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National Leader of the Month for July 2008

 Paul J Meyer

Paul J. Meyer

Listening and reading about the insights of Paul J. Meyer is a special treat.  What a motivating and inspiring life he leads! LeaderNetwork.org has provided two mediums for you to experience the wisdom and ideas of National Leader of the Month Paul J. Meyer: read them below and listen to excerpts from a conversation on leadership between Brian McCormick and Paul J. Meyer. To listen to the podcast, copy and paste the following RSS link into your preferred podcast software: http://www.leadernetwork.org/leadership_podcast.rss. In order to begin playing the audio in a separate window, click here Paul J. Meyer audio.

Honoring Paul J. Meyer

A conversation with Paul J. Meyer leads to a few definitive conclusions about this leader. He is a man of conviction with strong values. He has a contagiously positive outlook and attitude. By all measures, he has achieved great personal and professional success. For the wisdom he has gleaned from his 80+ years on the earth--and the millions of people he has passed that wisdom along to through his instructional and motivational materials--Paul J. Meyer is the National Leader of the Month for July 2008.

Paul J. Meyer took up playing the sport of tennis later in his life. Just one of his many interesting life experiences, this story illustrates the work ethic and attitude that are such hallmarks of his leadership. Enjoy this story and the other tales he uses to so effectively engage and instruct an audience.

Coincidentally, I ran into a number of people [lamenting] that it was too late in life for them to take up something new. These people were all talking about things they wished that they had done when they were younger. I got to thinking, "Thatís nonsense. I'll go do something Iíve never done before just to prove that it can be done."

I chose tennis, though I was 47 years old and had never played tennis in my life.

The first thing I did was write down that I would learn to play tennis. Then, I went to get a piece of wood and got a guy to burn into it: ďIím a champion tennis player.Ē I didnít even know which end of the tennis racquet to hold, and I put that piece of wood up on the wall in front of my desk in my office.

Next, I thought, "Who is the number one tennis player in the world?" That was Rod Laver at that time, and I went and took lessons from him. Then, I thought, "Who has won more tournaments than anybody in the world, and who is the best player in my age bracket? I want to take lessons from him." It was Russell Seymour from South Africa who was in Austin, Texas, at the time. I took lessons from him. Then, I thought, "Who is the number one player in Texas?" It was Robert Trogolo, so I went and took 200 lessons from him.

I played in 150 tournaments, ended up winning the Dallas Open, was the fourth-ranked player in the United States in my division and then ended up playing in Menís Championship Doubles at age 55 with Robert Trogolo against the top college teams in Texas. I proved that at any age you can have anything you want to have, be anything you want to be, and go anywhere you want to go. The only limitations are what you place on your own mind. The space you occupy in life is determined by your mental attitude.

About Paul J. Meyer

Author, Businessman, and Philanthropist

Bio: birthday: May 21; birthplace: San Mateo, CA; resides: Waco, TX; married to Jane; five children and fifteen grandchildren; served in the military; achieved great success in the insurance industry; launched Success Motivation International, Inc., in 1960; began writing books after age 70; launched The Leading Edge Publishing Company a few months shy of his 80th birthday

Favorite quote: ďWhatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon...must inevitably come to pass.Ē -Paul J. Meyer. Ninety percent of all failure comes from quitting so I condensed my whole philosophy about self improvement down to one sentence.

Favorite book: The Bible because it is the best guide to live by.

Books recommended for aspiring leaders:

The Tripping Point in Leadership by David Byrd

Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips

Leadership Fitness by Homer Rice

Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges

How to Develop the Leader Within You by John Maxwell

Leadership is an Art by Max Depree

5 Pillars of Leadership by Randy Slechta and Paul J. Meyer

Current personal passion: Writing and working with the charities in our foundation

Dream: To do all the good I can, for as many people as I can, in as many ways as I can, for as long as I can

Place in the world you most like to visit: The Cayman Islands. I have spent one-third of the year there each year for the past 30 years.

Experiences vital to your development: (a) The training I received from my parents, (b) what I learned when I was selling insurance, (c) what I learned by developing Success Motivation Institute, and (d) what I have learned in other entrepreneurial pursuits.

Paul elaborates specifically on each of these four vital experiences.

