Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Thoughts on Raising the Next Generation - Part I

[M]oney itself is neither intrinsically benign nor evil. Rather, it simply is a tool – which, if utilized responsibly, can enable people to become and stay independent, achieve their financial (and/or philanthropic) goals, and generally lead more productive and fulfilling lives.

                                                                   – Jack Polsky, Forward, “Raising Financially Fit Kids

I have come to recognize that I believe, and live my life, based on certain fundamental truths. One of those truths is that each individual on this planet is unique, and, therefore, has something extraordinary to give to the world. Call it a “purpose,” if you will. Discovering who you are, finding your truth, is your key to success. Once you unlock that purpose, you must then have the courage and confidence to live it by contributing your best self to the world around you. This takes extraordinary faith, and at times great sacrifice. Another truth I take comfort in is one of science: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If that is true, then by giving your greatest (action) you will be achieving your greatest result (reaction). This is where faith comes in, because often times you will not understand or recognize the results of your actions and efforts, or they may not be immediate.

In our society, money is the most common way we are rewarded for our contributions. If you invent or create something, you sell it and make money. If you provide a service, you are compensated for that service. It’s just how things work. As the old saying goes (and I am paraphrasing here): there is nothing wrong with having money; the problem is when money has you. Easier said than done, right? We are taught (or realize) from an early age that things cost money. Toys, food, movies, video games, electronics, etc. – everything we consume costs money. Hey, that’s just a reality. The problem, however, begins when our actions are dictated by our desire to buy something. That is, when our actions change from being motivated by contribution to being motivated purely by consumption.

As a parent, I want my kids to be financially literate, and learn how to be responsible with money. So, I am starting an allowance to teach them basic lessons and money skills (my kids are 5 and 6 years old). Before I reached the decision to do so, however, I struggled greatly with this very issue: How do I raise my children to lead a life of contribution and not consumption? How do I teach them that living their purpose is what is matters most, not how much money they make?

Growing up, an allowance to me was something you received in exchange for doing chores. Some parents would almost create a menu of chores with assigned values to them. For example, taking out the garbage was $3, and cleaning your room was $5 (or something to that effect). In thinking about this, I realized that this type of system potentially creates negative money habits in our children. Rather than being incentivized to pursue their passion, they are incentivized to work for money. As a result, we develop the habit of working solely for money, of asking, “how do I make enough money to buy the things I need or want? This is very different than developing the habit of asking ourselves, “how can I help or contribute value to a situation,” and then working in order to contribute or add that value and be happy with whatever he receives in return. When a child sees a toy he wants that costs $20, and thinks, “if I clean my room for the next month, then I can buy that toy,” the child’s focus is one of consumption. However, if a child develops the habit of thinking, “how can I help or add value,” and is taught to live within the means produced by his efforts, then the child will be focused on contribution. I struggled with this for weeks. Although I may not have found all of the answers just yet, here’s what I have decided so far:

I WILL NOT USE AN ALLLOWANCE AS PAYMENT FOR CHORES. In Raising Financially Fit Kids, Joline Godfrey teaches the following mantra: “An allowance is not an entitlement or a salary. It is a tool for teaching children to manage money.” I will use these exact words to explain to my children why they are getting an allowance, and I will repeat it often as a reminder to both them and myself. Teaching my children how to take care of themselves, and be a loving, contributing member of our family, is entirely separate and will not be rewarded monetarily.

I WILL CONSISTENTLY CELEBRATE AND REWARD THEIR EFFORTS BEFORE THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS. Success is not a destination, it is an ongoing journey. Giving your greatest self is an expression of your efforts, not the results you achieve (after all, the outcome of your efforts is not always what you expect). If I am going to teach my children this lesson, and help them develop the habit of giving their best, then I am going to have to continually reinforce this truth. I will celebrate their efforts, and how hard they tried, before I focus on the outcome. The process is what they should enjoy first, the means, not the end result. You can control your own actions and efforts, but you do not control how the world receives or reacts to those actions and efforts.
I WILL TEACH THEM TO BE GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING THEY RECEIVE. While your every action may have a result, you are not entitled to any one particular result. Therefore, everything that you receive is a gift, which you should be grateful for. In addition, it is perfectly okay to (and in fact you should) enjoy everything that you receive. Part of living life to its fullest is having fun and appreciating the opportunities you are given.

