to give birth to my first son. My mortgage on my first house was due and my wife was in the last few weeks of her job before maternity leave and the last pittance of family revenue coming in. I was alternately job prospecting and watching the first Gulf War on CNN. It was the end of a two year roller coaster ride where I experienced feast and famine as I struggled to be the bread earner while selling ‘Neighborhood’ phone books (hint, they’re the kind people don’t use in favor for their ‘real’ phone book)
I had arrived in San Jose from New Hampshire where I had taken my first steps towards adult freedom when I moved away from my father in Australia to take care of his childhood home in New Hampshire. I was resolute to move away from all that I knew at sixteen to live on my own so I could begin my quest for world domination,. My version of world domination started out by selling clothes in a main street small business – an old fashioned clothier that had been around for over forty years. Ah, the virtue of youth – blissful ignorance.
I learned a lot from the small businesses I worked at before beginning my corporate career at GTE. Among many things, GTE taught me to overcome adversity in a hard knocks way – and not just from getting fired. Last night over dinner my father was just recalling a related scene from one of our favorite movies, The Natural starring Robert Redford. “Welcome to the Majors Mr. Hobbs” the radio announcer comments sardonically after Redford’s character Roy Hobbs gets his first taste of how hard and fast the ‘bigs’ are.
In my case my firing came after I was a whopping 5.6% off my annual sales goal (94.4% to budget). I had been dealt an account that was six months past due that was literally seven times the size of a normal Yellow Pages account at GTE. With GTE’s system at the time I was responsible for collecting the past due amount and renewing their sizable ad program or it would count against my sales goals. Oh, did I mention that the advertiser had to pay for any renewed advertising all in advance for the entire year, not month to month. The advertiser felt that the ads in the phone book hadn’t done a lick to help their business and knew they could get away without paying the bill without any repercussion since they had no intent of renewing their ads. After all, they had their ads in the core phone book – the Pacific Bell SMART Yellow Pages. To GTE’s credit, both my sales manager and my regional general manager tried to save the account. It was a lot of money, even out of their much deeper pockets. The only real option was to outsell the loss by bringing in a lot of new business. And I did close a lot of new business. But not quite enough.
I learned a lot about myself. I didn’t give up until it was obvious my sales manager wasn’t going to keep the faith. He knew then what I would not accept, that I wasn’t cut out for that job. I had come to not believe in that product – my experience taught me that neighborhood phone books worked too infrequently for my customers and after a time I couldn’t look people in the eye and tell them to spend the little money they had on a false promise. My manager Steve could tell that I didn’t believe and that’s why he fired me. I would have as well – it was the right call for both me and the company.
Back then I felt like such a miserable failure I didn’t know how I could pick up the pieces. Even years later I would drive close to the office in San Jose and my stomach would drop and my mind would flash back to those last moments.
Much later I realized my firing was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I came to see that I learned more from those two years and that experience about business and life than I had in my previous 21 years and in many that followed. I had been well trained, I learned to follow a process and system, I learned discipline, and how to sell with real skill, overcoming a persistent shyness and introversion unfit for the sales game.
Good thing for having a back up plan. Six weeks earlier I had passed a sales assessment and interview process with the ‘real’ Yellow Pages (Pacific Bell) and a couple of weeks after getting fired at GTE I had a new job working for them in their Oakland sales branch. I’ve had good fortune as well. So began a really solid career at Bell that lasted for ten years where I worked in sales, sales training, strategic planning and business development for our Internet effort – I even worked directly for the President of the company and was one of two representatives sent to iron out our merger with SBC (now AT&T again). Eventually my career there led me to the high tech work that I was meant for (helping re-launch Pacific Bell’s Internet Yellow Pages and roll it out to PacBell and then SBC’s Yellow Pages sales force). What a ride.
Today I have over 20 years of big company stripes to my credit, I won awards and consistently beat objectives, I learned how to be a big earner working at big companies and also discovered that I had lost myself almost completely in the process. I learned that money wasn’t happiness but that it does help fund dreams where you can find a happiness in the pursuit. What brought me back was my older brother’s untimely death and a similarly tragic experience when a former boss and good friend took his own life. These experiences made it clear to me that life is too short to do things that you are not meant to do simply for a paycheck.