On the training he received from his parents:

I remember one time when I was a young boy (only about nine years old) my father told me to do something. I said, ďIíll try.Ē He reached over and grabbed my shirt, and I thought he was going to tear it off me. He looked me in the eye and said, ďDonít ever let me hear you say the word 'try' again. That is not a Meyer trait, that is not a Meyer word, and that is not in the Meyer dictionary!Ē

When I first said the words, ďI canít,Ē I had found the second [phrase I was scolded for using]. My father jumped me the same way and he said, ďThere is no such thing [as can't]: it doesnít exist. Itís not in the Meyer dictionary, and it never will be. Not in your whole lifetime!Ē I didnít understand what ďI canítĒ meant. As a Christian I can do all things through Christ, but I can also do all things because of my attitude. From him I developed an ďI will not be deniedĒ attitude. I enter every day without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat. If I go in to make a sale, [the prospective buyer doesn't even] have the chance of a dying duck in a hail storm. Thatís an attitude. When I go in to call on somebody, I visualize a red carpet out in front of me and maybe two trumpeters on each side of the door. [I perceive that] the man behind the door at the desk has been waiting all of his life to do business with me. Thatís an attitude.

Another thing I got from my parents is that they never accepted excuses and neither have I. I never make an excuse, and I never accept one. The minute you start a conversation with me and you say, ďWell you got to remember that there is a tight economy now and gas prices are up,Ē...Iíll tune you out...realizing that you are living in a negative aura, [focusing on] ways it canít be done instead of figuring out ways things can be done. [When focusing on the negative], you are looking to your weaknesses rather than looking to the strengths you are given. You are concentrating on the problem instead of the solution.

On the lessons he learned selling insurance:

I learned to stick with it. When I first started selling insurance, I was making $87 a month. Finally, my father-in-law said, ďLook itís no disgrace if you canít do this. You do know how to do carpentry work, and you do know how to do plumbing work.Ē I said, ďWell I think youíre assuming that I have failed. I havenít failed.Ē I said, ďIf it takes six numbers to open a vault, I already have four of the numbers figured out. I only need two more numbers. I havenít failed. Iím learning something each time somebody says, 'no.' I just havenít gotten it all figured out yet.Ē...By the ninth month, I made $3000 (in todayís dollars, that would be over $30,000 in a month)...In my lifetime, Iíve averaged earning about $8 million dollars per year.

I learned a long time ago, and I tell young people, "Youíre only three feet away from gold. Youíre only a stoneís throw away. It is just around the corner: Take one more step and donít give up." Ninety percent of all failures come from quitting. Never be a quitter.

On the lessons drawn from starting Success Motivation Institute:

Sixty-two percent of the acceptance of all ideas comes after the sixth time they are presented. Present it, present it, present it, present it, present it, and present it because we are not going to remember anything that we just hear one time. We are going to have to hear it repeatedly where it doesnít just get into our head: It has to get into our heart and our soul and our emotion before we can go out and take action on it.

On the lessons learned in his other entrepreneurial pursuits:

Today is the first day of the rest of your life: Donít look back unless you want to go that way. You canít saw sawdust; itís already been sawed.

Turning points in your life: (a) Leaving the Army to sell insurance, (b) leaving insurance to launch Success Motivation Institute, and (c) starting our charitable foundation

Paul J. Meyer and Leadership

Advice to aspiring leaders: Have a servant's heart, a servant's attitude, a servant's consciousness, a servant's awareness, and a servant's habit. Basically, be a servant leader. Also, be an expert communicator, listener, and delegator. Inspect what you expect. Share your vision. Empower people. Don't criticize. And never, never give up!

Paul elaborates on the importance of not criticizing: You never, never criticize. This notion of constructive criticism is baloney. Donít ever believe in that. Never criticize in any way, shape, form or manner. Itís always a praise. What you are doing there is you are telling them that itís okay to make a mistake; itís okay to fall on your face and then ask, "What did I learn from it?" Okay, now keep on going.

Most admired leaders: W. Clement Stone: He was a brilliant salesman who was also a great encouragement to me for 50 years. Charlie Becker: He helped me as I was starting in the insurance industry. He believed in me. Ronald Reagan: He had vision and sold it to the world. He was a unifying leader.