I WILL NOT TEACH THEM TO TREAT MATERIAL WEALTH DIFFERENTLY. Too often, I see parents alter their children’s behavior based on how much money someone else has. For example, they will want their children to be better behaved when visiting a wealthy friend or relative who has a big house or expensive things. This sends the wrong message to children, and makes them associate an importance with money and material wealth. I will do my best to not celebrate or distinguish these things, and to hopefully help my children develop the habit of being comfortable in all settings, rich or poor. Children should be equally as polite and well-mannered with everyone they meet or visit. To the extent someone is revered, it should be for the quality of their character, not the quantity of their possessions.

I WILL LIVE BY EXAMPLE. This, perhaps, is the greatest teaching tool. My actions will always speak louder than words.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Eat, Sleep, Be Authentic, Repeat

It is no secret that authenticity is key to being successful and building a successful brand. What is authenticity, you ask? Being authentic means being genuine, or, as some might say, being “true to yourself.” Knowing who you are and bringing your true and best self to everything you do is absolutely necessary to achieving your greatest success. Whether building a company, brand or musical legacy, consumers and fans alike respond best to authenticity. We want something real and genuine, even when we know that something is fiction.
If you are not familiar, the image above is Brock Lesnar (aka, the “Beast Incarnate”; the “Conqueror”). He is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, a former NCAA Division I Heavyweight Champion, and a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion. As an athlete, his combined size, strength and speed are unmatched. At 38 years of age, and having just signed a lucrative “part-time” deal with WWE, he is arguably the biggest superstar in “sports entertainment” today.

WWE superstar Paul Heyman, the self-proclaimed “advocate” for the Beast, recently, tweeted that Brock Lesnar is “the most authentic athlete in WWE history.” He’s right. Brock Lesnar is a one-man wrecking machine. Throughout his career, he has shown that in real life he shows up to kick ass and takes name later. He is the baddest of badasses, a true “conqueror.” Couple that with being a legitimately outstanding performer, and you have a recipe for success in the WWE. Brock Lesnar is a spectacle simply because when he wrestles it looks real. Like, really real. Brock is so good that he is once again blurring the lines of fiction and reality in an industry that openly admits it is scripted and, um, not real. The only thing similar is magic. Like the best magicians, Brock is a master of illusions. Above all else though, it is the Beast’s authenticity that allows him to sell that illusion.

Brock comes from humble beginnings, growing up on a dairy farm in South Dakota. He has been referred to as a “simple guy with simple tastes.”  In that same interview, Brock is quoted as saying: “When I go home, I don’t buy into any of the b.s. Like I said, it’s pretty basic: Train, sleep, family, fight. It’s my life.” That same no b.s. attitude has paid off in the WWE ring for Brock as well. “Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat,” has been the slogan touted by his advocate, Paul Heyman. In other words, Brock Lesnar’s brand as a WWE superstar, the “character” he plays on television, is authentic and embodies the true spirit of Brock Lesnar, the man. It is as real as fiction can get.  As Brock explained in a recent interview, “Being an athlete/performer, it really came natural to me to portray myself and be myself about 200%. When I step into the ring I want to bring that believability through the ring ropes in the first row all the way to the top seats.”

So, what’s the lesson here? Authenticity matters. In order to achieve your greatest success, in order to build a successful brand, you have to remain true to yourself. Don’t buy into the b.s. Eat, Sleep, Be Authentic, Repeat.

For more on Lesnar's history and career, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Faith of Success and True Love

Before you ever fall in love, you have to first believe in love – true love that is. Among the many lessons taught to us by The Princess Bride (not the least of which is “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line), is that true love is “the greatest thing in the world (except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomatoes are ripe),” and the most noble of all causes. But what is true love, and what does it have to do with success? One word: Purpose.

