Potpourri: Let Your Heroes Show You the Way: Self-help
Who are your business heroes and have they made a difference in your career?
I work out of central North Carolina and so my heroes are from this area. Think about yours and what they have meant to you as you look at this partial list of my heroes and what they have taught me.
High Point University President and speaker/consultant Nido Qubein – Showed that you can emigrate from Lebanon while barely speaking English and having little money, and still transform yourself into a highly successful speaker, consultant, investor, businessman, and community leader regarded for generosity, loyalty, and mentoring. His best advice to me was, “Rick, make your clients rely upon you.”
Greensboro developer Richard Maxwell – This one-time air conditioning salesman proved that your career doesn’t have to halt in your forties, as he took a 180-degree turn and created a successful commercial real estate company. The former county commissioner said, “Rick, I can’t wait until 3 years from now to see how your (then) new business will have transformed your life.”
Former Greensboro Mayor Jim Melvin – Although I needled him as a journalist in the 1970’s, he demonstrated that dedication, smarts, and charisma all rolled up into one politician can create a vision for a city.
Beauty products creator Joe Dudley – After starting as a solitary door-to-door salesman, he leveraged his efforts into a nationally known merchandising empire and beauty college. Joe once told me “I don’t care how hard you are working, tell me how smart you are working.”
Greensboro modeling agency president Jill Joyce – A personal friend, she and husband Rodger created their own modeling agency – which made me – feeling trapped in a 9-to-5 world, want to follow them into the world of entrepreneurs. Because of their enthusiasm and encouragement, I “burned” to do it. I asked the always-gutsy Jill whether I should act on some new ideas I had for my business. She said, “Throw them against the wall and see if they stick.”
Leadership expert Jim Farr – co-creator of the Center For Creative Leadership and founder of Farr Associates. Now dead, Jim was a living example of “it’s never too late to change.” Although successful in his 50’s, this brilliant man was also sometimes intense and angry. 20 years later, through fierce dedication to self-awareness improvement, he became a gentle, beloved mentor and counselor for hundreds around the country. Jim told us, “All paths are equal, so choose the one with heart for you.”
(Present and former) Greensboro newspaper journalists Stan Swofford, Jim Schlosser, Ned Cline, Van King, and Jerry Bledsoe. Demonstrated that depth, creativity, competitiveness, tenacity, and classy writing can make reporting a respected and essential profession. I once competed against them, and they made me better.
Sales trainer and executive Bill Brooks – His boundless energy, curiosity, knowledge, motivational ability, and loyalty have shown many how to succeed. When I first started my consultancy, Bill looked me squarely in the eye and said, “You can do this!”
Motivational speaker/trainer Brian Tracy – This is a nationally known self-help guru who needs no endorsement from me, and I have only met him in passing. Nevertheless, when I was 40 years old and feeling dead-ended in my previous profession, his Psychology of Achievement audiotapes changed my self-perception and paved the way for my own business.
And one final – non-business – hero.
Guitarist Chet Atkins. My first boyhood idol, his recent death prompted me to write this column. Chet could do the darndest thing – make one guitar sound like two. His thumb would pick out a rhythm while his fingers played melody – kind of like typing on a computer keyboard while simultaneously punching numbers into a telephone without any mistakes. Chet could play Yankee Doodle and Dixie at the same time. Some of us taped his songs and slowed them down until we could figure out what he was doing. His confoundingly difficult technique and many wonderful albums mesmerized and motivated countless professionals and kids like me. I felt proud that Beatle George Harrison and I both played Chet Atkins model guitars.
We need our heroes. While they all have their feet of clay, they are the forerunners who open the doors, survive the unknown, fathom the unfathomable, accomplish the unachievable, and, most of all, exemplify overcoming the fear of risk-taking and growth. They embody our aspirations. We should learn from what they do and say, or what are heroes for?
Who are your heroes? Are you allowing them to elevate your career and life?