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The Achiever Newsletter
When the Going Gets Tough
It's very easy to find yourself overwhelmed and frustrated with a simple
glance at your newspaper or a sampling of the evening news. We're bombarded
with news of terrorism, inflation, political unrest, Katrina, Iraq, Iran,
Israel, Hezbollah, oil prices, trade deficit, al-Qaeda, education, unemployment,
and apathy day in and day out.
We sometimes need to pause to realize that there have always been "tough
times," and inspired individuals have always managed to cope and
overcome obstacles. Reflecting on those people may inspire us to seek
the same determination and inspiration to deal with our personal challenges.
Please enjoy each of the following anecdotes and pass them on to others
in that same spirit.
In 1944, Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency,
told modeling hopeful Norma Jean Baker, "You'd better learn
secretarial work or else get married." She went on to become
In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry fired a singer
after one performance. He told him, "You ain't goin' nowhere
son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck." He went on to
become the most popular singer in America, named Elvis Presley.
Alexander Graham Bell
When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it did
not ring off the hook with calls from potential backers. After making
a demonstration call, President Rutherford Hayes said, "That's
an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?"
When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he tried over 2,000
experiments before he got it to work. A young reporter asked him
how it felt to fail so many times. He said, "I never failed
once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000-step
In the 1940s, another young inventor named Chester Carlson took
his idea to 20 corporations, including some of the biggest in the
country. They all turned him down. In 1947 - after seven long years
of rejections - he finally got a tiny company in Rochester, New
York, the Haloid Company, to purchase the rights to his invention,
an electrostatic paper-copying process. Haloid became the Xerox
Corporation we know today.
Wilma Rudolph was the twentieth of 22 children. She was born prematurely,
and her survival was doubtful. When she was 4 years old, she contracted
double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which left her with a paralyzed
left leg. At age 9, she removed the metal leg brace she had been
dependent on and began to walk without it. By 13 she had developed
rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. That same year
she decided to become a runner. She entered a race and came in last.
For the next few years every race she entered, she came in last.
Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running. One day she
actually won a race. And then another. From then on she won every
race she entered. Eventually this little girl, who was told she
would never walk again, went on to win three Olympic gold medals.
H. Ross Perot
H. Ross Perot, a proud Texan, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy
in 1953. After serving his tour of duty, he became a salesperson
for IBM . Wanting his own business, he borrowed money from his father-in-law
to establish Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in Dallas in 1962. The
company, employing 70,000 people, made Perot a multimillionaire,
then a billionaire when he took the company public in 1968.
He began a crusade to lobby for the release of American POWs in
Vietnam in 1969. In 1979, two EDS employees were taken hostage
by the Iranian government. When U.S. government efforts to rescue
the employees slowed to a crawl due to "red tape" and
politics, Perot financed and arranged for a commando raid of EDS
employees led by retired Green Beret Colonel Arthur "Bull"
Simons. Perot himself went to Iran and entered the prison where
his men were held. Ken Follett wrote a best selling novel, On
Wings of Eagles, about the rescue. An NBC TV miniseries was
later made from the book.
Perot sold EDS in 1984 to General Motors for $2.5 billion. He retained
ownership in the company, which made him GM's largest individual
stockholder and a member of the board of directors. From the start,
Perot and GM head Roger Smith quarreled, and Perot criticized the
quality of GM automobiles and made many "radical" suggestions
such as moving the CEO's office from high atop the golden towers
of the GM building to a local plant location where he could get
a better feel for the business and communicate with his employees.
Perot also suggested that Smith actually drive to work in a GM vehicle
rather than being chauffeured to work every day in a corporate limousine,
thus getting an actual feel for his product. GM employees soon had
more respect for and rapport with Perot than they did the majority
of the corporate leadership team.
In 1986, GM bought out Perot's stock for $700 million. Two years
later, he started a new computer service company, Perot Systems,
which operates in the United States and Europe.
Lee Iacocca, a proud Italian born in Allentown, PA, in 1924, was
hired by the Ford Motor Company as an engineer in 1946. He soon
proved that he was better suited as a manager. Dubbed "Father
of the Mustang" in 1964, Iacocca accumulated a long list of
accomplishments leading to his appointment of president from 1970-78.
Working for 21 years at Ford Motor Company, he was fired in July
of 1978 because of the personal differences and a power struggle
with Henry Ford II.
Financially, Iacocca was in a position to easily retire after a
very successful career. However, mad, discouraged, but not beaten,
Iacocca demonstrated his urge to fight back by joining a failing
competitor, Chrysler, as the president and CEO in November of that
same year, 1978. Chrysler had just reported its worst earnings in
its history and was on the road to bankruptcy. He quickly rallied
frustrated employees and the American public. He restored Chrysler
through shrewd financial policies, a $1.2 billion government loan,
and tax concessions granted by Congress. Like most governmental
bail-outs, no one expected the loan to be repaid. Not only did Chrysler
repay the loan but did so well ahead of schedule.
He also engineered Chrysler's $1.5 billion acquisition of American
Motors and became a television icon, becoming one of the few Corporate
CEOs to appear in commercials urging viewers to test the new Chrysler
quality. Lee Iacocca made history announcing a $2,400,000,000 profit
in 1984, became a national hero pulling Chrysler out of bankruptcy
in less than three years, and becoming the leading seller in the
industry. He also became a very competitive "pain-in-the-armpit"
to his previous employee at GM. He also served as chairman of the
Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.
The moral of the above stories: Character cannot be developed in ease
and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul
be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.
You gain strength, experience and confidence by every experience where
you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you cannot
do. And remember, the finest steel gets sent through the hottest furnace.
A winner is not one who never fails but one who NEVER QUITS! In LIFE,
remember that you pass this way only once! Let's live life to the fullest
and give it our best.
Publication Date: Fall 2006
K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®,
Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars,
and consulting services.
Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer
For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629
or fill out our contact