There are over 7 billion people on this planet (that’s nine zeroes), yet there is only one of you. How extraordinary is that? Let’s say that again – there is no other you. You are it, the only one of you. Suffice to say then, the most unique thing about you is, well, you. And the only thing that you can give to the world that nobody else can is that very same thing – you. Why does this matter, you ask? Because understanding who you are, finding your true self, is critical to finding true love and success.

If you are the one thing that only you can give to the universe, then giving who you are – your talents, ideas, passions, etc. – is your purpose. But it is not just giving your self, it is giving your best self. And why would you want to be anything less anyway? You owe it to yourself, and to everyone around you, to be your best self. If you are less than your best self, then you are not fulfilling your greatest potential. You are not fulfilling your purpose. How do I know if I am being my best self and living my purpose, you ask? Easy. It comes down to faith.

Living your purpose is a means, not an end. It is a continual process without knowing what the ultimate outcome will be. Every day you wake up and make your greatest effort to be your best self. Every decision you make, every choice, should be centered around that one thing – giving your best self. If you are focused on what you will receive in return for your efforts, then you are distracted and may make the wrong choices. You have to have faith that what you receive in return to your giving your best self is the right and best result. It has to be. Even science agrees that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, giving your best self and living your purpose will result in the best outcome. It is just that sometimes the outcome is not always obvious or what you would expect, which is why your faith is so important. You have to know, through faith, that you are always achieving the best results in order to keep going. The bottom line is that there is no proof, none that I can point to anyway, that you are in fact being your best self and/or achieving your greatest success. Yet, you have to proceed with conviction without proof. You have to trust the process, the means, without evidence of its end. That, by definition, is faith. 

Finding true love is no different, and it is rooted in the same premise – purpose. To me, true love is the romantic notion that there is that one person out there that is meant for you – your soul mate. It is the idea that amidst the many wandering souls on the planet, that there is the perfect match for you, another soul or spirit that (to steal one from Jerry MaGuire) completes you, and makes you your best self. In other words, finding true love enables you to live your purpose. Which brings us back to faith. Just like you must proceed with the conviction that there is a best you, and that being and giving your best self is your purpose, so too must you proceed with the conviction that true love is real. That all things being equal, just as there is a best you, there is a counterpart that is equally best suited for you and helps you become an even better version of your best self.

Now, you may ask, assuming I believe in true love, how will I ever find that other person? With over 7 billion other unique souls on the planet, what are the odds I will ever cross paths with that person? What are the odds that we will ever meet or make eye contact? Extraordinary, I would say. In fact, I would go far as to say that everyone at some point in life encounters their true love. They must. Is a bee led astray from the flower? No. In fact, it is led directly from flower to flower so that is can pollenate all of those plants along its journey, thus fulfilling a vital purpose in nature. The problem is that most people are too distracted to ever see true love. Instead, we are focused on school, jobs, travelling, timing, money, etc. We are too focused on a result or goal, the ends, which distracts us from the means and causes us to make the wrong choices. Choices, free will. These are unique to the human condition.  We may not control our circumstances. We may not control the options we are given to choose from in life. But we do control the choices we make based on those options and circumstances. That is the balance of fate and free will. But just like the bee is given the flower, so too will we be given the options to live our purpose and to find our true love. The challenge is that we have to choose our path. We have to choose to live our purpose. We have to choose our true love (and they need to choose you back).

The only thing preventing you from living your purpose is you. The only thing that will prevent you from finding true love is you. You already have the answers. Your purpose is right there to be lived, you know it. Success and true love are right before your very eyes. You just need to let go of your fear, a fear that is based on not having proof that what you know is right. You know who you are. You know how to live and be your best self. You just need faith to move forward. Now go, and have fun storming the castle

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Be a Start-Up Jedi: Do or Do Not, There is No Try…

This past weekend, I introduced my two sons (ages 4 and 5) to the original Star Wars Trilogy. It was a big moment. Sure, they already knew about Star Wars and have watched many of the animated shows on DisneyXD, but this was the original. This is where it all began. I watched as my two aspiring Jedis sat glued to the screen, witnessing young Luke Skywalker begin his Jedi training. “Do, or do not,” Master Yoda commands, “there is no try.” I was probably around the same age when I first heard those words (maybe a little younger even), and to this day they have not left me. “Do, or do not. There is no try.” So simple, yet so profound. Hidden beneath the depths of the swamp on planet Dagobah was not only Luke’s sunken X-wing fighter, but a lesson we can all learn from.