What is your metaphor or story for leadership? All leadership starts with self-leadership. I've believed this and lived this my entire life. A good example is when I created my first personal development program. I took it to numerous publishers, and they all turned me down...so I published it myself. Sales are approaching $3 billion worldwide today. I was not going to let a publisher determine my success. I took personal responsibility, and that is what leaders do...Frankly the whole world steps aside when they see a person who knows where he is going. In fact, better than that, they want to climb aboard and go with you. Thatís a leader.

Traits most important in a leader: You have to put in integrity and honesty and character at the top. Beyond those, there are many traits, but these come to mind as the top five: (a) Initiative: You have to have a spark in your eye to be hungry for more! (b) Self-reliance: You do what it takes to get the job done. (c) Self-confidence: You believe in yourself and never give up. (d) Servant leadership: You are willing, like Jesus washing someone's feet, to be humble and to praise someone else. (e) Positive attitude: You wake up every morning without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat! My attitude is everything. I climbed the second tallest mountain in the continental United States to celebrate my seventieth birthday and held up a sign at the top of the mountain that read, ďAttitude is everything.Ē Note: Paul also took an "Attitude is everything" sign down to the bottom of the ocean to demonstrate that it doesnít matter if you are on the top of the mountain or the bottom of the ocean: You better have the right attitude to survive no matter what.

What can organizations do to encourage or stifle leaders? To encourage leaders, organizations can empower and give people the room to make mistakes, encourage people to show initiative and be self-reliant. Also, organizations can encourage people to be creative without the fear of chastisement. To stifle leaders, organizations simply need to make too many rules, guidelines, boxes, structure, and reporting, with too little trust. Would you say more organizations fall within the category of encouraging or stifling? Stifling. Do you see that changing at all? Itís changing, and it's got to change rapidly if America is going to stay in the game.

What does good leadership look like? Imagine a pyramid. In a business, the top of the pyramid is the leader at the top. All work flows up to make the leader look good, to benefit the top. Flip the pyramid upside down. I see good leadership like this: The leader is at the bottom, serving and working hard to help all layers of employees above. That is what good leadership looks like. Good leaders have a servant's heart. In general, are we as Americans conditioned to be servant leaders? No. The business schools in America have the pyramid turned [upside down]. They have the big shot on the top and the other the people underneath him...What you have done [with that configuration] is stifle creativity, stifle imagination, stifle inventiveness, and choke off the possibility of any kind of synergism in the company. Instead of four and four equaling eight, it then equals seven. When you [flip over the pyramid] and have a servantís heart, four and four becomes nine.

My mother told me not to ever judge anybody. Abraham Lincoln said that if you want to win a man to your cause, first convince him you are his true friend. How do you do that? You love him and serve him. I was taught at an early age to love everybody. When I call on you to sell insurance or whatever Iím selling, you can see in my eyes that I am there to serve you, and then you instantly trust me. You know you are a real professional when you get two-thirds of the way through the sales presentation and your audience says, ďWell what do you recommend?Ē Then, you know that you have arrived. Thatís real leadership, and to me itís trust and loving everybody without judging anybody.

What is up next for you? Life is a success journey, and I am staying the course. I want to finish strong. I plan to continue to influence other people and my family to live a life of service to others.

Paul J. Meyer's Story

There are many stories about my life, but I would say that my stewardship journey has been one of the "biggest" stories because it has impacted all that I do. My mother taught me, "It's all God's by right of creation." That stuck with me as my income increased. I was giving my tithe (10%) when I heard R.G. Letourneau say that he gave away 90% of his income! That shook me up and challenged me to give more. I met Paul and Katy Piper, whose charitable foundation work was an incredible model and motivation. I have poured much of my energy, time, and money into building a foundation that today supports more than 40 charities and ministries. To date, we have given away over $65 million, and this is going to continue perpetually. Stewardship affects every area of my life: I look for ways to help people, to love unconditionally, and to forgive. I know that what I have given away cannot be taken away from me! I am also working to pass on this mindset of stewardship to my children and grandchildren. It has been a wonderful journey--a story--that has impacted me, my family, and hundreds of thousands of lives, and it's not about to stop! I set a goal twenty years ago to give it all away and die broke. That plan is in process and will take place.

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