Today, I’m much the beginner that I was back at GTE. I’m an aspiring entrepreneur and stay-at-home dad. I’ve spent much more of the last 2 1/2 years being a stay-at-home dad trying to make sure my kids are OK and marriage number two doesn’t get lost in the details. I have my fair share of scars from the small scrapes and major battles I’ve waged in my personal and professional life. I have spent time feeling sorry for myself and licking my wounds. I’ve been inspired and brilliant. I’ve reached my limits in areas and found ways to ignore them to my benefit.
I have not succeeded as a small business yet. I’ve really just begun my journey. I believe I will succeed. I really believe.
Why is that? Is it belief without evidence? No, it’s that I’ve done enough in life to know that when you do the right things, long enough, consistently, then good things start to happen. I’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of me in both my personal and professional life. I’ve got four kids, and I’ve got to overcome that I’ve let them down at times. Not just them either. That’s more important than any job or entrepreneurial aspirations. I’ve got a beautiful wonderful wife that struggles with a rabid corporate career in order to support me and our kids as I once did. Our circumstances find both of us fighting to remember that we’re a couple, and not just a mommy and daddy, a boss, a resource, or a pay check. We’re not just cannon fodder. None of us are.
As I’ve professed, I can’t claim to be a successful entrepreneur yet. I have proven myself as a successful marketing and advertising man. I know more about marketing and advertising than a lot of people in the world, and more still about online marketing and publishing and cutting edge methods of connecting people, ideas, aspirations, money and dreams. If that’s something that you need or that interests you I can probably help.
Soon I’ll be rolling out some new products designed to help not so average small and medium sized business realize their not so average goals. Hopefully we’ll all realize some dreams along the way. These products will be designed to bolster my free articles and lessons that will continue to be the staple of Local Na8ion’s offering (our three phase online marketing method that I’m building). As far as my new products go, this article is as much a call to action for me, as it is a notice to you of things to come. I know to find the right product formula I’ll need to follow the traits featured in the video below. I’m going to have to work harder and work smarter, all while not losing sight of the point of all this – my wife, my kids and my family. It’s not going to be easy but it never is.
Three years ago I lost thirty five pounds of white collar fat by running and I eventually ran my first marathon last year. A few months ago a pain in my neck finally drove me to an orthopedic surgeon’s office. The MRI revealed a ruptured disc in my neck. He said, ‘stop running Julian.’ But I love to run and it’s been a powerful metaphor and practical way to get my self back. What to do? The doc said swimming would work and he gave me the go ahead to strength train to my hearts content. All he warned me off of was dead lifts. That sane advice was more about proper technique than anything else. The Doc’s advice comes from a good place because most people don’t bother to learn the correct technique for dead lifts, just like we don’t learn the right way to market or manage our business.
Strength. That’s the genesis of my post today. It’s one of the things we need in order to succeed in life and I’m talking about the physical, spiritual and mental side of strength – they ALL matter. Morning coffee in hand I headed over to see what was happening on , a new favorite site of mine authored by a successful young man and blogger named Mehdi. If you want inspiration on what you can do by using free online tools and methods to build your business and make money look no further than Mehdi. His story is really impressive and inspiring.
Among the tips on Mehdi’s site on proper lifting form and 5X5 workouts (CAREFUL this link is known to make your body strong and give you more energy for achieving your goals). I found the video from Richard St. John on Mehdi’s site showcasing the 8 habits and behaviors of successful people. The video is from the acclaimed annual meeting of minds called TED that takes place once a year in Monterey California just south of my old home of fourteen years in the Bay Area.
Maybe something I said in my post reflected some of your own experience and touched on some of what you have done to enjoy success. If you can, I’d love for you to share your feelings and experiences on the topic in a comment here. But, I also respect that many of us hold these important moments close to the vest and that’s just fine by me. It’s taken me twenty years to put this story out there. Enjoy, and good luck to you in your contined success!