“Do, or Do Not…”

We are in a constant state of doing or not doing. “Trying” to do something does not exist in the present, only in the past. If you focus on the present, you are never “trying” to do something. You are either in the process of doing something or you are not doing that something. Now, the something that you are doing presently may potentially lead somewhere, but that somewhere is not in the present – it is in the future. When you are “doing” something, you are in motion, moving towards something or somewhere. It is only when you stop that you will you have completed (or not completed) something. If you stop before you have completed your something, then (and only then) can you say that you “tried” to do that something. Take, for example, climbing a mountain. As soon as you start climbing, at the moment of your very first step, you are presently climbing the mountain. You are “doing”, not trying to do. If you make it to the top of the mountain, you will have successfully completed, or done, the climb. If on the other hand, you stop climbing before making it to the top of the mountain, then you could say that you “tried” to climb to the top (assuming that was your goal) but failed. What’s the point?  You only fail to accomplish your goal when you stop doing. Only then, when you have given up and stopped, will you have “tried” to accomplish that goal. If you fall and have to start over at the bottom of the mountain and you continue and start climbing again, you are still climbing the mountain and never stopped. In other words, you choose whether you succeed or fail.

“There is no try.”

You should never set out to “try” to do something. You should always set out to “do” that something. Leading with the old “I’ll try” attitude, is leading with doubt and fear. To say that you will “try” means that you believe there is a possibility that you may not succeed. This is no way live life. Every successful person who has ever written or spoken about success will tell you that believing in yourself is key. If you believe in yourself, work your hardest and never give up, you will succeed.

The same holds true for artists, athletes and entrepreneurs. You do not become a world champion athlete, rock star or successful entrepreneur by not believing you can do it. You absolutely must know you can. It is that freedom from doubt that empowers you to take that first step and start climbing your mountain. You are going to make it to the top. You are going to succeed. You know this the minute you start “doing.” You are never trying, taking each successful step, and each inevitable fall, with grace and determination, knowing it is all part of the process of climbing. There is no failure, there is no “trying,” unless you stop. “Do. Or Do Not. There is no try.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Be Thankful for Rejection, and Keep Moving Forward

Let’s get one thing straight – rejection is not failure. I will say it again. Rejection is NOT failure.  Failure, by definition, is a lack of success. It is the condition or fact of not achieving a desired end or effect. In other words, failure occurs at the end of a process, and it reflects the inability to achieve what was sought out by that process. Rejection, on the other hand, is the dismissal or refusing of a proposal. It does not necessarily mean the death (or ultimate failure) of the process. The reality is that that you will most likely have several proposals rejected before your desired end or effect, whatever that may be, is finally achieved. And you should be thankful for each and every rejection along the way. Here’s why.

So far as I can tell, rejection occurs primarily for two reasons. Either, (1) there is something wrong with your proposal that needs improvement, or (2) the party to whom you are making the proposal just isn’t interested and isn’t, therefore, the right match for whatever you were offering. If there is something wrong with your proposal, you should find out what that is. Ask questions, get feedback. This type of rejection can only be constructive and allow you to improve upon your proposal. You may even find that the feedback you get, although constructive, results in you realizing that the party to whom you were making your proposal just was not the right fit. There actually wasn’t anything wrong with your proposal, it’s just that you and the person to whom you were making your proposal have a different vision, and that’s okay. Which brings me to the second reason you should be thankful for rejection – finding the right match.

Whether in life or in business, finding a partner or someone to accept your proposal is not about just finding any one, it’s about finding the right one. Whether you are looking for love, trying to find an investor for your business, or trying to get your film made, finding the right partner is key. The last thing you want is to spend your life trying to love, work with, or create an artistic vision with someone who just doesn’t get you. So, if there is nothing “wrong” with your proposal, be thankful for all of the rejection you find along the way. After all, you are basically eliminating a bunch of wrong partners.

