Today's LEADERSHIP SUCCESS STRATEGY.
A Dose of Reality About Excellence For
People In Charge, And Those Who Aspire To Be.
(Feel free to forward this to co-workers, friends and family.) Issue 0318
From Rick Houcek
Two weeks ago, I got to meet a legend.
Among his many accomplishments, he was a U.S. Olympic gold medal champion.
Later, heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
Twenty years hence, at 45, he won the crown again, becoming the oldest man ever to be heavyweight champ.
He's a minister.
And that's not all...
His name is now branded on the best-selling electrical appliance of all time, worldwide.
He is, of course... George Foreman.
My wife and I were attending a business-building boot camp and Foreman was the Day 1 headline speaker.
For me, hearing his story -- the public one I knew -- and the even more important personal back story I didn't -- makes George Foreman a "living lesson plan" for leaders like you and me.
First, it's noteworthy to point out that Foreman is friendly, engaging, and humble for someone of his stature. He has a next-door neighbor quality about him, like a good friend sipping coffee, leaning over the fence, telling stories. Nothing pompous. Just a genuine good guy. He seemed almost surprised at his appeal.
It's always refreshing to find a leader of great accomplishment who isn't full of himself ... who still remembers his roots ... what it felt like back when no one believed in him ... how tough it was to claw his way to the top ...
... and how we're all really just a few cocky mistakes from being at the bottom again.
"Success is a funny thing," he said. "It can make you arrogant or hungry for more. I'm hungry."
Foreman was introduced by the event's sponsor, who told us that weeks before, when he called for a phone interview that was being taped for pre-event publicity, he said: "George, I hope you've had a chance to review the questions I sent you last week so you're prepared."
Foreman was puzzled, but chuckled and said, "What questions? No, I never received them. Hey, it's okay -- I don't care what you ask me. I'm ready for you."
(File that one away. There's a primo lesson in that.)
But first, let's go back to the beginning... his roots.
Like most kids, he was prone to mischief now and then. His defining moment was one night, he got into some trouble, and ran from the police. Hiding under a house, he never got caught, but was so scared, he promised himself -- at that moment -- that he was through messing around. He committed to BECOME somebody and make something of himself.
Not knowing where to turn, he heard his boyhood idols on radio -- football stars Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas -- say that if you want a second chance, go to the Job Core. So he did, and he learned a trade. He was poised and ready for college when some friends told him he should become a fighter.
He thought, why not? Even then he was a hulk, and he trained hard. "In my first fight, against a much smaller opponent, I got my butt whipped," he said, "...and swore I'd never fight again."
But a trainer who saw the fight told George he had promise, and convinced him to stay with it. "He was the first person who believed in me. And I took off from there."
Foreman told the crowd, "When I was a young boy, my cousin told me, 'In our family, no one ever becomes anything.' But the night I became an Olympic champion in 1968, I proved her wrong."
He turned professional and after fighting his way up the ranks, he earned a title shot against then-champion Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica. "I was scared to death. But I knocked him down six times and they stopped the fight. I became heavyweight champion of the world. A very proud moment."
Then he fought Muhammed Ali. "In the eighth round, I got knocked out. Lost the crown. Then, after a long road back, I built myself up to the #1 contender. But lost the title fight."
So he quit. End of the line. Gave up fighting for good.
Or did he? Ten years later...
"I became middle aged," he said, "started shaving gray off my face, and I was broke. My wife got pregnant and I needed money. So I started the George Foreman Youth Center. Very satisfying, but I wanted more. I wanted to get back into boxing -- but wait, I was 315 pounds. I called ABC, CBS, and HBO -- no one wanted anything to do with me. I was old."
He scraped by doing appearances for $1500, $2000, $5000 ... "and reporters beat me up in their articles."
The naysayers were having a field day ... "with this old-timer who thinks he's still got it."
Eventually, HBO took a chance. They signed him for a $1.5 million pay-per-view fight against Evander Holyfield. Finally, a big payday. A good fight, but he lost on points.
Not long after, he fought Michael Moorer, the heavyweight champ ...
... and at age 45, Foreman beat him to regain the title, and become the oldest-ever heavyweight champion of the world. Something no one had done before, or since.
And again, he silenced his critics.
But there were more thrills to come.
While many ex-fighters retire with slurred speech and bells ringing in their heads, not George Foreman.
Still energetic and coherent, he got a call from a company wanting to attach his name, image, and marketing prowess to a portable electric grill.
"Frankly, I thought it would be fail," he said, "so I did it just to get 16 free grills for my family members."
But to even his surprise, it took off. Big. He underestimated his TV appeal.
He learned an entirely new craft. Selling. And sell he did.
Today, the George Foreman Grill -- billed as the Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing, Grilling Machine with Foreman as its likeable, charismatic TV spokesperson -- has sold 120 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling electric appliance of all time.
But with all that success behind him ...
What's his proudest life accomplishment? When asked this by an audience member, he didn't miss a beat. He held up his left hand and pointed to his wedding ring. "When you have 25 years of this, you are someone."
LESSONS & ACTIONS FOR YOU.
There were several overarching themes to George Foreman's talk: Always strive to be the best you can be. Never give up. When life knocks you down, get back up. Ignore the critics, even if they're family. Believe in yourself, especially when others don't. Be prepared for the unexpected (remember that phone interview?). Give someone a second chance. Always treat people with dignity and respect.
This is the champion's mindset.
Wise counsel for all leaders. (How would your followers rate YOU on each?)
But there was more. Here's a sampling of worthy points he made ...
- The #1 product in your life -- is you. You must learn to sell yourself. People don't buy your product, they buy you.
Read a lot. Learn something new every day.
- You get beat when you don't do your best. If I get knocked down, I keep getting up and coming back for more. If I lose then, I can live with that. Because I never gave up
Don't listen to the voices of negativity. No one thought I could be heavyweight champ at 45. Except me.
Have a vision for your life. When I lose mine, I go back to being under that house and I recommit.
- I'm a preacher. The best sermon in the world is your example.
- Re-invent yourself. Don't give up. If no one else will give you a second chance, give yourself one.
- (From his mentor, Mary Kay Ashe) "Learn to sell and you will never starve." If one day, you're living in a big house and driving a big car, and the next day you're knocking on doors selling to your neighbors, don't lose faith.
- The #1 rule of salesmanship is, be truthful. People will see through you.
- (When asked by an audience member, "What are the top 3 things you instill in your kids to become champions?) (1) Get up early. Good things happen early. (2) Listen to older people who've been where you want to go. (3) You may not be the best, fastest, smartest, or best looking, but you CAN be the nicest person in the world. And people will admire you for that.
Proving his sense of humor, he said people always ask him why he named all five of his sons 'George'. He said, "Hey, you get pounded in the head by Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton and let's see how many names YOU can remember."
There. Lots to chew on here. But don't sit on this stuff. Act!
Why not pick three ideas or concepts to add to your leadership repertoire, and take your first action steps on each one TODAY?
Next month, add three more...
The next month ... well, you get where I'm headed. Improve yourself, constantly and forever. Stay hungry! Think and act like a champion to become one.
Helping Ambitious Forward-Thinkers Soar To Success...
Rick Houcek, President
Soar With Eagles, Inc.