Friday, August 25, 2006

Leaders & Success
He Took It One Day At A Time


Posted 8/24/2006

William Griffith Wilson spent his first 39 years squandering everything he had.

He spent the next 36 proving that it's never too late for redemption.

Wilson, better known as "Bill W." to the countless number of people he inspired, gave up the drinking that had plastered his life, and vowed to help others do the same.

He fulfilled that vow in a big way. He created Alcoholics Anonymous, which has grown into one of the biggest and most successful addiction-recovery programs in the world.

Today, the group claims more than 2 million members in over 150 countries. It has changed the way people think about alcoholism — not as a moral failing, but rather an ailment.

Wilson (1895-1971) grew up in a troubled home in Vermont, to a family of granite quarry workers and mine bosses. Though financially secure, the family was unstable. Wilson's alcoholic father left the family in 1905. His mother remarried and moved to Boston, leaving the children in the care of her parents.

This scarred young Wilson deeply. As Ernest Kurtz recounts in "Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous," the 10-year-old blamed himself for the breakup.

"Deep within young Bill Wilson ached a feeling of rejection," Kurtz wrote. "The more painful because, in his mind, it was deserved."

He took his first drink at 22, during a dinner party held for soldiers about to be shipped out to Europe to fight in World War II. Soon, he found drinking an easy comfort for the loneliness of his overseas assignment, an Army desk job.

For years, Wilson's sharp mind and natural talent masked his growing dependence on alcohol — and the havoc it wreaked.

At the end of the war, Wilson entered law school. Showing up drunk at one of his finals, he nearly flunked out. His wife, Lois, grew alarmed at the frequency of his drinking binges.

Wilson lost interest in law school and grew fascinated with Wall Street.

So he honed his stock-picking skills. He became one of the first to sense the value of corporate research. He believed that many people lost money playing the stock market because they didn't have enough good data about the companies they invested in.

Unable to persuade his broker friends to finance a fact-finding mission, Wilson quit his job, packed a motorcycle and took Lois for a yearlong trek along the East Coast.

With little more than a tent, blankets, a change of clothes and three thick financial reference books, the pair visited companies and took meticulous notes to send to investors.

His efforts landed him a top job as a stockbroker on Wall Street and a generous expense account. He made a very good living.

Drinking And Sinking

But his public success belied a crumbling soul. Caught up in the excesses of the jazz age, Wilson drank day and night.

The party ended Oct. 24, 1929. Black Thursday's stock market crash wiped out Wilson's paper wealth as well as that of many others. Soon he was out of a job.

Wilson and his wife moved in with her parents. By this time, he was almost constantly drunk.

"The market would recover," he wrote in his autobiography, "Bill's Story." "But I wouldn't."

Any money he made went to pay off bar tabs. Soon he needed "a tumbler full of gin followed by half a dozen bottles of beer" just to make it to breakfast.

Things got worse. His mother-in-law died, and his father-in-law grew ill. They lost their house. Wilson resorted to sneaking money from his wife's purse.

After blowing yet another chance at a job in 1932, Wilson finally realized he had a problem. Yet he was powerless to stop. Even when family members paid for his stay at a treatment center, he began drinking again after his release. Doctors told his wife that Wilson would die in a year if he kept drinking. Everyone, it seemed, had given up on him.

"No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity," he wrote. "Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master."

Salvation came in the form of a phone call from an old friend, a renowned drinker who sounded uncharacteristically sober.

Wilson assumed his old pal was looking for their usual drunken revelry. Instead, the friend announced that he'd given up drinking in a religious conversion.

Inspired, Wilson conceded that he couldn't defeat alcohol on his own. He checked into a hospital for his withdrawal symptoms and, in what he called a supernatural experience, gave up drinking.

He became deeply religious, an experience he relied on to help him resist the temptation to drink.

But he soon determined that eschewing alcohol wasn't enough. Certain that the support of someone who understood his problem would help, he called friends in search of another alcoholic.

He finally reached a doctor, Bob Smith, by phone in what's now widely referred to as the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

It worked, and Wilson got past his hurdle. He and Smith decided their method might benefit others as well, and within a few years the group formally came into being. The pair set up open meetings at which participants could talk about their struggles and offer encouragement to others. (Smith died in 1950 of cancer, just after AA's first international conference.)

Wilson, originally part of a religious fellowship called the Oxford Group, decided that faith or lack of it shouldn't preclude someone from seeking help. He eventually split the effort off as a separate entity focused on alcoholism.

Reassurance And Support

He called the group Alcoholics Anonymous. The name aimed to reassure those seeking help that they wouldn't be judged or humiliated. The chapters didn't require membership dues, and no one was expected to give a last name.

To lay out the plan in an easily understandable format, Wilson wrote a book about his experience. For his message to reach a wide audience, he described it in simple terms.

He summarized his knowledge in a 12-step program, writing the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" under the name "Bill W." That quest for anonymity would become a powerful way to keep the group from getting too closely tied to individual personalities — even his own. To keep it beholden to no one, he declared that the group wouldn't take outside contributions. Even today, no member can contribute more than $2,000.

Wilson maintained a humble lifestyle. To keep the focus on his cause and not himself, Wilson refused to be photographed for news stories. He eventually ceded control of the group to an advisory board.

Yet he understood the power of good publicity. A Saturday Evening Post article in 1941 propelled the group to the national stage.

So the group wouldn't lose focus, Wilson adopted 12 "traditions," which included not letting the group involve itself in current events or controversies, including those involving alcohol. And while the group supports other sobriety efforts, it doesn't align itself with any.