Rejection is a big part of life, and embracing it is critical to achieving your success. Just remember, rejection will either make you improve upon your proposal or make you realize you were in front of the wrong person. Your desired end or effect still awaits you, so long as you keep trying and allow your process, or journey, to continue. So, be thankful for rejection, and keep moving forward.

On the film side, here is a list of screenplays that were initially rejected, but went on to become huge successes.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, His Name is Paul Heyman...

When I think of the spirit that is embodied by artists, athletes and entrepreneurs – the very spirit that inspired me to launch this little blog nearly two years ago – there is one man who stands tall as a shining example of that spirit. His artistic genius when it comes to crafting stories and sculpting personalities in the world of sports entertainment is unmatched. His ferocious competitive spirit has brought him face-to-face with some of the most impressive physical athletes of our time. A consummate entrepreneur, he has hustled his way to build several companies and brands. On TV, he is one of the most hated and feared personalities around. Off camera, he is a loving father and business man. He has lived, and is living, a life fueled purely by passion. Ladies and gentlemen, his name is Paul Heyman.
In his own words, Paul’s father “could only admire his son’s moxy, and drive, and hustle, and wherewithal to pursue his dreams, no matter how [he] achieved them.” His “get it done” mentality is the stuff all entrepreneurs should strive for, and it started at a young age. In Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman (available now on DVD – nothing wrong with a shameless plug), Paul recounts his first hustle – at the tender age of 14. By that time, Paul was already running a wrestling fan magazine out of his parents’ home, which he built using his bar mitzvah money (isn’t that what all kids do?). Paul would spend his time chasing after professional wrestlers and taking photographs. But he had one target in mind – Madison Square Garden. How does a 14-year old photographer hustle his way onto the legendary floor of Madison Square Garden? Well, Paul read an article that said Vincent James McMahon (owner of the then World Wrestling Federation, now WWE) used to get his haircut at the Warwick Hotel every Monday prior to a wrestling event at MSG, and then after the event would close down Ben Benson’s Steakhouse and take his inner circle out. So, Paul found the number for Capital Wrestling Corporation, and being the publisher of his own magazine, asked for Mr. McMahon, who he claimed to have run into at Ben Benson’s Steakhouse, where Mr. McMahon promised Paul a press pass for MSG. And voila, Paul got his press pass and successfully hustled his way into MSG. Like any great entrepreneur, Paul had a goal and found a way to get it done.

