Todd Kaplan is always looking for opportunities to meet in mentorship settings with leaders in business, entertainment and in sports. His career as a businessman has provided him with great opportunity to meet and learn from people who have set goals and acheived great things. Often the road to success is paved with adversity. Todd Kaplan would tell anyone Never Give Up, Never Give UP, Never Ever Give Up!
I have been writing these posts for several weeks now, but the truth is, I’ve been doing the research for these posts since I was a child. A long time ago, someone told me that readers are leaders, and I knew I wanted to be a leader from a very young age, so I read as much as I could. Stories about successful people and how they achieved their success have always been of great interest to me. It’s amazing how successful people have many traits in common with each other and how these traits help them persevere and overcome the adversity they face.
As I go forward I will try and connect what these traits are and how we (inducing myself) can put them to work when we find ourselves or someone we know facing an adverse situation. The beginning of what will eventually be a much longer list starts here:
1- It Can Be Done. (Ronald Reagan) I believe that this simple statement is one of the most important things to
remember when you are facing adversity. Successful people always keep fighting because they know they can do it, and believe that it’s just a matter of time before they overcome the adversity they’re facing.
2- People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. Successful people have a plan, and they continue with their plan until they overcome the adversity they face. Plan your work and work your plan.
3- You have the right to dream. I heard this when I was having a conversation with someone that I will be writing about soon who was facing two life sentences. During an interview with a large TV network about his case, he was talking about what he was planning to do when he got out of prison. The reporter was surprised that he was thinking about getting out considering two life sentences. His answer, “I still have the right to dreams.” No matter what was taken away from him, he still had dreams, and he told me all about this not long after his case was overturned and he was set free.
There are many other tools that can be used to help you stay focused and overcome adversity, but starting with these three is paramount. I will add more to the list over time, but until then, just remember that it all starts with the 10 Magic Words: Never Give Up, Never Give Up, Never Ever Give Up!
I began writing this just days before the passing of William Clay Ford, grandson of Henry Ford. While I was researching details of Henry Ford’s life, news of the death of his last remaining grandson filled the internet. It really makes me think of what an impact Henry Ford had on the world.
Only a month into this Overcoming Adversity blog project and I’ve already had my first failure. I gave myself a deadline to have a new post each week, and I missed it. Even a little setback like this can make the doubt creep up. I think to myself that maybe this project is more than I can handle long term. I’m always busy and these posts take me a long, long time to write, maybe I should just give up. Luckily, I did not forget the 10 Magic Words, and in fact, this little failure is what inspired this week’s post.
Henry Ford is a name that is synonymous with the automotive industry, and many people mistakenly believe that Ford Motor Company was the first car manufacturer, but it wasn’t even close. In fact, it wasn’t even Henry Ford’s first car company. Ford Motor Company began in 1903, but in 1899 Henry Ford opened the Detroit Automotive Company, which failed about a year and a half after it opened, then the Henry Ford Company, which he walked away from after only three months.
Ford’s determination and his ability to not give up in the face of failure is what made him so successful. One of his greatest quotes, ” Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” is important to remember in the face of your own failures. Sometimes the experience and knowledge you gain in failing at something can become a great asset for the future, or give you newfound inspiration for your current project. It’s only when you give up that your past efforts become worthless.
One of the other great lessons we can learn from Ford is that he always tried to surround himself with smart people. This is something I’ve been preaching for a long time. I know that there are certain things that I do well, but there are other important and necessary skills that I simply don’t have. That’s okay, I focus on my strengths and find others who are strong in the places I am not. I like to say that I’ll always be successful if I am the least intelligent person in the room, because I know I have surrounded myself with smart people. Ford worked closely with Thomas Edison, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Charles Lindberg, James Couzens, and many other experts in engineering and business, and he gives many of them, especially Edison, credit for encouraging and inspiring him.
My plan is to always close with the 10 magic words to overcoming adversity, but this week, I’d like to also add Ford’s version. “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” This is something we should all believe and remember to never give up, never give up, never ever give up!
My writing about adversity really has two purposes. I am hoping that putting my ideas to paper (or keyboard) will help me continue to grow and overcome the fears and struggles I continue to deal with thanks to government prosecution. But my other hope is that my efforts will help readers be able to look at their own situations and realize they can get through it as well. I hope to instill in them (you reading this) the notion of “that which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
As I was researching Louis Zamperini’s story for last week’s post, it reminded me of a story I heard more than 30 years ago. Depending on where and when you went to school, you’ve probably heard the story of Viktor Frankl as well. Here is a man whose life was going along pretty well. He was an internationally respected philosopher and psychotherapist, a published author and public lecturer. Then, one day in 1942, he was arrested by the nazi forces and deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, and two years later he and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp.
In the nazi camps, Frankl was separated from his family, and forced to endure constant beatings, physical labor,
malnutrition, disease and having to watch while other prisoners were sent to the gas chambers. His incredible perseverance is summed up by a statement on the Frankl Institute website:
In the last camp he comes down with typhoid fever. To avoid fatal collapse during the nights he keeps himself awake by reconstructing his book manuscript on slips of paper stolen from the camp office.
After he was freed from the camp by the U.S. Troops, Frankl went on to inspire millions of people with his story and his work “Man’s Search for Meaning” which sold more than nine million copies before his death in 1997 and at least another million since then. Combined with his many other books and lectures, Frankl has accumulated an exhausting list of observations regarding how and why people are able to overcome great adversity, and I recommend we all remember the one I believe to be most inspiring while we try to overcome the adversity in our own lives.
”Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
Viktor Frankl found that when a person had faith, hope and a reason to live, they could bear any adversity. I think that is important to keep in mind. Decide what your goal is and what your reward will be once you meet that goal. For many of you, the goal and reward will be very straight forward, but for others, it may be more abstract. For me, the goal was the end of the trial, and my biggest reward was the weight of uncertainty being lifted from my shoulders. It’s not always easy to stay focused on your goal or the reward but it is vitally important, because if you lose focus on what it is that you have to live for, the desire to give up can quickly become overwhelming. Frankl believed that when one was suffering, one needed hope to get through their darkest moments. Without hope there is no point in enduring the suffering.
I was most afraid of the uncertainty of my situation. I did not know what would happen to me or my family if I was convicted and sentenced to jail, or if I had to pay some outrageous fine that would bankrupt me. But even if the result was something I did not want, the fact that I would finally know what was in store and come up with a plan to deal with it was a great comfort to me. At many points in my trial, there was nothing I could do to control the outcome; all I could control was my outlook. Frankl also wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” So no matter what adversity you face, keep your goals in mind, stay focused on them with a positive mental attitude, and Never Give Up!
Todd Stuart Kaplan travels the world seeking innovation and investment opportunities. In his roll as education chair of Young Presidents Organization he has worked with groups of leaders large and small.