By the time he died, Wilson had turned down numerous honors. Still, Time magazine recently named him one of the most important people of the 20th century.
Brent Bowers, in covering small business for decades at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, has chronicled the rise and fall of hundreds of start-ups. In If at First You Don’t Suceed…, he analyzes the common characteristics shared by dozens of successful small-business owners and their companies. Drawing on extensive interviews and research, as well as on the experiences and expertise of business consultants, venture capitalists, academics, and the entrepreneurs themselves, he describes the key traits that successful entrepreneurs have in common.

Among them:

• The ability to spot and seize opportunities
• An overwhelming urge to be in charge coupled with a gift for leadership
• The flexibility to come up with creative, out-of the-box solutions to problems or obstacles
• Incredible energy and tenacity in the pursuit of their goals
• Unwavering faith in their business
• The ability to take smart risks
• The ability to bounce back from setbacks and see failure as just one step on the path to ultimate success

For anyone thinking about starting a business, or attempting a start-up a second or third time, this book offers invaluable lessons and insights.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I've been trying for over a year to complete a revision of my little booklet "Daring Mighty Things-- The Simplest Way to Start Your First (or Next) New Business." I need to follow Yoda's advice in Star Wars, "Don't try, do!"

If you would take a look at the current draft and post or email me your comments, it would be very helpful. Thanks! How may I help you?

You can see the current version of the text file at:
"Since 1995, Fast Company has been not only reporting business and cultural trends, but actually helping to shape them. This engaging collection contains articles that still resonate as much today as they did when they were first published. Even Fast Company devotees may be surprised by the magazine's sometimes uncanny prescience, as they re-visit the anticipation of the digitalization, globalization and democratization of business and culture.

Arranged in chronological order, this collection includes Daniel Pink's "Free Agent Nation," "In Search of Courage" by John McCain, Tom Peters's "The Brand Called You" and Ana Marie Cox's (aka Wonkette) "Wide Awake on the New Night Shift."

Also included are compelling essays on buzz-worthy figures like Malcolm Gladwell and Craig Newmark of Craiglist.

The introduction discusses the magazine's ideals of intelligence, creativity and conscience in business writing-values that come across again and again throughout this brilliant and thought-provoking collection.

For Fast Company readers and anyone interested in a cultural cross-section of the past ten years of business and marketing."

--From Kirkus Reports, May 2, 2006

For more on this interesting and helpful new book see:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I just got this from my daughter Brooke. Amazing.


Please take the time to read this and watch the video. Read the article first, though, and the video will mean more to you.

Subject: "Strongest Dad in the World"
[From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]

This is an amazing video clip of the Father and Son team that did the Iron Man together.

Read the story below first and the video clip will be more meaningful to you.

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.
But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a w heelch air but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much--except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way,'' Dick says he was told. "There's nothing going on in his brain.''

"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker'' who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried.

"Then, it was me who was handi capped,'' Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. "Dad,'' he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!'' And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

"No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marath on so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?'' How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Well, now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? "No way,'' he says. Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling'' he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it,'' Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century.''

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape,'' one doctor told him, "you probably would've died 15 years ago.''

So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, a nd Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. "The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''
(If the video clip doesn't play, click on the "CAN" video.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Are you a conservative or a liberal?
Here is a 5 minute quiz:

Do you think it is helpful to think of yourself
as a liberal or conservative?

Seems to me we have a need for both points of
view in our system of government, and that right
action is determined through honest debate between
the two points of view.

The problem with labeling is that it leads to alienation,
just listening to people who agree with us, and
demonization of people with other viewpoints. The
result is poor government.

It also leads to poor communications. One Denver talkshow
host is always saying, "I want to know where you stand
(are you a liberal or conservative) before I hear what you
say," or words to that effect. Much better was Plato's
thought, "It matters not who says the words, but whether they
are true or not."

I scored a 36, which makes me more conservative than
Bob Dole according to the quiz. But many of my friends
see me as a liberal because of my criticism of what I
call "Borg" (from Star Trek, the humans who have become
machines) especially in big government, big business, and
big religion.

I think this kind of labeling is worse than useless, it is
destroying our grassroots republic.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Amarillo, TX. Last night I was trying to get rid of the writing on the screen of my digital camera so I could show the pictures to Aunt Opal this morning. The wrong button got pushed, and all the pictures of this weekend were erased. Damn!

Before I erased the pictures, we drove by house mom and dad built 50 years ago. Dad was only 23, got the money to finance the purchase of the lot and the construction thru buying a new car (they were hard to come by right after WWII) and then reselling it for a big profit. He was making pretty good money as a traveling salesman. but once they were in the house, he wanted to be home more. I was 8 months old, and when he'd get back after being gone all week I'd changed too much, mom told me and Randy last night.

So they moved to Oklahoma City where mom's cousin Georgette's husband Curley Smith helped dad getting a job with Brown & Biegelo, the company that sells advertising calendars. Dad made some big sales right away, but his supervisor made him made, so he quit and moved back to Amarillo to start his own business in Amarillo. It didn't do very well.

So visiting Aunt Lilian & Uncle Jerry in Colorado, he found the grocery stores in Colorado didn't have the kind of merchandise he was selling in Texas. He sat in front of a store, prayed, and decided to come to Colorado. Mom didn't want to do it, he persuaded her by promising to stay only 5 years. The business was a success and they never went back.

Another example of failure breeding success. If his business in Texas did better, he would have never come to Colorado. Lesson: keep trying.