In addition to passion and a savvy for finding ways to get it done, another quality crucial to success is being able to see opportunities and seize them. When Paul was 19 years old, he convinced legendary nightclub Studio 54 to allow him to photograph Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin, a then famous professional wrestler, at the club for a promo. While there, Studio 54’s head photographer became drunk and belligerent, and was ultimately thrown out of the club. While many just saw a scene, Paul saw an opportunity.
“Wow, that’s a very famous photographer,” Paul turned to the General Manager of Studio 54 and said in surprise. “What are you going to do here?”
“I don’t know,” the General Manager muttered.
“Well, if you’re looking for a head photographer,” Paul emphatically proclaimed, “I’M YOU’RE GUY!”
The General Manager looked at Paul. “Really,” he asked, “can you do that?”
Without hesitation, Paul replied confidently, “Of course I can. Why can’t I do it? I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
So the next day, Paul started as the head photographer at Studio 54.
That same fearlessness and willingness to jump into a situation and seize an opportunity lead to the first ever wrestling event that Paul actually promoted. In the summer of ’85, another famous nightclub, the Palladium, opened and created fierce competition for Studio 54 and took many of its employees. Amidst the fallout, Paul walks into Studio 54 one day and says, “I can produce Friday nights.” 
“You can?” they ask.  
“Sure, Why can’t I," Paul responds, "I’ve been doing it my whole life.” 
Thus began Paul's journey into wrestling promotion, which would take him across the country and ultimately lead to his on-screen role as the advocate for some of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, the creation of the Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) brand, which would forever change the face of professional wresting (or sports entertainment) and lead to the so-called "attitude era", his ultimate return to WWE, and the launch of his multi-media platform, The Heyman Hustle, and marketing, branding and advertising agency, The Looking4Larry Agency
Paul’s story is unique in many ways, but it also shares many of the same qualities of other success stories told by artists, athletes and entrepreneurs. Like all, it starts with passion. Simply put, Paul is living his passion. As former professional wrestler turned UFC fighter Phil Brooks (who wrestled under the name “CM Punk”) recalls: “He showed me a picture of him when he was interviewing Bruno San Martino. He was 14 years old, and he has this big grin on his face, and it’s the same exact grin I saw last night after we got done performing in Providence, RI. Same exact grin.” Paul is doing what he loves and is passionate about, and he has not let the many trials and challenges he has faced along the way affect the sheer joy he gets out of living and working every day.
After passion comes hard work, and hustle. Like his late mother, who survived the holocaust, Paul is a true survivor. Not only is Paul back in the WWE, a company many (including himself) never thought he would work for again, he is at the top of his game and serving as the advocate for the reigning, defending, undisputed WWE world heavyweight champion – Brrrrrooooockkk Lesnar. Paul has survived because he never quit, and has spent his career seeing and seizing opportunities.
“Where there is chaos, there is opportunity,” Paul once famously declared. A mantra every entrepreneur (hell, every person) should live by. You are only down if you say you are down. The most important thing is to get up, and keep going. Whether you are an artist, athlete or entrepreneur, you are going to face many challenges, and many rejections. You are going to here “no” way more than you are going to hear “yes.” There is going to be chaos, constant chaos. It is when you embrace life’s challenges and see the opportunities within the chaos that you will be able to succeed. It is easy to let negative experiences affect you, but you have to press on and see past it all. In Paul’s words:
“Experience is the greatest inhibitor of creativity and innovation, because you learn from experience what not to do. But it’s the unbridled passion, and the fearlessness to just go into something with reckless abandon that allows you to create something from nothing, that allows you to innovate…” Be fearless, and live your passion.
For more on Paul’s story, check out the “Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman” DVD, or watch it for free when you subscribe to the WWE Network

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nothin' But a Good Time

I’m a fan of music. That’s no secret. I also grew up in the 80’s, so naturally I have an affinity for all things hard rock (yes, sometimes referred to as “hair bands” today). Why does that matter? Because my iPhone has a decent variety of 80’s hard rock on it and in introducing my two boys (ages 4 and 5 now) to a wide variety of musical genres they have taken a liking to many of the 80’s classics (I don’t know, maybe it’s the stadium size drums, or shredding guitar riffs – who can blame them, really). Well, the other day while driving home and listening to some tunes together, Poison’s hit “Nothin’ But a Good Time” comes on.  My two boys immediately respond with an enthusiastic “Oh yeah” and begin singing along. Then, my 4-year old interrupts and wants to have a conversation.

“Daddy,” he bellows over the music, “you wanna know what the game is?”

“The game?” I ask.

“Yeah, it’s complicated,” he continues, still speaking loudly as though trying to talk over the music, even though I have lowered the sound. “In this song, he wants to have the best time. But for him, singing rock n’ roll is the best time. So he’s already having the best time.

“Huh,” I remark, dumbfounded.

“Yeah, and that’s the game.”

“So, the game is finding your best time, and then doing whatever that is?” I ask, the teacher now having become the student.

“Yeah,” he affirms, “and for him it’s singing rock n’ roll, and he’s doing it!”

I smile, and look in the rearview mirror at the little boy who was once not too long ago a baby and see him growing before my eyes, gaining a glimpse at the man he will all too soon become.

“That’s right,” I say, “he’s doing what he loves. He wants the best time, and he is having it.”

Kids say the darndest things, that’s for sure. But sometimes it takes the simple, enthusiastic words of a child discovering the world around him to help us realize some of life’s truths. Thank you, Bret Michaels and Co. for inspiring that moment with my son, and for inspiring him to reflect on your situation – you pursued your passion of music, never gave up, and succeeded. And that deserves recognition. When you live your passion, when you do what you love, life ain’t nothin’ but a good time. Here's a link to Poison's video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_88L-CU7PD4

Happy Holidays!