ABCs of success in business and life

This is an except from a keynote speech I delivered today.

Many years ago, my uncle, a successful business man in Detroit, Michigan, was diagnosed with diabetes and underwent a series of amputations that left him a double amputee within a year.  Each time he underwent surgery, it was my mother who came to his aid when he was released from the hospital. She comforted and reassured him.

Undaunted by the loss of his limbs, my uncle sailed through rehab and managed to sell one of his stores he owned and took the proceeds to have custom made artificial legs. He didn’t see me but I watched him one day through the crack of his door pull himself up using the specially installed apparatus above his bed to place his body in his artificial legs. I still remember the legs standing up in the corner of his bed room with pants already on them. He purchased a limo, hired a driver, had his home retrofitted to be handicapped accessible and started another business.

The new business was on wheels – a produce business – capitalizing on Detroiter’s love of produce.  He had the vehicle custom built so that he could drive it with his hands!  This kind of vehicle was almost unheard of at that time.  Remember this was 1970! He went from door to door – neighborhood to neighborhood selling produce – He was creative and innovative – his new business clearly met a need.  He turned what would have been sure defeat to most people into a new and successful business.  Incredible!

My uncle was all about pursuing and achieving – despite the odds – despite the risks – despite the fact that what he was trying was not tried before.  These are valuable life lessons I learned from him.  I was an eager apprentice and worked summers with his business until I graduated from high school.  I even applied to college at Michigan State with the lure that he would buy me a brand new red Plymouth Duster if I would attend there.  It didn’t turn out that way – I chose the University of Delaware – that is another story.

I’ve been in my business now for over 22 years. There have been many challenges and obstacles along the way.  Some of these challenges were truly game changers.  Like most business people I’ve had setbacks where I found myself momentarily disabled and had to lift my business up and find my pants standing up in the corner, drawing upon the support of those closest to me and activating my faith.  I’ve learned the art of pulling myself up to get to my pants in the corner.

Getting up after falling down, starting anew after great loss, being able to persevere, despite the naysayers, being able to dismiss your own inner voice that says I can’t with yes I can.  Being able to start all over again, to go on, even when you don’t feel like it — is the key to achievement.  So it’s been a great business and I have learned survival and sustainability lessons that I talk about in my new book ,The Intentional Consultant.

Most people give up when circumstances get real difficult.  Winners are the ones who persevere and find creative ways to deals with obstacles. Successful people find a way to struggle through and achieve at all odds.  They may have to adapt their definition of success.  Sometimes the end result is different than what they envisioned but they still achieve greatness.  Greatness is your future when you find ways to be creative and innovative to overcome what might seem like insurmountable challenges or obstacles.

To achieve your greatness it’s all about assessing where you are and finding your pants in the corner and putting them on.

It’s not how you start — it’s how you finish.  It’s not how you succeed — but how you manage failures, especially those gigantic, unexpected totally devastating blows that can take you out of the game. Everyone has pants in the corner – that’s our greatness.

I’d like to leave you with a few action steps you must take – my ABCs of success:

A–    Adapt your vision. Have a vision of success – and be willing to adapt it when faced with the insurmountable, modify your expectations and keep your ideals high

B–    Be persistent and don’t give up; find the strength to lift yourself up when you are down – activate your faith

C–    Creativity and innovation are your wings to transformation and achievement. Meet a need in a way that no one else but you could do. C, too, is for civic mindedness – we don’t make it without others.  My uncle was a mentor to me.  Give back in the ways you can to make a difference in your community

S–  Support is your energy booster and lifeline.  Lean on your parents, family and close friends to support you, encourage you.  They will pick you up when you’re down, to comfort you during your trials.

You don’t always need adversity but it is often the way we handle adversities and manage through failures and disappointments that ultimately determines our success in life – greatness requires the management of failure!

Find your pants in the corner and then put them on!


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